by Ralph Grabowski
We've seen MCAD vendors reinvent 3D software several times since the dawn of CAD. Most famous of all was the unleashing of Pro/Engineer and its history-based parametrically-driven design environment, which forever changed the way MCAD was done. Other significant paradigm shifts came from SpaceClaim's anti-Pro/E direct modeling and Autodesk's Fusion of desktop and server-based calculations.
What happens when you give Russian programmers a blank slate, asking them to yet again reinvent 3D CAD? Well, not a fully blank slate; even Pro/E's approach -- also developed by Russian programmers -- was based on earlier work in parametrics from England. So let's put it another way: what happens when you ask them to write algorithms for an ideal 3D CAD approach.
The mathematicians who work at Siberian consulting firm LEDAS had been working on parts of Catia and other software from Dassault Systemes. This gave them the space to think about how 3D CAD ought to work. To anyone who would listen (and frankly there were not many), they evangelized this trinitarian system:
- Direct modeling and editing -- handles any kind of model, native or imported
- 3D constraints and parametrics -- controls elemental relationships, and provides configurations
- Design history -- remembers how the designer arrived at his creation, without the curse of the history tree
When LEDAS implemented their philosophy as software, it found modest success as an add-on to Rhino and SketchUp. What they needed was a savior to believe in them.
Bricsys Tech Russia
Big companies expend their energy catering to shareholder opinions. Small companies have no such worry, and so get to energize their passions. I wrote last week about the passion of Robert Graebert to expand his brilliant OS/hardware-independent CAD system onto everything through OEMing -- but limited in areas related to 3D due to an arrangement with major licensee Dassault Systemes.
Enter Bricsys, a company that in one form or another has been around since 1999. Four years ago, they aqui-hired staff and intellectual property from LEDAS, forming Bricys Tech Russia. CEO Erik de Keyser gave programmers this instruction: Make BricsCAD the leading 3D CAD program by 2020. Notice I didn't write "MCAD"; Bricsys wants to dominate in both BIM and MCAD through that triad developed earlier by LEDAS. (Bricsys is, for now, ignoring mobileCAD and cloudCAD, but are on simultaneous release schedules for the Windows and Mac versions of BricsCAD, with Linux also available.)
So, what can a relatively tiny company in Belgium bring to the table that should make the Solidworks and Revits of the world bother noticing? A break from the rigors of history-based modeling (not a new idea) based on the DWG file format exclusively (also not new). It's the combination of the two that makes Bricsys' future possible.
CAD systems that bring something new to the table -- think of ones like SpaceClaim and Onshape -- are housed on the foundation of new, incompatible file formats so that they can make a complete break from the limitations of the past. By contrast, BricsCAD sits on the universal CAD format, DWG, and then uses an optional add-on to translate parts and assemblies to and from major MCAD formats:
- Import and export STEP, IGES, VDA-FS, Catia V4 and V5
- Import Parasolid, IAM and IPT (Inventor), PAR and PSM (Solid Edge), PRT (NX), ASM and PRT (Creo and Pro/E), SLDASM and SLDPRT (Solidworks)
- Export 3D PDF
BMW Welt, Munich, hosting last month's Bricsys International Conference 2015
(All photos by Ralph Grabowski)
One fact that makes us sit up and notice Bricsys is that it spends 43% of its revenues on research and development. (See figure 2.) Other CAD vendors spend 25% or less.
CEO Erik de Keyser revealing R&D spending by Bricsys
The result of this spending is that BricsCAD V16 offers users these functions:
- Command, file, and API compatibility with AutoCAD
- Wireframe, surface, and solid modeling
- Direct and deformable modeling and editing
- Assemblies, including import of assembly structures from other MCAD systems
- Drawing view extractions from 3D models
- 2D and 3D constraints and parameters
- BIM modeling with IFC import and export
- Sheet metal design with CNC export (an optional add-on)
- (See http://bricsys.com/common/releasenotes.jsp for the full list)
- 1,200 members of a no-charge third-party developer network
Building on a single platform means Bricsys need only write functions once for multiple disciplines, something that an Autodesk cannot do for a Revit or an Inventor. For instance, constraints and drawing views are equally valid for BIM and MCAD designs.
All at a cost that makes a year's worth of $100 monthly rentals look overpriced:
- BricsCAD Platinum is $990
- Communicator translation add-on is $610
Not that this effort is isolated to inside of Bricsys. The company is said to be the most active participant in the Open Design Alliance, meaning some of the stuff they come up with is being distributed more widely among the 1,260 members of the ODA. (See figure 3.) In one area, expect an earthquake of an announcement in a year's time.
ODA presenting at Bricsys International Conference 2015
Russian programmers, given a challenge, like exceeding it.
Update: Autodesk vs ZwSoft
Autodesk in March 2014 launched a lawsuit against ZwSoft of China, claiming that its ZWCAD+ software used programming code taken directly from AutoCAD. Autodesk made the claim based on ZWCAD+ exhibiting identical buggy behavior during certain obscure operations. Autodesk asked a judge in Holland to order an immediate halt to ZwSoft distributing its software; the judge refused, saying the case was too complex for a snap decision. He ordered that the two sides arrange to inspect the ZWCAD+ code. You can read some court documents athttps://www.scribd.com/pzchen72.
Since I first reported on the case, I get asked once in a while where the suit is at. One source recently suggested to me that the two sides were in the settlement stage. We now have a strong hint that Autodesk is prevailing: we need only to read between the lines of a press release issued last month by ZwSoft. The company appears to be celebrating the 15th anniversary of its CAD software; see http://www.zwsoft.com/zwcad/press-release/20151014/ZWCAD_Classic_Witnesses_the_15th_Anniversary_of_ZWSOFT_Flagship_Product_ZWCAD.html.
ZwSoft is re-releasing its first generation software (now named "Classic"), which was based on IntelliCAD. It is working on a third-generation product, presumably one that is free of code from the ITC or allegedly from AutoCAD. The second generation ZwCAD+ is no longer available at the company Web site. (See figure 4.) ZwCAD 2017 is listed as "Coming soon."
Software available today on the ZwSoft Web site
- ZwCAD (1st-gen code) is re-released as "Classic"
- ZwCAD+ (2nd-gen code) is pulled from the market
- ZwCAD 2017 (3rd-gen code) is in development to replace the first two generations
I asked a contact at ZwSoft about the case, and received no reply. I asked Autodesk, and they replied that they don't comment on ongoing cases -- indicating that the case is ongoing, and not yet resolved.
PS: Also ongoing is the ITC's lawsuit against Gstarsoft of China.
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And One More Thing...
Altair is shipping SimLab 14.0 with a new user interface for performing solid meshing. The analysis software automates meshing and modeling tasks so that they don't need to be done manually. (See figure 5.) And we all know how error-prone we humans are. New UI elements include Japanese language support, ribbon interface, improved optimization workflow, redesigned dialogs, and a customizable toolbar. It runs on Windows and Linux, and so has the same UI on both.
Analysis being performed by SimLab
(Image credit Altair)
You can learn what's new through their Webinar this week; register at http://web2.altairhyperworks.com/simlab14
Even More News
Read the blog at WorldCAD Access as I write more about the CAD industry, and give tips on using hardware and software. You can also keep up with the blog through RSS feeds and email alerts. These are some of the articles that appeared on WorldCAD Access during the last week:
- Q&A with a Sr Product Manager of Corel Corp
- Q&A with the CEO of Graebert Gmbh
- Live blogging Solid Edge University 2015
I'm also on Twitter at @upfrontezine throughout the day with late-breaking CAD news and wry commentary, such as....
upFront.eZine (@upFronteZine)Oct 29 "PTC divides into 2 divisions. Solutions and Technology Platforms. IoT so big to PTC's future that it gets to be the other new division."
Letters to the Editor
Re: What the ODA is Doing
Is Prague beautiful or what? Thank you for your diligence in keeping us informed. Quote me on that.
- Tom Fay, key account executive
Re: The State of MCAD
As an industry analyst I always read your newsletter to keep perspective on events and trends. A question if you will please about 'The State of MCAD'. Did the survey pick up any interest in search applications for Design Reuse? It might have been in the PDM category. For instance, I see gallons of publicity for Exalead's OnePart, but not much about successful use.
- Dick Bourke
Bourke Consulting Associates
The editor replies: I saw no results for design reuse, and so that might be a topic for Business Advantage to add to their survey. As for products like Exalead, I think there is far less demand from users than CAD vendors think. It's like of like voice input: nice to have in theory, but ultimately not practical. LEDAS is another company working on parts shape comparisons: http://ledas.com/group/press_releases/?press_num=214
This is the best analysis of the CAD business that I've ever read. "Highly-hyped technologies... suffer from low use and low importance." That is exactly what you get when you let your tech people make your marketing decisions: 'Because We Can'. While it seems to work as an all-purpose design rationale for German car companies, isn't really a valid strategy for CAD software companies, apparently.
Remember the very popular video (from some TV show) where they 3D printed a 12-inch crescent wrench, and pretended to use it as an actual wrench? And pretended that the CAD "operator" modeled it in just a few minutes? And pretended to print it in just a few more minutes?
Nobody ever comes up with reasons FOR doing cloud-based software. It's not just emerging countries with poor infrastructure, but also rural Oklahoma where I live. I checked my download speed today: 0.61mbps. Think the cloud will work for me?
Computing power at my desk is dirt-cheap. Memory at my desk is dirt-cheap. Hard-drive storage at my desk is dirt-cheap. The only part of my whole entire CAD experience that is expensive is the transportation of bits. Oh, and the software. Absolutely wonderful to read stuff by someone who gets it. Keep up the great work!
- Jess Davis, president
Davis Precision Design
Good article http://eepurl.com/bAHtc5 from @upFronteZine with a survey showing the High Usage and High Importance attached to #PLM #PDM
@DDM_PLM via Twitter
I wanted to thank you very much on behalf of all of us at Business Advantage for reading and reviewing our annual CAD Trends Survey. We have taken note of your suggestions on 2D Drafting and CAM, as well as geographic coverage. We are in the process of preparing the latest iteration of the survey to send out and will try to incorporate your suggestions.
By the way, if you’d like us to analyze an area of the data from a particular perspective that would interest you and/or your readers, we’d be pleased to do that for you, provided we have enough data in the survey to give you meaningful results. If there is anything you’d like, or analysis you think you might like, please do let me know.
- Bill Gordon, VP Business Development
That is quite an issue you put together, congratulations.
- Herbert Grabowski
Re: State of European CAD: My Travel Notes
I translated (a part of) your fresh newsletter in Russian at http://isicad.ru/ru/articles.php?article_num=18123.
- David Levin, chairman of the board
Great content, sir. Thanks for sharing it with the world.
"We... ask ourselves, how can we make this better? You’d be surprised at how often the answer to those questions is to not do anything. If users want their applications and screens to look different, they’ll download the app they want. Android’s great flexibility lets you do this..."
- Seang Chau, senior vp of software engineering, Motorola