u p F r o n t . e Z i n e

the business of cad


Issue #694 |  June 7, 2011 

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In This Issue

1. Graphisoft ArchiCAD 15
      - Freeform BIM Tools and Workflow Support

      - Native 3D Editing

      - Demo Time


2. Autodesk Homestyler

    Reviewing the Cloud, Episode 2


3. Out of the Inbox and other regular columns


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Graphisoft ArchiCAD 15

"You can see on the screen some nice, architectural landmark pieces. Architects have thought about form, breaking out of the rectangular form," Akos Pfemeter began. On the screen, I'm seeing curvy buildings.


Mr Pfemeter is director of global marketing at Graphisoft, the Hungarian software company that programmed the first serious architectural software -- on a Mac, in 1987. He's on the phone today to tell me about release 15 of ArchiCAD. He's laying the groundwork for 15's most important new features.


"Paper is great," he continues, "Because it provides ultimate freedom; if you think in 3D, then you can even draw that. What you draw is your design; but there is no support." By 'support,' he means being able to manipulate the drawing.


"CAD has lots of support, such as undo/redo and automation. But it doesn't have the freedom of hand drawings, which are mimicked badly by CAD's Line command. The alternative is to use conceptual design tools to create basic shapes out promote shapes, and then try to turn them into a CAD drawing."


Paper doesn't work well; CAD neither. What about BIM [building information modeling]?


"BIM brought lots of promise. It was advertised as THE 3D building design tool, and some users can actually use BIM for that. Most users manipulated the 3D BIM model through the 2D drawing by editing floor plans, elevations, and sections. Three-D was limited for presentation and checking the design, but not creating to manipulating the design. It is strange," he admits.


So, Graphisoft thought they would rethink their software, aiming to add the following abilities to ArchiCAD 15:
      - Freeform BIM tools
      - Documentation workflow that handles all of 3D and 2D
      - Native editing in any 3D view


Freeform BIM Tools and Workflow Support

ArchiCAD 15 generates these shapes:
      - Extrusions
      - Revolutions
      - Rules

...which, Mr Mr Pfemeter says, cover 99% of building designs. The exception are blob shapes, which are used mostly for sculptures, not buildings. These shapes can be used to also design furniture, lamps, apples, and so on.


The workflow in ArchiCAD 15 now goes from conceptual design, through design development, and on to construction documentation.


A 64-bit version was already available for Windows; it is now also available for Mac in ArchiCAD 15.


Native 3D Editing
Computer screens are flat, and so 3D is at a fundamental disadvantage, as I've harped on in the past -- and Mr Pfemeter agrees. We cannot easily determine foreground and background elements, higher or lower ones in 3D.


(Designing in 3D isn't all bad; it does have its advantages. For instance, 3D connections are easier to see and manipulate in 3D, such as intersection of two parabolas.)


To make it easier to edit in 3D, ArchiCAD 15 adds the new 3D editing plane, which is a 2D drafting plane, which to me looks like an enhanced version AutoCAD's UCS. from what I saw, I think that maybe Graphisoft's implementation might be more natural to use, certainly for architects. For example, options tilt the editing plane to three natural positions about the current element (object): vertical, aligned, and horizontal. In addition, guidelines help you position objects in 3D space by alignments. More about this in the demo section.


Demo Time

Tibo Szolnoki took over to show me some of what's new in 15, starting with new roof tools. He added a pitched roof to a mass element. The multi-element roof acts as a single element. To edit the roof, he switch between 3D and 2D; with a single click in a dialog box, he changed the roof from pitched to gabled. With the (old) magic wand, the extended the same roof type to other areas of the building, even curved ones over curved walls.


The roof was split into levels, to change the pitch half way up; the top area with the steeper pitch was changed to skylights -- or another roofing material -- with a single click. See figure 1. The entire roof is still one element. His final step was to clean up roof intersections with a new, one-step command.


Figure 1: The multi-element roof is a single object in ArchiCAD 15.


Next up: editing in 3D perspective mode. "You don't know exactly where the, x, y, or z directions are," Mr Szolnoki continued. "In ArchiCAD, guidelines are now available in 3D. The axis names are highlighted in yellow. A new orange dot (the "guideline handle") allows you to move guidelines, and helps you fix a direction, and then relocate it to a specific point. Hold down Shift to constrain movement to the current level; and so on."


Most fascinating to me is how Archicad now projects guidelines in space onto construction planes.


Not left out are accurate values in 3D. He showed me how he could accurately make 2' x 3' openings in slanted roofs. Tooltips report the distances and angles. By manipulating the construction plane, he created the opening, not just aligned with the roof, but also vertically and horizontally.


Finally, he showed how the shell tools work -- extruded, revolved, and ruled. A wavey extrusion defined the desired roof and wall shape. The shell command removed unnecessary parts of the slab, creating the thin shell shape.


The new renovation feature works exactly as you would expect. Filters let you see the different stages -- remove, new, remain, planned, and so on -- in colors and according to national standards. One file holds all renovation stages; it works in 2D and 3D. The 3D views makes it easier to see which elements have to be removed.

He emphasized that they now have just one program to do both concepts and designs -- as well as documentation, 'natch.


ArchiCAD 15 ships on June 10. http://www.graphisoft.com



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Autodesk Homestyler
Reviewing the Cloud, Episode 2
With my son moving out of our house to get married, we are working on changing his L-shaped 12x12' bedroom into a guest room that doubles as entertainment room. To see how new and existing furniture might fit the room, I remembered that Autodesk had an online room layout designer at http://www.homestyler.com/designer. It uses Flash to run in "any" Web browser.


I began the design in HomeStyler by dragging an L-shaped floor into the design area, and found that I could resize walls by dragging them. As I dragged them, dimension appeared. This was, however, when I ran into the first of several problems. In Canada, most measuring tapes measure in inches. HomeStyler is limited to working with feet or meters. Its precision is limited to the nearest inch; no measuring to the nearest 1/16", as is standard. (I had to punch the numbers into my desktop calculator to work out the conversion of inches to feet-and-inches.)


Once I got the floor plan sized correctly, I wanted to save my initial work. To do so, I needed to login, so I entered my "universal" ID for Autodesk's Web sites. HomeStyler complained the password did not match my email address. After a few more tries, I created a new HomeStyler account -- using exactly the same email and password as for my Autodesk ID. HomeStyler finally accepted it.


Next step was to add the single bed. Here, the process slowed down to a crawl. It took minutes for the side bar to list icons of bed types. The next day, the catalog loaded quickly, so I guess that first day's delay was due to the catalog's initial download over my not-terribly-fast DSL line.


The next problem I encountered was that the "Custom" bed type in not customizable enough. We are reusing my son's old bed, which has a bookcase at the head end, and so isn't standard. HomeStyler can change the dimensions of furnishings, but not sufficiently. For example, one side table has a droplist, making it appear we can change its height, but it lists only one height! It would be handy if we could just select standard bed size names, such as American Double or European Single -- instead of having to enter dimensions.


Eventually I got the furnishings placed, finding that a couch would have to be a small loveseat, and other compromises. It turns out 12x12' rooms are not very large! This is useful information to know early in the planning process.


TIP: Hold down the Shift key to override collision prevention.


HomeStyler is free, and so it earns its keep by pushing a limited selection of USA-specific brand-name products. We non-Americans cannot select paints and other products that match what's available locally, nor can we specify custom colors. In any case, I would not rely on room colors displayed by a software program, especially since none of my computer monitors can agree among themselves what colors look like.


Figure 2: Homestyler's instant 3D is great.


My project finished, it was time to save, but instead I received a truly grim message: "Oops! Something wacky happened. Please refresh your browser and try again." Something wacky is not what consumers are looking for. Pressing F5 didn't help. Everything, except the initial floor plan, disappeared. The next time I signed in, the Remember Me function didn't remember me.


At this point, I gave up. HomeStyler had given me a rough idea of how to make big furniture items fit a small room.



While HomeStyler makes it easy to design a room; it's not that good at designing the room, one with specific specs. Being dependent on the cloud makes it sometimes slow to load content, and its failure to save is catastrophic. http://www.homestyler.com




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Out of the Inbox

Bricsys tweets that they will ship Bricscad 12 first week of October. That's the same week they'll be holding their developers conference in Brussels, and I plan on being there.


During Versata's Webinar on think3, Austin Scee said [paraphrased], "Should you pay Versata or the Italian entity under the bankruptcy trustee? If you are not sure, pay no one. We [Versata] can wait for payment. The trustee [in Italy] has until the beginning of August and, like any bankruptcy receiver, his #1 mission is to collect as much money as he can, so we can wait no matter how long it takes."


The programming language for Windows 8 is HTML5/JavaScript. Where does this leave CAD programs based on C++? http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/microsoft-needs-to-tell-windows-8-developers-now-about-jupiter-and-silverlight/9608


Speaking of programming, this is an interesting site: ConvertToDraftSight.com is dedicated to migrating existing AutoCAD, LISP, VB, VBA, .NET, macros, and other custom software to the ARES-based DraftSight. A little digging shows the site is run by Extreme Design & Programming. I wonder how necessary it is, given that porting is support to be unneessary (for some APIs) and a simple recompile for others?


"New crowd simulation tool from Oasys Ltd" and that's all I know until this Wednesday. Oh, and then there is this video that tells all: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EUYzDJyuQ0 . Looks like it would be useful for doing crowd control following Vancouver's fireworks festival -- or the next release of Matrix.


You can now get DE-STA-CO's 3D models through TraceParts at http://www.TracePartsOnline.net -- clamping, indexing, rotary and linear actuators, robotic systems and workholding products.


MecSoft announces VisualXPORT for Inventor 2012, an in-window plug-in for transfer Inventor geometry -- 2D and 3D sketches (curves), solids, and surface data -- directly to VisualMILL without having to go through a neutral format such as STEP or IGES. http://www.visualxport.com


Autodesk updates Project Photofly 2.0, which takes a series of digital photos and turns them into 3D models. http://labs.autodesk.com/utilities/photo_scene_editor


And PTC completed its acquisition of MKS of Canada, whose Integrity software helps developing software-intensive products.


- - -


This was the news item that was posted during the last week at our WorldCAD Access blog <worldcadaccess.typepad.com>:

- We've got Autodesk's roadmap for its motley CAE crew, by Roopinder Tara


Letters to the Editor

Re: The Sorry think3 Story Gets Messier
"What at think mess!"
      - @robincaper through Twitter

"About the think3 blog posting being empty: it won't allow you to post. Either it doesn't work by accident, or it's intentional."
      - Jason Perkins
      Westool Corporation


The editor replies: "Thank you for investigating. Now I find that versata.think3.com redirects to think3.ja (Japan)!"

"Good reporting by Ralph."
      - @technicon through Twitter

"The think3 story is a lot more complex than anyone has reported. I'm guessing that Cad.Lab would never have gotten the development money without Joe Costello and as a result they never would have come up with the technology they did without this money. Joe Costello then made mistake after mistake. The biggest one was initially refusing to sell it and going with a yearly rental scam.


"The other huge problem is that Joe Costello thought it would be very easy to convert AutoCAD users to think3. Joe Costello had no interest in building think3 slowly. It was hit a grand slam or fail and when he couldn't hit a grand slam think3 failed. Joe Costello / think3 never learned from their mistakes and failed. SpaceClaim learned from their mistakes and will prosper.


"The best thing that could happen with think3 now in my opinion is if someone like Altair purchased the IP."
      - @jonbanquer through Twitter


"The contract-bidding software dev model is a 100% failed idea. In my 25 years writing code and managing projects, I have never seen that concept produce anything useful or valuable for anyone except for short-term stakeholders trying to squeeze a buck before dumping it or liquidating it. It's another textbook example of thinking a fat checkbook can make a great invention."
      - Dave Stein


The editor replies: "It is horrendous: you get paid only if your code is better than another bidder. As my wife said, You got to be really desperate to work for that kind of a firm."


Mr Stein responds: "Absolutely. I sure hope doesn't catch on with the majority."


"That was a great article on Think3. Did you do most of the fact finding? It has all been very confusing to me for weeks, and this article helped pull all the pieces clearly together."
    - Robert Lansdale, CTO & Product Manager
     Okino Computer Graphics


The editor replies: "I spent 3-4 hours researching original documents."

Spin Doctor of the Momement

"Research in Motion's new tablet is a misguided mess. First, a confession: I haven't used the BlackBerry PlayBook yet."
      - Farhad Manjoo in Slate


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Entire contents copyright 2011 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 "WorldCAD Access" 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.

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