Tech Soft 3D - Expanded Strategic Vision

Picture of Ron Fritz
Written by Ron Fritz
Posted on
6 mins

Recently, we announced the acquisition of Theorem Solutions, a long-time partner of ours and leader in CAD translation, data publishing and AR. This comes quickly after the complimentary acquisition of the SpinFire view/mark-up product portfolio from Actify Inc. 

These acquisitions, along with our 3D PDF Publishing products sold under the Tetra4D brand, will form the foundation of a new Solutions Business Unit here at Tech Soft 3D, giving us a rich portfolio of solutions sold directly to end users which help to liberate CAD data for downstream use.

I wanted to share a bit more about this expanded strategic vision, why it makes sense, how we expect this to be beneficial to our Toolkit Partners and what to expect going forward.

Our Expanded Strategic Vision:

From our nearly 30 years of experience providing core technologies to hundreds of engineering software companies, we know and appreciate that there is immense value in 3D CAD assets when used “downstream” from CAD/CAM/CAE.

We want to unlock and unleash that value in as many ways as we can; and given our market-leading position in CAD/CAE data conversion, visualization, and data publishing, we believe we are uniquely placed to help individuals and organizations leverage the value of their 3D assets in lightweight use cases such as those addressed by the products from Theorem, SpinFire and Tetra4D.

As mentioned above, we have been providing products directly to end-users since 2010 under our Tetra4D brand. These Tetra4D products help users turn heavyweight CAD data into lightweight, portable and interactive 3D PDF documents – even while offering our HOOPS Exchange and HOOPS Publish SDK  toolkits that powers the Tetra4D products to developers to create their own 3D PDF Publishing products (including Theorem with their CADPublish product).

Even though we have successfully delivered our Tetra4D products since 2010, we realize that Tech Soft 3D is best known as a leading provider of core components to software developers, and today our components are helping power over 650 unique engineering applications. Considering our historical focus of providing core components, it may seem curious that we have expanded that vision to also offer a full suite of products intended not just for developers, but for end-users, so I’ll explain the strategic rationale.

Firstly, this approach is not unique. For example, our long-time partner Siemens provide the Parasolid modeling kernel which is the core modeling technology in so many of the leading engineering applications.  At the same time, Siemens offers a wide range of applications built on Parasolid such as NX, SolidEdge, TeamCenter and many more. They are both a solutions company and a toolkit company. Similarly, another long-time partner, Dassault Systemes has their Spatial business which provides core components to developers of applications while also offering industrial end-user products including CATIA, SolidWorks, Simulia and many others. Likewise, companies such as Datakit, Cadcam-e and Core Technologies offer both end user products as well as licensing the core components used to build those products. 

In addition, the Unreal Engine from Epic Games is another great example, which is offered as a developer tool but also powers games from Epic; the perfect platform to showcase the power of their technology. The list goes on and extends well beyond the engineering/3D software industry, so we have plenty of proven models to learn from and emulate.

Next, we believe that the line between a technology that is intended for end-users and a technology that is a development platform is steadily blurring.  We see many end-user products with Python interfaces for customization, or with low-code configuration capabilities. Additionally, an end-user product may also be offered on an OEM or “white label” basis, like our own AutoCAD OEM platform. So is AutoCAD a product, or a developer platform?  The answer is that it can be both.

Particularly when we consider the transition to cloud, this blurring of lines is even more pronounced, with many web services available directly to users, but which are also offered as a micro-service that other developers can leverage via API’s.

We certainly see this trend of blurring lines continuing and we intend to package our technologies in different ways to address the full spectrum of needs for developers, users and everything in between.

How this will benefit our Toolkit partners:

We know from our experience with the Tetra4D products that there is tremendous value in “eating our own dog food”. First, trying to build real-world applications connects us directly with customers and helps us to better understand how to improve our SDK’s, making them more robust, complete, and easy-to-use for developers. In addition, being closer to the needs of the ultimate end-user helps us build stronger road maps for the underlying SDK’s since we shorten the distance between hearing what users are saying they need and translating that into how the core SDK’s need to evolve for application developers to address those needs.

Does this mean we are competing with our Toolkit Partners?

The short answer is no. With Tetra4D we have always followed a “level playing field” policy, equally prioritizing the needs of other developers using the HOOPS Exchange and HOOPS Publish SDK’s with the needs of the Tetra4D applications. Siemens has been very successful with this strategy over the years, delivering releases (and pre-releases) at the same time to all users of Parasolid and not prioritizing the needs of Siemens-branded products over other Parasolid-based applications. We will continue to operate the same way.

We consider ourselves a company that offers certain products directly to end-users, but we are willing (and in fact eager) to license the same underlying technology powering those applications to anyone – even if they are building applications that are competitive to ours.

Above I mentioned the benefits of “eating our own dog food”.  This will be of particular value to anyone building applications that are competitive with SpinFire, Theorem or Tetra4D products. They can trust that the underlying SDK’s will be well-tuned to the workflows they are trying to address, much like Siemens ensures that Parasolid is great at modeling because they use it within NX and SolidEdge. The outcome is SolidWorks and others benefit from that focus.

In our own example, the needs of users or theTetra4D products for 3D publishing have strongly shaped the feature evolution of our HOOPS Publish SDK, which has benefited companies such as Siemens NX, SolidWorks, Theorem and others who use the SDK. Similarly, anyone competing with SpinFire, Theorem or other products we may release in the future will know that the SDK’s they rely on will be best-in-class for the workflows they are addressing because we rely on them, too.

What to expect going forward:

Going forward we will think of ourselves as a company with two strategic pillars:

The first pillar is the Toolkits Business Unit, which sits at the center of the entire industrial software industry, providing the core technology that drives applications from 650+ product groups, serving a multitude of market sectors including CAD, CAM, CAE, Additive, AEC/BIM, Metrology, PLM, Visualization, and others.

The second pillar is our Solutions Business Unit, whose products enable individuals and enterprises to convert, visualize, and share their 3D data in different forms for a diverse set of downstream workflows.

In the near term, you can expect that our Solutions products will help us enhance our SDK’s, both from better understanding workflows and user needs, but also potentially leveraging other proven technologies within the Toolkits to add higher-level capabilities. Longer-term, we will seek opportunities to “componentize” some of the capabilities of these products into platforms or web services for developers as we explore “white label” or bundling approaches.

In summary, while the acquisitions of Theorem and SpinFire accelerate our move into a company with both SDK Toolkits and End-User Solutions, it is the extension of our earlier efforts with Tetra4D – leveraging the strengths of our SDK to make products which in turn help to strengthen the SDK’s in a virtuous loop.  We will continue to operate with a Level Playing Field policy for all users of our SDK’s and will seek opportunities to develop, acquire and cross-leverage technologies to create products that provide outstanding value for developers and users alike.