Issue #413 : January 11, 2005
C o n t e n t s
Next Release of AutoCAD: What Readers Want
Under the Radar, and our other regular columns.
Write the Editor.
Donate to upFront.eZine with Paypal.
Access nearly-daily CAD commentary at our blog: WorldCAD Access.
Last week's guest editorial by John Burrill brought this
reaction from readers:
"(Product data modeling has been a favorite topic of mine for many years now, focusing more on GD&T [geometric dimensions and tolerances] product data to support manufacturing systems. But I've been interested in all aspects of product data that go beyond just the nominal geometric information.)
"This discussion needs to be split into to two parts:
1. The standardization of information representation.
2. The medium/mechanism by which the information is transferred/accessed.
"There are a number of key standardization activities already in place. One is the ISO's STEP [Standard for Product Model Data] has been years in development, and is starting to make considerable inroads into product data model representations. For example, AP203 2nd Edition has finally added dimensions and tolerances to its geometry. STEP recognizes the difference between schema definition and the mechanism by which the data is transferred/accessed. It supports a physical file format (Part 21), CORBA interfaces, and has expanded to also embrace XML.
"I have to wonder why it is necessary to invest in yet another (proprietary) de facto industry standard format (like 3D XML), when ISO is already chartered for and has been actively involved in these standardization activities.
"As a representation medium, XML is a wonderful technology for piecewise or incremental access. XML's keyword/value pairing schema flexibility makes it a very attractive medium for an extensible encoding system.
"I question how well suited it is for the massive data sets that are normally used within product design and development. One approach may be a hybrid XML data structure where vast amounts of geometric model data is stored as blobs within the XML structure.
"Rather than pursuing niche or proprietary XML schemas, though, it makes sense to establish industry interest groups to provide a common focus. For example, JT Open's <www.jtopen.com> schema could provide an XML foundation for mechanical design systems. But even the JT Open organization begs the question, "Why invest in a de facto industry standard activity, split off from ISO's efforts?" For those of us around the industry long enough to remember OLE for D&M [object linking and embedding for design and modeling], that is a very good question.
"Setting aside the appropriateness of XML, we come to the pithy essence of this issue: Is standardization a benefit or a detriment to an industry?
"At last year's COFES <www.cofes.com>, the topic of standardization (of components) came up. A well-recognized industry sage asserted that standardization was the scourge of any technology-driven industry as it stifled innovation and assured least common denominator solutions. Possibly.
"At the same time, creating artificial boundaries due to proprietary representations is probably more of an impediment to an industry. Imagine a part catalog that couldn't establish standard characteristics of common components just because the different vendors didn't want their products to be readily compared against similar products. From a consumers' (in this case, the designer's) perspective, that just doesn't make any sense. But in many cases, this is what we are faced with when trying to standardize on a similar set of characteristics for components.
"Fortunately, for the section of product data that I care most about (GD&T) the characterization already exists. A dimension is a dimension, a tolerance is a tolerance -- at least as defined by ANSI Y14.5 (or BS308, or any of the other international standards dealing with GD&T).
"Most IGES translators available today support solids, not just surface or wireframe geometry. Most CAD systems today also support STEP AP203 data, though at this time this is still primarily just geometric data.
- John Callen, vp of marketing
Gibbs and Associates
"I wholeheartedly agree with all the issues raised by the author but I disagree on XML being the solution. XML is just a data format that, at best, is marginally better than other formats available.
"The solution to this problem can only be the CAD companies willing to open up their formats and collaborate to make data exchange an easy task, or better, a non-issue. The technology that allows it is not the issue.
"Having been in this business for more than 20 years, I am convinced CAD companies will never work toward this end. They did not see the benefit for themselves in last 30 years and they will not see it for the next 30.
"What could be major step forward (but never happened either) is that customers should require CAD vendors (and any software vendor) publish their file formats before committing to purchasing the software. I've never understood why designers are OK with a world where they do not own the data they produce.
"If customers refused to buy software whose data format is proprietary, companies would be forced to publish the formats. Then some independent developers would step up and write very reliable data conversion software based on the public data specs. This will turn a big problem (CAD data translation) into an annoyance. CAD companies will have lost their attitude toward proprietary data formats and more steps toward seamless data exchange will become possible.
"CAD companies are so bent on protecting their turf that they are missing the fact that CAD/CAM is not growing anymore. We need initiatives that spark growth for this business; unlocking CAD data is one of the many initiatives that will create growth in this stagnant business."
- Cristiano Sacchi
"I would submit that Mr. Burrill's idea can be carried a bit further, now that we're all comfortable with designing buildings and machinery on computers (and we're reasonably confident that this design paradigm is here to stay):
"A separate XML format for each sub-industry would work well. That is, plumbing fixtures would have a standard set of attributes, as would fasteners, electric panels, etc. The list of sub-industries is finite, so it is a solvable problem. Once such standards are in place and agreed-upon, everyone in the industry benefits.
"We as designers should demand that industries adopt such groups of standards, and then in return, we as designers could perhaps think about helping them develop their existing catalogs of parts, through volunteer work donated by AUGI [Autodesk User Group International] members. I'd be happy to generate 2D plumbing fixtures and add attributes, for an extra hour a week for the next year, to make the rest of my career easier forevermore.
"Both users and manufacturers must think of this as an investment that will pay big dividends, in terms of ease of use and time savings for designers, and in terms of accurate product specification for manufacturers."
- Peter Lawton
Axiom Engineers, USA
"I agree strongly that we need a standard open 3D CAD format; I disagree with XML as the tool.
"An XML document consists of text structures like headings, paragraphs and lists, which can be arbitrarily rendered by a user agent. You decide what function the text performs; the author of the use r agent decides how to display it to the user. This capability is absolutely meaningless to the rendering of a 3D
"What we really need is a structured or object oriented language for describing 3D objects. I have hacked around with this a bit, and I would interested in talking to anyone else interested."
- J. Howard Gibson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Optech Incorporated, Canada
Autodesk has doubtless locked down the feature set for its
next release of AutoCAD -- due in March, according to its CEO. Readers
of our WorldCAD Access blog have these suggestions for future releases.
A summary of CAD industry news you may not have read elsewhere, or that we found interesting:
Archway Systems rolls out VersaCAD 2005, Built for Mac OS X, next week. www.versacad.com
NavisWorks releases the fourth major version of JetStream real-time review software. It's been improved in its navigation, collaboration, and coordination of 3D models. www.navisworks.com
VPHybridCAD's version 8 makes it easier to work with raster and hybrid drawings and images. www.softelec.com
LinkTek updates LinkFixerPlus software for maintaining and repairing references to external files in AutoCAD drawings. www.linktek.com
GridWorks edits, imports/exports, and converts DEM [Digital Elevation Model] files for AutoCAD and MicroStation. Supports USGS DEM and ESRI, and application-specific formats, such as Surfer.
- - -
Additional news items at our WorldCAD Access blog <worldcadaccess.typepad.com/blog/>:
Also: The acquisitions editor of a large book publisher asked, "Do you know anyone who teaches Unigraphics NX? I have a manuscript on using Unigraphics NX that I am trying to have reviewed." If you can help out, email email@example.com, and we'll pass along your email to that editor.
Magazine/eZine/Weblog UpdatesSusan Smith is editor of the new 'AECWeekly', in addition to her duties as editor of 'AECCafe' <www.AECCafe.com>.
People/Companies on the MoveOcé appoints William Pugh to the new position of vp operations.
Paul Hazen joins the board of directors of Alias. Mr Hazen is chairman of Accel-KK, a private equity firm.
UGS hires John Graham as senior vp and managing director, Americas. Mr Graham was previously with Capgemini.
Moldflow appoints Christopher Gorgone as executive vp of finance and cfo. Mr. Gorgone is a former consultant with the Nuzzo Group.
TTF appoints François Chrétien as COO; Khaled Moussa president of business development; and Lionel Vieilly as director of pre-sales activities.
Roland DGA launches a new strategic business unit, called Roland Advanced Solutions Division to handle the engraving, sign making, jewelry design and CAD/CAM industries.
VRcontext opens a new office at Lyngbyvej 20, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.
RealityWave opens an office in Huntsville AL USA
UGS agrees to acquire all of Tecnomatix Technologies
for US$228 million in cash.
The Graphing Calculator Story
Dual-boot Linux on the iPod.
Letters to the EditorRe: Bad Day
"I'm sure that this has already been pointed out to you a million times, but on your WorthWhile Web link to gdch.org/havinga/badday.htm, it appears that the last image on the page is a modified version of the fifth image."
- Nicholas Dierauf
The editor replies: "Not a million times, but certainly a dozen. Now I know what upFront.eZine readers really care about. The final images, of the second crane falling over, were doctored."
Re: upFront.eZine Recommends MCC
"Thank you for offering an agency receiving contributions to help the victims of the the Indian Ocean tsunami."
- Don Brinks, L-3com
"Thanks to you for listing MCC as a good place to give Tsunami aid. More than 20 people have come to our site from yours!"
- Larry Guengerich
Mennonite Central Committee
Re: So we won't.
"I love it. Better still, the first ad I saw was for 'new and used AutoCAD 2000i' on eBay. Wow, can't wait to see what the rest of the year holds!"
- Scott Slavik, AutoSolids
The editor replies: "I checked out eBay and found the 'AutoCAD 2000i' consisted on training materials."
Re: Entire contents copyright ©2004 by upFront.eZine Publishing.
"Don't forget to change the copyright date. See, some of *do* read every little word you write."
- Warren Cross
Re: Interview on BlogCAD
"It was a bit amusing to see you on the other side of the desk. But your interview to BlogCAD was interesting. As usual, you were candid and forthright. I wish there would, sometime in future, be a sequel to this interview wherein, hopefully, you will spill the beans and tell all your secrets :). Great work Mr. Ralph Grabowski, keep it up."
- Sanjay Kulkarni
Re: Does My Data Look Big in This?
"I just couldn't help chuckling while reading this. Somehow my mind kept envisioning the Egyptians wondering, no, _worrying_ what the equivalent in clay tablets was just after they'd invented paper."
- Merle Hall
Spin Doctor of the Moment
"One final point to note is that [City of] Newham will
be using Internet Explorer. [Mr] Steel explained that this is because
Microsoft is very serious about addressing security concerns."
"The dictionary will define 'blog' as 'an online journal which
produces fame without wealth for pajama-clad scribes, known as
bloggers, who write so well they don't need editors, and who survive by
eating Ramen noodles and Tang powder from a spoon.'"
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