March 5, 2018
After 3D Systems acquired Texas-based Alibre in 2011, Alibre’s parametric CAD software morphed into a new product called Geomagic Design, part of 3D Systems’ portfolio.
Whatever enthusiasm that brought the two parties together seemed to have fizzled out now. So, in the end of 2017, a group of former Alibre veterans quietly reacquired the brand’s IP from 3D Systems.
“Prior to the acquisition ..., we had the autonomy and focus necessary to put you first, to actively participate in discussions with our customers, and to drive the product ever forward. Our team had passion and the authority to act on it. We formed Alibre, LLC and acquired Geomagic Design because we wanted to return to that environment,” wrote Max Freeman, CEO of the new Alibre LLC, in a blog post.
Freeman was VP of product management and marketing at the old Alibre Inc. This week, he began reaching out to the industry press, signaling that the new Alibre LLC is open for business.
An Unorthodox Fighter
In the late 1990s, Alibre competed with Autodesk Inventor, SOLIDWORKS, Solid Edge, and other mainstream modeling programs. With its price set slightly lower than the major competitors, Alibre software held its own.
Long before Onshape and others launched browser-based CAD, Alibre tested the waters with web-based CAD in 2000. At the time, high bandwidth connections were not the norm. Therefore, Alibre’s online CAD was beset by lag time and performance issues.
In 2009, fierce competition prompted Alibre to try something radical. It offered $99 version of its product—a 90% price cut from the standard version selling for $999. Alibre’s then-CEO Paul Grayson characterized the discount as “a massive market share grab,” available only for a limited time.
A year later, Alibre was swallowed up into 3D Systems’ universe. At the time, 3D Systems said it planned to “expand the breadth and reach of the Alibre design productivity tools ...” As a lone CAD modeler in 3D systems’ additive manufacturing (AM) hardware and software portfolio, Geomagic Design faded into the background.
The return of independent Alibre, marked by the upcoming release of Alibre Design 2018, is but one more chapter in the company’s eventful chronicles.
Renewed Vows, Renewed Energy
Alibre is returning to a CAD landscape that’s significantly different. Newcomers like Onshape have opened the door to browser-based CAD. Established players like Autodesk Inventor and SOLIDWORKS are incorporating topology optimization features, AM-support, and tablet support into the packages. Price is but one of the factors in the new CAD land grab.
In a frank admission, Freeman said, “We don’t claim that we can match Autodesk Inventor or SOLIDWORKS feature for feature. They’re appropriate for people making airplane and automotive parts, sure. But we believe there are also machine shops that need to design simple stuff. They are underserved. We are a great fit for them. We believe people are still interested in a capable CAD system at a reasonable price.”
That reasonable price, for now, is $1,000 for Alibre Design Professional. There’s also a $2,000 version called Alibre Design Expert with more features.
Freeman also revealed he plans to court the consumer crowd, but he’s not ready to discuss details.
“As we move forward, we’ll focus on ease of use and ease of entry to the product,” Freeman said.