Geo Week News

March 7, 2011

How 3D is the CAD market? Not very?


I ran across today a well-reasoned argument from Cadalyst’s Robert Green that the actual use of 3D CAD software is far below the amount of hype and talk it gets in the press and amongst marketers. Citing statistics from a survey he’s conducted both in 2008 and just recently, he shows that 3D CAD use is growing, but is still only the main workflow at about 18 percent of companies. 

Here’s how things break down:


Thus, the conclusion:


Like the 2008 survey before it, the 2010 CAD Manager’s Survey offers evidence that 3D usage is, in fact, increasing, but is still nowhere near as pervasive as software companies would have us believe.  

I continue to believe that firms will use 2D when they can do so profitably, and will only invest in 3D when business purposes justify it. The trick for CAD managers is to help their companies make the transition to 3D — if and when it makes sense. 


 To which I say, “well, obviously!” 

First, marketers and media are always going to be pushing the next great technology. I’m as guilty of it as anyone else. When you’re reporting the “news,” you tend to focus on the new and different and interesting. New Technology Breakthrough! is a much better headline than Same Old Stuff Still Happening! That’s just the nature of the beast. Most consumers of media have figured that out by now, but I’ll admit that’s getting worse as information is more rapidly consumed and disseminated. There’s more pressure than ever on journalists to discover cool stuff first, and thus there’s more pressure to validate new things as interesting and important, even if they’re really only interesting with possibilities. 

As for marketers at software companies – well, their old stuff works fine. You’re only going to buy their new stuff if it offers some new and cool features that are going to get you excited. So that’s what they tend to focus on. And what marketing technique is older and more effective than “everyone else is doing it”? If a marketer can convince you that your competitor has invested in this cool new 3D software, isn’t that likely to get you off your butt? Of course. 

Are you shocked that a marketer might stretch the truth in making that argument? I’m not. 

However, the larger point that Green makes here is a valid one not just for those CAD firms but for anyone working in this growing 3D space: Don’t buy into the hype. Only invest in 3D tools if they make sense for your business and you can see a way for them to create more profitability for you. But I think you knew that. 

What you might not know is how other people are finding profit with 3D tools. That’s where educating yourself and understanding the new technology is of vital importance. Just because you can’t see, right now, how these tools can fit into your workflow doesn’t mean someone else hasn’t invented that better mousetrap. 

No, don’t buy into the hype, but don’t be a naysayer either. Skepticism is healthy. Cynicism will leave you on the outside looking in when the new technology finally takes hold. 


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