On December 1999, Matra Datavision announced the adoption of an open source strategy for its CASCADE geometric modeling libraries with publication of their source code on the Internet, as the Open CASCADE product, distributed under a LGPL-like licence. Before that announcement, CASCADE had been marketed using a traditional, proprietary model, with an installed base of about 130 active customers, using 250 development licences and 1,500 run-time licences worldwide.
From a technical point of view, Open CASCADE is a set of components for the development of technical and scientific modeling applications ranging from CAD/CAM/CAE to metrology and measuring machines, biomedical software, 3D geological mapping, optical simulation, product design and styling.
When Matra Datavision decide that Open CASCADE was to be distributed under an open source licence, they gave developers free access to the source code of many 3D geometry data structures (from volume primitives to surface creation), including hundreds of modeling algorithms (such as Boolean operations, hidden line removal, fillets and chamfers and graphic representation of 2D and 3D objects in an Open GL-based viewer). Open CASCADE can input and output using several industry standard formats, thus ensuring exchange of application data with current software environments.
For supporting the product, a new organization, encompassing a 50 member development team, was created to contribute to Open CASCADE and guarantee its smooth operation and utilization.
The importance of this announcement was larger than the importance of the product being made free software, since it was probably the first one in its class made by a large European company (Matra Datavision is a wholly owned subsidiary of Aerospatiale Matra, Europe's second largest aeronautics/defense group). Matra Datavision itself currently supports over 6,000 customers worldwide, with sales and service teams based principally in Europe and North America. Customers are companies of many sizes, primarily in the automotive, aerospace and defense, general manufacturing and machinery, consumer product and electromechanical industries.