u p F r o n t . e Z i n e
t h e b u s i n e s s o f c a d
Issue #674 | January 18, 2010
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In This Issue
1. Understanding Hybrid Workflows between CAD and BIM
- Translation Choice #1: Functional Correctness
- Translation Choice #2: Visual Accuracy
2. Oh, Solido !
3. And in Other News
Next week's issue of upFront.eZine will be late, because I will be attending SolidWorks World 2011 in San Antonio Texas. Look for live blogging on WorldCAD Access and the @ralphg Twitter stream.
Understanding Hybrid Workflows between CAD and BIM
In 1987, the CAD world bifurcated. Until then, popular CAD programs like AutoCAD merely mimicked the actions of hand drafters. Lines and arcs represented walls and gears in CAD drawings no differently than on vellum.
In 1987, a Hungarian firm introduced the concept of virtual building models, now better known as BIM. A year later, programmers from Russia introduced parametric modeling. More than two decades later, we continue live in the bifurcated world. Some designers continue to represent the world through lines and arcs, while others design with objects containing innate intelligence.
It's a puzzle that drafters in this day continue to use software that draws four independent lines to represent the edges of walls; perhaps they do that, because it more closely mimics the way we sketch with a pencil on paper. Also, this class of software tends to be lower in cost, making it easier to acquire.
It's just that this seems to be inefficient compared with drawing entire walls fully three-dimensionally with useful information embedded, such as the materials from which they are made, whether they are interior or exterior, and whether they contain insulation or are faced with cladding. This kind of information is missing from four lines.
Such 3D modeling software is available from companies such as Autodesk (Revit), Graphisoft (ArchiCAD), and Nemetschek (AllPlan). They all work in roughly the same manner: when a building is designed in 3D, the design is stored in a single file that contains everything known about the building, from its core structure to electrical wiring, carpet colors, and bills of material. When necessary, 2D drawings can be extracted from the 3D model.
In contrast, software like AutoCAD and IntelliCAD stores drawing data differently, typically using dozens or hundreds of drawings per project, along with a dozen or more support files. Autodesk has partially solved the problem through tactics like sheet set management and eTransmit bundling.
Anyhow, here we are in 2010 with two completely different ways of creating drawings, each employing a method that is inherently incompatible with the other. That's the bad news. The good news is that as long as the different systems remain separate, they work well within their own spheres. Data exchange between 2D packages is not problematic, because there aren?t conceptual differences between the systems.
The problem occurs, however, when AutoCAD users want to access 3D models created by a Revit or an ArchiCAD ? and vice versa. AutoCAD does not understand what the BIM modelers are saying, and so data exchange is a challenge: freely-composed 2D linework somehow needs to be integrated into a modeling environment; complex BIM models need to be translated into 2D primitives. How do you mesh the two?
Companies like Autodesk and Graphisoft recognize the problem, and so are working on solutions through translators and education. More specifically, Graphisoft asked me to examine how well their translators work, and then write an educational research paper. (I've worked on the DWG translation problem for several CAD vendors, beginning in the mid-1990s, when Bentley Systems got me involved in their DWG translator, Nexus. This article is a condensation of the research paper I wrote for Graphisoft.)
As it turns out, there are two solutions. One is to maintain object integrity; the other is to maintain visual accuracy. Translated drawings may function correctly or look correct, but not necessarily both. That's because both types of design software have conceptual differences -- never mind the differences at the binary level of their file formats.
Translation Choice #1: Functional Correctness
Oft times, 3D building models need to access the information stored in AutoCAD drawings (a.k.a. ?DWG format?). The information can range from survey data of the land, to symbols (blocks) of windows drawn by manufacturers in DWG format.
In these cases, you want the lines and other information from the AutoCAD files translated to a format understood by your 3D modeling software. Because the two systems treat data in a different manner, they face subtle difficulties in translation. Do colors and plot styles match? How should unique entities be handled? What about layer names? Should layouts be included? Are the same sets of fonts available on both systems? Do the drawing scales match?
The issue of scale may come as a surprise to you, since we always work in design software at full-size scale, 1:1. The problem lies in the fact that AutoCAD measures distances in "generic" units that are neither metric nor Imperial. As a result, one stage in every translation process is specifying whether AutoCAD?s linear units should be interpreted as inches, feet, millimeters, meters, or perhaps some esoteric unit. (Fortunately, AutoCAD?s angle measurements do not suffer from this problem.)
Once you spend a few moments setting up the parameters for an optimal translation, you simply reuse the same settings for subsequent translations. The result is a drawing that you can modify with the 3D modeling software's tools.
Translation Choice #2: Visual Accuracy
Other times, you need to only see what the AutoCAD drawings look like. For instance, you might want to reference adjacent buildings, or some old plans of the existing building being remodeled. Sometimes engineering consultants need drawings to locate load-bearing structures and electrical or plumbing systems. These drawings don?t need to be edited; they just need to be seen or referred to.
In this case, a visually-accurate translation is the better solution. This WYSIWYG translation displays an image of the AutoCAD drawing, just as it looks. It can be placed in the 3D model for reference purposes; the original is unmodified.
[Disclosure: Graphisoft paid me to examine the quality of ArchiCAD's DWG translators, and to write the research paper titled, "CAD & BIM: Is There A Free Pass? A Report on GRAPHISOFT ArchiCAD?s DWG Workflow."]
The new release of Solid Edge is out and we want to show you what's new.
Experience in person how Solid Edge has fulfilled the vision of synchronous technology with the release of ST3. Current and future Solid Edge users are welcome.
If it wasn't for the unveiling by SolidWorks of its cloud initiative, the biggest splash at last year's SolidWorks World 2010 would have been Solido's announcement of a massive price cut: their desktop 3D printer for $2,950 -- down from $12,000. There was a catch, of course: you would have to purchase sufficient printing supplies to bring the price up to $9,950.
Never mind. At the media event a year ago, Solido chairman (and majority owner) Jason Barzilay (co-founder of low-cost computer maker Packard-Bell) looked forward to every child's bedroom having one of his printers. Never mind that they were ramping up to produce a mere 15,000 by the year 2015; never mind that the resulting 3D models stank so bad that no mother would stand having them in her home. (The half-dozen samples I brought back a year ago still emit the acrid aroma.)
Last week, the dream of taking over the bedrooms of the nation ended as the company's employees woke up to their nightmare. Israeli business paper Globe reports that "the company has laid off its entire staff of 30 employees and entered receivership." Big change. Just last summer, Fortissimo Capital proposed investing another $8.5 million in Solido; part of the deal involved appointing new CEO Yuval Rachmilevich .
So what happened between August and January? My guess is that Mr Rachmilevich looked at what it would take to ramp up Solido printer production to consumer-level sales, and determined it wasn't going to work without a level of investment that was simply too high. Perhaps the smell got to him, too. In any case, Fortissimo held back its investment, and then earlier this month the company ran out of money.
An industry analyst told me, "The shareholders could not agree on where to take the company in the future, so it was decided to shut it down."
Scott Harris told me, "I don't know the details since I (and Vic) left the board last year. Solido had gone through some financing with Fortissemo and had some issues. It will be interesting to see if something regroups using the technology." Mr Harris is a co-founder of SolidWorks, while "Vic" is Vic Leventhal , former coo of SolidWorks. Both are former Solido board members; the out-of-date Solido Web site has not been updated to reflect the change, and a photo of Mr Harris continues to adorn the site's front page.
Both Solido and its external marketing company received emails from me, but did not respond by press time.
It is ironic that "solido" is a legal term used in bankruptcies: "A number of persons are said to be liable in solido when they are liable severally to the same extent, each for the whole." Perhaps they should have stuck to the original name, "Solid Dimensions."
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And In Other News
SpaceClaim will be announcing SpaceClaim 2011 tommorrow, with improved surface modeling, freeform sketching, symmetry, sheetmetal design, reuse of mesh data, enhanced translators, and support for AEC, CFD, and mold design. The TraceParts content library is thrown in for free. http://www.spaceclaim.com
In related news, TracePartsOnline.net is chuffed that its 3D catalog community has attained one million registered users. In 2010 alone, the site delivered 23 million CAD models. http://www.traceparts.com
In further related news, Vuuch v4 comes
with a plug-in for SpaceClaim, and now exports to Excel. Introductory pricing is
$250 per year per Vuuch page creation license.
Cambashi of England and DFL Consulting of France agreed to start working together.
"Happy New Year, Ralph. Just making sure you got my email of early December suggesting that you might consider a new product for your ?In Other News? section ? the new FreeForm version 11 organic 3D design and manufacturing software, from Sensable Technologies. If your readers design complex, organically shaped products with many curves or a high degree of sculptural design ? FreeForm is far faster for these types of products, and includes intensive mold making and prep for manufacturing support that makes it relevant to many product designers." Duly noted. http://www.sensable.com
Lattice Technology launches XVL BOM Assembler for managing 3D assemblies using XML [extended markup language]. http://www.lattice3d.com
3Dconnexion now has 3D mosue drivers for Google's SketchUp 8 and SketchUp Pro 8. http://www.3Dconnexion.com
CIMdata appoints Richard McFall as director of global business development. Mr McFall is the company's former senior PLM business consultant.
Mike Buchli writes, "I wanted to let you know that I just completed my first book, which covers the topic of CAMWorks for SolidWorks. This is the first book of two. The first book covers milling ($149.00); the second book will cover mill/turn, turn, and EDM. I am also in the process of converting this to an ebook for the iBook store." http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?fListingClass=0&fSearch=camworks
CADCIM Technologies releases Learning SolidWorks 2011: A Project Based Approach by Sham Tickoo. A single project is divided into chapters for learnign how to create parts, assemblies, and drawing views with bill of materials. $23; 400 pages. http://www.cadcim.com/New/ProductDetails.aspx?ISBN=978-1-932709-93-3
And upFront.eZine Publishing releases the world's first
dual-OS ebook for CAD users, Customizing Briscad V11
by Ralph Grabowski. The updated ebook handles Linux and Windows aspects of
customzing the user interface, drafting environment, linetypes and hatch
patterns, and commands of Briscad V11, as well as how to program it with VBA,
LISP, DCL, Diesel, macros, and scripts. $40; 380 pages. http://www.upfrontezine.com/cb8
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These were some of the news items that were posted during the last week at our WorldCAD Access blog:
Letters to the Editor
Am I reading this wrong? If Jeff Ray is moving from CEO to Executive VP of Geographic Operations, I don?t see this as being promoted upstairs (or anywhere else, for that matter).
- Phil Kreiker
The editor replies: "Ordinarily, going from ceo to vp would be a demotion. But this is going from ceo of a subsiduary to vp at head office."
Re: Universalism Not So
Sounds like a StarTrek episode with CLINGON ATTACK!
- Chris H
Re: Nvidia Quadro 2000 Graphics
The new Nvidia Quadro cards have Display Port sockets on them. Those are not HDMI ports. They look similar, but are not the same technology. Check out the Nvidia website for the specs on their new line of cards.
- Anna Wood
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I greatly appreciate receiving your newsletter in
retirement. I have used AutoCAD since 1985, but I have become a real fan of
SketchUp over the last five years. Keep your interesting dialogue coming.
- Philip Hadley
Thanks as always for news and updates. You help us to
see what the future may hold.
- Peter Lawton
"We have north of 800,000 subscribers paying north of
$700 a year for home delivery. Of course, they don't seem to know that. That's
the beauty of the credit card."
- Gerald Marzorati, the New York Times?s assistant managing editor for new media and strategic initiatives
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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.