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 #682 | March 15, 2011
In This Issue
1. IntegrityWare Bridges Soft and Hard Design
- SubD vs NURBS
- About the Company
2. Looking for BetterCAD
- Guest Editorial by Gerald Davis
3. Out of the Inbox
IntegrityWare Bridges Soft and Hard Design
When Autodesk added 3D mesh modeling to AutoCAD 2009, I found it was pretty cool stuff to play around with. But then I got let-down. When I tried to fillet or chamfer edges, it wasn't possible. No Boolean operations, either. Well, it was possible, but messy: I'd have to convert the mesh to a 3D solid, apply the CAD operation, and then convert it back to the mesh. Sometimes the workaround was unsuccessful, and the result a mess.
Familiar operations that I'd always been able to do easily in CAD were now cumbersome with meshes. It turns out the problem isn't the fault of Autodesk, as I learned last week. Mixing soft design (like mesh modeling) and hard design (CAD 2D and solids) is as compatible as a left-handed person drafting with the right hand.
There is one company, however, who has figured out how to be ambidextrous. IntegrityWare's President David Gill told me how SubD-NURBS solves the problem: it maintains two models, one in SubD (subdivision surfaces), the other in NURBS (format used by CAD). As the user edits the model, the data is converted back and forth on the fly, and a history mechanism keeps track of the changes. If you wish, you can have both kinds of models in the drawing at the same time.
This dual-format modeling is possible, because IntegrityWare's kernel supports solids, surfaces, and meshes. Most other kernels handle solids modeling well, but not necessarily surfaces and meshes. Like the other companies, IntegrityWare has a NURBS kernel. It also has a polygonal kernel. And IntegrityWare can create advanced technologies that deal with both types of geometry in a common environment.
SubD vs NURBS
Subdivision (sub-d or mesh) modeling is best for organic, smooth modeling, designs of characters and organic shapes. It's like sculpting with clay for characters in games, jewelry, and so on.
This is the approach used by Modo and Softimage, Z-brush, 3ds Max, and Mudbox. These are all polygon-based, with meshes that can be smoothed using subdivision algorithms. These programs cannot do typical CAD operations, like fillets or booleans. Even simple operations like putting a hole in a box can be tedious, to process to prepare the geometry for subdivision algorithms.
In contrast, NURBS (non-uniform rational B-splines) are used in CAD systems, which is better for rigid design. They use parametric surfaces with hard edges, and fillets and Booleans.
There is a trend towards more hybrid design, design that involves some parametrics, some organic . Examples includes hair dryers, power tools, and shoes.
With SubD-NURBS (patent applied for), IntegrityWare is trying to effectively bridge the gap between artistic and engineering for the times when you want to use both. IntegrityWare's demo is that of a head: it is modeled in sub-d, but then needs to switch to CAD mode to do shelling and so on.
While large CAD vendors like PTC, Autodesk, and Bentley Systems have their own kernels, there are certain things that IntegrityWare does really well, and so they license portions. For instance, Bentley uses IntegrityWare's advanced surfacing library on top of their own solids modeling technology.
On the other hand, software like Cheeta3D and MoI are completely based on the IntegrityWare kernel.
Another group of vendors using the software are data translation companies, because IntegrityWare can handle difficult translation issues, such as disparate formats and tolerancing.
Yet another group consists of rendering software. Companies like Bunkspeed and Luxion use IntegrityWare's software to import data and then apply their really fast tessellation technology. Other industries include optics, coordinate measurement (IntegrityWare is fast at raytracing, point projection, and ray firing) and mining companies (modeling underground ore deposits).
About the Company
IntegrityWare is the name of the company, and the part that licenses libraries to OEMs. The nPower Software division markets plug-ins to end users.
There are just nine in the company, and Mr Gill insisted that he can get it all done with just the nine really good people, plus some really good programming tools, and only once in a while contracting out work.
They were fortunate, he said, that their kernel was born in the modern era of object-oriented modeling. The modular nature of the kernel makes it easier to expand, than others. Older kernels, such as ACIS and Parasolid, have had to adapt over the decades.
The company was founded in 1996 by Gary Crocker (now CTO), Dahjiun Wang (in charge of OEM development), and Mr Gill (now president) joined in January, 2002. All of them have been in the CAD business since the early 1980s, starting at GE Calma, and then moving along as the software went through different owners: Computervision, Prime, PTC, and others.
upFront.eZine: So why did you figure out SubD-NURBS, and not someone else?
David Gill: ACIS and Parasolid are based on solids. They bolted on surfaces, but polygonal modeling is not their core. IntegrityWare is hybrid; we built our kernel with a toolset of geometric evaluators, analysis tools, and other reusable tools, and that allows us to put things together quickly. No one in the industry has spent more time evaluating geometric modeling technology.
upFront.eZine: What about research companies like D-Cubed?
Mr Gill: D-Cubed and Spatial look at pieces of the problem; Spatial does a good job with solids, and D-Cubed does a good job with solver technology.
upFront.eZine: Why would an OEM company like you have a booth at tradeshows?
Mr Gill: End-users purchase our NPpower plug-ins, especially for 3D Studio Max. Revit, Inventor, and SolidWorks users can import models from programs like Modo.
upFront.eZine: What do you see as the future of your mesh-solids technology?
Mr Gill: We are going to have easier and easier ways to model data. Modeling will become more natural. Old-style CAD systems can model inorganic stuff well, but do not capture the artistic side. The artistic systems are now easy to use to create organic shapes. We are going to see faster processors, and so the old limits of dealing with large amounts of data are going away.
We will be able to more quickly model complex shapes in a variety of ways. To represent difficult shapes there will be lots of crossover technology.
upFront.eZine: Are there examples of this already available?
Mr Gill: SpaceClaim and SketchUp are so easy to use, because of the direct manipulation of geometry. I foresee being able to directly manipulate virtual models in VR [virtual reality] form: push and pull with your hands, just like we see in movies, but more tangible and maybe not so flashy as the movies make it look.
FEA [finite element analysis] will be blended in, with more upfront engineering during the conceptual stage. Users will quickly shape an object as it is being analyzed -- kind of like Solidthinking is doing today with their metaphorphis load-based shaping.
Rapid prototyping is an important aspect today, but we will be using more and more virtual models in the future. Fast rendering systems like Bunkspeed are important to quickly see what things look like even as you make rapid changes to the design.
We are at the cusp of another big change in the CAD world. Cloud computing will make available all machines that can be accessed worldwide; and ultimately network bandwidth will be the limiting factor.
Time- and cost-to-market are important, but today the engineering process is too elongated (the time to design, RP model, test). The advances of tomorrow will come in the conceptual design stage, as we analyze and produce virtual prototypes -- and less RP [rapid prototyping], because it is costly and time consuming. It's all about shortening the engineering and artistic design processes for CAD, movies, and games.
No one has captured the conceptual design market yet.
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Looking for BetterCAD
Guest Editorial by Gerald Davis
My first PC with voice and graphics was a Digital Group Z80 in 1979. After six years of mainframe repairs on an aircraft carrier with the US Navy, I worked as repair/analyst on a FourPhase minicomputer, 1980 thru 1986. I lost a business selling PCs to veterinarians, and then got into manufacturing engineering for my father's company. In 1987, I ran AutoCAD v2.5 on a Tandy 2000.
AutoCAD R14 had turned me into a human macro. I could spacebar-repeat commands and parameters like a fiend; seriously, I was good and fast using R14. Not terribly productive, though. In 1998, I switched (with joy) from wireframe modeling on R14 to SolidWorks.
My erstwhile ringing endorsement of SolidWorks remains an endorsement, but somewhat cloudy. What follows is a rant offered to you, so that you might light your torch and sharpen your pitchfork as you ferret out those producing BetterCAD, and harass the insipid rebranders and shills.
After years of struggling with 2D or "3D" wireframe on command-line interface, SolidWorks distinguished itself in 1998 with what passed for intuitive operation. SolidWorks literally turned me into a one-man engineering firm. I lived in a time when it would have taken a staff of twenty people to do what I do know. Boy, did the Bronze Age suck!
My industrial design business ultimately delivers two items: (1) a bill of materials, and (2) manufacturing documentation.
- SolidWorks has the BOM thing working (almost). 3D Content Central is a great idea that is terribly implemented.
- Manufacturing documentation includes anything that is required to get the design built. SolidWorks can export CAD data and PDFs in an easy way. In my opinion, however, SolidWorks' production of 2D drawings has not significantly improved since 2001; SW 2011 will ship with drawing templates that are dreadful examples. They should not be used without modification, and have not changed since their birth, a decade ago.
SW 2010 does not crash very often; that is a mighty improvement over SW 2006.
After 20 years working at all levels in a precision sheetmetal manufacturing business, I have studied a wide library of drafting for a lot of different kinds of products. I want my 3D CAD system to produce drawings in my style for me -- just like clicking Save As PDF -- only you would click Save As 2D Drawing, and the result is a fully-dimensioned, properly projected manufacturing drawing.
Instead, the CAD industry is focused on ways to make user interfaces for digital Playdough. And dreaming up ways to make bug patch distribution more of a private affair. The debate over distributed versus centralized processing has raged since IBM/360 and DEC days, only centralized is now spelled "cloud". I fled from mainframes and minis, and embraced PCs for their flexibility, robustness, and independence. Okay, so robust is a work in process. Cloud computing isn't a CAD issue -- it is an operating system issue.
The CAD needs to be more CAM-ish in my world. I want the design I visualize on the workstation to be manufactured. That's the button I want to click. I'll struggle with some really stiff Playdough just to get to punch that "do my job" button.
[Mr Davis is proprietor of Gerald Davis Design and Consulting at www. glddesigns.com.]
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We know data translation and provide immaculate developer-to-customer relations. http://www.okino.com.
Out of the Inbox
IMSI/design ships TurboCAD Pro 18 ($1,295) with GPU-accelerated display in wireframe, draft rendering, and hidden line modes, multi-threading in rendering and solid modeling, place PDFs as underlays, place graphics along paths, and more. http://www.TurboCAD.com
Catalog Data Solutions grew its revenues by 26% in 2010 over 2009.
SpaceClaim says its tripled sales and grew the number of its customers by 40%.
BOXX is pretty pleased that its single-CPU 3DBOXX 4860 XTREME was faster than a Dell T5500 dual-CPU workstation, yet is $3,000 cheaper. http://www.boxxtech.com
Tech Soft 3D releases HOOPS 3D Exchange v4.0, which reads Siemens NX 7.5, SolidWorks 2010/1, VDA- FS v1 and 2, and writes to PDF. 60-day eval from http://techsoft3d.com/products/60-day-evaluation-program
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These were some of the news items that were posted during the last few weeks at our WorldCAD Access blog <worldcadaccess.typepad.com>:
- DWG isn't already open source
- slash.dot readers comment on proprietary DraftSight software running on open Linux
- No 64-bit versions of DraftSight; so here is now how to install it on 64-bit Linux
- DraftSight:now also available in efficient Linux flavor
- Nokia sells Qt; CAD vendors' hearts go pitter-patter
- What the effect of Autodesk's registration of DWG as a trademark means by Owen Wengerd
- Open source, multilingual AutoCAD q&a site
- Bricsys gets communal through its Bricsys Meeting Point launching minutes ago
- Here is how I back up data from my computer
- Doing solid modeling in Web browsers
- Microsoft's Kinnect gets hooked up to a 3D printer
Letters to the Editor
Re: bim, Bim, BIM
Have another read. Siem Eikelenboom wrote about using AutoCAD in his workflow, but there is no mention of it [in your article]. What is mentioned is ArchiCAD, though, to generate 2D from 3D models.
- Robert McCartney
Re: Carl Bass Talks About Autodesk
Your interview with Carl Bass was helpful. We are also seeing a bit more hiring this year. More confidence in our client base, but also cautious with long term strategies. It seems that 2D AutoCAD is still the most popular software of choice with our clients.
- Dale Kopp
Clear Logic Group
Re: PTC Virtual Corporate Visit
Been keeping up on what PTC is doing, and everytime it's still a "Wow" moment when I read where they are heading. The MCAD industry has never been one to quickly adopt such harsh change -- Autodesk has ribbon bars, SolidWorks had a UI change from 2007-2008 (and that was minor to me), Siemens SynchTech...
Beyond existing users moving forward, this really is a huge leap of faith that the community will understand the AnyProducts enough to know how to move forward. SolidWorks used to sell their add-ins as separate purchases, but then did away with that many years ago. From a VAR standpoint in presenting SolidWorks to users, quoting to mngt and working with purchasing agents, this [elimination of add-ins] was a great move in removing confusion.
Apps are great for the quick, need-to-know smartphone culture, which I fully embrace. I just don't see that culture fully migrating into the MCAD industry. I will be very curious to see how Hyundai and Kia adopt all of this.
Many thanks for doing such a great service in bringing this information to us.
- Steve Ostrovsky
The editor replies: PTC is making an amazing move, and so we are left wondering: will this be an AutoCAD moment? Or an IntelliCAD moment?
After all the Siemens versus Dassault automotive coverage, I hope you've also noticed the recent announcements from DS about expanded partnerships with BMW, Jaguar/Land Rover, and McLaren Mercedes.
- Lynn Manning
"Philosophy is dead."
- Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, not philosophers, in "The Grand Design"
"Philosophy always buries its undertakers."
- Erienee Gilson, philosopher
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