merry christmas and happy new year!
Issue #758 | December 11, 2012
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In This Issue
1. Exclusive interview: Caustic Puts Ray Tracing into Hardware
2. Exclusive interview: Graebert Grows CAD, Part 2
3. Out of the Inbox, and our other regular columns.
Note from the editor: This is the last issue before our annual Christmas break. See you again in January.
Exclusive interview: Caustic Puts Ray Tracing into Hardware
Ralph Grabowski: I recall speaking with Caustic back in 2009, when you had just started up in San Francisco, offering hardware-based ray tracing. What's been happening since then?
Alex Kelley: 2009 was when we came out of stealth mode with our technology for hardware ray tracing. In 2010, Caustic was acquired by Imagination Technology of UK. Since the 90s Imagination has developed technology like the VideoLogic graphics cards, but then they started to focus on embedded graphics. They now design the PowerVR GPU cores used in many very popular smartphones and tablets.
Grabowski: This is not the Mali GPU?
Kelley: No. The MALI is designed by ARM.
Grabowski: All these firms are located in the Cambridge area, aren't they?
Kelley: Imagination is located in Kings Langley, just northwest of London, England. We have approximately 1,300 employees.
Grabowski: Why did they acquire you?
Kelley: They acquired Caustic for our ray tracing technology, because they want to drive it into smartphones and tablets -- as well as growing into the professional 3D market. Last week, we announced Caustic Series2, which will be on the market in January. We showed them at AU:
The hardware takes over the ray tracing in the Caustic Visualizer plug-ins for Autodesk Maya and 3ds max, and the Neon plug-in for Rhino 5. It accelerates photographic quality rendering 3-5x over software rendering on CPUs. It is integrated directly into a viewport of the software (Maya, Neon), or runs in an ActiveShade window (3ds Max).
Grabowski: Why would customers not just use a graphics board from nVidia?
Michael Kaplan: They would need multiple nVidia boards to get the same performance; using just one Caustic card saves electrical power, because it uses just 30W; and it is cheaper at $795. In any case, ray tracing is inherently unsuited for GPU processing; incoherent rays stress the GPU memory subsystem and can result in an inefficient solution.
Grabowski: Why not on AutoCAD, Inventor, or SolidWorks?
Kaplan: I can't say much, except that we are actively engaging with ISVs [independent software vendors] in CAD, DCC [digital content creation], and VFX [visual effects].
Grabowski: How complex is it to make CAD software work with your hardware?
Kaplan: It is not complex, we provide two APIs:
Grabowski: Does the CAD vendor do the work themselves, or you work with them?
Kaplan: We generally work with them. In some cases, we help them prototype. For example, McNeel developed their own plugin (called Neon) for Rhino using the Brazil SDK, and we helped them add some features. Neon is now in beta.
Grabowski: Why is the one API called Brazil?
Kelley: Caustic acquired the SplutterFish company that had developed the Brazil rendering system. We needed a very high quality rendering toolkit on the OpenRL platform, and subsequently they built the Brazil SDK from scratch on top of OpenRL.
Grabowski: What about hardware ray tracing on smartphones?
Kaplan: The idea is to add the Caustic ray tracing IP to the Imagination PowerVR IP. Together, they would form part of an SoC [system on a chip]. Imagination is working on this integration.
Grabowski: What would Caustic allow a tablet user to do?
Kaplan: They can use it for non-CAD-related things, such as ray traced UI, gaming, augmented reality, product configuration, etc.. In terms of CAD, ISVs seem to be looking at all kinds of possibilities, such as doing remote viewing, or local viewing as in the case of the eDrawings and AutoCAD WS products.
OpenRL can be used to do full ray tracing and hybrid ray tracing (combining raster and ray tracing). For instance, augmented reality blends rendering with what the camera is seeing, and could display CAD models in a realistic setting.
Ray tracing is very good for very large scenes, (i.e. above 3 million polygons) where it often is more efficient than raster graphics. It is relatively insensitive to model complexity, while raster rendering performance can be directly related to the number of polygons. Even powerful desktop systems with high-end graphics cards will start to slow down when raster rendering very large scenes.
Alex Kelley is director of business development at Imagination, and Michael Kaplan is director of product management.
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Exclusive Interview: Graebert Grows CAD
Graebert GmbH last week announced ARES 2013 and SiteMaster 2013. Editor Ralph Grabowski met in October with company ceo Wilfred Graebert and chief technical officer Robert Graebert in Berlin. ARES is OEMed by Corel, Dassault Systemes. and other CAD vendors. Only part of the interview was conducted in German.
Ralph Grabowski: Which is selling better, the Linux or Mac versions of your software?
Robert Graebert: Initially Mac, but after we released the Linux version, it sold faster than the Mac version.
We have found that Linux is easier to program for, because it is a relatively stable operating system. Mac is harder, due to new releases of OS X that have large changes every year. For instance, we needed to add support for the [ultra-high resolution] "retina" display.
For this year'sMountain Lion release of OS X, we needed to allow files to be saved to iCloud. If applications are sold through Apple's AppStore, then they need to implement sandboxing [a form of security that prevents programs from improperly interfering with one other]. In practical terms, this means that CorelCAD for Mac can open only drawings specified by user; the drawback is that user must manually reload attachments, such as xrefs and images. We could not even get an exception from Apple for a single folder [in which to store all known drawings and attachments].
ARES 2013 for Windows is available in 64-bit, and we ship one for Linux as well. Mac is only 64-bit.
Grabowski: Why did you add ADT [Architectural Desktop] objects to SiteMaster?
Graebert: ADT is a well established object model, makes it compatible with Autodesk Architecture, and is compatible with DWG files and object enablers.
Smart objects means that the operator can easily swing doors around, and so on. Even the 2D version of SiteMaster uses smart objects, so it can generate room schedules.
The 3D is needed mostly need to capture heights. In older buildings, heights can vary, and so 2-1/2D does not work well; even modern buildings will have sloping ceilings, and so SiteMater has a Shape tab to capture different height profiles.
Grabowski: I have read about applications needing rewrites because of retina display; why is this?
Graebert: Retina display requires applications to be rewritten, because of fonts and icons. [Here Robert Graebert shows me how antialiasing makes the text in regular applications and those running in Windows painfully obvious; those updated for retina show fonts as fine-looking as on a printed page.] Icons of applications running on Windows [on MacBooks] are really tiny due to the very high resolution.
Grabowski: Did you need do so anything to make ARES run on Windows 8?
Graebert: Nothing special. We plan to support Windows 8 touch tablets, but are waiting on the hardware to be released to see how it works.
Grabowski: What about Windows 8 RT?
Graebert: If Windows programs are written in .Net, then they can be ported to RT. But we use QT [for the interface], and so we are not thinking about Windows RT yet. QT is researching the possibility of porting to RT, but this work is very preliminary.
Grabowski: Why would software companies still ship 32-bit versions of their software when all new OSes are pretty much only 64-bit?
Graebert: The reason is that some add-ons might work only with a 32-bit version of the software. This is why Microsoft ships 32- and 64-bit versions of Internet Explorer. In Mac, OS X, we need only produce a 64-bit version, because there is almost no 32-bit hardware anymore.
[Disclosure: I write ebooks for Graebert on the subjects of ARES and CorelCAD. Also, they bought me lunch at a great little Greek restaurant in the center of Berlin.]
== 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, firstname.lastname@example.org) 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
Able2Extract PDF Converter 8 is apparently the first cross-platform PDF converter, running on Windows, Mac and Linux. It extract text and vector graphics from PDF files, turning them into editable DWG and DXF formats.http://www.investintech.com/prod_a2e.htm
Adtollo releases Topocad 14.2 with the ability to coloring of point clouds with raster photos. http://www.adtollo.se
EdgeWise Plant 4.0 is shipping from ClearEdge3D with spec-driven components, a new demolition tool, enhanced algorithms -- all to convert point clouds into pipes and such. http://www.clearedge3d.com . upFront.eZine wrote about it in http://www.upfrontezine.com/2012/upf-755.htm#b
JETCAM relaunches its JETCAM Orders Controller software in a Lite II. The software remotely creates order lists of nested components and assembly structures, which are then sent to the company's Expert CADCAM software. http:// www.jetcam.com
Last week, Graebert announced ARES 2013, and soon thereafter Corel announced CorelCAD 2013. No coincidence, we all know. More info here: http://www.corel.com/newsroom/corelcad
TFTLabs has been working on applying their JSON3D format to their TFTWeb, TFTPad and TFT4iT software, and now they support the latest releases of MCAD: CATIA V5 R22, SolidWorks 2013, piping module from CATIA V5, and Collada/DAE, 3DS and OBJ. The Android version is at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tftlabs.web.mobile , otherwise try http://json3d.tftlabs.com
It's time for Parasolid V25.0, and this time around Siemens PLM Software places the emphasis on surfacing, visualization, and performance. For instance, it is better at repairing imported surfaces with holes. http://www.siemens.com/plm/parasolid/v250
MecSoft announces VisualXPORT 2.0 plugin for SolidWorks to export parts in VCP VisualMILL files. Well, not just parts. Also 2D and 3D sketches, solids with combined faces, solids with separate faces and individual surfaces. http://www.visualxport.com
McNeel & Assoc ship Rhino 5.0 with 3.500 enhancements. No wonder it was so long in beta! Details here: http://www.rhino3d.com/new/
Big-boy 3D printing companies Stratasys and Objet have completed their merger, and they figure the new firm has a market value of $3 billion. I can't call it a merger when the "new" entity carries the old name of Stratasys.
I don't normally cover awards, because they are more for the awarder than the awardee, but this is a bit special: for the second year in a ow, ArchiCAD won 'Product of the Year' (and 'BIM Product of the Year') from the seventh annual Construction Computing Magazine Awards (see how this gets publicity for the magazine?)
The name might make you chuckle, but then it might stick in your mind: Chapoo relaunched in late November for sharing and annotating files online. (I say 'relaunched' because it was previously known as Vonage, and before that as Vista.) There is a no-charge version, and a premium version that adds project management, workflows, and more. Chapoo was spun off from Bricsys as an independent company that nevertheless has the same ceo. http:// www.chapoo.com
And finally, Dassault Systemes announced V6R2013x , the software so powerful it needs no name. It with lots of additions, like a Hadoop HDFS connector, support for the STEP AP242 standard, and easy switching between online and offline modes of CATIA V6. More info at http://www.businesswire.com/multimedia/home/20121120006547/en/2789265/Dassault-Syst%C3%A8mes-Announces-V6-Release-2013x-3DEXPERIENCE
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:
"As an Android user, I've never had to sync. I win."
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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.