In July, 2011—3D Systems acquired Alibre, a developer of budget 3D parametric MCAD software. It was just one of a large number of acquisitions that 3D Systems made over the last several years, and, for awhile, it appeared that Alibre was getting lost in the shuffle.
Alibre has now found a new home, and a new name. It has been folded into the 3D Systems Geomagic group, and its suite of products, formerly known as Alibre Design, is now known as Geomagic Design. Will this make a difference to the product? I think the answer is yes.
If you look back at Alibre Design before it was acquired by 3D Systems, it was a bit of a mess. The software was functional, but suffered from inadequate investment in development. A lot of the work on the software seemed to be targeted at filling checkboxes on comparison charts. The software didn’t feel like a quality product. It may be that 3D Systems knew this before they bought Alibre, or they may have figured it out after the fact. But, no matter: with the financial stability of a new corporate parent, Alibre’s developers were able to focus on doing what needed to be done. They went back, and fixed many of the mistakes from the past, making the software much cleaner and more consistent.
The 2013 version of the software formerly known as Alibre Design, and now known as Geomagic Design, just shipped on April 17. While the list of changes in the software is 60 pages long, there are two areas of improvement that are quite significant. The first is in consistency of operation. The software feels much better thought-out in the details of operation. Menus, dialogs, and pop-ups have a consistency to them that makes using the software a lot more pleasant than it used to be. The second area is 2D drawing. It’s been cleaned-up and filled-out, so that now it’s possible to produce really high-quality drawings without undue pain.
Let me put all this in context: It used to be that the main reason why many people would buy Alibre Design was because it was what they could afford. And, though it would get the job done, it was more irritating to use than it should have been. With this new version of Geomagic Design, you’ll get your work done easier, with more stability and less irritation, for the same bargain price—starting at $199, up to $1,999. (To be fair, even the most popular CAD systems are more irritating to use than they ought to be. But that’s another article, isn’t it?)
The development work for this release was largely completed before 3D Systems acquired Geomagic. So, to be fair, the Alibre development team should get the credit for this version. Starting now (or, actually, a month or two ago), the Alibre team will be working under John Alpine, the VP of Engineering of the new integrated software division at 3D Systems (Geomagic, Rapidform, Alibre and probably more.) Alpine is a CAD industry veteran, with serious technical and management chops. This bodes well for the future of the software.
3D Systems Geomagic www.alibre.com
Note: Yes, the images still say “Alibre,” and so does the website. The rebranding to Geomagic Studio just happened very recently, and some things aren’t done yet.