Architosh broke the story earlier this week that Hexagon AB, of Sweden, had acquired Belgium-based Bricsys NV, the makers of the Bricsys BricsCAD platform solutions for AEC and MCAD markets. A fast-growing developer of CAD (computer-aided design) software, Bricsys has been providing solutions since 2002 and is a founding member of the Open Design Alliance (ODA), providing an AutoCAD DWG compatible CAD platform.
What Bricsys Offers Hexagon AB
BricsCAD supports 2/3D general, mechanical, sheet metal design and building information modeling (BIM) in one system. AEC professionals can choose to use the system as a 2D CAD environment or as a 3D BIM environment. Based on the de facto CAD file format (.dwg), Bricsys’ solutions provide users with native access to millions of DWG files around the world.
Bricsys NV is now a subsidiary of a massive and growing critical company in the Industry 4.0 revolution. Hexagon has multitudes of solutions touching down at the construction site and key companies like Leica are in its fold, but Bricsys now brings them into the BIM world enabling Hexagon to center activities on “buildings.”
Bricsys also offers time-saving, artificial intelligence-driven add-ons from conceptual modeling to seamless BIM workflows and cloud connectivity—including its own CDE (common data environment).
“Hexagon has long been a leader in structural & process piping design. The Bricsys acquisition extends our domain expertise into building design, adding walls, floors, doors, and other construction-related features,” says Hexagon President and CEO Ola Rollén. “More importantly, we can now provide the AEC market with an end-to-end platform – with conceptual design, CAD design, BIM software and collaboration tools, project and cost controls, in-field construction execution tools (work packages), and progress documentation (reality capture) – to connect, automate, and ultimately ‘autonomise’ the entire building and construction ecosystem through our HxGN SMART Build solution.”
Architosh Commentary and Analysis
More on Hexagon and its HxGN SMART Build Tech
Hexagon is one of the global leaders driving innovation towards what is commonly known as Industry 4.0 (the fourth industrial revolution), sometimes simply called “I4” for short. The fourth industrial revolution is characterized by “cyber-physical systems” while the third industrial revolution began with the dawn of the information-age and was marked by computers and automation.
Architosh has already begun deep discussions about these themes in the recent past (see: Architosh, “Perspectives on BEST of SHOW 2018: Perez’s Model of Technological Revolutions—BIM, CDEs and VR,” 12 July 2018) with a particular focus recently on industrial historian Carlota Perez’s “Techno-Economic Paradigms” model.
Hexagon is aimed at what they call creating Autonomous Connected Ecosystems (ACE) which is really the convergence of the physical world with the digital work with integrated built-in intelligence based on data at different temporal scales. This involves the Internet of Things (IoT) model and Hexagon helps customers move beyond IoT by deploying integrative AI, Edge-Cloud integration, Mobility, and Data Visualization into their ACE platforms.
Hexagon’s Smart X strategies aim to solve for “x” in any industry by creating a Smart Digital Reality, or what some might call a “digital twin” of physical systems and processes. In the AEC world, a digital twin is compatible with the ideas of BIM or the Virtual Building metaphor but it doesn’t stop at them—it aims to go far beyond that.
Hexagon has a portfolio of Smart City solutions across its various divisions, including Geosystems. In their 2017 annual report, they claim the autonomous transportation market is potentially a 100bn USD market. Obtaining BIM solutions via its Bricsys acquisition enables more than just a beachhead in the growing AEC BIM market, it connects Smart Cities tech to “smart buildings” tech.
Hexagon says that they will obtain strength not just through internal innovation but through smart mergers and acquisitions (M&A). In looking at a graphic from their 2017 Annual Report (see above) urban planning and infrastructure management are key elements of the Smart City focus so acquiring a BIM platform made tremendous sense. But transportation, smarter factories and manufacturing, and infrastructure—especially as it relates to mobility transformations—all factor strongly into acquiring Bricsys’ DWG-based technologies because DWG is still a strong underlayment technology in knowledge transfer and dissemination.
Geospatial appears to be Hexagon’s biggest area of expertise and revenue generation, with Surveying customers accounting for 44 percent of all of its customers, while Defense accounts for 5 percent. Importantly, Infrastructure and Construction (AEC-facing domains) account for 22 percent, the second largest customer group. With Bricsys onboard this segment may grow rapidly in a few years.
Leica Geosystems AG is Hexagon’s big subsidiary in this space, but Hexagon has a dozen more companies in the Geospatial Group. Much of these companies touch down on delivering solutions for the construction site across infrastructure as well as buildings. There are deep possibilities for integration with BricsCAD in this space. One company in this group, for example, is Multivista, a construction photo, video, webcam and UAV services company with clients including Turner, Jacobs, and Skanska, some of the larger general contractors operating in the US.
We recently wrote about the Leica BLK360 software written by OrthoGraph in a feature on OrthoGraph Enterprise. The importance of “reality capture” technologies and how they can streamline AEC industry and infrastructure workflows cannot be underestimated.
CAD, CAE and the BIM Connection
Hexagon’s CAD, CAM, and CAE solutions include world-leading applications that can integrate with sensor-based technology and information. Their 2017 Annual Report doesn’t list AEC or Infrastructure customer segments for this solutions domain but this may change soon with the Bricsys integration.
Power & Energy, and Manufacturing are the dominant customer segments, equaling nearly 6 out of 10 customers. Hexagon’s subsidiary CAD-related software companies consist of Integraph, once an important workstation maker. Integraph largely makes software for safety and infrastructure, ideal for the sensor-equipped safe smart city. SmartSketch® is one of its precision engineering and drafting products. CADWorx® is a key 3D design and visualization technology and its Plant Design Suite works with both AutoCAD and BricsCAD solutions. Another tool is FrameWorks® Plus, which works with MicroStation for the development of building structural models.
In the CAE space, the company owns MSC Software and Forming Technologies Inc. The former is a big name in CAE with solutions for CFD, optimization, structural analysis, thermal, fatigue, multibody dynamics and additive manufacturing among other areas in a diverse range of manufacturing-based industries but not in AEC.
Hexagon AB lists key competitors in its annual reports and these competitors, it says, “operate within only one phase of an industry workflow or are limited to only sensors or software.” Key competitors known within the CAD industry include Ansys, Autodesk, Bentley, Dassault, ESRI, and Trimble. With respect to geospatial technology offerings, only Autodesk, Bentley, ESRI, and Trimble have this technology. In terms of its biggest rivals with respect to BIM, that would also include the Nemetschek Group.
With so many acquired companies and divisions Hexagon organizes its innovation and R&D around something they call the Innovation Hub. The group has six primary centers, each devoted to specific tasks (eg: R&D technology, application development, IP, visualization center, mobile and cloud, and ventures).
In a blog post from this past week, Hexagon President and CEO Ola Rollén said acquiring Bricsys made sense after partnering with the company a year ago. BricsCAD BIM seemed to be critical. “Recently, Bricsys has expanded into the building information modeling (BIM) realm with BricsCAD BIM, which is highly complementary with Hexagon’s growth strategy in this sector. The combination of these two aspects made it a clear acquisition target for us,” said Rollén.
Hexagon has a sizeable portfolio of solutions for the construction industry. Surveying seems to have been the linchpin of the AEC market for them. But interestingly, the company now possesses through Bricsys a rival tool to Trimble’s SketchUp, along with a BIM authoring tool in BricsCAD BIM. Some in the Open Design Alliance must be loving this news. It puts considerable resources now behind a key DWG-based AEC software tool, making DWG no longer seem like just a legacy technology and file format but something with a second chance on life.