Issue #455 : : December 13, 2005
C o n t e n t s
Kill the Goose
DWF Is the New DXF
the Radar, and other
Write the Editor.
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"Are we doing the right thing?" The Autodesk employee had read upFront.eZine from last week. The issue: moving customers from AutoCAD to the verticals -- Inventor, Revit, Civil3D.
"It's the right direction," I responded. In essence, mechanical, architectural, and civil designers should not use AutoCAD, because it cannot design project drawings with sufficient efficiency. [A terrible thing for me to write, considering the $$$ I make from AutoCAD books and e-books.] Instead, they should employ a discipline-specific product, either from Autodesk or another software provider.
In the meantime, AutoCAD makes too much money for Autodesk to abandon it in Generic CADD-fashion. Which is why you see the strange internal tug-of-war Autodesk engages in -- between AutoCAD, AutoCAD-based add-ons (ADT, etc), and AutoCAD-independent products (Revit, et al).
Kill the goose once it stops laying its golden eggs worth US$600 million a year. Autodesk still gets nearly half its revenue from AutoCAD.
Autodesk University 2005 Redux
I won't provide blow-by-blow accounts of AU 05 [that blow to my stomach was sufficient], because there were some sixty media invited by Autodesk to the event, as well as informal and corporate bloggers who reported on it. You can read some of their accounts at:
In last week's coverage, I forgot to mention PFDout, which is being added to AutoCAD soon. I assume it'll have only basic functionality, like the JPGout command, to not step on the toes of third-party developers.
Also: AutoCAD will be able to attach DWF files as underlays [a la xrefs?]. The European Topobase will be migrating to North America.
During the AU event, COO Carl Bass repeatedly mentioned the GPU [graphical processing unit, the main chip on your computer's graphics board that off-loads the graphics processing from the CPU]. It was clear he was sending a message without saying too much, and so I worry that a future release of AutoCAD will have overly stringent, Vista-level hardware demands.
Even if not, his repetition of the GPU acronym [which left people wondering, "Huh? What's GPU?"] means that Autodesk is working on getting additional performance improvements by borrowing power from the graphics board. Note that these improvements would be restricted to display speed.
Autodesk is definitely adding 64-bit computing to some of its products, Bass confirmed, admitting that no AutoCAD customers have asked for it. The ability to access more than 3GB RAM is primarily beneficial to Inventor and Revit. Customers would have to buy new computers with 64-bit CPUs and 64-bit-aware operating systems.
He was less definite about multi-core, in that it is harder to program, yet may have greater advantages than 64-bit. [Multi-core means the CPU has two or more processing units, which operate nearly independently of each other.] He sees a benefit to adding multi-threading to Autodesk software, giving the ShapeManager, rendering, and plotting separate threads.
Bass also speculated that multi-threading might make complex software easier to use, because multiple things happen at the same time.
It wasn't a theme, not even a motif; more of an asterisk. "Design Intent" is Autodesk's term for software that's able to tell when something's wrong with the design. In the next release of Revit Structure, for instance, design insight alerts the designer when a beam is unsupported by columns.
I expect design intent to be a major theme in next year's AU, along with DWF integration (see next article).
Another un-theme this year is Web 2.0, primarily because CAD won't work on it. [Web 2.0 is like Buzzsaw and GMail, where apps and data reside on servers that can be accessed anywhere there is an Internet connection and, to a limited extent, by anyone.] CAD is too big to be streamed, Bass acknowledged when AECnews.com editor Randall Newton asked, but distributed computing might be better suited, such as networking together hundreds of computers to complete analysis tasks faster. Autodesk already has such technology working in its entertainment software, and has shown its willingness to transfer the technology to the its CAD side.
But parts ancillary to CAD do lend themselves to Web-2.0-ization: schedules, BOMs, forms, searches, viewers, markups -- anything that doesn't contain heavy data.
(These features may or may not make it into the next release of AutoCAD, and the new products may or may not ship.)
Olimpio DeMarco and Noah Cole dropped by the offices of upFront.eZine last week to talk about Revit Structure. (They were between the Vancouver and Seattle dates of Autodesk's Building Systems & Revit Structure North America Tour.)
My background is civil engineering; taking the mandatory courses in structural design told me I couldn't cope with being responsible for the lives of people. After all, a doctor can only kill one person at a time through error; structural engineers could kill thousands at a time. I still shudder at the responsibility professional engineers have. It's a big job.
I was at the original launch of Revit at Harvard University in 2000, and was interested to hear is happening to it. Here, an overview:
DWF for Data Exchange
As Messrs DeMarco and Cole were flicking thru their PowerPoints, I noticed how "DWF" was attached to the arrows illustrating data exchange between AutoCAD, Architectural Desktop, Revit, XTO (I think that was the name of the quantity take-off add-on), and so on.
"Is DWF the new DXF?" I asked. One quickly responded with the official party line, "No, it's the new PDF." Err, no. Autodesk promotes DWF for electronic plotting (replacing PDFs), but the secret hidden within is that DWF carries object data -- replacing DXF and, potentially, IFCs.
That carries a significant impact on Autodesk's ability to make its disparate software speak with each other, as well as external programs. I think the impact of 3D DWF will become more apparent in 2006.
Or, as someone said at AU: "DWF is not a viewer, but a pipeline to get ideas downstream."
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A summary of CAD industry news you may not have read elsewhere, or that I found interesting:
CADApps of Australia focuses on Civil3D applications: Passing Lane (free) creates passing lane alignments relative to existing reference alignments. ARD Intersection automates the vertical designs of intersections and off ramps. http://www.civil3dtools.com
Bluebeam launches Bluebeam Revu, a new PDF viewer and markup tool. I saw this product at AU05, and it has some very nice features, like the ability to save commonly-used markup symbols to a palette. 30-day download from http://www.bluebeam.com/web03/products/downloads.asp?src=1810
Chaos Systems has a new module for Topocad, which makes it possible to read and write data directly from the ArcGIS product family from ESRI. http://www.chaos.se/eng
Nemetschek North America has a free SketchUp plug-in for its VectorWorks CAD software. The plug-in eliminates the need to re-create SketchUp models in VectorWorks. http://www.nemetschek.net/sketchup
Shadow Automation integrates the AIMS Metrology Kernel into its Metrolosys 9.5 software (US$26,995.00). AIMS is meant to allow paperless manufacturing with seamless, bidirectional sharing of CAD geometry, inspection plans, and measurement plans between industrial hardware and software platforms. http://www.metrolosys.com
Oh, and I just noticed that Delcam has done similar, signing an AIMS license for its PowerINSPECT inspection software. http://www.delcam.com
VariCAD 2005 v2.00 3D/2D mechanical CAD system now works with more files, STL output, and copying between drawings. Trial version from http://www.varicad.com
IMSI's CAD View & Convert Plus software views, marks up, measures, and converts 2D and 3D CAD files to 20 other formats, including DGN, DXF, DWG and PDF. http://www.imsisoft.com
Geomagic is demonstrating Geomagic Blade, a software extension for turbine blade inspection. http://www.geomagic.com
GTX announces GTXRaster CAD Series v9.0 for AutoCAD 2006. New feature is the reduction and separation of scanned color/grayscale drawings, maps, and other color digital images. http://www.gtx.com
And Ilexsoft releases HighDesign 1.6.1, 2D CAD software for Mac OS X. http://www.ilexsoft.com/products/index.html
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These news items were posted during the last week at the WorldCAD Access blog <worldcadaccess.typepad.com>:
And at the Gizmos Grabowski <worldcadaccess.typepad.com/gizmos/> Weblog:
Seminars & Conferences
SolidWorks World 2006 is Jan 22-25 in Las Vegas NV USA. (I'll be there Jan 23-25.) www.solidworks.com/pages/swworld/index.html
Spatial's 3D Insiders' Summit is May 22-23 in Westminster CO USA. www.spatial.com
People/Companies on the Move
Lattice3D was reorganized last month so that its sales, marketing, development, and support operations were integrated into Lattice Technology. Some analysts wonder if this is the first stage in Dassault Systemes buying out the XVL company, which is the source of DS's 3DXML format.
Bentley Systems acquires RAM International and its large line of software for structural design, 3D finite element analysis, concrete slab design, steel connections, and non-linear seismic design.
LMS International appoints Guy Buyst in the position of executive vp of sales and customer services. Mr Buyst is the former chief commercial officer at Base.
Letters to the Editor
"This was a timely edition. I just returned to my desk from discussing with our IT [information technology] dude, discussing the pros and cons of maintaining a more specialized 3D modeling package in addition to standard AutoCAD. We have 15 floating network licences for AutoCAD on subscription, and just can celled our single SolidWorks subscription.
"I was particularly interested to see that 'The Future of
AutoCAD' includes a command line. Did you glean any feedback from
AU regarding the command line versus ... uh .... what was that other
thing called again? Oh yeah, dynamic input."
The editor replies: "I heard no comments on dynamic input, but it will be required (I think) for AutoCAD's new UI."
"What is Autodesk thinking by attempting to junk up the already overloaded AutoCAD code with 3D? I've been waiting for them to fix the 2D for going on 15 years now. They're a little late on the 3D aspects of AutoCAD. That's what I bought Inventor for.
"If they wanna make AutoCAD good, then they ought to make
it pure 2D, consistent, and fix all those quirky problems it's always
had (like plotting, graphics card issues, and customization programming
anomalies). If I could get one AutoCAD wish, it'd be this: make
it like FastCAD used to be, snappy and screaming fast when huge
dwg files are loaded."
The editor replies: "The problem is that AutoCAD is too popular, and so Autodesk is trying to figure out how to transition customers to its more expensive, real 3D software. During CEO Carol Bartz' speech at AU05, she urged attendees to move up to 3D, but failed to mention that the company hopes to make 10x more revenue as a result."
"As for Autodesk morphing AutoCAD into Inventor (my take
on the matter), I had discussed that here at work years ago when
Inventor was in beta. It seems to be a very coy and logical move
[for Autodesk] to make, in my opinion. I don't think they will or
should just turn AutoCAD into Inventor one day (like old Coke to
new Coke), but they can get into the CAD operator's psyche by just
hanging around and being so convenient to use, that not stepping
up would feel like stepping back (maybe like cell phones have become).
If they could actually make AutoCAD as functional as Inventor, then
2D/3D might have a prolonged decade left in it."
The editor replies: "One promise stated during at the AU05 keynote was that '2D has a future.'"
"Unless Autodesk provides some documentation or assistance
with the task [of reading AutoCAD files in Inventor], it's unlikely
that the Open Design Alliance will provide support for reading or
writing the new modeler data in DWG files. We'll probably provide
some tools that'll identify the data as proprietary and undocumented."
The editor replies: "I am sure Autodesk won't help you decode the next iteration of the DWG format."
"Good to see you again in Orlando. Next stop, Caesar's Palace
for the next '2D to 3D Battle Royale'!"
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a bit of good humor."
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Spin Doctor of the Moment
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points over four years could generate 2.4 million new jobs, US$400
billion in economic growth and $67 billion in tax revenues worldwide,
according to a new study released by the Business Software Alliance."
"There are more bloggers than blog readers: Mathematical
proof of rampant narcissism."
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