In the past years, development and production processes in many companies have changed in a revolutionary way, leading to new demands in information and CAx technology. The R&D-departments of the German automotive industry installed a working group to develop a common long term CAD/CAM strategy1. A preliminary result is the concept for an open CAx system architecture as a basis for realizing industrial requirements on CAD/ CAM and for the cooperation with system vendors. The project ANICA was started in cooperation with five international CAD/CAM -suppliers in order to show the feasibility of this architecture. The access interfaces of different system kernels are analysed with the aim of developing a concept for a cooperating CAx system network. The concept will be put into practice with a software prototype basing on CORBA and OLE. The communication elements within such an architecture have to go far beyond conventional CAD data. This will lead to an extension of "feature" concepts including CAx functionality and dynamic information about the process chain of a product. The impact on modern concepts for user interfaces, on reverse engineering methods and on product data models will be discussed to finally close the loop to industrial CAx application.
The increasing parallelisation of development processes as well as the ongoing trends towards virtual product development and outsourcing of development activities strengthen the need for 3D co-operative design via communication networks. Regarding the field of CAx, none of the existing systems meets all the requirements of very complex process chain. This leads to a tremendous need for the integration of heterogeneous CAx systems. Therefore, MACAO, a platform-independent client for a distributed CAx component system, the so-called ANICA CAx object bus, is presented. The MACAO client is able to access objects and functions provided by different CAx servers distributed over a communication network. Thus, MACAO is a new solution for engineering design and visualisation in shared distributed virtual environments. This paper describes the underlying concepts, the actual prototype implementation, as well as possible application scenarios in the area of co-operative design and visualisation.