the business of cad


Issue #755 |  November 12, 2012
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In This Issue


1. Running CAD on Small Screens, Part 1 -- a research paper from upFront.reSearch

    - Introduction
    - Mobile Operating System Trends


2. Scanning and Modeling Large Petroleum Facilities in Hazardous Condition

    - Case Study by Ramboll Oil and Gas
    - EdgeWise Plant 4.0 Demo
    - Q&A


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


Running CAD on Small Screens

Part 1

At last month's Bricsys International Developer Conference 2012, I again spoke on the subject of CAD on smartphones and tablets. Whereas last year I urged participants to consider porting their software to Android and iOS devices, this year I reported on the experiences of those who had done so. Specifically, I describe the problems encountered and the solutions found. This research paper was produced by upFront.reSearch.

It's not new a thing to run CAD software on mobile devices. As early as the late 1990s, companies like Graebert had simple 2D CAD systems running on PDAs (personal digital assistants), precursors to today's smartphones. CAD was especially popular on portable devices running Windows CE, because software developers could easily port the code from desktop Windows. Even though PalmOS devices were at the time far more popular, they were much harder to write CAD for.


CAD worked reasonably well on the early devices, because users employed a tiny-tip stylus with which to draw and edit drawings. Data could even be accessed on-the-go, first through add-on dial-up modems, then by WiFi, and then with the integrated phone. But the drawbacks were serious enough to preclude CAD from becoming common, drawbacks that included the low resolution of the device's screens and the small amount of available memory (we're talking in some cases kilobytes, not even megabytes).


Fast forward, and it's hard to believe that it's been nearly six years since the first nothing-but-a-screen iPhone defined our new generation of "PDA." Following its launch, however, it took a few years for the CPU and RAM in iPhone to become powerful and large enough to handle CAD apps. That, and Apple needed to take in mid-2008 the crucial step in opening up its phone to third-party apps.


But not until last year did the market change sufficiently for its future direction to became crystal clear. Developers like clarity, because it makes them confident that they are devoting their scarce programming resources on the right products. With clarity comes the explosion in app development:

Since last year, numerous CAD vendors have released apps for Android and iOS devices, but most of the apps tend to be 2D drawing and 3D model viewers, usually with some mark up functions, often with the ability to toggle layers and select viewpoints, and in rare cases do some simple editing.


Mobile Operating System Trends

Unlike the desktop world where three operating system predominate (Windows, OS X, and Linux), there are many operating systems for portable devices -- smartphones and tablets. But only three are suitable for running software useful to our industry:

Not viable for one reason or another are the many other portable operating systems, such as...

- - -


Next in part 2: the challenges faced by mobile operating systems.

[An earlier version of this article first appeared in Design Engineering magazine.]


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Scanning and Modeling Large Petroleum Facilities in Hazardous Conditions

Spar Point Group and ClearEdge last week held a Webinar on 3D scanning of oil rigs and other large plants. Staff from m Kiewit Power and Ramboll Oil & Gas told of their experiences in recording and converting point clouds. Here are the notes I took:

As of 2011, the average age of 450 drilling rigs is 24 years. All major design firms that work in this industry have bought 3D data-related software in the past two years; this is software that is capable of ingesting and working with captured 3D data.) And so laser scanners are increasingly being used due to decreasing prices and a greater variety of products.


Case Study by Ramboll Oil and Gas

Some 40 staff do 3D scanning in the North Sea and middle east, supporting engineering and asset management. They use five Z+F Imagers and three Faro Focus 3D scanners. They do full modeling of North Sea platforms, which have large amounts of piping and structural steel. This lets them catalog their assets and determine which need to be queued for future demolition.


These platform are very congested internally, with space at a premium. There are continual modifications. New pipes and fittings need to be installed correctly the first time. Engineers need precise tie-in positions for the new equipment. They cannot use paper targets, because of the strong winds; instead they use swivel or spherical metal targets. The 3D laser scanner has to have a mechanical drive; magnetic drives are not strong enough. The scanning is done from a helicopter.


They use ClearEdge3D software, reducing 60 hours of modeling to 15 hours. It takes about four hours to scan the control room and four platforms, making a total of 20 scans. Then they need 1.5 hours to register the scans while still off-shore, so there is no need to return to the platform should a section have been missed. About 85% of cylinders (pipes) can be extracted from the point clouds in one hour. Another 14 hours are needed to clean and QA the data, as well as add pipe fittings, such as flanges and valves. The data is exported to AutoCAD, which converts the 3D pipes into solid models; the solid model is finally sent to SmartPlant 3D. (They use AutoCAD as the intermediary, because Microstation generates only wireframes from the 3D pipe data.)


EdgeWise Plant 4.0 Demo

Version 4 of EdgeWise Plant from ClearEdge is now a full end-to-end pipe modeling solution, filling in gaps in the work flow. Some of its new functions include the following items:


Figure 1: Edgewise Plant 4.0 examines how well standard pipes fit to the point cloud; the Approved column lets you manually approve each pipe.

(CLick to view the clearer, largerversion of the image.)


Pre-release version is due out on November 15.



Q: How small a pipe can be extracted?
The smallest diameter is a factor of the quality and density of the point cloud data, and the amount of noise in the data. Typically, down an inch automatically, and manually we can extract a 3/4" pipe. The smoother the pipe, the better; rusty pipes do not scan well.


Q: What is the stickiest point of the workflow; where would you like to do less work?
The ZFC importer expands the point cloud data by 10x, which is not ideal. I would like to see control of the piping in EdgeWise along the length of the pipe. (Version 4 handles this.)


Q: Is ClearEdge only for pipes?
EdgeWise Plant is for pipes; the MEP version is for cylindrical objects; building tools is being developed for AEC, with a beta version next year; also can do terrain modeling.




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Out of the Inbox

Dave Stein writes, "I wanted to let you know I have a new book out (ok, e-book) available on Amazon for Kindle devices and Kindle Reader apps. It's called 'The AutoCAD Network Administrator's Bible, 2013 Edition' ($9.99) at http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B009J0NUHM "

On our blogs

Here are some of the items that appeared recently on our WorldCAD Access blog at http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com:

And on our Gizmos Grabowski blog at http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/gizmos:


Letters to the Editor

Re: Yes, we have no Windows 8 apps
"I was just forwarded the upFront newsletter. Great insight on Windows 8. I have been telling my clients for months to stay away from it. Microsoft is trying to turn all companies into tablet users. Taking away the Start menu will most definitely push a large number of users over the edge! If you are a home user looking to purchase a new computer, then Windows 8 will be great on a touchscreen monitor.


"I try to tell people that in business we type and click, not point and press."
     - Robert Battaglia, owner
       We Teach, LLC

"I like the Windows 8 article today! We have been trying it out on various platform devices for quite a while. It has some nice features and capabilities. I don't know if I'd call it 'enterprise hostile', but it's definitely got its challenges with respect to training and budgets, and with many environments having just completed (or are still) migrating to Windows 7, it's a tough sell with tight budgets.


"Thank you for keeping the blog and newsletter going! It really is the best resource of its kind available."
      - Dave Stein

"I see that you have created Vista Release 2. I always though Vista was Me 2 so, by my reckoning, the skeptics' name for Windows 8 is Me 3 (Me, for those who can't remember, was the infamous Millennium edition)."
     - John Ratsey


The editor replies: "I pondered about mentioning ME, but I thought maybe it was now lost in mists of time."


Mr Ratsey responds: "I'm sure a lot of your readers have their roots in DOS or earlier. I started with punched cards! (but not doing CAD)"

Re: New Logo for JetCAM:
"One minor correction –- it's JETCAM, not JETCAD. Kind regards,"
      - Martin Bailey, general manager
        JETCAM International, England


The editor replies: "I was typing too fast! Sorry about that."


Notable Quotable

"Why doubt the media's take on Apple and education?"
      - Audrey Watters, Hack Education


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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