The history of Engineering Intent Corporation is in many ways a history both of engineering automation and of founder Scott Heide. While nobody has come up with the perfect name for the technology, it has had a number of monikers: rules-based engineering, knowledge-based engineering, engineering automation, engineering decision-support.
The technology itself was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts and its first site was almost exactly midway between Harvard and MIT. The man who started the company, ICAD, had been a sail designer at a premier East Coast sailmaker and the technology sprang from a (to him) frustrating reality:
Sails, especially competition sails, are airfoils. It is lift, not wind pressure, that most effectively propels a sailing hull. As such, they depend on geometries that, as precisely as possible, respond to the highly-complex fluid mechanics of air. Sails are even more complex than airplane wings, because wings do not change their geometry when lift increases and fabric-based sails do.
Designing for these conditions calls for a boatload of computations. Many of these are iterative. After a while, after he designed his tenth suit of sails, our sail designer found himself going over the same computational ground again and again. And he found himself embodying the results in the same (yet different) geometric patterns of sail segments. Because it was fluid mechanics, everything depended on everything else, and the iterations grew wearisome.
He hired 3 friends and started ICAD in 1984. They soon hired a fourth, MIT master of science in engineering Scott Heide. Scott did a little development on the tools, worked with early customers in creating software systems to automate repetitive engineering, and one-by-one built and trained a department of 20 consultants.
They were soon working with very knowledgeable companies on complex projects. Customers included GE Jet Engine, Boeing, Northrop, Jaguar Motorcars, General Motors, Combustion Engineering, and dozens more. They all had several common traits: they were big, they had lots of money, and they had very knowledgeable engineers who grasped why engineering automation would help their companies.
ICAD never sought to hide the fact that its software was hard to use and expensive. A second company, Wisdom Systems, joined the fray. WIthin a few years, ICAD had acquired Wisdom Systems. By that time, Scott had created and was managing ICAD’s Far East distribution.
WIthin a few years, ICAD was sold to Oracle, where the technology became the engine for a very powerful configuration environment. At that point, in the early 1990s, Scott formed Heide Corporation. By 1995, Heide Corp. had become Engineering Intent. After hiring highly experienced consulting and development personnel, many of them ex-ICAD, Engineering Intent developed a low-cost, Windows-based engineering automation development environment, Intent™. This was helped by Microsoft’s increasing adoption of object-oriented architectures and the ever-increasing power of PCs.
In 1997, Engineering Intent sold core engine technology to Unigraphics (now Siemens NX). Unigraphics marketed it as Knowledge Fusion, and Siemens still provides the technology, now called Knowledge Fusion for Designers, as part of its PLM suite of products. (By the way, remember Wisdom Systems? In the 1990s, some of that company’s people developed PC-based Rulestream, which was acquired by Siemens a few years ago. Rulestream, too, is part of the SIemens PLM suite.)
Engineering Intent meanwhile was expanding the market for engineering automation. With a reasonably-priced product, wrapped in a reasonably easy-to-use interface, the technology became increasingly attractive not only to massive multinationals, but also to small and mid-size enterprises.
In 2005, Scott sold Engineering Intent to Autodesk. Autodesk now markets the technology as Inventor® ETO. Scott joined Autodesk’s consultant group and continued to work with a growing universe of savvy companies who want to take advantage of engineering automation.
After leaving Autodesk, Scott founded Cruz Bay Custom, peopled it with top talent and went after a number of markets with solutions for makers of custom products. Before long, the pull of engineering automation brought him back to a familiar world. Cruz Bay Custom became, once again, Engineering Intent at the beginning of 2016. Partnering with Autodesk and Siemens, Engineering Intent saw explosive growth in both in interest in engineering automation as well as its own staffing.