Desktop Engineering

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Desktop Engineering Ltd was one of the early innovators of engineering software for desktop computers. Born through an insight that engineers would find microprocessor based computers an invaluable aid to engineering design, the company commenced writing applications along with distributing others. Currently the company is a key partner in the UK to Dassault Systemes and MSC Software.

Desktop Engineering Ltd
Industry Engineering Software
Headquarters Witney, Oxfordshire, U.K.
Area served
Key people
Geoffrey Haines ( Managing Director )
Products Catia, Delmia, Enovia, Nastran, Patran, Marc
Services Training, consulting, method development
Number of employees

History – early years[edit]

The company was founded on 6 February 1986, initially called Oxford Technical Software Ltd, by Dr Richard Trinder and Mr Geoffrey Haines. Both founders were then working at Oxford Magnet Technology, the developer and manufacturer of super conducting magnets for MRI scanners. At the time, Dr Trinder was Marketing Manager, and Mr Haines was Technical Manager to their principle customer Siemens Healthcare. During a trip in 1985 to Germany they both discussed the emerging power and capability of Personal Computers and how this would change the way engineers design products. The initial vision, to write engineering design software for PC’s then took form. Working on early microprocessor computers, initial prototype analysis software was commenced in order to formulate interfaces and capabilities. However, it became apparent that in order to catch the wave of new software emanating from the USA they decided to acquire UK distribution rights for selected applications. The first product acquired was a finite element analysis program from Algor Inc – one of the first FEA applications available on IBM PC’s running MS-DOS. The company start trading formally on 1 July 1986.

Rapid Market Development[edit]

During the first year of trading it became apparent that this emerging new software market was being driven by US based software houses and new products and rapid growth meant that the company needed to broaden its reach in the markets it operated. Consequently the company became a distributor for Computervision Inc of Boston MA, one of the first CAD companies, reselling their new PC based 3D design software. Integrated with a new FEA application from Structural Research Analysis Corporation of Santa Monica CA, the company renamed itself to Desktop Engineering Ltd – coining the then current term “desktop publishing” marketed by Apple Inc., to describe the similar activity engineers would do on desktop computers. During the ensuing 4 to 5 years the company grew rapidly being recognised as offering highly technical applications with a high level of training and support activity

Software Development[edit]

In 1989 the company acquired a small specialist software developer based in Milton Keynes, UK. This company had written a 2D mechanism analysis program, founded on the work Professor S Molian of Cranfield University. The company continued this development and released the program DE/MEC – a unique Windows 2 based mechanism analysis program. Distributors and agents were acquired in the US, Europe and Australasia. The development activity then expanded into creating a drawing office management solution, which in modern terms would be called a PDM solution.


In 1991 it became apparent that the company needed to refocus the various activities and hence Mr Haines acquired Dr Tinder’s shareholding in Desktop Engineering Ltd and then sold off the software development to Dr Trinder. Thus the company could focus on the software and systems activity.

Growth into High End[edit]

In 1991 Computervision Inc allowed its partners to resell the new high end CAD application CADDS. This new feature based parametric solid modeller was Computervisions response to the new application from PTC Pro/Engineer. The company eagerly took on board the skills and capability for this application and became the first company worldwide to sell this new application – to a subsidiary of British Gas. The ensuing 7 or 8 years saw Desktop Engineering grow becoming the leading reseller for Computervision in the UK

Acquisition by Cenit AG[edit]

In 1999, the Germany publically quoted company Cenit Ag Systemhaus, acquired Desktop Engineering Ltd as part of their rapid worldwide growth strategy. In 3 months Cenit doubled its size through acquisitions in France and the USA. As part of this group Desktop Engineering continued to trade in the UK and then retrained its workforce in the products of Dassault Systemes, then marketed by IBM worldwide. Dassault Systemes had developed Catia, the leading CAD application for the automotive and aerospace markets.

Management Buy Out[edit]

In September 2001, the board of directors of Cenit Ag took the view to reduce its exposure to the UK market and offered an option for Mr Haines to buy back the UK operation of Cenit in the UK. Mr Haines completed this in December 2001.

Consolidation and Expansion[edit]

During the ensuing 10 years, typical areas of expansion have included addressing the architectural market with a customised version of Catia developed by Frank Gehry an architect. First users in this market included ArupSport who designed the Beijing National Stadium in Catia. More recently the company has identified the marine market as one sector where the value of Dassault System solutions can improve their design and manufacturing processes.[citation needed]