This week, Siemens reveals its plan to acquire long-time partner Lightworks Design, a rendering and visualization technology provider. When the transaction completes, the UK-based Lightworks, known for its Iray software developer kit (SDK), is to become part of Siemens PLM Software, the division of Siemens that oversees NX (CAD/CAM/CAE) and Teamcenter (PLM).
“This latest acquisition builds upon previous investments in software offerings for the digital enterprise, which connects virtual product development and production planning with the real production environment and lifecycle support. Lightwork Design capabilities are already embedded into NX software, Siemens’ 3D design application, and will also be added to other offerings across the Siemens portfolio,” according to Siemens.
CAD vendors pursue visualization and VR
At its core, CAD programs are geometry modeling programs, not visualization engines. But the engineers’ need to make aesthetic judgements based on photo-realistic, physically accurate visuals puts a new burden on CAD programs, leading CAD vendors to seek partnerships with rendering technology developers or acquire them. In recognition of this critical link, major rendering programs also provide plug-ins to attract CAD users.
More recently, the need to add support for AR-VR (augmented reality, virtual reality) viewing of CAD designs has also prompted CAD vendors to seek similar partnerships, often with vendors in the media, game, and entertainment sectors.
Five years ago, Dassault Systemes, a rival of Siemens PLM Software in CAD and PLM, acquired RTT (Real-Time Technology), adding the latter’s high-end visualization and AR-VR (augmented reality, virtual reality) components to its offerings. The GPU-accelerated renderer Bunkspeed, part of RTT’s products, eventually became the visualization technology for SolidWorks, Dassault Systemes’ mainstream mechanical CAD package.
Three years ago, PTC, a rival of Siemens PLM Software, acquired Vuforia to add AR-VR support to its portfolio.
One of Lightworks technology is SLIPSTREAM, an automated data pipeline to prepare and view CAD models in VR hardware. The acquisition of Lightwork is expected to give Siemens NX CAD users an easy path to VR viewing.
Lightworks’ future at Siemens
Lightworks offers a series of Iray plug-ins to enable rendering inside Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max, and Rhino. Siemens PLM Software’s press office clarifies, “Lightworks Iray plugin for 3ds max will continue. The Iray plugins for Maya and Rhino aren’t actually developed by Lightworks, but by independent 3rd parties that are part of the NVIDIA Iray developer community.”
The Lightworks brand, Siemens confirms, is also set to be preserved. “The current Lightworks offerings will continue under the Lightworks name, as part of our PLM Components business, similar to what we have done with Kineo, D-Cubed, and Parasolid,” says Siemens PLM Software’s press office. “The logo will be Siemens, but the portfolio will be named Lightworks and the product and service offerings remain available to ISVs and end users. Additionally, the Lightworks technology will be integrated into Siemens PLM offerings. It’s already integrated with NX, and will be integrated to other Siemens PLM offerings.”