t h e b u s i n e s s o f c a d
Issue #722 | February 14, 2012
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In This Issue
1. Displaying Massive CAD Models Using a Gaming Engine
- About Unity
2. ZW3D 2012 Press Briefing
- User Interface & Translation
- Direct Editing
3. Out of the Inbox, and other regular columns.
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Displaying Massive CAD Models Using a Gaming Engine
Last year was when CAD vendors first realized a market exists for mobile apps. Two weeks ago, we talked about the two approaches: mobileCAD tethered to desktop software and not tethered. Last week, a significant shift occurred: for the first time, several CAD developers announced Android versions first, saying iOS was to come.
This week, we take a look at a somewhat different approach. A developer in Switzerland takes data from Inventor and displays it on Android devices and Web browsers using a gaming engine. CAD systems like having multiple gigabytes to work in; phones and tablets are . The problem is, how do we stuff huge files with lots of ancillary support files (fonts, xrefs, images).
I emailed last week with Paul Schuebach of CAD Software Solutions. "Basically, we create and run 3D spare parts catalogs for customers. We believe that this business model can be very interesting for small and middle size companies -- no large upfront costs for software, along with the savings of not creating paper catalogs."
Figure 1: Spare parts catalog running in a Web browser on Windows
upFront.eZine: It appears to me that you are using the graphics engine from Unity3D to display 3D models from Inventor in Windows, Web browsers, Android, and soon iOS?
Mr Schuepbach: To review 3D content we use the Unity Render Engine for web browsers in Windows, Mac, and Android; and as a standalone application for Win, Mac, and iOS. (We have completed the iOS version, but it's just not yet in the AppStore.) Mobile devices and the standalone versions can also save content (the models) locally for offline work without a connection to the Internet.
upFront.eZine: How do the 3D models from Inventor get "converted" to the format needed by Unity3D?
Mr Schuepbach: To convert CAD data to Unity data takes several steps. It depends on the size of the models (or the number of parts). This can be as few as three steps or as many as eight steps for large assemblies. Please understand that I cannot go into the details; this is our know-how to be able to load a machine model of more than 100,000 parts via the Internet in very short time.
upFront.eZine: I notice that your Web site has demos of models running in Unity3D. I assume that you create custom solutions for clients?
Mr Schuepbach: We build custom solutions for clients, but our main focus is to offer the following services:
As it turns out, it was games that made Windows acceptable for CAD. Microsoft needed 3D games to run fast on Windows to convince people to switch away from MS-DOS. The optimizations that helped games (OpenGL, DirectX, specialized graphics drivers and input devices) also helped CAD run faster. You could say that 3D gaming development subsidized 3D CAD development on Windows.
CAD Software Solutions adopted Unity 3D, and Unity says it can stream anything to the Web player or application, such as textures, animated models, complete or partial scenes, and user-generated characters. Unity takes care of the following functions:
A license to basic Unity is free, which runs on Windows. Add-ons for Android and iOS start at $400 each. See http://unity3d.com/unity/licenses for more details.
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ZW3D 2012 Press Briefing
ZWSOFT technical manager Colin reminded me right off the bat that ZW3D is already 25 years old, being based on VX which his company acquired nearly two years ago. For those unfamiliar with VX -- er, ZW3D -- it is known for being a CAM system with integrated CAD. It has its own Overdrive modeling kernel and performs hybrid solid and surface modeling. You can design parts in its CAD module, or else bring in models and tweak them before generating the CNC code in the CAM module.
Normally, ZW3D costs in the range of $2,500 (3D CAD and sheetmetal only), $4,000 (adds mould design and reverse engineering), to $7,000 (adds 2-, 3- and 5-axis CAM).
What's new for 2012 is a dramatically lower price for the new two-axis machining package: $1,500 for solids-based CAD and 2X milling and turning + import translators from Transmagic for Catia, NX, SolidWorks, Inventor, Creo, and ACIS. (A similar three-axis package adds 3X miling and costs $4,000.)
So that's the price plunge. Here's what else is new in ZWCAD 2012.
Figure 2: ZW3D from ZWSOFT
User Interface & Translation
New to ZW3D is the ribbon interface, which displays mini help in large tooltips. Surprisingly, it took until 2012 for the software to get hotkeys, aka customizable shortcut keystrokes -- along with Windows-standard keystrokes, like Esc for cancel and Del for erasing selected entities. Mini toolbars appear when you right-click the mouse. Mouse buttons are also standardized, such as holding down the middle button for real-time pan.
The display performance is 2x-3x faster, coming on top of the up-to-10x increase with the last service package. Also added: real-time drop shadows and anti-aliasing for smoother curves. TrueType fonts are finally supported.
As I noted earlier, ZW3D now includes import translators from Transmagic, and so can import files from Catia and NX down to SolidWorks and Inventor -- at no extra cost. It also exports in 2D and 3D PDF, as well as 3x faster STEP import and export.
ZW3D does history-based and direct editing, and in this release direct editing was improved. The dynamic coordinate system now attaches itself to the face or edge being edited. Edges and curves can be directly extruded into surfaces; smart regions select appropriate faces. And lots more.
One new feature I found particularly interesting is the selective Boolean operation. Colin showed how he could subtract a shape from several stacked solids -- and specify that just a few of them be cut through.
There are many additional changes to sheet metal design, the new mould design module, smart ribs (where Booleans take care of ribs that intersect extrusions), 2D drawing sheets, and so on -- plus 2X, 3X, and 5X machining.
I asked Colin how direct editing changes the history tree. He said that the results are added to the tree.
Can ZW3D covert between surfaces and solids? Yes, it can switch back and forth. He showed me how he could convert a complex 3D solid into surfaces, add fillets, and then convert back to solids.
ZW3D 2012 is currently in beta 2, which you can try out from http://www.zwsoft.com/en/zw3d-2012-beta-test.
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Out of the Inbox
From Canon Oce, a MobilePlot app for iPad (and a related Mobile WebTools software for desktops) lets users access files via WiFi from their cloud, and then send print requests to printers. In addition, Oce has three new printer models (www.oceusa.com):
Chris Williams of Vuuch tells me he's hired Paul Cunningham (former executive vp of sales at PTC and employee #47) as vp of sales, marketing and business development; and Peter Sliwkowski as vp of products (after 22 years of R&D at Progress Software). http://www.vuuch.com
Autodesk is offering 0% financing when you purchase a license to Autodesk software through one of its resellers, until mid-April -- or until $8 million in funding is dished out -- and you spend at least $10,000. They note also that Autodesk 2009 software loses upgrade pricing and tech support after March 15. [What did customers do to deserve such short-term support?] http://imaginit.com
In unrelated news, the 2013 line of Autodesk software will no longer support the Vista dialect of Windows, officially. [I am sure the software will run on Vista, since Autodesk will still support its software running on XP. It's just when you call for support, all you'll hear is a dial tone -- or something.]
Tekla BIMsight v1.4 has a user interface optimized for tablet computers, such as multi-touch and stylus use. [Hmm... I didn't know there still were any tablets running Windows.] http://www.tekla.com
StrucSoft Solutions ships MWF Floor for automating floor framing-through-manufacturing inside Revit. It's an add-on module to StrucSoft's MWF Professional, a
template-driven extension to Revit Architecture and Revit Structure for automating shop floor drawing production, and manufacturing of light gauge metal and wood studs. http://www.strucsoftsolutions.com
3D Laser Mapping appoints Jon Chicken as managing director, while founder Graham Hunter becomes executive chairman.
SmartCAM V18.5 improves support for mill/turn centers with subspindles, B-axis and C-axis support, and new high-speed machining roughing options using morph pattern toolpath. [Intriguing ending to their email covering this release: "Thank you for your support as SmartCAM once again becomes a major player in the CAD/CAM marketplace."] http://www.SmartCAMcnc.com
Dassault Systemes pulled off an impressive 2011 with revenues of $2.36 billion, putting them into the #1 position, revenue-wise. They acquired Netvibes of San Francisco, whose Web-based dashboard software lets people track comments from social networks about themselves in realtime. Also new: Monica Menghini as executive vp of industry, marketing, corporate communications, who is the former general manager, EMEA of Saatchi & Saatchi X. Finally, they launched a new 3D Experience platform, whose purpose we editors cannot fathom. http://www.3ds.com
Tacton Systems hires Magnus Wallden as vp professional services with responsibility for applications and projects. Mr Wallden is the former as vp support EMEA at Lawson Software.
Actify updates its publishing platform Centro 5.0 with Centro Catalog and its Web interface for accessing design data published by Centro. Also: SpinFire 10.2 comes with 3D PDF Export plug-in; no charge trial version from http://www.actify.com/downloads/spinfire-professional-trial.
Speaking of 3D PDF, PDF Generator 3D v2.1 server from PROSTEP adds input formats, including Parasolid V24, 3D XML 4.3 for Dassault Systèmes CATIA V6, STEP AP242 and PTC Creo Parametric 1.0. http://www.pdfgenerator3d.com
And MecSoft adopts new naming: VisualMILL 2012 is the upgrade from VisualMILL 6, and features a new 5-axis continuous milling module, and new toolpath generation methods. http://www.mecsoft.com
On the Twitter stream
martynday (Martyn Day): Anyone else hearing Dassault is in the process of buying SketchUp off Google? Heard it from 3 people now. Thought it was BS until now.
ralphg (Ralph Grabowski): Evan Yares Joins Design World Network as 3D CAD Tips Senior Editor http://eon.businesswire.com/news/eon/20120207005657/en/cad/3d-cad/design (ht: #alistardean)
On the WorldCAD Access blog
These were some of the news items that were posted during the last week at our WorldCAD Access blog <worldcadaccess.typepad.com>:
Letters to the Editor
Re: Two Approaches to Mobile CAD
"We will push an update to the Glovius Android app this week, with a big performance boost, cross-sectioning & file associations. A note on tethering: Glovius for mobile + Babel3D.com can serve as a fully independent solution, without any dependency on the desktop applications. Babel3D.com provides a cloud based interface to translate files to the mobile optimized format and the mobile apps provide an intuitive consumption mechanism. (just like Gmail).
"We believe the mobile 3D space will see adoption with non-consumers first. And initially, its features will pale in comparison to the desktop counter-parts. With this approach in mind, we do not see any reason to make the two solutions (desktop & cloud + mobile) inter-dependent, as currently they serve two completely different set of users. We share your opinion that untethered is better for the user!"
- Siddhartha Oza, Product Manager
Re: Introduction to Solid Edge and Synchronous Technology
"Wrong: '"However, when we compete with them head-to-head, we can win on functionality, ease of use, and quality.' Solid Edge is missing CAM functionality. Solid Edge can't win when a customer wants integrated CAM. SolidWorks has at least 10 CAM packages that run inside it. Solid Edge still has none. The next Solid Edge release (ST 5) will have a cool new icon. When you depress this cool new icon it will automatically call a local Siemens NX salesman. This is the only way a Solid Edge user will ever see integrated CAM."
- Jon Banquer
Re: PTC Faces 2012 with Cuts, Reorganization
"Restructuring does impact the VARs. They use have a line set at $750M: VARs sold below this line, and [PTC's own] direct sales above. The line has been lowered to $250M."
- Name withheld by request
Spin Doctor of the Moment
"Virtually every products [sic] in the world is designed using their [Dassault Systemes] software..."
- Freddy Mini, ceo, Netvibes
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Entire contents copyright 2012 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.