u p F r o n t . e Z i n e
the business of cad
Issue #699 | July 12, 2011
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In This Issue
1. Updating CivilB
-Locating Utility Conflicts
- Designing Irregular Shapes
2. Dassault Reveals V5R21 and V6R2012
Part 2 of an interview with Fabien Fedida
- New Openness in V6 R2012
3. Out of the Inbox and our other regular columns
Bo Gao invited me for lunch last week to update me on his CivilB software. Mr. Gao is one of a few CAD developers located in my part of the world, the beautiful Lower Mainland area of British Columbia, Canada. His software is unique, in that it recognized utility conflicts and irregular shapes of pavement overlay and widening.
Locating Utility Conflicts
"Navisworks is good for mechanical and building design but does not fit well with civil engineering design," he began, "because it only reports clashes" where one object intersects another. Civil engineering projects need to look for 3D spatial clearances. For example, is an underground water pipe far enough away from the concrete footing of a proposed freeway overpass? The two must be separated by a distance further than merely not touching!
In contrast, his CivilB is the only software that checks for clearances in four civil engineering aspects:
a. Horizontal clearance - is there sufficient horizontal distance between objects? For instance, is there clearance between plan outlines of manhole and adjacent signal pole so that excavation of manhole won't interfere with pile foundation of signal pole.
b. Vertical clearance - is there sufficient vertical distance between objects, such as between two crossing pipes?
c. Boundary setback - is there sufficient distance between the property line and the object? For instance, is there enough space to construct a spread footing within the right-of-way.
d. Cover depth - is there sufficient distance from the top of the ground to the top of the underground utility, such as the minimum and maximum cover of pipes?
These four engineering clearances are based on the ways that civil engineers traditionally work with drawings: horizontal and vertical alignments and cross sections plans. He showed me one page of the plans for the new BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit train system) for San Jose; the utility conflicts were an impressive sight for this ex-civil engineer.
Designing Irregular Corridors
The other thing CivilB does well is to deal with irregularly shaped corridors, such as roads and railroads that don't have parallel sidewalks, bus lanes, ditches, guard rails, and so on -- as programs like Civil3D tend not to. I won't get into detail here, since I covered this aspect of CivilB last year in upfrontezine.com/2010/upf-657.
Mr. Gao did emphasize how his software is able to convert 2D symbols into 3D meshes or surfaces. New to the latest release is the ability to handle pavement overlays and widening and to work with 3D point clouds generated by laser scanners, in order to better conform new pavement overlay and widening to existing pavement surface.
He was excited about the way laser scanning will improve the accuracy of recording in-place road and railroads. Traditionally, surveyors take points every 25 or 50 meter; laser scanners take points every few millimeters. The drawback: it's hard to handle millions of points with traditional triangulations, and so CivilB provides a solution for this.
Since we last spoke, Mr. Gao was awarded a patent on his software's ability to recognize and represent civil engineering spot, linear, and surface objects as 3D parametric ruled surfaces. He is working on a couple more patents.
And, he'd like to connect with Autodesk resellers to see if they are interested in carrying his CivilB software, which runs inside of Civil3D. http://www.civilb.com
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Dassault Reveals V5R21 and V6R2012
Part 2 of an interview with Fabien Fedida
[Last week in part 1, Fabien Fedida described how the V6 software from Dassault Systemes works on the cloud, powered by Amazon Web Services. He's the senior director of global marketing at Dassault Systemes.]
A word of explanation first: "V5" and V6" are not version numbers in the sense that we usually understand them. For Dassault Systems, these are major updates that involve significant architectural changes, almost as if one were going from Mechanical Desktop to Inventor. Twice a year, Dassault releases updates for V6, and once a year for V5. For the V5 series of software, the updates have sequential numbers, like Release 21; for V6, the updates carry the number of next year, such as 2012. With this mini-tutorial behind you, now you too can decode Dassault's version numbering when it looks like V5R21 and V6R2012.
Now a bit of history: When Dassault released V5 in 1998, the new version had such a change in architecture that it was flat-out incompatible with V4 -- to the point that some customers decided to stick with V4 (released back in 1993) rather than update to V5. This incompatibility has dogged Dassault, and competitors were filled with glee over the V4-V5 incompatibility.
When V6 came along in mid-2008, competitors figured Dassault customers were in for the same upgrade migraine. But not this time, declared Fabien Fedida during his second telephone interview with upFront.eZine. "By design, V6 and V5 work together very well. I know there is some FUD [fear, uncertainty, doubt from competitors] out there about this. And I would expect our competitors to try this. In this release in particular, just like in all previous releases, you can see evidence of DS ensuring that V6 and V5 work together very well."
To make sure V6 works well with V5, Dassault took the following steps:
- Unlike V4 and V5, V5 and V6 use the same geometry kernel. This means that V5 and V6 share the same geometric modeler, use the same specification modeler, and have nearly the equivalent product structure.
- CATIA V6 brings customers the complete set of workbenches from V5. Although the V6 interface is different from V5 ("more intuitive"), the way users perform processes is the same in both. One reason for the change in interface is the addition of ubiquitous collaboration functions in V6. V6's UI also adds search, 3D manipulators, a compass, and the 3DLive turntable navigation.
- The upward and downward compatibility between V5 and V6 is like between two releases of V5.
In short, going from V5 to V6 is like going from V5R20 to V5R21. As for V4 customers, Dassault has not abandoned them; those running V4 products (e.g. CATIA V4 R2.5 and ENOVIA VPM 1.6) on IBM and Sun hardware will be supported through December 2013 -- some 20 years later. You could imagine that Dassault will do something similar for V5 users.
In addition, V5 releases are now beginning to be synchronized with V6. "The reason we do this is that V5 customers can now benefit from select V6 enhancements in V5R21 -- select ones, of course," he said, and then gave me a couple of examples:
- CATIA Imagine & Shape is the "virtual clay" modeler that uses sub-D (subdivision surface) technology. The one that runs in V5R21 is a port from V6. In addition, Imagine & Shape now imports sub-D data from third-party software through standard .obj files. "By the way, this is just one instance of openness; we are doing it everywhere," he remarked. "Sometimes, our competitors like to obscure and ignore this."
- CATIA's Class A freeform surface modeling and analysis in V5 now matches that of V6. This completes the feature set alignment between the two versions, started in V5R19.
Then there is the hybrid design environment that supports V4, V5, V6, and SolidWorks. The ENOVIA product data structure is in V6 format, but holds data from V4, V5, V6, and SolidWorks. Data from each authoring tool can be edited and saved with the native authoring tool. Within the V6 product structure, you can open and edit CATIA V5 parts with CATIA V5, and then save the edits in the same format.
Data is 100% upwards compatible from one release to the next, such as from V5R18 to V5R19, or from a V5 release to a V6 release. This means that features can be edited in the next release. But once modified with a V6 authoring tool, the data is saved in V6 format, which keeps all V6-related changes.
Downwards compatibility -- such as from V5R21 to V5R20, or from V6R2012 down to V5R21 -- is done through an "as-result mode," which is equivalent to transferring data via the STEP format. (It does not use the STEP format, but is similar to doing it through STEP.) You can then retrieve the geometry organized in a product structure. Dassault plans to continue enhancing downward compatibility from V6 to V5 -- to make it even better than between two releases of V5. For instance, the next release will preserve parametric history.
In summary, Mr Fedida said, V5 customers benefit from R&D for V6, and Dassault plans to make the transition easier with every release.
New Openness in V6 R2012
Mr Fedida switched our discussion to the latest release of V6, named R2012. "The Lifelike Experience is the ultimate realization of our 3D strategy," he continued. "We were never in 2D; we started in 3D with surfaces, then 3D digital mockup, then 3D PLM, and now PLM 2.0/Lifelike Experience."
The most recent example is 3DVIA Shopper, developed with 3DVIA Studio Pro. This is a new vertical app for retailers and brand merchandizers -- not shoppers! It lets these firms simulate retail settings in 3D, from store shelves, to the product and its labeling, and the placement of products on store shelves, complete with lighting. The purpose is to allow these firms to analyze shopper behavior and maximize sales: where is the best place for our bottles of shampoo, when placed next to those of our competitors? Merchandizers can bring in focus groups of prospective shoppers to a virtual 3D environment, and then let them wander virtually through the aisles of the "supermarket" to analyze their behavior.
He went on to talk about things of which I have a greater interest, specifically the new levels of openness in V6. This includes the following items:
- Dassault is aggressively releasing API [application programming interface] calls "to the entire eco system." For example, ENOVIA V6 is now up to 3,000 API calls, 3DVIA Composer has 500, and CATIA has new ones in the area of composite manufacturing. There will be more APIs to come.
- Dassault is introducing additional interoperability scenarios between V6 and outside PDM [product data management] systems using XML schema and Web services, including in bi-directional exchanges of CAD product structures. This is in addition to existing integration, including the exchange and synchronization of BOMs [bills of materials], federation capabilities with SCM [supply chain management], CRM [customer relationship management], and other systems; as well as integrations with ERPs [enterprise resource planning].
- They are addressing heterogeneous design environments, regardless of the "authoring solution" (a.k.a. CAD system). ENOVIA V6 can be embedded with NX, Inventor, Pro/E, SolidWorks, CATIA V5 and even Adobe CS5, which Dassault considers a significant authoring tool in its own right.
New translators are being added to CATIA. In this release, IDF files can now be saved directly in ENOVIA V6 to ensure traceability and synchronization between ECAD [electronic design] and MCAD. There's also four new Simulink export functions from CATIA Systems for interoperability with controlled and controller models. To Dassault, this is crucial, because "nearly every product, no matter how simple, contains some sort of electronics or on-board software. Systems engineering is key." In V6R2012 the requirements can now be accessed directly from within the 3D CATIA environment.
A big step for Dassault Systemes was their recent acquisition of Intercim and its MES software [manufacturing execution system] that goes into shop floor operations. V6R2012 also introduced DELMIA Global Production System Planning, which allows companies to digitize the manufacturing capabilities of all processes across the physical supply chain, and then put it in a central repository. Vendors now know all the capabilities in their supply chain so that they can handle new demand in a specific country.
Finally, Mr Fedida said, V6R2012 provides a better user experience. ENOVIA's revamped interface means 60% fewer clicks to make and 90% fewer screens to see. Dassault has added multi-touch to CATIA Live Shape, CATIA Live Compose, and ENOVIA 3DLive; this is useful not just on tablets, but also on large screens in front of meetings. And multi-threading is new in CATIA.
I asked about the press release making reference to "130,000 customers." How did Dassault count customers? Mr Fedida said he would call them "legal entities." "Counting and advertising users, as some companies do, can be pretty subjective," he laughed. "Perhaps I should include all of the [one million] copies of DraftSight as well?" http://www.3ds.com
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Out of the Inbox
GfxSpeakRSN (Randall Newton) on Twitter: "I'm begging you! I only need 10 new Twitter followers to have more than @ralphg, a lifelong dream. Please help! RT ad nauseam."
ANSYS makes itself bigger by spending $310 million (in cash!) on Apache Design Solutions, whose simulation software handles low power electronics industry, like smartphones. http://www.apache-da.com
Open Design Alliance is using PDF technology from Visual Integrity to add PDF import, underlays, and editing to Teigha, ODA's software development platform. www.visual-integrity.com
Autodesk Support reports that AutoCAD 2011 for Mac has printing, error reporting, and other problems with Apple's upcoming Mac OS X 10.7 (aka "Lion") operating system. Autodesk is working "around the clock" to come up with a service pack. http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/ps/dl/item?siteID=123112&id=17309425&linkID=15839490
IMSI/Design's TurboViewer now officially supports the iPhone (and iPod Touch, I presume).http://imsidesign.com/turboviewer
GfxSpeakRSN (Randall Newton) on Twitter: "Please help. My daughters just ran to their rooms crying because @ralphg has 11 more Twitter follower than I do. RT until it hurts."
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These were the news items that was posted during the last week at our WorldCAD Access blog <worldcadaccess.typepad.com>:
- Google Maps illustates problems causing transmission tower failure
- Roopinder Tara's #2 pet peeve: "Never mind what I said before: THIS is the best product evah!" by Roopinder Tara
- FINAL: No joy for Autodesk as USPTO continues to agree that DWG is not registerable
- Roopinder Tara's pet peeve #1: Keep it in your pants by Roopinder Tara
Letters to the Editor
"Har! 'Somehow the idea that the cloud is so much better is just accepted as fact, because it was said so at GroupThink2010. Then it was repeated at DroneCon, then at the Conference for Dummies, and at the UsualSuspects2011. From there, it was picked up by bloggers, and the rest is history." John C. Dvorak at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2387832,00.asp"
- P Lawton
The editor replies: "Reminds me of the excellent idea of delivering pet food over the Internet. At the time, no could think of a good reason why it could fail."
"I wanted to send you a note to make sure that things are 100% clear for you and your readers. The CAD Connectors themselvees are available from 3rd party outfits, like xPLM, which sell them as commercial add-ons.
"Because we have a growing number of partners around the world providing CAD connectors as add-ons, we've put in place a standardized set of capabilities and guidelines for consistency and robustness across all offerings. Our intent is to enable community members to provide great solutions. And if an end user company doesn't want to pay a third party for a pre-packaged connector, they can always create their own, as they have access to the same capabilities."
- Marc Lind
Re: Where is the Anti-Trust in CAD?
"We dug our own holes. Each customer did. Nobody forced anyone to buy a particular product, ever. We each chose a product line and became ensared in the proprietary design data formats. The vendors simply continued on doing what always did and we stuck with them. Is that a monopolistic practice?"
- David Stein
The editor replies: "Some of us have faught against proprietary data standards for decades. For anti-trust agencies, even the appearance of monopoly is a problem."
"In your reply to letters regarding the CAD anti-trust issue you wrote, 'For automobiles, there are all-make leasing companies, and second-hand lots.' Try ordering a true best in class vehicle from a multi-logo dealer. I would like Cummins diesel engine powered Ford F250 with a Chevrolet Silverado Allison transmission. It can be done aftermarket... for a price... but try getting Ford to sell it that way. Or Chevrolet to provide warranty support when the computer inputs aren't working. Yet this is what CAD users want their vendors to do at no additional cost.
"And the last time I was shopping for a car, while the multi-logo dealer was a good place to compare models, on the models I was interested in they quoted a higher price than a dedicated dealer. The sales lady explained that it's more expensive to train sales personnel and maintenance technicians to work on two makes. More class time and extra tools aren't cheap. Same goes for CAD products: that is unless the dealer is simply shipping boxes with no pre- or post-sales support.
"You need a different analogy!
"To reader Peter Fagan, you replied. 'Some of the higher price in Europe is due to the VAT being included, while prices in Canada and USA do not. Nevertheless, the higher pricing is wrong, and making it illegal to gray-market computer products is wronger.'
"Gray-market computer products are illegal because what is conveyed to the end user is a 'right to use' which is a contract between the software manufacturer and the user. When the product is sold gray-market the contract establishing the responsibilities of the manufacturer and the entitlements of the end user is broken, because the user agreement (signed or click-wrap) is never legally executed. No user agreement = no right to use.
"Reader Chris wrote: 'When Autodesk began protecting their dealers in the late 90s, they hacked the legs off of McNeel. That meant I no longer had access to them as my dealer (I'm in Florida and McNeel's in Washington state). However, I WANTED MCNEEL AS MY SUPPORT CONTRACT. BUT, Autodesk FORBIT (sic) IT.'
"Forbid it? This is absolutely not true. A user can pay anyone they want to support their software. I made a good living supporting Autodesk products for many years and was never an Autodesk reseller. Just don't expect Autodesk to allow you to pick your own company to provide warranty support. There's a one man auto repair shop that I trust to do anything beyond my mechanical skills much more than the dealer I bought my car from. But the manufacturer only pays for warranty service from an authorized dealer. Same thing."
- Name withheld by request
The editor replies: "I am not against single-vendor dealerships; I am against CAD vendors forcing dealers to carry only one line of software. Some dealers get around this restriction by setting up a second dealership under a different name. I don't see this being more cost-effiient for customers."
"Agencies, departments, and organizations don't do things -- people do things. People's names should be on things to foster both accountability and pride."
- Edward Tufte
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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.