the business of cad
Issue #793 | October 1, 2013
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In This Issue
1. Exclusive! How TechSoft3D is making 3D models accessible on all devices
- HOOPS Visualize v20
- HOOPS Visualize for Mobile
- Solving the Portable Device Problem
2. Leo Schlosberg:Why design for MCAD is different from design for AEC
3. But no Out of the Inbox, or our other regular columns
From the editor: After a near-lifetime of following Neil Young's maxim, "It's better to burn out than it is to rust," I last week hit the wall from exhaustion. I will continue to publish information about the CAD industry, but at a slower pace. This is why you've been seeing the "But no Out of the Inbox or our other regular columns" messagefrom time to time; and why I am not updating my line of ebooks as diligently. I need to rust more, and burn-out less.
How TechSoft3D is making 3D CAD accessible on all devices
Tech Soft 3D is a rare software firm in the CAD industry, for it offers a near-all-encompassing range of software that you probably don't know about. That's because they provide the background code used by brand names like SolidWorks, GrabCAD, and Kenesto.
Ron Fritz and Gavin Bridgeman talked earlier today to upFront.eZine about their upcoming plans to make CAD data available on any platform. Mr Fritz is ceo and co-founder of Tech Soft 3D, while Mr Bridgeman has the refreshingly simple title of vp of products.
First, though, some background. The company has a strong link to Autodesk, because ceo Carl Bass used to be part of Ithaca Software, which developed the HOOPS [hierarchical object-oriented picture system] 3D graphics system in the mid-980s. Old-timers in our industry will recall that HOOPS became HEIDI (then HDI) at Autodesk, and HOOPS itself was in 1996 spun off by Autodesk to Tech Soft 3D so that the other 30 customers could continue using the graphics interface.
(Fun fact: HDI may well be the acronym with the longest definition known to the civilized world: it is short for "hierarchical object-oriented picture system extensible immediate drawing interface device interface," because HDI is short for "HEIDI device interface," HEIDI is short for "HOOPS extensible immediate drawing interface", and HOOPS is short for "hierarchical object-oriented picture system.")
Tech Soft 3D is the sole global sales channel of all Autodesk development platforms, such as AutoCAD OEM and Inventor OEM, and they took over Adobe's 3D PDF file format, which they now license back to Adobe, ironically. As part of the package from Adobe, they acquired the CAD translation office in Lyon France. So, you could say that they are the "other Spatial."
HOOPS Visualize v20
The foundation for their "next gen tools," as Mr Fritz put is, is HOOPS Visualize v20, which is due to be released in the next couple of weeks. Not a new product, this software today serves as the foundation for server-side rendering, which means that Web browsers need nothing, not even WebGL: just the ability to display raster images quickly. Visualize is the core to mobile, browser, and server viewing.
It handles visualization tasks. It plugs into code produced by CAD and database vendors, so that their software keeps their own look and feel, and logo. "Use the 3D model as a window into other data," summarized Mr Fritz.
Then there is HOOPS Exchange v7.0 for fast CAD data access, which handles all major proprietary and standard CAD formats -- as you might expect. What you might not expect is the claim by Tech Soft 3D that their translator provides "exact data," because its database holds the original CAD data in B-rep form.
Another part is HOOPS Publish v7 (to be announced in a few weeks), which handles native Adobe 3D PDF. It is meant for generating reports and enables MBE [model-based engineering].
HOOPS Visualize for Mobile
The Mobile version of HOOPS Visualize is for Android and iOS devices, with one really important detail: dramatically reduces the difference between developing for Android and iOS, say the folks at Tech Soft 3D.
HOOPS Communicator is a plug-in that shows third-party developers how all this can work together. And it is being used by some developers as part of their overall web application. It a DropBox for 3D but is different, because it understands assemblies. "HOOPS Communicator is a plug-in technology that enables advanced 3D visualization and model inspection in Web and mobile applications for developers without any 3D expertise," explained Mr Fritz. (Version 2.0 will ship soon.)
Figure 1: HOOPS Communicator running in a Chrome browser (in the background) and on an iPad (foreground image)
Because it has full access to the B-rep model, it can do the following tasks:
"Communicator is unique in that we can make precise measurements using no installed software," Mr Bridgeman proudly explained. It is unique because, "Measuring is tough. We detect what is being measured, such as if the object is an edge, a surface, or a hole."
Solving the Portable Device Problem
As far as we CAD users are concerned, however, portable devices like iPhones and Android tablets suffer from three serious problems:
Mr Bridgeman explained, "There is inevitability for WebGL but it is not universal today, because Google is slow to implement it on Android, Apple is ignoring it, and it does not work on Blackberry. Web browsers are largely 32-bit and so are constrained in working with large models. This is a problem particularly for BIM models."
So, the solution from Tech Soft 3D is "server side rendering," which means that a distant server sends sending rendered raster images to mobile devices and browsers. They get spees like 6-7fps between Japan and California. To help the apparent speed, resolution is automatically lowered during zooming and rotating, with the rendering of some elements done on the client. This remote solution can do everything listed earlier, except the measuring. The hard work is done by a server and the portable device just needs to support the browser and the canvas (the area on which the graphics are displayed).
Companies making software for portable devices are OK with Web browsers, but would prefer we use their app for a better UX (user experience); however, if we don't have the app, then we can fall back to the Web site. "It is pretty nice to target a large array of devices," said Mr Bridgeman.
Why design for MCAD is different from design for AEC
Editorial by Leo Schlosberg
In upFront.eZine #785 Letters to the Editor, I quoted an attendee of Revit Technology Forum in Vancouver, who said: "The difference between MCAD and AEC software, is that MCAD designs one part of which millions will be made, while AEC software designs one thing made of millions of parts, which is a problem that's a lot tougher to solve through software." Leo Schlosberg has keen insight on industry issues, has written to upFront.eZine before, and now comments on the difference in MCAD and AEC design:
The quote is a good one, but an important distinction is that the meaning of "design" is not exactly the same in the two contexts:
BIM is altering some of this, but much more slowly than its evangelists hope or expect. One reason is that a serious reliance on BIM requires contractual changes to relationships; the other is that serious reliance on the BIM would require that the model has sufficient knowledge embedded in it. This is not simple and we are not close to being there.
A tiny example that illuminates the larger issues is the different approaches to tolerances: MCAD users think about tolerances; AEC users often do not. I have elaborated on this on my blog (http://planetcommercialconstruction.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/benches-sidewalks-and-construction-tolerances) in which I describe the problem of aligning bench ends with sidewalk scores. Simple in theory; prone to problems in real life. For instance, I asked the two architects about their assumed tolerances. Without hesitating, both said "None, for it should all fit perfectly."
At http://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/43747/263921735.pdf, Joshua Lobel's Master's thesis Building Information: Means and methods of communication in design and construction distinguishes between design information and construction information, and notes that BIM may lead to loss of knowledge and further disconnect between the two.
[Leo Schlosberg founded Cary Concrete Products in 1988 and continues to run it as ceo.]
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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.