u p F r o n t . e Z i n e
celebrating 15 years of reporting on the business of cad
Issue #657 | August 10, 2010 | English Edition
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In This Issue
1. CivilB Models Roadways with Surfaces
2. PTC Purposely Vague on Project Lightning
3. And in Other News
It's time for upFront.eZine's annual summer break. The newsletter will return in mid-September. See you then!
CivilB Models Roadways with Surfaces
Some 6-7 years ago, a group of civil engineers decided to address a critical issue in designing roads: the difficulty of modeling irregular shapes with CAD software. Irregular shapes are found in intersections, parking lots, and roadway widening projects; the current state of civil engineering CAD software, however, works with a rigid design method, templates.
(The template method is based on traditional hand drafting techniques that engineers used in the days back when I was still working as a civil engineer. The method begins with a horizontal alignment that delineates the route of the highway, and then adds profiles to define vertical curves [hills and dips]. Cross-sections are extracted every so often, using cross-section templates, to indicate widths, such as four 12.5' lanes plus median, shoulders, ditches, ROW, utility corridor, and so on.)
Today's civil engineering software still uses the template approach, probably because engineers are conservative and because that's how they are trained to design roads. This includes offerings from Autodesk and Bentley Systems.
The problem, XB's Bo Gao told me, is that most roadway work these days is not new freeways and streets, but reconstruction of interchanges, addition of light rail to medians, and the like. Template-based applications -- like Land Development Desktop and InRoads -- cannot handle these irregular shapes; the new releases of Civil3D use assemblies, a more flexible form of template, but still limited by the template mindset.
"The current trend in CAD software is to set up and then apply lots of rules; when you change something, everything updates automatically," according to Mr Gao. "This works well in mechanical and building, not in civil engineering. When you make the sidewalk wider, the system cannot make the roadway narrower automatically in a sensible way."
"If you have a conflict between two pipes and adjust them, it is up to the engineer to decide which pipe to move, how to move it, and how connecting pipes should be updated, based on the design circumstance; the system is hardly intelligent enough to figure it out. Automatic change propagations are not realistic in civil designs; CivilB presents design information and allows engineers to make their own decisions."
Near us, the Trans Canada Highway #1 is getting new lanes and interchanges. To prevent traffic jams during the multi-year construction, temporary freeway lanes were added to the median. "How would Hwy 1 be modeled in Civil 3D?," I asked. As long as the temporary road is regular, it can be modeled, Mr Goa said, but the irregular widening and overlay areas must be designed manually using AutoCAD commands. Changes require manual editing and re-labeling.
And so XB came up with CivilB, where the "B" represents the second generation. The new approach is to use parametric polygons. Three-D edges are used to represent roadway centerlines and edges. (Parking lots use a grid of edges). Once all edges are defined, CivilB applies ruled surfaces between them. This means that it can model all kinds of surfaces, including existing and proposed ones, and then see how they relate: overlays, widening, new sections, and so on.
The second part to CivilB is using a 3D model-based approach to determine conflicts and ensure clearances. Utility conflicts are a nightmare for street reconstruction (not so much for freeways, which tend to be free of utilities). There are bridge columns, storm and sewer drainage pipes, trees, power and gas lines, all spread over hundreds of plans designed by different disciplines of engineers -- landscape, roadway, structure, hydraulic, traffic, electrical. (Back in the day, I spent several days manually relocating a railway spur so that it would clear a new bridge abutment.)
The 3D modeling database integrates plans by turning 2D features into 3D models. For underground pipes, for instance, the centerline is created as the control line to define the position, and then the pipe's diameter is applied to create the 3D model of a tube; the diameter is adjusted as needed. This approach is fairly simple, and create many kinds of shapes easily, such as retaining walls.
"So what's to prevent an Autodesk or a Bentley to adopt your firm's idea?" I asked. XB has applied for patent on their modeling methodology, which is in the processing stage by the USPTO. Currently the software is in beta, and works as an add-on to AutoCAD and AutoCAD Civil 3D. The company plans to port the software to a stand-alone version. http://www.civilb.com
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PTC Purposely Vague on Project Lightning
Some of us recall Project Jupiter, the renewal by Intergraph of its software that took place some 15 years ago. Now PTC is engaged in Project Lightning, which it plans to keep secret from the public until late October. This did not stop financial analysts from asking about it during PTC's Q3 conference call anyhow.
Michael Olson (Piper Jaffray): ...regarding the new CAD platform, Lightning, I realize you're probably not wanting to give a ton of detail on that right now, but is that intended to be kind of the next upgrade of Pro/Engineer -- or is it something totally different?
James Heppelmann (PTC): At our Customer User Group meeting in early June, we disclosed an initiative with pretty vague details, to be honest. But tune in on October 28th, because we're going to tell you what we're really doing.
But suffice it to say that Lightning really is a next generation CAD platform that we think is very compelling, will really put us in a whole different competitive position, and will be fully upward compatible from an existing implementation of Pro/E. It's a lot more than the next revision of Pro/E.
One of the things PTC learned, I think better than our competitors, when you come out with something new that let will you pick up with what you were working on yesterday and the older version, that’s compelling.
So, we’re going to have that kind of capability and will be in the position as the big product cycle upgrade.
Sterling Auty (JP Morgan Chase): I’m going to try from a different angle. In terms of the new solution that you’re talking about, is it changing some of the core design functionality within the program? Or is it some of the ancillary extensions of what the program can do that you’re looking at the new version?
James Heppelmann: I think it’s a radical new idea that nobody thought of, developed, or delivered before. It saw some great big problems that very much worth solving. It changes some paradigm around things like usability and switching CADs and so forth, and you can upgrade through it seamlessly from your current Pro/E installation.
I mean, "astonishing" is a sort of adjective we've seen used a couple of times by customers when we taken them inside and given them a sneak peek. So, be patient. I can tell you, I'm super excited about it. I think the rest of the company is really buzzing about it.
Let me just jump to the punch line though: the punch line is [that] we think this could change the fortunes of our desktop business and put it back on a growth vector.
Edited transcript; portions reprinted by permission of Seeking Alpha. Edited for clarity. http://seekingalpha.com/article/217036-parametric-technology-corporation-f3q10-qtr-end-07-03-2010-earnings-call-transcript?part=participants
Use Civil Engineering Objects & CivilB Software to Simplify 3D Civil Designs
Avoid design-utility conflicts; use spot/linear objects to model existing and proposed design components; verify horizontal clearances between poles and inlets, vertical clearances between pipes, setbacks of roadside signs within rights of way, and cover depths of pipes.
Automate roadway reconstruction and site grading design! Use 3D edge objects and parametric ruled surfaces to replace cross-section templates; model existing and proposed roadway corridors, intersections, overlays/widenings, parking lots, and grading surfaces.
Visit http://www.civilb.com for details.
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We know data translation and provide immaculate developer-to-customer relations. http://www.okino.com.
And In Other News
Longview Advisors is posting its sixth annual collaboration and interoperability survey. Results are free to anyone when David Prawel publishes the market report this fall. To fill out the five-screen survey on Surveymonkey, go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/KXHSCLY
My two paper-based books are now available for a donation of $25 each:
- The Illustrated AutoCAD 2011 Quick Reference
- Using AutoCAD 2011
Both are over 1,100 pages long and weight a lot. If you would like a signed copy, please add the following amounts for postage. (Sorry, but Canada Post charges a lot for anything heavier than a letter!)
Shipping to Canada and USA --- $17.00 (parcel post)
Shipping outside of Canada/USA --- $37.00 (surface mail)
You may pay by PayPal (email@example.com) or send cheque/moneyorder/cash to:
34486 Donlyn Avenue
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These were some of the news items that were posted during the last week at our WorldCAD Access blog <http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com>:
- What I like about the MacBook
- Solutions to Mac problems
- foto of the sunday: hard work in the streetside kitchen
- The Apple hardware & OS X software: How dreadful they are (part i)
- Experiencing CAD on the Mac
- Can you make your hockey stick bigger than PTC's hockey stick?
- Getting busses out of the way of cars
Letters to the Editor
Please note though our company name is spelt MECSOFT. (MECHSOFT is a Autodesk reseller.)
- Anita Anand
Re: 20th Anniversary of 3D Studio
3D Studio, eh? I remember when Gary Yost and Tom Hudson were still writing CyberStudio for the Atari ST. (I wrote CAD reviews for STart magazine). I've attached a scan of one of the old catalogs. 3D Studio was based on their previous Atari work. How things have changed.
- David William Edwards
Re: Sent from My iPad
I am soooo slow-mo -- I don't even do cell phone. However, my land-line cost is exceeding the unused family cell cost for me, so I am investigating.
I see that while 3G is what the iPad can do because of network style, there are 4G workarounds, which means that there is just that much better (bandwidth) connectivity available in certain areas. 4G is currently only available by one network, which is not the network iPad operates from.
Google 4G iPad: Is the aftermarket iPad 4G case a viable option?
- Dan Gordon
15-year grabowski-reader from Chicago
The editor replies: I use a pay-as-you-go cellphone, and so things like G3 and G4 are unknowns to me; I don't even know if they have such things here in Canada.
I enjoyed your piece on the iPad. We think it will change a lot of anufacturing processes too.
- Todd Reade, president
I see a potential problem with being able to view code documents [on an iPad] if those documents are designed to by viewed online via a subscription. The server will check your username, password and local IP address and deny you access even though your desktop has authority.
For the relatively fast startup of the iPad you're likely trading-off local "horsepower" (for lack of a better term). Have you tried a laptop with an SSD?
- Paul Bowers
Everyone is enamored with the new toy. And as a road warrior myself, I am always interested in an new toy or tool that helps me on the road.
Yet many of the things that the iPad can do, you could already do with a Windows tablet. And a Windows tablet can a few things the iPad can't. I have a Fujitsu tablet that I use on job sites to take notes using Dragon and Word, access specifications in PDF, and review and update drawings using BricsCAD. It has WIFI and Bluetooth. With the second internal battery it last about 8 hours.
A camera on board might have been nice. That was an option with my computer that I did not get.
In addition the screen flips around to work as a regular laptop with a built in key board and USB mouse when I am not on a job site.
Apparently I am one of those people that just does not get it. Why do I want something that functions differently than a computer?
Having all of you documents and drawing on the job site with you allows you to quickly asses situations and answer questions. I would hate to be in the field without it now.
- Len Rafuse
The editor replies: It sounds like your Fujitsu is like the HP covnertable (keyboard-tablet) I used to own; except that this tx series of computers proved to be poorly designed, and tend to break down soon after the warranty ends.
Re: CAD for the Mac
You hint of Mac versions for three CAD packages coming out, but don’t say which ones. Can you elaborate? Also, I believe your statement on sales figures for Macs is incorrect. According to Apple’s quarterly report released on July 20:
"Apple sold 3.47 million Macs during the quarter, representing a new quarterly record and a 33 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter." It does not appear that sales are declining.
- Jeff Snyder
The editor replies: Two have already announced it: ARES (from Graebert) and Bricscad (from Bricsys). The third one is being coy, and you can probably guess who it might be.
There's sales and there's market share. Here is an article about the Mac's lowered market share: http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2010/01/windows-7-growing-faster-than-vista-overtakes-mac-os.ars
Mr Snyder responds: This is an interesting take on market share: http://blogs.computerworld.com/16593/wake_up_to_an_apple_planet_pc_world
A bizarre statement, especially as Apple’s latest quarterly results (July) show sales of Macs increased 33% on the year-ago quarter? (and this ignoring iOS devices, mind you).
A case of pre-conceived notions being hard to shake off?
- David Flood
The editor replies: Market researchers found that Apple "holds just shy of 3 percent worldwide share of the personal computer market." http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/08/03/26/morgan_stanley_40_of_college_students_plan_to_buy_macs.html
Spin Doctor of the Moment
"Considering the new [HMVdigital.com legal MP3 download] site is being launched amid a crackdown on intellectual property violations in the U.S. and Canada, that particular feature [in which you pay for MP3 files] is certain to draw ire from legislators."
- Jameson Berkow, Financial Post
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Entire contents copyright ©2010 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $250 and up. All trademarks belong to their respective holders. "upFront.eZine," "The Business of CAD," and "On your desktop every Tuesday morning" are trademarks of upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. Letters to the editor may be edited for clarity and brevity. Translations and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.