t h e   b u s i n e s s   o f   c a d ,   e n l i g h t e n e d

a publication from
upFront.eZine Publishing

Issue #547   :  :   February 19, 2008

In this issue:

Autodesk World Media Days 2008

        - Architectural Design With Inventor
        - Mech Design of Industrial Machinery
        - Future of AEC with Phil Bernstein
        - Future of AutoCAD with Eric Stover
        - Design Review with Cliff Meddling
        - Autodesk Labs Tour with Doug Look
        - Additional Reporting

Out of the Inbox and the other regular columns.

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Autodesk World Media Days 2008

There was so much information delivered to journalists attending Autodesk World Media Days 2008 in San Francisco that I will split the reporting into three parts:

  • Some1,800 words of it are in this issue of upFront.eZine.
  • Some more are in the live blogging I did at the event on WorldCAD Access.
  • And many, many more words were reported by other writers and bloggers (see 'Additional Reporting' below).

We join the reporting in progress...


Architectural Design With Inventor

...we are being shown how Inventor could be used for initial architectural design. He is using a series of lofts to control ellipses that define the exterior of the skyscraper. Tweak the parameters, and the building looks somewhat different.

He shows an array of 25 skyscrapers. Each is the result of different parameters. He's talking about "form rationalization." He segments one skyscraper to simulate floors, and then assigns commercial and residential floor areas. A formula picks out the skyscraper with the maximized floor space.

Figure: Array of 25 slightly different skyscrapers.

In the past Maya has been used to design Shrek and the like, but today's session designs a railroad station. A frame is drawn in Maya with sufficient space to handle passengers and trains. A lattice is added to start manipulating the original, boring, tunnel-shaped form into something organic -- a push-and-pull environment.

Figure: Conceptual train station modeled in Maya.

The designs from Inventor and Maya can then be exported to Autodesk's architectural software.


Mech Design of Industrial Machinery

Primary issue of configuration of machinery, which are often put together from existing parts. The demo shows ProductStream PDM [product data management] with Mechanical [2D MCAD software]:

  • ProductStream performance improved. Showing us a search for existing designs, with much faster results, then brought into AutoCAD Mechanical 2009.
  • DWF now available in DWFx (XPS format imbedded in DWF) format, but  for Vista and IE7 users only. Used to show the customer what the design firm intends to produce.
  • DWG TrueConnect links Inventor and AutoCAD more closely.
  • Concept sketch and assembly modeling
  • Standardized User interfaces -- meaning some of Autodesk CAD products now use the Ribbon.

AutoCAD Electrical 2009 automatically generates electrical circuits. We're being shown how replacing a motor (and related resistors and connectors) has AE09 automatically reconnect the wires.

Inventor 2009 is shown with self-draining lines in pipe styles -- without needing to know modeling planes. Also, graphical corner relief icons that make it easier to design corners in sheet metal. Can do stress analysis within the model, as well as motion simulation. One customer has an assembly with 200,000 parts -- as a result of Inventor 2009's new abilities to handle larger assemblies, especially in 64-bit version.

As we saw last fall in Paris, the Inventor mechanical assembly can be embedded in Revit architectural models. This visualization ensure the assembly fits the floor space, and perhaps results in the redesign the building's electrical and plumbing with Revit to suit the assembly.

Finally, Navisworks [4D visualization software] helps plan the construction process. Another new feature first shown last fall is semi-automatic design of plastic ribs and other parts.


Future of AEC with Phil Bernstein

I wanted to know about where architectural CAD is headed, and Phil Bernstein obliged me. (He's vp of Autodesk's AEC Solutions division, and in his seven years at Autodesk we had never before met.) He sees the theory of BIM becoming real over the next few years. The quality of design info will help improve construction techniques, especially as large contractors insist that subtrades also work with 3D CAD.

As CAD-based drafting transitions to CAD-based modeling, architects are able to reason about the design. "Reason," I asked? An iterative approach, where very quick analysis leads the architect to modifying his design to suit building codes, green demands, and so on. There will no need to any longer contract out analysis.

The other aspect is to use more data downstream, such as facilities management. In the future, Mr Bernstein wants to tackle other problems faced by the AEC industry, such as cost estimating and conceptual design.

What about the problem of large models, I asked. On the MCAD side, for instance, there is much worry about being able to handle very large assemblies. Mr Bernstein was pleased to note that building models are 100x more complex than anything "Buzz" needs to worry about. The solution is to not attempt to model the entire building -- as neophytes tend to do -- but to intelligently segregate "data sets," the AEC version of MCAD's assemblies. Organize data into chunks, such as the mechanical and electrical aspects.

More acquisitions, I guessed? Yes, along with tech developed in-house. The senior vp of the AEC Solutions division, Jay Bhatt is a former investment banker, and has put into place the infrastructure to acquire and integrate small companies -- now that Autodesk has gotten over the Revit acquisition, its biggest ever.

And what role will Robert Aish have? Same as he had at Bentley, but Autodesk will be able to offer him greater support. He did a lot of work on using equations to drive conceptual building design.

Since Mr Bernstein mentioned conceptual design as a future project, I asked about Maya and Architectural Studio. Maya is good for working with blob shapes, and has the ability to read scripts that modify shapes.

As for ArchStudio, that will never be revived. "I made the decision to shut it down," said Mr Bernstein stoically. It came out at the wrong time, he explained: (1) during a slowdown in the economy, (2) at a time when CPUs were too slow to drive it, and (3) a lack of commonly-available tablet-style PCs. But even thought those conditions have since been overcome, ArchStudio will never be revived. Kind of sad, since it was pretty software.


Future of AutoCAD with Eric Stover

Eric Stover needed to get out of the small hotel room in which he had been holding interviews. "Top of the Mark might be a good place," he suggested, leading me to the elevator. That's the restaurant where the Valentine's dinner and dance is $329 per couple -- $50 more for a seat by the window.

No four-course valentines lunch for us; instead, a four-man discussion on the future of AutoCAD. There was Shaan Hurley, well known for his Between the Lines blog; Edelman pr firm acct exec Dan Pettey; Eric Stover, product line manager for AutoCAD and LT; and me.

At one time, I suggested to the group, it seemed that Autodesk was deprecating AutoCAD. Indeed I once editorialized that Autodesk get rid of the 25-year-old CAD package. But no, the company has been building some of its newest software on AutoCAD -- Civil 3D and P&ID. So what's going on, I wondered.

Mr Stover talked about a survey taken a few years ago that appeared to indicate that about 50% of AutoCAD users employ AutoCAD for some of their 3D work. AutoCAD 2007 revamped 3D, and a newer survey indicates that the number increased to 80%. Oops, that's not moving users to 3D like Revit.

So, Mr Stover continued, this led to a three-year plan for improving 3D in AutoCAD, such as a better way of working with faces. Mr Stover does not want to prevent people from doing their work.

Beyond this, they also have a 5-year road map for future development of AutoCAD -- not that AutoCAD's lifetime is limited to another five years, he hastened to add.


Design Review with Cliff Meddling

Design Review is viewing and redlining software is sometimes a kind of Autodesk Labs. For instance, it was the first with the wheel interface that is now hosted in AutoCAD 2009. Technical marketing manager Cliff Meddling showed me some of the new features, such as zooming into any text found by the new search function. This works with any document imported into a DWF file. Using DWF Writer, he imported an Excel spreadsheet (just right-click in Windows Explorer), and then found the text. He said the feature is quite popular among the GIS set.

Design Review 2009 is much faster at loading DWF files, but lacks the new Ribbon interface. Why? People who tend to use this software aren't necessarily ready for the Word 2007 look, he responded. I suppose the same could be said of the kind of people who tend to use AutoCAD, but in their case, they can switch back to the 2007 UI.

Design Review continues to be downloadable at no charge from www.autodesk.com/designreview . The new version will be bundled with AutoCAD 2009 and other Autodesk software.


Autodesk Labs Tour with Doug Look

Doug Look does strategic design with Autodesk Labs, that non-pre-beta software place on the Web that lets us try new software and plug-ins -- and which lets Autodesk see what new stuff is popular, or not. Mr Look recalled that we first met in a stretch Hummer navigating the streets of New York. "You were taking pictures," he recalled. Here are some of the projects he showed me:

Showroom provides real-time rendering on a remote server. As you choose different materials for a 3D image -- called "Carl's bathroom" inside Autodesk -- they are updated almost immediately. You can view around the room; the mirror reflects in real-time.

The ShareNow plugin lets apps publish drawings directly to FreeWheel, the browser-based version of DWF Viewer. Since it runs in browsers, it also works on Mac and Linux.

Then on to the hardware. They had a massive touch wall installed, a video screen about 6 feet wide. Like the iPhone, multitouch controls the 3D image:

  • hold one place on the screen, and with the other drag parts of the assembly apart.
  • place all ten fingers on the screen to reset the image.
  • drag two fingers together to zoom in; twist the two fingers to twist the model view.
  •  etc.

Finally, there was Boomless Chameleon -- the name is a bit of an inside joke. A year ago, the Boomcam Chameleon was demo'ed, a large monitor with counterweights. (As you held the monitor and moved it around, the image on the screen responded to the motion, and smoothly rotated the viewpoint.) "Can't we do a smaller one?" wondered Mr Look. So, in just the last couple of weeks, a webcam was rigged up to a notebook computer. As you hold and move the computer, the view changes, as the webcam reacts to a series of unique targets.

Figure: Doug Look demonstrates Boomless Chameleon.

Autodesk Labs has a bright future, if the enthusiasm of ceo Carl Bass is an indication. "Have you seen the Labs yet," he asked me the day before. labs.autodesk.com


Additional Reporting

AEC Weekly:
"Autodesk World Press Day 2008 Coverage" by Susan Smith

CAD Insider:
"Autodesk Pushes Interdisciplinary Application" by Roopinder Tara

Between the Lines:
"Round Two - More AutoCAD 2009 and other Autodesk 2009 Product Links & Autodesk World Press Day" by Shaan Hurley

"AutoCAD 2009 Preview Guide" (PDF)


[Disclosure: Autodesk provided me with air transportation, hotel accomodation, some meals, and corporate gifts.]


Out of the Inbox

IMSI/design launches a public no-charge beta of the Variable Constraint System plug-in for AutoCAD. The plug-in adds D-Cube's 2D dimensional constraint manager for parametric design inside AutoCAD, as well as kinematic mechanisms and animations. $499 when shipping. www.IDX-design.com

ParallelGraphics adds to its list of 3D formats with JT Open. In related news, the company joins the JT Open Program. www.parallelgraphics.com

Corel is now shipping CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 in seven languages. [I wonder about the significant of it being available in Brazilian Portuguese but not European Portuguese.] www.corel.com/coreldraw

Upload your 3D models to First Cut Prototytpe and get (1) quotes and (2) 1-10 plastic models back in 1-30 days. Web site accepts Solidworks parts, Pro/E parts, IGES, STEP, ParaSolid, and ACIS formats. www.firstcut.com

Walkinside visualization software now works with SolidWorks 2007 and 2008 through a converter. www.vrcontext.com  

Symscape updates SymLab Computer-Aided Engineering system. More info with images at www.symscape.com/news/symlab-v1-2-released-for-linux-windows

On February 21, QuadriSpace releases the 2008 versions of its Document3D, Pages3D, and Publisher3D software. www.quadrispace.com

CADalytic Media ships SpecifiCAD beta for Graphisoft's ArchiCAD 10 and 11 -- building product data delivered to the designer's desktop. www.cadalytic.com/index.php?dir=downloads&subdir=SpecifiCAD  

And CADsmart offers an automated CAD drawing skills assessment site for AutoCAD and MicroStation, with Revit coming soon. www.cadsmart.net  

- - -

These news items were posted during the last week at the WorldCAD Access blog < worldcadaccess.typepad.com>:

  • The Essential Reader: iWoz
  • Proof...
  • Autodesk World Press Days 2008 -- Day 2.75
  • Autodesk World Press Days 2008 -- Day 2.5
  • Autodesk World Press Days 2008 -- Day 2
  • Autodesk World Press Days 2008 -- Day 1.75
  • Autodesk World Press Days 2008 -- Day 1.5
  • AutoCAD 2009
  • Autodesk World Press Days 2008 -- Day 1
  • Autodesk World Press Days 2008 -- Day 0


 Magazine/eZine/Weblog Updates

Cyon Research makes its private stock index now public. The detailed view of the index of publicly traded CAD, GIS, and other stocks can now be accessed free at cyonresearch.com/stocks


People/Companies on the Move

Icona Solutions hires Tim Illingworth for the new position of commercial director.


Market News

Catalog Data Solutions reports that  its 2007 annual revenues increased by 70% over 2006; Q4 revenue increased by 100%.


WorthWhile Web

"The most import thing to understand about new products and startups"
by Paul Buchheit


Brand New CAD Books/eBooks

"Solid Edge V20 for Designers"
by Sham Tickoo
Published by CADCIM Technologies
688 pages; paper $55.00


"Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature"
by Doug Farr
Published by John Wiley & Sons
256 pages; hardcover $75.00
To purchase from Amazon.com, follow this link: www.amazon.com/gp/search


"Customizing Bricscad V8"
by Ralph Grabowski
Published by upFront.eZine Publishing
412 pages, full color; PDF $41.20


Letters to the Editor

Re: VX: End-to-end ID-to-CAM

"I have been a user of End to End since V9. The strides that VX has made from then  to V13 are remarkable. I have had some serious complaints about VX that I will not go into, but suffice it to say that I almost let it go.

"When I was seriously considering leaving, I investigated SolidEdge, SolidWorks, and Alibre. All three had a much better sheet metal functions and better part libraries. The one with Solid Edge is incredible -- important to me, because I design parts with lots of sheet metal for food manufacturing companies. But that was it.

"I also found out that everything out there has its warts and you pick those that least impair your work. Alibre was a decent modeler and very cheap for what you get- - but nothing to speak of in CAM. The other two were, as you stated, so expensive for what you get. I was shocked at the real cost to replace VX.

"And I could care less about PLM or FEA, blah, blah, blah, et al, for sure. Just more bells and whistles that are meaningless to a small production shop. But you have to pay for it like you want it!

" The advantage of CAD and CAM inside the same package cannot be overstated. On the CAM side, if I need to alter a part, it is right-click, sketch, and I am there. One additional command takes me back to the updated CAM part and off I go.

"I know from personal experience that Bob Fischer does respond to users and VX does incorporate feedback into product updates. I think one of the largest assets a software company like VX can have is corporate officers that actually KNOW HOW TO USE THE SOFTWARE THEY SELL.

"One day when VX decides to pursue other design build markets besides primarily the mold market they will be a force to be reckoned with that will, I believe, allow their expansion into the much larger mechanical design build arena.

"The only real serious VX drawback is what you hinted at. The user base is evidently small enough that in  North America there are no active user groups I can find and therefore no place to go for answers after hours. The VX forum on their US Web site has never really clicked with users and sees little activity.

"And VX is complicated enough that you will need support. It is my hope that there will be in the future an agressive marketing campaign as they really do deserve greater market share, but probably won't get it if they don't advertise more. Because of this your chances of finding someone to hire without extensive training are very small. VX is a company worth knowing about and I am happy to see you inquire about them."
        - Dave Ault


Spin Doctor of the Moment

"Google.org Announces Core Initiatives to Combat Climate Change, Poverty and Emerging Threats"
        - Google press release headline


Notable Quotable

"The First Law of Technology says we invariably overestimate the short-term impact of new technologies while underestimating their longer-term effects."
        - John Naughton, Guardian



Copyright 2008 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide

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