the business of cad
Issue #772 | April 9, 2013
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In This Issue
1. American CAD/CAM Software Secure Enough for Chinese Military
2. What Ralph Grabowski Thinks: The BricsCAD Mouse Steps Up Its Roaring
- Architectural CAD
- Two or Three OSes, One DWG
3. Out of the Inbox, and our other regular columns.
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American CAD/CAM Software Secure Enough for Chinese Military
We've been reading muchly in the generic media about the electronic espionage war going on between China and the USA; other countries are involved as well. A new US government law restricts purchases of Chinese-designed technology.
It is strange, then, in this atmosphere of distrust to read a press release from ZWSOFT that links its CAD/CAD software with the Chinese government agency in charge of protecting national security. Here is some of the press release:
"ZW3D... has been selected as 3D CAD/CAM design software recommended by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) of the People's Republic of China.
"MIIT is the ministry which develops and implements industrial plans, policies, and standards, and so it plays an important role in monitoring the daily performance of industry in China. It promotes development and innovation of major technical resources, as well as protects national information security."
Now, the press release goes on to emphasize that the MIIT certification means ZW3D is secure enough for use by the military industry in China. Here's the twist: ZW3D is programmed in the USA.
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The BricsCAD Mouse Steps Up Its Roaring
What Ralph Grabowski Thinks
At the Bricsys Developer Conference last fall, I called the company a mouse that's roaring. Bricsys has spent the last couple of years stating its determination to be the leader in low-cost MCAD -- under-$1,000 low. It made a strategic investment of buying 3D direct modeling and constraint technology from Russia's LEDAS.
Now they are talking about (re)-entering the AEC market, at low cost to users. Kind of like an Autodesk but at one-fifth the price.
The MCAD side is developing nicely, primarily in the last two releases of BrisCAD Platinum, along with monthly updates with new functions and bug fixes. At $825, it is the most expensive version of BricsCAD, yet applies 3D constraints and does assemblies, building on top of the $250-cheaper Pro version with its 2D constraints, direct 3D modeling, rendering, and all APIs. (AutoCAD doesn't have 3D constraints or assemblies, and with release 2014 no longer does direct editing with Fusion removed.)
The AEC side of Bricsys is so far only a promise dangled in front of users. Architectural software at Bricsys has a history of pride mixed with embarrassment. The pride comes from the forerunners of Bricsys, who developed and then sold to Bentley Systems TriForma, an object-oriented architectural add-on for MicroStation; following this, they repeated the effort by writing and selling ACIS-based Architecturals for AutoCAD and BricsCAD.
Then something happened. I don't know what. In any case, here the history turns to embarrassment. BrisCAD stopped selling Architecturals, and then didn't want to talk about it or its future. Last fall, finally, they announced turning it into a freeware API for exploitation by third-party BricsCAD developers.
Part of the hesitation by Bricsys is due to their earlier exclamation that they would produce only BricsCAD and so not compete with their third-party developers, as Autodesk does. But if a software firm wants to grow, it needs to offer more kinds of software. The company got around its non-compete promise by integrating MCAD into Bricsys (see, still just one CAD program!), and by tagging it the "Unified CAD Platform" that does everything "from simple 2D drafting to advanced 3D direct modeling."
The reticence by Bricsys about AEC appears in stark contrast to the oomph surrounding MCAD. Last week, however, the company opened its kimono briefly enough to bare the briefest shadow of a plan for architecture. The company is
- writing a BIM module for BricsCAD
- using Chapoo for the online collaboration platform
- employing IFC and AECxml for data exchange
- releasing a beta in a few weeks that will run for a long time
I write "shadow"," because the first three are obvious when one wants to go into architectural software; item #4 is the one that generates interest.
As well, I'll be interested to see how the BIM module will be marketed under the unified-CAD-platform label. The company does have a new chief marketing officer, and so it'll be his job to get the messaging right.
Two or Three OSes, One DWG
While all three editions of BricsCAD run just about equally well on Windows and Linux (only a few Windows-specific functions are missing, like OLE), the Mac version, however, is a problem. Year after year, it's been delayed. Well, each Spring at around this time there is a tweet about the Mac version seen running at Bricsys's Ghent offices, and then silence for another year.
So, one program that runs on at least two operating systems (with mobile set back on the back burner), and that also runs on one file format. All that CAD, MCAD, and BIM data stored in DWG. This is a knife edge Bricsys presses into a crack Autodesk itself is struggling to fix.
For Autodesk, the problem is that Revit, Inventor, and AutoCAD rely on vastly different file formats. Back in 2000, it made sense. AutoCAD was seen as in decline; the future was modern, task-specific software like Revit (which Autodesk acquired) and Inventor (which Autodesk skunkworked). The master plan went awry, however, when AutoCAD continued to outsell its AEC and MCAD step-brothers massively. (Worse, AutoCAD LT outsold AutoCAD three-to-one, embarrassing to Autodesk.) This is why Autodesk now bundles software: to get Revit and Inventor into the hands of AutoCAD enthusiasts.
Autodesk's other plan is get the three to work with each other, something it has been struggling with for years. As users know, the effort by the world's second-largest CAD company has fallen far short of the oh-so-simple solution hatched by Bricsys (and others, such as IntelliCAD developer 4M): just use DWG as the common file format. Thanks to diligent work by Autodesk and arch-competitor OpenDWG, the DWG format is today powerful enough to handle a lot of different kinds of information. It is ironic that .dwg is the tool that after 30 years makes Autodesk vulnerable to the ankle-biters.
(Autodesk competitors like BrisCAD, Graebert, and IntelliCAD are careful to write it as ".dwg," because Autodesk in the past spent a lot on layers to register DWG as a trademark, but then failed in the USA when the trademark office said it was the name of a file format and so could not be registered. Yet, to be safe, competitors today print it with the dot prefix to signify it as a file format, and to ensure absolute safety should Autodesk's external law team in the future be commanded to again arouse themselves.)
The master plan of Bricsys is to be significant (I won't write "dominate") in the general 2D, MCAD 3D, and AEC (or BIM) 3D design markets. And so the question comes, "Can they?" I've been tracking this company for a half-decade now, and I can report that their management is determined, even when they don't always achieve their stated aims. It's a kind of "if not shipped this year, then next year or the year following" doggedness.
== Professional 3D File Conversion/Viewing/Rendering Software ==
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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
ASCON updates its 3D conceptual modeler for Android devices, SubDivFormer. Using fingers to select faces, we can extrude and intrude, subdivide and split, bevel and bump, bridge and merge, and delete faces. Free from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ascon.subdivformer&hl=en
Fast Render launches Artlantis Render Farm with 300 CPUs to Artlantis v3 and v4 users. Price is e1 ($1.35) per credit, and you can determine if online rendering is worth the cost (and time) at the calculator page: http://www.artlantisrenderfarm.com/index.php?page=calculatecosts
I had no idea that Siemens PLM had software called Syncrofit, but now I do. It optimizes the designs of parts that use fasteners, like the frames for aircraft. It handles fastener patterns, initial part sizing, design validation, and adapts to design changes. The new version 13 is up to 40% faster, promises the company. http://www.siemens.com/plm/syncrofit13
(The above press release mentions Siemens industry groups located in Erlangen and Nuremberg, Germany. I'll have a connection to these towns soon. Next month my daughter marries an electrical engineer in Bavaria, who is training with Siemens. After they marry, they plan to move to Nuremberg, and she's applying for a job at a day care in the nearby town of Erlangen.)
MecSoft redesigned their Web site, and you can take a look at it here: http://www.mecsoft.com
Chinese versions of Vectorworks 2013 (Designer, Architect, Landmark, Spotlight, Fundamentals, and Renderworks) are available now. http://www.vectorworks.cn/en/vw2013-chi-launch-register
Autodesk appoints Tom Georgens to its board of directors. Mr Georgens is ceo of NetApp.
Fielder Hiss is the new vp of product management at EnerNOC, an energy management firm. Mr Hiss is the former vp of product marketing and management at SolidWorks.
Letters to the Editor
"Thanks for the newsletter, and if you ever hear of anyone needing a really good AutoCAD 3D mechanical piping designer, please give them my name or website. www.3ddesignservices.com . Thanks a bunch, 3D Jack."
- Jack Foster, 3D Design Services, LLC
"I would like to add this to Adrian's comment, as this has been a touchy point between me and the original team: 'Autodesk was formed by a team of 16 people, all of whom took a primitive program I wrote and developed it into a market ready product. I greatly respect everyone's work -- it took all of us to bring it to market.'
- Mike Riddle
Re: When It Comes to Bim Sales, Autodesk Says "Woe. And Whoa!"
"I think that anyone who has been involved in the 3D CAD market for longer than ten years will know how much Hanspal''s statement is nonsense ['Autodesk pioneered the concept (of BIM)']. Autodesk may have championed the acronym (does the B stand for 'bandwagon'?) but I was working on BIM projects with Intergraph-MicroStation software back in the mid '90s, was involved with the CIMsteel project in the late '90s (which fed into the IAI's Industry Foundation Classes that lies at the heart of the modern BIM process), and I even published a paper on the subject a scary fifteen years ago: http://www.istructe.org/journal/volumes/volume-77-(published-in-1999)/issues/issue-3/articles/cad-today-is-only-just-the-beginning
"Of course, we didn't call it BIM in those days. Perhaps the statement was a typo and the article should have read 'Autodesk discovered the concept'."
- Peter Debney, senior consultant
Oasys Global Systems Group, England
The editor replies: "The claim came from the company whose former ceo stated that anything not designed by God was designed by Autodesk software."
"Much of the problem I see is that Revit was designed by people that want it to supplant AutoCAD. Now that Autodesk wants to transition AutoCAD users to Revit, they need to do a much better job of acknowledging interface conventions and file interchange compatibility in order to make that process much smoother and less jarring."
- David William Edwards
The editor replies: "Oh indeed, and Autodesk knows. It has been a multi-year effort to get even simple links of data compatibility between Inventor, Revit, and AutoCAD. I think that when Autodesk bought Revit and developed Inventor, there was perhaps the thought that AutoCAD would necessarily disappear. Unfortunately for Autodesk, AutoCAD's (and to an even greater extent AutoCAD LT's) popularity with users overwhelms sales of Revit and Inventor, which look piddling in comparison."
Mr Edwards responds: "But there's some very simple things they could do with Revit to make the transition much easier yet it seemed like kryponite to them. 'That's the OLD way of doing things' -- yeah, the way that people have spent 20 years getting used to. Sorry; this has been a sore issue since I started working with Revit."
"I was introduced to Intergraph's Microstation for buildings years before I ever heard about Revit. Does Microstation still exist in this area of CAD?"
- Chris Cadman
The editor replies: "They decided to emphasize civil, like roads and dams, as well as plants. I think they still sell their TriForma architectural software, but I am unsure."
"Perhaps I'm just a tad untrusting, or moderately cynical, but this sounds an awful lot like spyware: 'We survey our customers on a quarterly basis, and track their usage on a weekly basis using the instrumentation we built into the [software] products'. Any additional information on what products phone home, when they do it, with what information, and how to block them from doing so?"
- J. G. Gerth
The editor replies: "With newer releases of AutoCAD, like 2013 and 2014, you are forced to give Autodesk permission to monitor your usage. If AutoCAD is running on a computer connected to the Internet, then it is feeding Autodesk your usage stats. I think that they collect the name of every command you enter [when you agree to the CIP], as well data when AutoCAD crashes. Some third-party developers have software that blocks AutoCAD from phoning home."
Re: What's Inside? AutoCAD 2014
"Thank you for the ACAD 2014 eBook. It's a great way to cut straight through to what's new in 2014 in the shortest amount of time."
- William J. Munson, executive vp
"I'm looking forward to it as always."
- Mike Riddle
The editor replies: "The tradition is in its tenth year at http://www.upfrontezine.com/wia14. Thanks for your support!"
"Solidworks Live Buildings still in development, in private beta this year. It's not dead yet!"
- Daniel Herzberg @MegaHertz604 on Twitter
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Entire contents copyright 2013 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $840. 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.