Inside this Issue
Q&A: Five Minutes with Applied 3D Science
Steve Mastrangelo <email@example.com> is the president and ceo of Applied 3D Science. In addition, his roles include running development and doing much of the product management for ParaLogix. [The company was upFront.eZine's first advertiser.]
upFront.eZine: Where did Applied 3D Science come from? What's the history of you guys?
Steve Mastrangelo: Applied 3D Science was founded by
Jeff Hall and myself in late 1996 with an investment from Andor,
a Japanese CAD company in dire need of their next generation product.
I was the original architect of CADKEY, starting in 1985. Jeff
Hall was vp of international sales at Cadkey in the late 80s.
Our original goal was to market in Japan only through Andor, but we had to change direction when the Japanese economic situation affected our ability to get funding. We opened up an OEM business here, and have just begun selling the product direct.
Andor reduced its share in A3DS due to its own change of direction, and I am now the majority stockholder. We may decide to establish a relationship in the future with another company, if it makes sense. As for our developers, many were with me right from the early days of Cadkey, and are some of the best in the business.
upFront.eZine: Jeff Hall says, "This product is light years ahead of both Inventor and SolidWorks in its architecture." Tell me why that is.
Steve Mastrangelo: There is a reason that "solid"
modelers built on the same kernel tend to look-and-feel similar.
We believe they took the path of least resistance provided by
the modeling kernel. This is unfortunate for the user because
while the developers of these kernels are bang-up mathematicians,
they clearly are not CAD users.
Autodesk took an interesting approach with Inventor and its "adaptive" stuff. Applied 3D Science took a fresh approach as well. ParaLogix and its procedural modeling methodology allows modeling relationships and dependencies to be established without explicit relationship definitions or 3D constraints.
For example, to extrude a rung between the legs of a ladder, we just tell it to go to the next face, or to a face or to a plane when we made it. No switches required; no need for 3D constraints. 3D constraints are only necessary when bringing in reusable stock parts or subassemblies into the assembly model.
In short, our procedural modeling takes feature-based modeling a step further because our procedures have _all_ of the following characteristics, whereas other modelers typically have one or two:
a. Create one or more features. For example, the New Component
Extrude feature extrudes in either one or both directions with
optional shells, drafts and fillets on the start and end.
b. Time sequence. You control the ordering of the procedures used to construct the model, resulting in different output geometry when the order is changed.
c. Operate across multiple components (parts). You can do assembly modeling with interdependencies and rarely, if at all, use a 3D constraint unless you are bringing in stock components. True top down assembly modeling, in other words.
I appreciate Jeff's comments, but we are a bit more modest. Our product has the potential to be light years ahead because of its core architecture -- it just isn't all exposed to the user yet. We want all of our customers to feel that they got 100% of what we advertise at the time they get the product, so we are intentionally low key in our claims at this time. There is one differentiating feature that we haven't been able to bring to production readiness just yet.
upFront.eZine: Once SolidWorks, EDS (Solid Edge), and Autodesk programmers see what you've done, are you worried they'll simply copy your concepts?
Steve Mastrangelo: Not at all. Their architecture limits
their possibilities. If they did rewrite their architecture to
incorporate our modeling concepts, so be it -- their move lends
credibility to our ideas. It is true we are immediately compared
to the products you mention -- what features they possess and
we don't. We understand it is inevitable. Those three share the
same niche; our niche is different: folks who are miles away from
justifying a $10k investment for every seat.
One concept they will not be able to touch is our ability to provide raw value and consumer-level prices. The CAD world needs a fresh business model. In other words, we won't engage in a feature war. We have a lean/mean company, stressing quality, not quantity, at a much lower total cost of ownership for the user.
upFront.eZine: Did you use competent architecture (D-cubed, ACIS, ParaSolid), or did you write everything from scratch?
Steve Mastrangelo: ParaLogix is build using the ParaSolid
solids modeling kernel and the D-Cubed constraint manager. I am
humored by the perception that building a good CAD system is a
matter of simply packaging these; I wish it was that simple.
Our implementation of ParaSolid is, however, somewhat unique. We defined what we wanted to do without the restriction of knowing how challenging it would be to accomplish.
upFront.eZine: In this era where file formats lock customers to a single vendor, why should anyone want to consider your product?
Steve Mastrangelo: This is a trap in the CAD world.
Incremental increases in productivity do not sway these consumers;
heck, significant increases often don't because real-world implementation
is hard. It is time consuming. It takes good sound management
practices that do not come bundled in a CAD product. And worse,
very few CAD sales channels actually deliver much added value.
The truth is that file formats don't lock customers to a single
vendor as much as the perception that a change will not have a
great enough ROI to justify the pain. Let me change your questions:
"how does Applied 3D Science demonstrate enough value to
justify the pain?"
The best technology doesn't always win. For a little upstart like us to compete head-to-head with the name brands is wishful thinking. Our game plan is simple: we intend to provide unprecedented value within a profitable business model.
MicroStation Top 3, Part II
The Ramsey/Stefanchuk team <www.cadgurus.com/default.asp> created a Top 3 To Do items list for those planning an upgrade to MicroStation V8:
1. Be prepared for many changes.
2. Ask a lot of questions.
3. Do a lot of planning.
And from Stefanchuk:
1. Test - things won't work the way you assumed.
2. Test - features will be incomplete.
3. Test - workarounds will be required.
Has the CAD Industry Out-paced Its Customers?
Martyn Day's editorial on the apparent disconnect between single-building model software and the customer generated many responses:
It's not just AEC either, it goes into almost all industries
outside of specialized component and small assembly modeling.
Any industry with a sizable vault of legacy data is resistant
to migrating practices or toolsets. "It's worked well until
now." is their common retort.
In addition, software developers need to spend more time learning what their customers are actually doing, instead of reading survey forms and playing 20 questions.
- Dave Stein
There are numerous architects who can see the advantages, but
having tried the available software have not found the experience
as rewarding as hoped and therefore stayed with existing 2D solutions.
- Guy Robinson
Of course there is a disconnect between CAD product
and CAD users. Just ask all the designers still happily plugging
away with DOS-based DataCAD 5.
- Joe Stoddard
I wonder if the disconnect that does exist won't disappear
before the software companies catch on and address the issue.
It seems that while there are certainly a great number of existing
CAD users who are entrenched in the 2D remnants of the origins
of CAD, there are certainly a growing number of newer users who
have entered the practice during the transition to SBM [single
building model] technology. These users are not be burdened by
the 2D limitations that CAD has historically imposed.
Teaching old dogs new tricks is daunting, but teaching young ones is easy. Once the new users outnumber the old ones, the problem goes away.
- Milo Shubat
CAD vendors are flying faster than CAD users, so the distance
between technology and practice is always too long. In Italy,
this problem is very visible because the CAD community is 10 years
behind the USA. For example, in Italy there is no CAD manager,
there is no CAD standard. Autodesk here sells three AutoCAD LTs
for each AutoCAD, so 2D drawings are the standard.
When I met the Revit marketing director, I explained the reality of CAD in Italy. While Revit is a good tool, Italian CAD people actually have not background culture to adopt Revit technology. Architecture is not industrialized here, so the idea of crate a SBM is a very complex way to obtain 2D representation of project.
- Aniello Annunziata
I concur that the software publishers are too far in front
of the users' needs. The ultimate product from the design field
in the AEC sector is to put something on paper that can be read
in a construction shack by flashlight, if need be. The ultimate
user of the information does not need walkthrough 3D models of
what is being built.
- John Rutkowski
The problem is that most architectural firms won't admit that
they don't create buildings but drawings. The design, code studies,
detail creation, and coordination with consultants are geared
toward one purpose: drawings that precisely and clearly convey
the information needed to construct the building.
CAD (computer-aided generation of drawings) is a well-entrenched, mature computer application. AEC software upstarts fail when they do not recognize the enormous power of that entrenchment. The fear of putting time and money into new software is too great, even when the cost advantage is spelled out in clear terms. The collapse of the dot.coms made this fear even greater. For these applications to succeed, they must see their roles as a designer's role supports that of the architectural draftsman.
What specific steps need to be taken? These companies have to understand what their obstacles are, and not assume an ignorant customer base.
* Concentrate on integration with existing systems in the most seamless and transparent method possible, such as the automatic creation of several DWG files from a single model.
* Create entities that are identical to the resulting DWG entity, with support for layers, linetypes, colors, fonts, hatch patterns, and so on.
* Integrate files into the document creation process without a switch in software.
By having these systems as "architectural design front-ends"
to existing drafting systems has many advantages. Although this
appears to be going backwards, I think it is the only way for
new applications to establish themselves. Their existing approach
doesn't seem to be working, no matter what they say in press releases.
I'll close by repeating Mr. Day: "I think the first step is acknowledging that there is a problem, and that something should be done."
- David William Edwards
Dave Edwards Consulting
Below the Radar
A summary of CAD industry news you may not have read elsewhere:
TabiCAD (US$29.95) imports tables from MS Office documents into AutoCAD 2000 and R14 as native AutoCAD entities. Free limited demo from http://www.ransen.com/tabicad/default.htm
Chief Architect 8.0 will be released in late January.
Cardiff Consultants has 1,600 3D objects for .dwg, .dxf,
and other CAD formats. http://www.ChiefSymbols.com
modularis software has added libraries of symbols: Fluid power systems and components, civil engineering, spectrum signs, sun protection systems, and connections and insulation. Available for AutoCAD, CATIA V5, Mechanical Desktop, PRO/E, SolidWorks, Solid Edge and TopSolid. Free subscription for two months at http://www.cad-symbols.de
Bentley Systems is shipping the V8 versions of Structural for MicroStation TriForma and Architecture for MicroStation TriForma. Bentley says that its MicroStation TriForma V8 natively references and edits AutoCAD DWG and MicroStation DGN files directly. http://www.bentley.com
CAD Studio <http://www.cadstudio.cz/tips> has 333 CAD tips for products by Autodesk and HP.
autoodesosys announced that their form-Z v3.9 modeler renders scenes to Epix format, for import into Piranesi from Informatix Software International. The Epix format assigns a depth and material value to every pixel. http://www.formz.com
Microspot is shipping MacDraft 5.0.5 for Mac OS X. http://www.microspot.co.uk
drcauto software is hipping LT TOOLKIT MAX for programming
AutoCAD LT 2000/2000i/2002 with ObjectARX, ObjectDBX and AutoLISP.
TenLinks has changes the name of its daily CAD Headlines e-newsletter to 'TenLinks Daily' and expanded coverage from CAD to include CAE and CAM. Subscribe to the free newsletter at http://www.tenlinks.com/NEWS/subscribe.htm
IWT changed the name of its German-language 'CAD World' magazine to 'DIGITAL ENGINEERING Magazin.' http://www.digital-engineering-magazin.de/
Being six years old, "CADD Chronicles" is not a new newsletter but I just received the Fall 2001 issue in the mail. The 12-page newsletter is published by the Visual CADD User Group. http://www.visualcadd.org
Seminars & Conferences
SolidWorks International User Conference, Feb 17-20, Las Vegas NV USA. http://www.solidworks.com/swworld
Solid Modeling 2002, Mar 13-14, Birmingham England. http://www.eda-expos.co.uk/SM/index.htm
COE (for CATIA, ENOVIA, and DELMIA users), Apr 14-17 in Palm Springs AZ USA. http://www.coe.org/events/02spring/index.cfm [No where is "COE" explained.]
COFES2002 (Congress on the Future of Engineering Software)
May 2-5 in Scottsdale AZ USA. http://www.cofes.com
Bentley International User Conference, May 19-23, Atlantic City NJ USA
People/Companies on the Move
Advanced Relational Technology named Greg Wells as the new president and ceo. Mr Wells was previously the coo at ART, which makes Chief Architect and 3D Home Architect.
Delmar Learning (Autodesk Press, OnWord Press, Delmar Publishing) is moving to 5 Maxwell Drive, Clifton Park, NY 12065-2919, Ph. (518) 348-2300 as of 14 Jan.
Computer News Summaries
Apple will start shipping its new [ultra-ugly, in my mind] iMacs by month's end. The rumored iWalk PDA was not announced. Mediafour's Xplay software lets the iPod MP3 player work with FireWire-equipped Windows computers.
Compaq is shipping 2.2GHz Evo Workstation W4000 computers with up to 4GB of 266 MHz ECC DDR memory. http://www.compaq.com/products/workstations [The press release is ahead of the Web site, which doesn't list the 2.2GHz model.]
Eagle Point Software completed its merger with an entity formed by John F. Biver, a founder and director of Eagle Point and former vp of the company's Civil Applications Division.
RAND Worldwide will use its ENGINEERING.com portal to sell IronCAD products. IronCAD LLC signed up 37 channel partners worldwide to promote its InnovationSuite.
Solid Modeling Solutions has purchased Nlib, a NURBS geometry kernel, from GeomWare.
Moldflow expects to report total 2Q revenues of approximately $9.2 million, up by $0.2 million from the previous estimate.
In contrast, PTC expects 1Q revenue to be US$200 million, down by $5 million from the original low-end projection.
Q12. What was the original name of the company that produces the SpaceBall?
- Steven Mastrangelo
Clue: The company was acquired (by Logitech) in 1998.
Look for the answer at http://www.upfrontezine.com/trivia.htm
Letters to the Editor
"Re: MicroStation V8
"V8 is a major upgrade for MicroStation users. It may be the most time consuming upgrade for MicroStation CAD Managers/Administrators. So many new features and issues to think about.
"Ironic that the DWG/DGN compatibly issue takes backseat to the V7/V8 issues. Perhaps the V7 schema will take care of that. At the heart of anyone's upgrade plan will be the management of these two DGN file formats. MicroStation users have never had to deal with this before. It's a catch 22 for Bentley. Users have been asking for features delivered with V8 but Bentley insists that a new file format was necessary. The flip side is that users do not want to give up their old file format. I wonder how many organizations will upgrade in the next 12 months?"
- Mary Ramsey
"One of the problems with the DWG file format is that
it's complex and subject to interpretation, even if you have a
good library to read and write it. Think, for example, about all
the variables associated with dimensions. OpenDWG provides accurate
access to all of them, but it's up to the developer to understand
how they work in their product.
"Bentley did work with OpenDWG, and did contribute to the libraries. But mostly what they did was pay attention to the details, taking responsibility for doing a really good implementation. It's not absolutely perfect yet, but it's a strong start."
- Evan Yares
Re: Does Anyone Actually Use DWF?
"I thought Steve Potter's answer raises some potentially interesting topics, like when he spoke about 'renewed interest in the use of the PDF format for drawing publishing.' What do you think it tells us about the need of CAD users who are using PDF ahead of DWF to publish CAD drawings to the Web?"
- Name withheld by request
Re: Porting to Pocket PC
"As to PalmOS, we have no intentions to go there at this time. Largely because software developed with MS programmers tools tend to only be portable across Microsoft platforms."
- Steve Potter http://www.docu-point.com
The editor replies, "Yes, hmmm, that's how Microsoft locks in developers to magnify its monopoly."
Mr Potter replies: "No dispute from me on that one. The incremental cost of a CE port is expected to be fairly small (though we have learned that it is not a trivial task), an important consideration for a self-funded company. I do see the Pocket PC as more of a mainstream platform for viewing drawings of any significant size. As you are aware, Palm is not without their own set of challenges at the moment."
Re: Print Magazine Woes
"A few weeks ago you mentioned how e-zines and print magazines were struggling. We subscribe to one AutoCAD magazine and have done so for many years. But when the next re-subscription letter arrives I will be turning it down. The reason: content. I was horrified by the size of the December issue -- 48 pages small, compared to a year ago at 104 pages. Half the magazine is always ads and this latest issue doesn't even have a 'Letters to the Editor' section.
"I can see why people are not buying print magazines anymore, and soon we won't be either."
- Mike Burke
The editor replies: "It is standard for print magazines to aim for 50% advertising and 50% editorial. The downturn in the ad market hits print magazines more than ezines because of the added overhead of paying for production, paper, printing, and postage. Even 'Fortune' magazine is looking gaunt."
Re: While you can be heavily fined for putting down false
details on a [British] census form, it does not apply to the religion
"To whom do they leave the enforcement of this part of the census?"
- Richard C. MacCrea
Mountain House Plans
"Your summary of the Autodesk conference call regarding
the launching of its new sold modeling kernel was excellent. Keep
up the good work!"
- Terry Wohlers
Spin Doctor of the Moment
"...on data collected from a variety of sources [and Web sites] ... indicate that at least half of all visitors have 667MHz CPUs or slower. Machines that slow are clearly nearing the end of their product life."
- Ramon G. McLeod, PC World's Daily Computer News