h a p p y    e a s t er!


Issue #730 |  April 10, 2012
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In This Issue


1. ClearEdge 3D

    - EdgeWise Plant 3.0


2. TurboCAD Pro 19

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


This issue sponsored by:



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ClearEdge 3D

Since the mid-1970s, we've had OCR, which recognizes text from scanned pages, and since the mid-1980s in CAD we've had raster-to-vector conversion for turning scanned drawings into 2D vector entities. Now a number of firms are tackling the problem of getting software to recognize 3D objects from 3D laser scans.

Last week, I had a chance to talk with ceo Chris Scotton about the advances his company, ClearEdge 3D, is making in recognizing pipes. It is a measured process, where research (aided by a grant from the US government) adds to the abilities of the extraction engine.


Last year, Edgewise Plant v2 could extract about 50% of a scan pipes down to two inches in diameter. This year, v3 handles up to 80-90% of a scene, including pipes as small as 1/2". The improvement due to two new functions. See figure 1.


Figure 1: EdgeWise Plant automatically finds and sizes pipes and tanks from point cloud data.
(Click image for high-resolution version.)


One is the ability to work with as few as 80 points to determine a pipe; the other is handling occluded areas, where there are no point data, such as behind columns and beams: a new algorithm makes its best guess at completing pipe runs.


Version 3 also fits 1:1.5-bend elbows automatically; the bends can then be adjusted manually. In the next release, version 4, will identify valves and flanges between the pipes, and then link to a library of standard parts.


With beams and columns are obscuring pipes, could ClearEdge 3D extract them, I asked Mr Scotton. Structural steel is really difficult, and his company hasn't cracked the code yet. But he wants to do it at some time in the future; in the mean time, he recommends doing the structural in CAD packages.


What about walls, like some competitors are already doing? Walls done by his company's other software, EdgeWise Building. It extracts walls and other features from point clouds; customers then bring them into SketchUp, which is good at snapping planes to the imported walls, and a PushPull tool to make features 3D.

This summer, his company will release a plug-in to bring EdgeWise building planes into SketchUp, and into Revit.


I asked Mr Scotton which CAD vendor would buy up his company? ClearEdge 3D is funded by investors, and he figured they would first want a larger number of algorithms and customers before cashing in. I mused that either Hexagon/Intergraph or Autodesk would be most interested in being able to automate the conversion of point clouds to 3D objects.


EdgeWise Plant 3.0

In addition to the functions described above, version 3 of Edgewise Plant now runs in 64-bit memory space and takes advantage of multi-core CPUs. This makes it up to 12x faster in processing point cloud data.


Pipe data is extract to an internal spreadsheet, one row per pipe. When you make changes in the spreadsheet, the associated pipes are also changed; for isntance, changing diameters to standard ASME sizes. The spreadsheet allows you to groups of similar pipes on to layers or levels, such as all 2" pipes; the layer/level data is used by CAD programs that read DWG or DGN files. In addition, you can add columns to the spreadsheet for notes, which are attached to pipes in CAD as attributes/tags.


The pricing starts at $995, which lets you import 25 scan files; this is like a pre-paid phone plan: pay another $995 for 26th scan. There are a number of other price/scan levels, topping out at $7,995/yr for an unlimited number of scans.





TurboCAD Pro 19
While we sleeping, IMSI/Design created two new editions of TurboCAD. "TurboCAD LTE" and "TurboCAD LTE Pro" have the user interface and function set of DoubleCAD XT, but use the TurboCAD brand to accommodate retail sales; stores that carry the software didn't care for a new name on their shelving. (DoubleCAD XT is free and mimics AutoCAD LT; DoubleCAD XT Pro is $695 and does semi-automated drafting, unlike LT.)


To be clear, then, the other Turbo brands are (listed by decreasing price): TurboCAD Pro Platinum (supports verticals), TurboCAD Pro, TurboCAD Delux (no solids modeling), TurboCAD Designer (2D only), and several editions of TurboViewer (some view only, some also translate) for mobile devices. "Our work in mobile has seemed to legitimize the 'Turbo' name in the enterprise," summed up IMSI/Design ceo Royal Farros.


Product manager Dave Taylor went on to highlight what's new in TurboCAD Pro 19. On 64-bit computers, it works with 50x more RAM, which means larger drawings can be loaded, and that rendering and printing is faster. He showed the 38MB drawing with 40MB of attached images.


Figure 2: TurboCAD Pro 19 has a dark gray UI and handles very large drawings.


Why the dark-gray user interface, I asked, because I find it hard on my eyes, such as found in AutoCAD for Mac. (See figure 2.) To give it a modern look, but you can switch back to the V18 UI. The new UI also has transparencies, such as in pull-down menus.


The new release gets a second rendering engine, RedSDK from France. Since TurboCAD Pro already has Lightworks, the natural question was, "Why two?" RedSDK runs on CPUs and most GPUs by default, specifically many graphics boards from nVidia, AMD, and some from Intel. Mr Taylor explained that TurboCAD still has both, because RedSDK not fully implemented. To go along with both rendering engines, there is also a new materials editor that handles materials, environments, and luminesces.


To match recent advances in AutoCAD, TurboCAD Pro 19 now has a layout wizard for generating 2D layouts from 3D models. The process is different from AutoCAD's model documentation (in TurboCAD you drag view representations in a dialog box, which are then applied to paper space), but the result is similar. One benefit to IMSI/Design's approach is that it saves layouts as PLX template files for later reuse. Layouts can be created for architectural and mechanical dwgs, each having a slightly different feature set; for instance MCAD has custom section views.


Also new are smooth surface meshes, on which you merge faces, extrude faces, refine (subdivide), and so on to create smooth flowing 3D models. Mr Taylor admitted it was a work in progress, and so customers can expect more improvements in release 20. You can switch between surfaces, solids, and "smeshes" just by changing a setting in the Selection Info palette -- but the result after switching back to solids can be unexpected, as in AutoCAD.


And finally, a few of the other new functions: "ePack" for packaging DWG and support files in a folder or ZIP file. "Draw by Layer Plus" that forces drawing tools to keep the current layer and remember property overrides. "Geographic marker" that adds an optional in-canvas compass to drawings, as shown in figure 2. In the area of APIs, there are no great changes, other than updating them for the new functions.


TurboCAD Pro 19 is now available for $1,295, while the Platinum edition is $1,495.








Out of the Inbox

It's a launch: Creo 2.0 (on the CAD side) is out from PTC, as is Windchill 10.0 (on the PLM side). This second release of Creo adds Option Modeler for generating 3D assemblies based on product specs, and Creo Layout for moving 2D drawings to 3D. Creo Sketch 2.0 now runs on OS X computers. http://creo.ptc.com

      PLM is not something we cover, but noteworthy for PTC is the iOS version of WindChill Mobile that views and marks up 3D models stored on WindChill servers. You can try it out at no charge with a sample data set from http://itunes.apple.com/ca/artist/ptc/id501201404


It's an update: IronCAD releases Product Update 1 for its IronCAD Design Collaboration Suite 2012. Long title, but subscription customers get commands by mouse gestures, more UI customization, a list of recent commands, and 250 other improvements. http://www.ironcad.com


It's intriguing: We had heard about this earlier, but now there is a press release on the rather interesting news of Russia developing its own solid modeling kernel. Moscow State Technological University got the contract from the Russian Federation's Ministry of Industry and Trade for "an original, Russia-licensable software kernel for 3D modeling." The idea is for Russian firms to more speedily output design software globally.
       Friend-of-upFront.eZine LEDAS got one of the sub contracts, though it's not clear exactly for what. One piece seems to be for finding the intersections of arbitrary curves and surfaces. http://www.ledas.com


It's big: Siemens PLM Software adds Active Workspace to its Teamcenter collection for visualizing millions of items of data from sources such as text, network diagrams, and 3D product designs. We're lining up an interview to learn more. http://www.plm.automation.siemens.com/en_us/products/teamcenter/active-workspace


And finally, it's renewed: For its tenth anniversary, Creaform updates its logo. The more I look at it, the more I like it. You can see it here: http://www.creaform3d.com/en/company/brand-revitalization.aspx

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>:



CAD Tips

"What are the control codes for dimension mtext in AutoCAD. For example, editing the text part of a dimension and inserting /P pushes the following text down onto the next line, and /X pushes following text below the dimension line. Do you have or know of a full list of these items?"
      - D.W.


The editor replies: "The codes in dimension text are the same ones used by AutoCAD to format mtext. I documented them in my 'Using AutoCAD' book, after figuring them out on my own the hard way. Here is a link to the page on Google Books: http://books.google.ca/books . Go one page earlier to see how they work. Generally, uppercase starts a format, and lower case ends it. Numbers modify a format, and require a semicolon to signal the end of the code."

Letters to the Editor

"I am looking forward to it [AutoCAD 20130, although not to making sure that a couple of hundred LISP routines continue to work as before."
      - William Gilliss



"I love this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTTzwJsHpU8. However, I actually like IE9, and use it occasionally. I use Opera most of the time, but it freezes when you try to load a huge web page ('huge' meaning more than 20,000 lines of html)."
      - Don Beaton



"At one place in 'What the Cloud Really Means' you mention that 'about the only part that can be left as-is is the proprietary core code, and perhaps even that needs to be rewritten in some cases'. Can you throw some light on when and what aspects of proprietary code needs to be changed?"
      - Sanjay Kulkarni


The editor replies: "At the time I wrote this last December, I was thinking of AutoCAD WS, which is a rewrite of AutoCAD for the cloud. Even today, WS cannot display 3D drawings in 3D in desktop browsers."


"I have recently retired and am no longer covering the CAD industry. I wish you all the best as you continue your excellent work in this field."
      - B. J. Novitski

Notable Quotable

"When you're in a conference room, you might think, 'This is great.' But then you get out in the field and realize it doesn't work in a driving snowstorm."
      - Maya Leibman, cio, American Airlines on chosing tablet models for employees


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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