t h e  b u s i n e s s  o f  c a d


Issue #728 |  March 20, 2012
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In This Issue


1. Exclusive! Vectorworks Cloud Services

   - Challenges to Overcome
   - Designing the Vectorworks-Cloud Interface
   - How VCS Works
   - Future of CAD


2. Engineer-to-Order on the Web

3. Out of the Inbox, and other regular columns.


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Vectorworks Cloud Services


Nemetschek Vectorworks plans next week to launch its Vectorworks Cloud Services, but last week gave an exclusive interview to upFront.eZine. Company ceo Sean Flaherty mused, "With Vectorworks on the cloud, how could we differentiate it from competitors?" He has the advantage in not being first, and so seeing what others have tried, failed at, and succeeded in. The key, he believes, is in our willingness to give up computing power for portable convenience.


Mr Flaherty is a techie, and so was around over the decades watching technology develop. "The cloud is nothing new from SaaS [software as a service] from 10 years ago, and 10 year earlier when we carved up supercomputing time into slices. Client-server computing did not get out of the government and corporate environments until now. This movement is different."He ran through for me the reasons why things are different this time around:

Challenges to Overcome

Mr Flaherty recognizes the drawbacks of off-site computing, and so he listed them for me. How quickly can you get data to your CPU? RAM is the fastest; moving it round the company network is pretty fast; but Internet delivers data at a rate typically at 0.75MB/sec. That's a slow way to move compute resources away from the desktop.

Despite such a slow speed, it is overcome by the benefits of Interet access, such as easier IT admin, remote access to data, access to huge computing resources on demand, and consistent backup and better authorization.


"For me, the iPad changed everything. It shifted the market very quickly in how people interact with such devices. It is changing computing, because it is so convenient for consuming data. It overcomes the hurdle of putting data on the cloud."


Designing the Vectorworks-Cloud Interface

New software, such as Dropbox and Evernote, is not as clunky as SaaS used to be, and work in conjunction with the desktop. "Sharing files between computers has become trivial. I do everything now in Evernote."


He began listing the issues his company thought through:


What kind of app? We are used to have a viewer or an editor. What are interesting are lightweight editors, such as Keynote on iPad, which does as much editing as the device can handle.


Could we charge Vectorworks-cloud by the hour? No, this is not particularly useful to most end users, tho might be useful for very large clients, like governments. Vectorworks Cloud Services is our initial offering, and will be free for those with a Vectorworks Service Select subscription.


Should it be free? Storage is cheap; what is expensive is the 3D computations that do things like updating BIM model and renderings. All files will sync and generate previews in the cloud, but 3D model updates will have a credit system for payment (free for the first month). Uses can use the service with 3D files, but they have to do the updating locally or else use the 3D compute credits to get updates done by the cloud service.


Does it access the Internet full-time? No, because services that require a full time Internet connection are not useful, because "ubiquitous wifi" is a myth. It has to work on- and offline.


How VCS Works

Vectorworks Cloud Services consists of four parts: a desktop sync tool, the cloud-based Vectorworks Server, Nomad for portable devices; and a Web portal.

a) Vectorworks Cloud Services installs a sync tool for the desktop version of Vectorworks. As with Dropbox, any files (and not just drawings) that users copy to the Sync folder are copied to cloud storage.


b) Vectorworks Server opens the synched files, and then looks for ones that need updating, such as sheets and renderings. It does the updating so that the cloud always has the most up-to-date versions; users don't have to do it themselves. For viewing and sharing files, Vectorworks Server generates PDFs. The server is hosted by Amazon AWS, because 80% ofVectorworks customers are outside of North American, and AWS has servers in Europe and Asia to reduce the delay from latency.


c) Nomad is the name of the free app that runs on portable devices. It views and marks up drawings (PDFs, actually) using objective C and Cocoa framework for markup, and then syncs the changes to the desktop through Vectorworks Server. Nomad is available first for iOS, and later for Android. It is the fist product in cloud services, and will improve over time. The company plans additional apps for doing other tasks with the data synched to storage.


d) Alternatively, you can use HTML5-compatible Web browsers to view and email PDFs on desktop and portable computers.

These cloud services will be offered to Vectorworks Service Select members through a staged rollout starting next week. Working with 2D files will be free and unlimited, but 3D files are free for 30 days.


Future of CAD

I wondered why this initiative was only from Vectorworks. Why is parent company Nemetschek not coordinating this with its member companies, including Graphisoft? Mr Flaherty explained that Nemetschek is a financial holding company specializing in AEC, and so it gives no technical directions; divisions have strategic independence. He noted that the new ceo may, however, change this arrangement.


He concluded our interview by noting that CAD and BIM are specialized markets. "While some desktop applications might go away, our customers are going to rely on desktop Vectorworks for years. I think it is a long, long ways away before we are doing Parasolid-based modeling on an iPad.


"Cloud is going to be a way to deliver additional capability, but it won't be replacing Vectorworks in the near term."



Engineer-to-Order on the Web
With the newest release of Autodesk's Inventor Engineer-to-Order software, there is now a Web version.


Autodesk ETO product manager Sanjay Ramaswamy explained that the point to his software is to apply automating design to the sales team. Engineers run Inventor, while the sales side runs a customized version of Inventor OEM for point of sales. It has a simplistic user interface, and costs a "fraction of the cost of Inventor."


The new Web version runs off same core application, and so uses Inventor files as the source. You can view two samples at http://etosamples.autodesk.com, one of a conveyor belt, and the other of a spiral staircase. (See figure 1.) Entering different values generates a different model, along with a different price. If you find it easy to use, then be aware that all the programming takes time to put it together; a few weeks or months, depending on the need and complexity. What engineers won't do for sale people!


Figure 1: Pricing a conveyor system based on input from the customer


Now, there is a problem. If you are viewing the site with a Web browser other than Internet Explorer 9 with DWG plug-in -- as more than 50% of you are likely to be doing -- then it will not work fully, as I found. The Web version of ETO needs the DWF plug-in to zoom and rotate 3D models and to print the 2D drawings; Mr Ramaswamy told me Autodesk recognizes the need to support other Web browsers.


ETO integrates with Inventor software and AutoCAD software; not so for other MCAD programs, although ETO can import models from them. Also, the current will not work with the new line of 2013-branded software due to be announced this week by Autodesk; you'll need to wait for an update, shipping date not announced.

In summary, there are now two ETOs with two licensing schemes. One is based on Inventor OEM, and requires a royalty payment for each seat; the other is the Web version, which allows 10 concurrent users.


== Professional 3D File Conversion/Viewing/Rendering Software ==


For over 2 decades Okino (Toronto) has provided mission-critical 3D conversion software used extensively by tens of thousands of professionals. We develop, support and convert between all major CAD, DCC & VisSim formats. Robert Lansdale (CTO, lansd@okino.com) tailors each package to the specific conversion requirements of each customer.

Popular formats include 3ds Max, Maya, C4D, LW, ProE, SolidWorks, Inventor, SketchUp, DWF/DWG, DGN, CATIA, IGES/STEP/Parasolid, 3D PDF/U3D, JT, FBX, Collada & more. We know data translation, and provide immaculate developer-to-customer relations.




Out of the Inbox

Hybrid 3D printing, we're doing it: Stratasys printed the wing and Optomec printed the antenna array, making some of the electronics part of the wing structure. "An Optomec Aerosol Jet system was used to print a conformal sensor, antenna and circuitry directly onto the wing of a UAV model. The wing was 3D printed with the Stratasys Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process." http://www.www.Optomec.com and http://www.Stratasys.com


Bluebeam's launching Revu 10, and this week they're releasing a free PDF viewer named Vu that integrates with SharePoint and ProjectWise. http://www.revu10.com


Think the cloud renders fast? BOXX doesn't. "Take renderings from 30 minutes to just 1.5 minutes" is their claim. They make the comparison between an overclocked 12-core BOXX desktop vs a single-core normal-speed CPU through this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTLNdh-_1B0


VMware's WSX promises to bring virtualized desktops to the web browser with HTML5


HP merges its PC and printer divisions, calling the new one, Printing and Personal Systems Group. Notice that 'printing' is first, and as The Register wrote in its headline, "HP finally decides the future of the PC: It's a printer accessory; suddenly it all makes sense!" http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/03/21/hp_psg_ipg_amalgamation


Delcam is pretty pleased with breaking its revenue record, earning GBP41.9 million (c. US$67 million) in 2011, up 14% over last year.


Intergraph's SmartPlant FreeView displays and navigates VUE files generated by SmartPlant 3D and SmartMarine 3D models and properties. http://www.intergraph.com/go/freeview


Displaying your 3D building projects on Buzzsaw now happens on Android phones and tablets. It handles DWF and other project files, and relies on AutoCAD WS to display DWG and DWF files. Play at Google: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.autodesk.buzzsaw.android.autodesk_buzzsaw_android


Another one reaches the quarter-century marker: Launched in 1987 with WorkNC, France's Sescoi's current line of software consists of WorkNC CADCAM, WorkPLAN ERP, WorkXPlore 3D viewer, and WorkNC Dental. http://www.sescoi.com


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>:

And on Gizmos Grabowski <http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/gizmos>:


CAD Tips

"If you're using a recent AutoCAD that has Sheet Sets or AutoCAD Architecture Project Navigator sheets, then instead of plot stamp you can also use text with fields. The advantage is not dependent on the plot stamp setting, it is more format'able (any font/arrangement), and has loads more info potential than the plot stamp."
    - Robin Capper

Letters to the Editor

Re: OpenBIM

"buildingSmart.org drives the IFC/IFD standards which are the basis for openBIM, as PDES.org drives the STEP standards, and as OASIS.org drives the PLCS portion of the STEP standard. Jotne help to found the original buildingSmart.org."
    - Jim Martin


"What a terrific synopsis of BIM-buzz. I recently read in 'Beyond BIM – Building With Perfect Information' at http://aecbytes.com/blog/2012/03/15/beyond-bim-building-with-perfect-information a posting by a software guy that included this utopian vision: The idea of 'tolerance' will disappear; individual objects will be manufactured with effectively perfect precision (where this is appropriate); and will be pre-assembled, equally precisely."
    - Leo Schlosberg


The editor replies: "Utopia was first made up as the name of an unreachable island of perfect human civilization in a work of fiction by British author Thomas More. The name is based on the Greek word for 'good place'."



"I enjoyed some of the contents of your magazine, thanks for that. Greetings from Down Under!"
  - Alex Moraga


"I used to be involved in CAD sales and your newsletter was a great source of information. I have changed to selling industrial air compressors."
    - Gary Harding


Notable Quotable

"For AutoCAD users it's nearly 2013. I'm quite pleased to see the r13 legacy or the silliness that is tridecaphobia didn't have Autodesk change naming from 2012 to something daft like [Corel's] X3."
    - Robin Capper


upFront.eZine is published every Tuesday, except during summer and Christmas vacation. Editor: Ralph Grabowski. This newsletter is read by 11,000 subscribers in 70 countries. Your comments are welcome at editor@upfrontezine.com! Deadline for submissions is every Monday noon.


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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.


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