My current cell phone is an LG-made Google Nexus 4, that's over 4 years old. It is showing its age. Increasingly, the screen stays black when I turn it on; the only recourse is holding down the Power button until it reboots. Its CPU is struggling with today's app load, and the default camera app sometimes crashes but more often takes a long time to be ready.
A replacement, clearly, is needed.
At one time, I would have got the same phone as I got for my wife and my mother-in-law, the $200 Moto G with smart cover. It is a sensible, mid-range phone that works well enough but I'd like something flashier. What irritates me, however, is how tech publications these days trumpet $400 as the normal mid-level price; whatever happened to $200 for a good, unlocked phone?
Then I discovered that Chinese phone manufacturers are doing just that. Phones with the latest technology going for around $200. After some digging, I settled on the UMI Super. Yip, that's the name: Super. I bought it through eBay from China.
Sadly, it will take another month to arrive by ocean freighter.
It is any good? I won't know until it is in my hand, but in the meantime the prognosis is good. UMI has a reputation of putting in high end components and attaching a low price tag. Best of all, the company says that today (Dec 24) it is releasing Android 7.0 for the Super.
Here is the spec list:
Unusually, the company uses brand name components:
The camera is not new, having been released last May. This may explain why the price has dropped from the original $250 to under $200 today. As one reviewer put it, we're getting for $200 for what Samsung charges $700.
Plus, the Super comes in a nice tin box.
Minolta XE-7 film camera
I wrote in an earlier blog about me re-acquiring the only 35mm SLR (single lens reflex) camera I ever bought -- the Minolta XE-7, in fall of 1976. (I had sold it to acquire a zoom lens for my wife's much lighter Olympus SLR.) Earlier this year in a bout of nostalgia, I found one with the standard f1.4 50mm lens in near-perfect condition on eBay and snapped it up. (See figure below; image source Casual Camera Collector.)
Then it came time for me to actually use it. Like, put in a roll of film and take pictures. First problem: where do I get film? Well, on eBay obviously, but delivery times are too long these days. It turns out that the only outlet in our part of the world to still support film is a regional pharmacy chain called London Drugs. They sell film (now only FujiFilm) and do the processing -- negs only, prints, and/or scanned images on CDs.
When I got the XE-7 the first time in 1976 (it was called "The Crown Jewel of the SR Line" by one reviewer), London Drugs had just launched their own line of slide film. For $2.99, we got the roll of 24-exposure film and processing included! $3.99 for 36-exposure. That was dirt cheap, even for the mid-1970s -- half the price of any one else at the time -- and made experimenting with film eminently affordable for this university student. I last used film in the summer of 1999, when I bought my first digital camera.
Fast forward 17 years, and I am getting reacquainted with the organic joy of using a heavy-duty high-end film camera. Like hand drafting, it just feels r-i-g-h-t -- a joy in the job.
So I shot the roll full with photos in British Columbia and Alberta -- not knowing at all how any photo had turned out -- and then came the sticker shock: film and processing (with images on CD) came to $20 for the 24 pix. Yikes!
Using this film camera will be a rare thing from now on.
HP TouchPad Running WebOS
HP is a big company that tries lots of things and is really successful in a few, like sales of printers and ink cartridges and computers. One of its failures was an attempt to counter the Android/iOS duopoly with its 2011 purchase of what was left of the company who made PalmOS. HP renamed it WebOS, launched a tablet called the TouchPad (see figure at left, sourced from TechFever), and then shut down the entire project after just six months of poor sales and poor reviews. I knew there was trouble when an HP vp was scheduled to speak about WebOS at a Linux conference I was attending, but then the topic was changed last-minute to something else.
WebOS was sold to LG, who now uses it in some of their smartTVs. There is, of course, the open source version of WebOS at http://www.openwebosproject.org, sponsored by LG; the last post, however, on the user forum was made more than a year ago.
A sad story for those of us who survived the 1990s with our beloved Palm Pilots -- beloved because those diminutive devices did things that today's hyper-marketed Android and iOS devices still can't.
When HP sold off the remaining inventory of TouchPads for $99, I ordered one through a local big box store, but the order was never confirmed. Earlier this year, I searched eBay and found one that was never unopened. When it arrived at my home, I was so in awe of the last ever "PalmOS" portable device that I left the box unopened for months.
I finally opened it for my birthday. The packaging is very nicely done by HP, the sort of thing they normally reserve for their high-end laptops. The tablet is standard by today's design norms: 10" screen, power and volume buttons, microUSB, and a physical home button.
It is unusual in a few areas. The USB charger is round, like a cylinder, and the USB cable featured a large chrome dot to indicate how it should be plugged into the tablet. The table is heavy, the heaviest I've ever held.
When it came to start the TouchPad, it asked me for the language I prefer and then attempted to contact HP's severs to set up the account and complete the startup. And this is where I say, "The tablet is frozen in time." HP no longer operates the servers, and from the name of the operating system ("WebOS") this was to be a cloud-connected device. HP named the first release of Web0s "v3.0", perhaps as a tip of the hat to PalmOS.
Fortunately, the wizkids on the intertubes developed a workaround that involves a fair amount of work to fool the device into starting without contacting HP's servers. See http://forums.webosnation.com/hp-touchpad/317164-activation-bypass-touchpad.html. It worked, and I can now examine the contents of the abandoned device.
WebOS introduced to the UX world the concept of cards, which has since been adopted by Google in its Web pages and in Android. Press the Home button to see a carousel of cards showing the current state of every running app. (See figure below, sourced from Daily Tech.) Then flick through them to get to the app you want. Press the Home button a second time to access the launcher, which lists all the apps available on the tablet. Apps are written in Enyo, now an HMTL5 framework for all devices (see http://enyojs.com).
In some ways, the tablet is modern, despite being five years old. It has bluetooth and Wifi, it can connect to services like Dropbox and Exchange. Other specs are definitely 2011-ish:
But otherwise it frozen: no software can be updated, nor can the OS be updated by HP. The online backup system is, naturally, non-functional. Well, there is an exception. Clever users have been able to install Android, and so keep the deice functional. I won't, as I want a record of this unique device; it is w-a-y too old and heavy to replace the lithe Android tablets I use today.
In the end, I was disappointed by the TouchPad. It is almost too heavy to hold, its reliance on HP servers an Achilles Heel (even if WebOS had broken through to success), and I actually did not care for the WebOS interface. (A better one is Blackberry's OS interface.)
It's the future, don't you know
Autodesk ceo Carl Bass responds to a question from a financial analyst during this week's quarterly conference call. Comments are edited for brevity and clarity.
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Financial Analyst: You have some very interesting things to say about your future architecture with the Quantum project. There are numerous references to what you talked about as a common data environment, new [software] architecture, and so forth.
Carl Bass: This goes back a number of years, we have firm belief that engineering software is going to move to the cloud -- all design and engineering software will be in the cloud. We started to demonstrate that with the number of products we talked about some, like BIM 360. We’ve shown kind of the basic architecture with products like Fusion 360, and how they take advantage of the connectivity and the compute power of the cloud.
As I have said before, while everybody is rightfully focused on the business model transition of our existing business and how we are using it to attract new customers, what I think people will be surprised as you look out the next couple of years, is the size of the cloud business that we build, and how we really expands our TAM [total available market].
I have talked in the past about it being a place for collaboration, as well as giving access to virtually unlimited amounts of compute power, which is something our users demand, and so it’s just a natural fit. It's unusual that engineering has been one of the slowest to move to the cloud, but we see lots of evidence of hitting the tipping point, not just in the U.S. but other places in terms of customers willingness to adopt it.
Trump the Love
Following the results of the recent US federal election, the mainstream media was filled with outrage from the elite whose candidate failed to earn sufficient electoral votes.
PacketSled ceo Matt Harrigan, for example, threatened to assassinate the president-elect. On Facebook, and on multiple times. Following his outburst of freedom of expression, he resigned from his job and his company reported him to the Secret Service, whose job is to investigate threats against presidents and presidential candidates. PocketSled's software -- which does continuous monitoring, threat detection, and network forensics -- apparently did not detect the threat of the founder's bellowing on a popular network.
Others from Silly-con Valley tweeted their post-election outrage and disgust at what democracy had delivered. Tech firms, with their Constitution-free T&Cs and click-or-screw-off EULAs, aren't familiar with not getting their way.
Most elite and their mainstream media fellow travelers knew that it was Hilary's turn to rule the country. At least, that's what they kept telling each other and the pollsters. Unless, of course, they happened to read the L.A. Times' polls, which used a different polling method to find that His Trumpness would win. (Most polls use randomly selected people with each poll; LA Times used the same people for each poll. The difference in margin of errors is a fascinating topic to peruse.)
One assumes this was the poll Autodesk ceo Carl Bass was following when he tweeted his disgust in late September, well before the poll day of early November. The prophetic tweet was recently retweeted by engineering.com journalist Roopinder Tara as a reminder that Mr Bass got the prediction right, but...
The Mercury News is the newspaper of record for Silicon Valley, and it put words to the thought that perhaps the tech industry needs to understand what a Republican federal government can do for it. Since then, the Apple ceo has met with the president-elect, as has the head of BET, and others.
Mr Trump, a fellow businessman, has, for example "proposed a 10% repatriation tax on profits of U.S. corporate foreign subsidiaries, down from the statutory 35%." (Source.) Autodesk would, it seems, benefit from a Republican president, as it keeps 86% of its cash and investments offshore (as of July 2016).
News from @martynday
Autodesk yesterday announced the future for some of its software at Autodesk University. (I am not at the show, but have been avidly followed Martyn Day's tweets from yesterday. He is the editor of AEC Magazine out of England.)
A year ago, I predicted that Autodesk would cloud-ify Revit. No big secret; this is a natural progression, from Autodesk's point of view. First AutoCAD was served up remotely (aka AutoCAD 360), then Inventor (aka Fusion 360), then a bunch of other programs that support Revit, such as BIM 360. The elephant in the room was Revit itself.
As Martyn tweeted it, "Revit orig[inally] developed as a point solution, collab[oration] was 2nd thought. Database clunks. Quantum has collab at core."
Yesterday Autodesk announced the cloud version of Revit. The core is Quantum, a centralized database that runs on a multitude of servers (aka "the cloud"). In a series of tweets, Martyn described the environment:
Multi-discipline collaboration in parallel. Independent workspaces, no files, common data environment, everything connected.
Adesk Quantum uses IP [intellectual property] from across Adesk portfolio. Will use Fusion tech for steel fabrication, all on the cloud backbone
Fusion and Quantum will talk together like inventor and Revit never have been able to before.
Adesk Quantum is pre-alpha, Adesk working with a few firms now. Ask for timeline for wider access - pushing hard, months not years.
[Autodesk] says Quantum will be compatible with Revit as it is. They will work to make that happen. Web and mobile [are] 1st platforms
If your CAD world goes beyond Autodesk, then this new plan sounds familiar. Nearly a decade ago, Dassault Systemes launched V6 of its CAD software. It now uses Enovia as a central database that stores all CAD and other data. There is no file format, making translation from V6 a nightmare -- probably as Dassault intended it. Expect the same for Quantum-based BIM from Autodesk.
I came across one of my older posts, in which ZWCAD Software Company thanked its staff for the hard work they put in to a ZWCAD conference. Up to 100 employees worked for three months to plan the conference, according to the press release.
Think of the myriad of details involved, such as sourcing name tag holders, choosing menus for meals, booking venue(s), and deciding what to talk about. All along hoping enough people show up to cover the cost, or if the conference is free, to justify the effort.
Photo showing four of the things things that need to be arranged: contracting the video production company, arranging the food for the breaks, collecting material for the hand-out bags, and inviting users and media to attend
Users show up, us media sidle in, and after a day or three, it's over. Look closely and you see the staff trying not to look exhausted by the end. There is not just the looking after of details during the conference, but also a lot of cheerfulness that needs to exuded for that half-week.
With this post, I want to acknowledge the effort event planners put in, with some conference planning beginning six months out. These people work hard on a big project each year, every year!
- - -
The main thing about conferences, just about everyone agrees, is the socializing (others call it networking). Meeting old friends, some of who live a continent away, and making new ones -- some fleeting, others permanent.
Photo showing five programmers, writers, friends (left to right, from Germany, Australia, USA, Canada, and USA) at a pub during a recent conference, who between them have 132 years of CAD experience
Dietmar Rudolph, Steve Johnson, Owen Wengerd, Ralph Grabowski, Randal Newton
HP Z2 Mini G3
HP last week gave about 70 of us media people a preview of its new Z-series workstation. "Z" means computers meant for users of high-end desktop software, like mechanical CAD design and movie editing. This one is called Z2 Mini G3 -- a riff of Apple's Mac Mini.
HP product managers were pretty huffed up about the angular design (see figure 1), which is a problem for me, because I like rectangular black boxes. The more rectangular and featureless the better, and silent -- like my six-year-old Acer desktop; think monolith from 2001, but fatter.
The tiniest Z workstation has angular lines and is 2.3" tall (all images sourced from HP)
Nevertheless, I got their reasoning for the angular air vents: it's hard for a piece of paper to cover them up, suffocating the computer that's jam-packed with components and fans.
Indeed, the two of the largest components inside are fans. See figure 2. Two large ones to move lots of air; but also of large size to move that air quietly. A bigger fan turning more slowly is quieter while moving equivalent amounts of air as faster, smaller fans.
HP made it sound like mounting their new baby on the back of a monitor or on the underside of a desk is a new thing, but VESA mounts have been standard for lots of years now. Look at the back of your monitor; it probably has four holes. That's the VESA mount for ultra-small computers.
HP also made it sound like some other features are brand spanking new advances in the field of workstations, but what they did was adopt laptop technology to a desktop computer. Such as pressing a key (on any brand of USB-connected keyboard) or a mouse to turn on the computer. Another such as: the graphics board is an M model, meaning mobility, meaning laptop. What isn't laptop-y about it at all is its ability to handle six SIX! monitors. See figure 3.
Another laptop issue is how they can walk off the premises. For security, HP offers an optional steel box that encloses the Z2 with a padlock; rotate it by 90 degrees, and the USB ports are blocked, as well. See figure 4.
The steel box in which to lock the mini workstation
When it starts shipping in December, the box will come in a base i3 model for US$700 and then offer the following options:
My advice: get at least an i5 CPU in any computer. Good news: the RAM and hard drive are user-replaceable, unlike the products from a certain company whose name starts with A and ends with -PPLE.
Q: How is the graphics board upgraded?
A: You need to replace the motherboard.
Q: I see no Thunderbolt ports.
A: Thunderbolt is not supported.
Q: What kind of serial port is available?
A: It is a 9-pin serial port that uses an analog signal that cannot be hacked digitally.
Q: Is the M620 graphic for desktop computers or a mobile GPU?
A: It is a new mobile GPU from nVidia.
Q: How does it handle six displays with four ports?
A: Two of the six displays are daisy-chained.
Q: Is 32GB of RAM a hard maximum?
Q: What is the minimum configuration?
A: i3 6200 CPU, 4GB non-ECC RAM, and 500GB hard drive.
Q: How can HJ compete with Apple?
A: We are going after CAD-focused designers, who Apple has abandoned, such as users of AutoCAD, Solidworks, Revit, and ArchiCAD.
Q: How does the power-on work?
A: The remote power-on function is in the BIOS, and works with any USB keyboard on the market. You can click the mouse or press a key on the keyboard. It is initially disabled in the BIOS so that the computer doesn't exhibit unexpected behavior, so you have to go into the BIOS to turn on the features.
Q: How large is the power adapter?
A: There are two power adapters, the same ones as used for some HP laptops. One is 200W for the nVidia graphics and the other 135W for Intel graphics.
Q: Is it difficult to replace the SSD (solid state drive)?
A: The memory is the most tool-free part of the system; you need to just remove one screw to replace the hard drive.
Q: What is the noise level on idle?
A: 29db at full load and 17db at idle.
This is the first time since 2001 I've updated my book on CAD management. Back then, it was known as CAD Managers Guidebook and was published by the Onward Press imprint of Delmar Publishing. Now it's know as Best CAD Practices.
Little in these 15 years has changed in our industry. We still wonder about what to name layers, which dimension styles to use, and how to write a manual that catalog's our firm's standards. During the same time, agencies have tweaked their standards, more standards have entered our world (such as related to BIM?), CAD has spread to mobile devices, and it's normal to run two or more CAD systems and/or operating systems in offices.
To thoroughly update this book, I went through all the standards in the earlier text, updated them, added more international standards, added four brand-new chapters, and changed the word "extranet" to "cloud." There's four entirely new chapters, plus significant new content in the others. Here's the table of contents:
1. The Role of the CAD Manager
2. Naming Drawings and Symbols
3. Layer Names, Colors, and Conventions
4. BIM Standards *New!
5. Fonts and Patterns, Linetypes and Widths
6. Scale Factors and Dimensions
7. Standard Drawings and Templates
8. Writing Your CAD Standards Manual
9. Working with Paper Drawings
10. Outsourcing and the Cloud
11. Running CAD on Mobile Devices * New!
12. The DWG Format, and Its Future
13. Managing the Dual-CAD Office * New!
Appendix A. How to Make Computers Run Faster * New!
It's available now for $27, which you can purchase through PayPal using this link
Should Paypal.me not operate in your country, then please use www.paypal.com and the account of firstname.lastname@example.org. Or mail a cheque (US$ or CDN$ only, please) to upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd., 34486 Donlyn Avenue, Abbotsford BC, V2S 4W7, Canada with your email address.
I will email you the ebook, which is a PDF file about 7.5MB in size. The PDF is formatted for printing on 8.5"x11" paper.
Best CAD Practices
by Ralph Grabowski
4th edition; 270 pages
Published by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.
Proposed emergency office, as envisioned by some, not being my cup of coffee (image source Wired.com)
upFront.eZine @upFronteZine Nov 2: A reader writes: "...The cloud model, which I despise and think will fail soon. Everything is being hacked and all of it is porous."
upFront.eZine @upFronteZine Nov 2: I've said it before, and I'll be saying again: DO NOT upgrade to Windows 10 (unless forced to). It breaks too much software. My #1 job is...
upFront.eZine @upFronteZine Nov 2: ...is to be productive, not follow the whims of someone inside Microsoft, Inc. who knows neither us nor our needs.
Joe Dunne @jdunneCAD Nov 2: @upFronteZine Kind of the whole point of cloud based products isn't it? They don't break. Why should users spend anytime on issues like this?
upFront.eZine @upFronteZine Nov 2: Desktop software doesn't break and runs in perpetuity. Cloud software runs at the whim of the ISP, the vendor, the quality of the intertubes.
al dean @alistardean Nov 2: @jdunneCAD @upFronteZine Case in point. Workstation died recently. New one in 48 hours. Fibre went down. That was a two week fix. Two. Weeks
upFront.eZine @upFronteZine Nov 2: Last time Internet went down for me, it was for five days, last year. Cause: corroded wire terminals along the street.
upFront.eZine @upFronteZine Nov 2: Last time workstation went down for me: 1996. Hard drive died. I follow Google's advice: always leave computer on, to avoid thermal stress.
Joe Dunne @jdunneCAD Nov 2: @alistardean @upFronteZine Al, last time I checked Onshape users to not worry about whether Onshape is going to "work" after OS upgrade.
al dean @alistardean Nov 2: @jdunneCAD @upFronteZine Ha. Yup. Fair. What about browser upgrades? No?
upFront.eZine @upFronteZine Nov 3: Web browser is the OS of software like Onshape. Not all browsers are supported, perhaps not our favorite one.
Joe Dunne @jdunneCAD Nov 3: @alistardean @upFronteZine I see and you went 2 weeks with no email? no Twitter? no communication? come on.
al dean @alistardean Nov 2: @jdunneCAD @upFronteZine Not in the workshop. Cell only.
Joe Dunne @jdunneCAD Nov 3: @alistardean @upFronteZine Use Cell in a pinch, or find a Starbucks :) kidding.. kind of. lots of options.
upFront.eZine @upFronteZine Nov 3: Cell phone only, and my cell plan is not set up for lots of data (100MB per month).
upFront.eZine @upFronteZine Nov 3: Desktop software doesn't require me to relocate to Starbucks (which I don't like) or engage in 'lots of options'. I get to work in my office.
In the last week, a new file format was announced that may be of interest to CAD users.
Pantone File Format
Pantone is the primary North American standard for specifying colors. Kind of like PDF ensures an exact reproduction of a document, Pantone ensures the exact reproduction of specified colors. (Other parts of the world use other color specification standards, such as DIC in Japan.) Using Pantone is easy: you select a color, and then specify the Pantone number. See figure below. Printers and publishers know which exact color to use, making the client happy.
Every color in the Pantone palette is assigned a number
Today, however, computers work with more than just color. There are the real-world modifications to color that effect how it looks, such as surface textures, glossiness, refraction through transparent objects, and reflections. Think about how the same color looks different when used in flat or glossy paint, real or fake leather, the billions of kinds of plastic, flowing fabrics, stained and unstained wood, and metals.
Pantone reacted (a few years late, I would say) by creating a system that records the color given off by the object, and writing a new file format that records the parameters of the color. Their Total Appearance Capture hardware captures the color, while AxF is the compressed file format that records the color for use by other software. It's not a simple process to capture what the eye sees:
The scanner works by flashing different colors of lights at the material at different angles, and then recording the data -- much like a digital camera. See figure below. For example, scan a draped blanket and all the color and texture variations (and even holes) are recoded to the AxF file using RAW format, which can end up consisting of gigabytes of data. (Compression reduces it to megabytes.) Pantone also provides a virtual light booth device, which rotates the original sample while the scanned result rotates synchronously on the monitor.
Guts of the scanner
So far, a few rendering systems work with the new file format, such as from nVidia and Autodesk. Here is the link to the Web page that describes the new products: http://www.xrite.com/categories/Appearance/total-appearance-capture-ecosystem . Pantone's parent X-Rite doesn't give a price ("Request a Quote") but I suspect the hardware is in the tens of thousands of dollars.
(Hat tip to DEVELOP 3D blog for alerting me to this item: http://www.develop3d.com/blog)
Muting unwanted transmissions
Phones, tablets, and even Windows 10 desktop computers have Airplane Mode. Turn it on, and it turns off all of the radios used by the device. This goes back to the day when we were assured that a single cell phone transmission would crash entire airplanes. (Turns out it was an urban myth, not science, like the myth that cell phones cause gasoline pumps to explode into flames.)
So, airplane mode turns off all the radios, such as WiFi, Bluetooth, and cell communications (talk, text, and data). Here is where this mode can be useful on land.
One of my Android tablets accepts SIM cards. I don't have a SIM card in it. The tablet repeatedly warns me in the notification panel that the SIM card is missing. This gets irritating seeing the message pop up regularly. So I do this:
With the cell radio turned off, the tablet no longer wonders why the SIM card is missing. And yes, you can can both turned on: Airplane Mode and WiFi. (Not sure if this tip works on iPhones.)
Bonus tip: Use Airplane Mode on any device when it is on batteries. It instantly turns off unneeded radios, saving some power. I do this on my Windows laptop, where it turns off Bluetooth and any other built-in radio that I might not know about. Then I tap the WiFi button to regain Internet access. See figure above.
Six of 'em
It's not easy for me to take out the number of candies used to vote for the top six features, so I will present them here disregarding the vote numbers. Rember the methodology: roundtable attendees spoke up about their pet peeves, then the entire group was polled as to which was the most "popular." The top six remaining were then available for voting with candies.
The overwhelming favorite is: Background Sheet Location (see figure below)
The other five are:
Solid Edge users come to the roundtable events with their wish lists, some of them having a nearly a dozen. This session deals with two topics, drafting and translation. The only requests here here were for drawings; there were no requests on translation. As before, comments by the Solid Edge facilitator are prefixed by 'SE'.
- - -
Be able to add technical requirements, such as embedding surface texture symbols and flags in the text. SE: This will be an interesting problem to solve. Russians do that all the time.
Need callouts when we place chamfers on holes.
I want to find the length of a path, and then lock it. When it moves, I don't want the length changing. I want a PMI annotation of the locked length.
Is there a way to save annotation styles on dimensions, like prefixes to dimension text? SE: This is now available in ST9.
SE: If we had a switch in the Drawing View Wizard, such as "I always want to go to the Custom View orientation directly, would that help you? Attendees: Yes.
When bringing in a block or table, we want to snap it to the top. It will not snap to the drawing corners or borders. I would like to snap them to the background of my drawings.
Can we drag to make the Notes and Callouts dialog box larger? Callouts would be the top priority. When we have lots of text, we have to scroll to see it all, and then we miss typos.
In the template, we want to add Flat Pattern as the default for the caption. SE: This is more of style thing than a view. You can capture anything you want as a caption, and than save it as a template. But if we add lots of things to templates, you start having to have lots more templates.
We use some alternate-position assemblies, like a cabinet with doors open and doors closed. But if we drop it into an assembly, it accepts only one of them.
I'd like to rename PMI dimensions with numbers, so I know what the dimension is referring to in the model tree. I can use letters but not numbers. SE: I think you can already rename it, based on the variable name.
I want to change the angle of auto-jog on coordinate dimensions. Also, the distance is very far apart, and sometimes the text goes into outer space because of the spacing. SE: Change the stack pitch in the style. Create a custom style with a smaller value.
My biggest concern is being apply text below a feature control frame. SE: Attach a callout, but turn off the leader.
Architectural symbols. SE: Yah, I know!
The ability to add up columns on parts lists, such as summing the cost column.
We have to deal with another team who is terrible at drafting. Is there a way to remap styles, and then throw out the old ones? They use different templates. SE: You can use style organizer to overwrite stuff. You are looking for style overwrite on file-open? One of the issues is in names clashing as they get replaced.
After an hour-long discussion of using Solid Edge with the cloud and collaboration, attendees to the roundtable voted for the top three requests, and then voted the popularity of the top 3. Attendees used Jolly Ranger candies to indicate their preference. Here is the result:
#3: Group Collaboration on Sync Services (OneDrive, etc) -- this means that the cloud service, like Dropbox, should provide services that appeal to group collaboration needs. It could be that a service already does this, but it seems to me that no one has done the research. I suggested that Solid Edge produce a comparison chart of functions that CAD users and groups would need.
#2: Solid Edge as a Viewer -- this means a free desktop version of Solid Edge that displays 3D models and everything else, and allows measuring. The drawback to this is that it is a big install. (The facilitator noted that Free2D is their most popular download.)
#1: Viewing in the Browser -- this means having a no-plugin viewer that runs in HTML5-compatible Web browsers, kind of like AutoCAD 360 and others. It would allow viewing, measuring, and sharing.
Whereas the sheet metal round table was packed (with a few standing at the back), the cloud and collaboration round table has half the attendance. 'Cloud and collaboration' is not, strictly speaking, a CAD feature. But it is new to Solid Edge, even if it is not new to most users -- using email to collaborate and Dropbox to share drawings.
The facilitator is asking:
Whereas sheet metal is mature and in need of some tweaks, the cloud is new and so there are major issues to address. Here are the responses from attendees, with the 'SE' prefix being the response from the facilitator:
- - -
We would like to see a corporate one-drive area for a group of people. We would like to see selective sync'ing, as well as watermarking on files. Our database is 600GB, you can't sync that! We already pay for an unlimited storage corporate subscription, but we don't want to have to pay more just to get a few more features. SE: You can specify the folder(s) to sync, but not the individual files in the folder (ie, all files are sync'ed).
We usually send drawings as PDFs because it is the lowest common denominator and everyone has the reader. We only send 2D drawings, maybe just one 3D PDF once in a while.
A cloud-based viewer (for Solid Edge) would be useful, so people don't need to install anything. At larger corporations, employees have no authority to install new software on their own. Just send a link and the viewer loads automatically.
SE: Is there a security problem with employees opening links send to them? Attendee: No. Our NetNanny would catch bad links.
SE: What kinds of files would you want to view? Attendee: We want to view 3D models, and measure them; that's the main thing.
We run everything through TeamCenter, we don't segregate things out for individual projects. If a client want's DWG files, we tell them to create their own from TeamCenter.
We are looking for Solid Edge and TeamCenter on the cloud. SE: What does that mean to you? Attendee: I have no idea; I am just here listening. We have 155 licenses of SE but would have maybe 5-6 working on the cloud. The 5-6 are at another company with whom we work. We want them to do their own thing, we just want to get their information. We want to view the parts, mark them up, have them make change, and then use their parts in our assemblies.
The way OneDrive works, it is acts a local file folder for whoever accesses it, and it syncs stuff up and down. We are not using it now, because it does not allow a corporate folder.
We would like a viewer that can measure. Very few of our vendors want to see 3D stuff. If they do, we just send it as a STEP file.
I've love to see the Free2D become a Free-two-and-a-half so that it can display and measure 3D models.
Bringing stuff in we usually use email or download from an FTP server, and then translate it. Now, if you want to talk about translation....! We usually get models in IGES format for the most part. Most of the people we work with don't understand anything about translation, it's like pulling eye teeth trying to figure out settings in their CAD system and its unfamiliar user interface.
SketchUp is a pain in the rear, because we cannot translate it into Solid Edge. SE: People use SketchUp? Attendee: Oh yes.
How does OneDrive work? Say I start working on a file, and then OneDrive wants to sync it, what happens? SE: We lock it so that no one else can edit it. Others can view it, but won't be able to edit it until you are done. There is a note saying that it file is being edited and so is locked.
It is confusing to users, because every cloud service has different features. It might help if Solid Edge provides a recommendation of which one to use -- what would you require for the perfect system. SE: We can't know what each customer wants in capabilities. But our data management system [in SE ST9] works with any cloud service; it provides the management and locking services.
Measure is very important of not just Solid Edge files, but also of downstream files, such as from the laser cutter and DXFs.
We would like viewing and measuring in a browser. SE: The drawback to that is that the model goes outside your firewall, and some companies don't allow that. An alternative is to download a lightweight viewer.
First roundtable of the day
Siemens has changed its development process so that it can accept input from end-users. So they established these roundtables at Solid Edge University to learn what new functions users want. The format is:
(Not allowed: complaints about bugs, because this is only about new features).
I found it fascinating that this is a mature MCAD system, but there are always new ways of designing that users come up with. In the wish lists below, I prefix comments by the Solid Edge staff with 'SE'. Here we go...
- - -
Being enter relative (offset) x,y points along keypoint curves for sketches.
In synchronous, I would like to see loft command turned into procedural so the guide path and cross sections can be edited. As a workaround, we use hybrid modeling.
In 3D sketches, I'd like to color parts of wholly-defined sketches.
What about flattening bends (unbend) in synchronous?
Wire bending, not electrical, but of metal rods. We would like a flat pattern of circular and rectangular tubes, like sheet metal.
In family of parts table, when making a copy, can we sort the result by name?
A crash report for optimize, so we can tell where it isn't working. I'd like to know where it failed, not just that it did fail.
I'd like to do a counter-drill inside a hole -- in addition to being to already do counter-bores.
We make a lot of wire shelving, and sometimes it gets welded and then assembled. We'd like to be able to flatten the entire assembly.
Lofted flange in synchronous; we build lofted posts. SE: We are working on it, but it is pretty tricky.
I need to put in multiple slots, with corner details like reliefs (so we can cut it quicker). Whereas all holes are the same, every slot can be unique. We need a slot entity, and not just a modified hole.
Set a minimum flange distance for brake presses so that the distance cannot be violated. There should be an option for various gauges (thickness of material).
We cut a lot of tubes with lasers, including along bends. I'd like to design it without having to covert it into sheet metal and then construct it from there.
It is not possible to start drawing with an arc in synchronous for sheet metal. Our workaround is to start in ordered, or start by drawing a very short line. SE: Every bend in a synchronous sheet metal mode is calculated. The software does not know the difference between a curve and a bend. It needs the straight part to do the calculation. We are working on fixing this.
I'd like a dropper to copy colors from one part to another, like using the same green for all ground wires. SE: We are working on it, it will be called Inspect Color.
We can press Shift key for symmetry (and Space to switch between cut out and extrusion) in synchronous but the same does not work elsewhere in Solid Edge.
Further to that last point, I'd like to see more consistency between Solid Edge's different modes. SE: Some of that UI consistency we can do, some we cannot.
We'd like to make a flat pattern, add corner reliefs, add radiuses, and then push the reliefs back into the formed model, so we don't have to keep bending and unbending.
Is the speed being improved for holes? We have 500 or more holes in our sheet metal, and it can take 3-4 minutes in synchronous. SE: The fill pattern method is fastest in synchronous mode.
We need to model an involute for gear teeth. Right now we create an Excel sheet to control the sketch in Solid Edge. It has to be exact, because we cut with a laser cutter.
We would like to reverse the flange direction. SE: It is on the list.
On multi-bodies, I'd turn to turn off the display of some bodies. SE: Turn the body into construction to hide it.
Flatten digging teeth. We have to do it hit-and-miss because now we cannot figure out the flattened size. We can model them, but we cannot flatten them. SE: It sounds like you want conical and variable-radius bends; we'll start with conical.
Steve Weathermax, Product Manger 2D-3D Data Translation
Solidworks has the largest user base in the MCAD industry, with numbers ranging from over a half-million (commercial users) to 2.5 million (commercial + education). This makes it a target of competitors like Autodesk, Siemens, and even within Dassault Systems itself. They all want to attract Solidworks users, and to attract them the MCAD vendors need to be able to move over their files.
In the case of Solidworks and Solid Edge, users are in luck, because both CAD systems use the same modeling kernel, Parasolid. This makes translation "easier," although as you will see below, there are still lots of special cases that need to be handled carefully.
Siemens calls the translation process "migration." Solidworks Migration Tool uses the Solidworks automation layer to extract rich data. This means that you need to have Solidworks 2012 installed on the same computer as Solid Edge ST9. The newer the release of Solidworks, the better the translation (ie, more types of data are translated). Solidworks must be able to resolve all the links that Solid Edge is requesting as it opens the model file.
You can open the translated drawings in ordered or synchronous environment, but ST is recommended as it can manipulate the body, such as finding holes in bodies. The tool can import drawings, parts, and assemblies from Solidworks. Attributes that are extracted are stored in PLMXML files, which is an XML format created by Siemens that references geometry, which is stored in a Parasolid x_t file.
The translator supports the following features in Solidworks files:
Migration is not instant, but can take 3-4 minutes even for small model. Mr Wathermax recommends starting with converting parts to get used to the process. "This is a data translator. You can't take apples and change them into oranges," because there are differences in the data structures in the two CAD program. If 99% of the data is translated, that's doing good, he figures.
Being able to translate drawings has been the big draw. But the job of writing the migration tool is not over, and additional functions are already planned for Solid Edge ST10.
Q: Is there a record of constraints in the log files?
A: Yes, it does. The log file also reports number of threads found. A different log file records the assembly details found. Both Solidworks and Solid Edge generate log files. The key thing to search for are errors.
Q: Are custom file properties translated?
A: Yes. But we don't get properties in features, such as descriptions in configurations.
Q: Does it place title block info into a background sheet?
A: No, it places them on the foreground sheet.
Q: Does it handle display states in Solidworks [where parts are hidden by turning them off]?
A: No. We bring over the part files over; if it is on in Solidworks, it is on in Solid Edge. But we bring over ones that are off, too. Five different display states are not going to be reproduced. A workaround is to convert display states to configuration data.
Q: If a client does a Pack-and-Go to send us everything in Solidworks folders, how does migration work?
A: It does the assemblies first, then checks the parts needed. Clicking the top-level assembly is the best place to start. Do drafts last; they will hook up automatically.
Q: Iso views in Solidworks seem to embed a title; when translated, the text was embedded in the part, right-justified.
A: Look at the AutoCAD (DXF) file and see if the problem is there.
Release 9 with Synchronous Technology
Solid Edge ST9 doing CFD flow trajectories right inside the program
Dan Staples and Oliver Duncan are getting ready to show us the newest release of Solid Edge, which came out in July earlier this year.
Dan Staples, vp of mainstream engineering product development at Siemens PLM
SE ST9 takes its first steps to the cloud with these functions:
"Buying a perpetual license is your most cost-effective choice," says Mr Staples.
User interface changes include tabs for each drawings, larger icons for hi-res monitors, and a make over that looks like the latest Microsoft Office.
Now Mr Duncan is coming on the stage to demo CatchBook, their tablet software for conceptual design. He is showing how the software was used to design a new orange press (for making juice). Export the 2D sketch to Solid Edge for 3D modeling. (Not mentioned is that the exchange format at this time is DXF.) Photo below shows the Catchbook design in Solid Edge, where the 2D sketches are extruded and revolved into 3D.
Oliver Duncan, director of global technical business development
ST9 advances hybrid modeling, the latest hot thing in MCAD, in which history-based modeling can be used at (much of the time) the same time as synchronous modeling (the Siemens term for direct modeling). Some of the new features new functions like being able to fillet and chamfer across more than one part at a time. Create new parts in context of the assembly. Sketch in 3D. Track design intent. Multi-face replace in assemblies. Create threaded holes automatically from Booleans. Sheet metal flanges from multiple parts. Better material table. Sweep (like cut) along a path across multiple bodies at one time -- good for simulating milling operations.
ST9 now has a preview for 3D printing -- a 3D preview of the item to be printed with additive manufacturing. Can change tolerance, so higher for more accurate models, or lower for faster printing. Hmmm.... reminds me of what it was like to print to laser printer in the late 1980s. Also allows reorientation so that it sits on the print bed the best. Includes links to 3D printing services with pricing options and lead times.
Parts can be simplified using the Simplify command. Use it so speed up display performance, to remove IP (intellectual property) when sending drawings out. Not just box simplification, but also cylinder-shaped simplification, such as for stock material cost estimates.
Patterning is extended to do random patterns in parts -- kind of like a powerful Copy command. Can also use sketches to specify the locations of patterns; use Find command to select all sketches.
In assembly management, sometimes identical looking parts have different functions -- such as a pad that acts as a foot or a cover for a screw or both. ST9 can now apply custom properties to identical components. This extends to balloons and BOMs. See figure below.
With a dig at competitors, Mr Staples jokes that "We know [2D] drawings are going away. They've been going away for 30 years!" Well, they are not going away at Solid Edge. In fact, he says, "We are the Drawing Guys."
New in ST9 drawings are things like tolerance tables (unique to Solid Edge), broken views are now associative, and quick view style modification. Multi-core processing during drawing view updates, makes it 28% faster -- a tough feature to implement, according to Mr Staples.
Other new functions include spiral curves, better piping, and so on.
Also new: FloEFD for Solid Edge from Mentor Graphics. EFD is short for "embedded flow dynamics" -- I think, we aren't being told. Nevertheless, it is a form for CFD (computational fluid dynamics). Oh, oh: Mentor wants to do the same thing as Autodesk: allow non-experts do simulation. Anyhow, this software is meant to see how fluids react in a model -- both gasses (like air) and liquids. Does it get too hot, are pressures too high?
#seu16 on Twitter
Alright, here we are in Indianapolis waiting for the keynote to start at this year's Solid Edge University. It's late October, months after the release of Solid Edge ST 9. What gives? Siemens PLM Software used to run the university in the summer, around the annual update to the MCAD software. But then, they reckoned, it made more sense to hold the "university" some months after the release, so that users had a chance to try out the new software before taking courses to become more proficient. And so here we are in October, in the Indy-500 city.
Media in the front row of the keynote location
The theme this year is "Expand Your Horizon," because Siemens wants this to be about more than just Solid Edge. I write "Siemens" but they are just the ones who own Solid Edge these days. Recall that Solid Edge was developed by Intergraph, one of the very first CAD companies, in Huntsville Alabama. For a while, it was owned by UGS (of Unigraphics fame), and now Germany's Siemens has it. The software and its developers are still in Huntsville, and so the accents of executives is southern American, not German. We can't even tell that Solid Edge is owned by Siemens, other than the corporate gray in the slides.
Being the Indy 500 city, Siemens is going to be showing off cars designed with Solid Edge. By coincidence, there are about 500 attendees here.
Five hundred attendees in the Indy 500 city
But first, Solid Edge for Startups is being announced from the keynote stages. More details later. And now the new ceo of Siemens PLM Software is being introduced: Tony Hemmelgarn (see photo below). He was at Intergraph when Solid Edge got its name, and even gave the first version to his wife to try out. "It's probably why they promoted me to this job," he jokes, "they probably wanted me to stop giving demos."
New ceo of Siemens PLM Software Tony Hemmelgarn
Mr Hemmelgarn is telling us how Siemens has been, since 1958, acquiring and developing design software to "keep pace with digitization." Since 2007, they've acquired UGS (NX and Solid Edge), Vistagy, Perfect Costing Solutions, Kineo, LMS, TESIS, Polarion, and CD-adaptco. He plans to further integrate these solutions into each other. The slide lists ">$2 billion" although he doesn't explain it. I suspect that refers to the cost of acquisitions. See figure below.
The Siemens history of CAD-related software acquisitions
Now we are hearing from automotive designers the first being a 23-year-old engineer with ProDrive of England. They are working on a replacement Austin Martin for racing. But he is here to talk about Green Power, where teams start with the same set of basic parts, but then compete in age categories starting at age 9. It is, he says, more engaging because it is project-based. Project-based learning works best for me: I need a reason to learn something, which is probably why -- like this young speaker -- I didn't necessarily do well in normal schooling. He initially failed to make it into engineering at university; at least, I made it into engineering! Using Solid Edge, he designed a Green Power car that won numerous awards, and then got a one-year placement with Red Bull Racing -- as an engineer.
The first guest speaker, David Cullimore from Prodrive and promoting Green Power, uses Solid Edge
Earlier I mentioned Siemens starting in 1958 with digital software. The company started much earlier. In fact, last week I was in the German Transportation Museum in Munich, which had the very first Siemens product: the world's first electric locomotive, from 1879, when Werner Siemens thought of using the steel rails and overhead wires to conduct electricity to the locomotive. This demo, however, ran off a 150V battery, and was built for a world fair in Berlin.
World's first electric locomotive designed by the founder of Siemens AG
Three take-aways from the second guest speaker, Jerry Zaiden from Camburg, which uses Solid Edge to design their racing trucks.
Chief Strategy Officer Justin Fishkin from Local Motors, which uses Solid Edge in their business
[Disclosure: Siemens PLM provided me with transportation, accommodation, and some meals.]
Translation from MCAD files
In addition to the new Communicator features described earlier, the V17 release adds these functions.
You can now specify alternate paths for all supported CAD formats. This lets Communicator find standard parts that might be associated with assemblies being imported.
When parts are designated as “hidden” in the original CAD files, you can now decide whether to import them or ignore them, depending on your preference. Not importing hidden parts makes the resulting file smaller.
When an assembly has components that are nested (both locally and externally), the entire structure is now exported to STEP files. This allows other CAD systems to display the BricsCAD product structure of imported models.
Building Information Modeling
This partial list of new BIM features in BricsCAD V17 is provided by Bricsys. They are in alphabetical order, followed by improved functions. For the full list, look at https://www.bricsys.com/common/releasenotes.jsp?i=4471
A SITE WITH MANY BUILDINGS AND STORIES
To give you greater flexibility in developing BIM designs, a single drawing file now contains a “site,” which can have multiple “buildings,” with each building holding one or more “stories.” The default drawing holds one building with three stories. You specify properties for the new site, building, and story elements.
The new bimPatch command allows you to specify a rectangular area on a block that you previously generated with the bimSectionUpdate command. When you use bimSectionUpdate to regenerate the section, BricsCAD checks if the geometry bounded by the patch has changed. If it is unchanged, then the patch is preserved; if changes occurred, then BricsCAD outlines the patch boundary in red.
The new bimRoom command offers you two ways to specify rooms. One is to click a point in the drawing, from which BricsCAD finds the area enclosed by walls and then places a room marker; the dynamic UCS defines the bottom plane of the room. The room marker is a block consisting of a hatch pattern and data attributes that specify the name, number and area. In the second method, you select a 3D solid, which defines the room in 3D with area and height.
The new Structure panel allows you to examine BIM models organized by spatial containment: it lists building elements by Building, Story, BIM type, and then by composition. You can easily modify the organization as any property, including IFC properties, can be used as to group and sort the elements.
IMPROVED: DRAWING GENERATION
The types of section views are expanded to generate full, half, offset, and aligned sections. When placing a section view, you can specify the depth of the section to limit how much detail is shown, as well as use leaders and rectangular frames to label and highlight detail views. When you dimension generated drawings, they are updated automatically after you change the source 3D model.
The bimSection command has a new option named Detail that creates volume sections. To define the volume box, it prompts you for three corner points and uses the dynamic UCS as the base of the box; the base plane is also the section plane. When you hover the cursor over a bimSection element, you select bimSection from the Quad to create a detail section box that’s based in the same plane as the hovered bimSection.
This partial list of new sheet metal functions in BricsCAD V17 is provided by Bricsys. The new commands are in alphabetical order, followed by improved functions. For the full list, look at https://www.bricsys.com/common/releasenotes.jsp?i=4471
BricsCAD V17 adds parametric form features to the sheet metal module. “Form features” mimic the process when a forming tool deforms a piece of sheet metal. After the form is applied (using the new Form Features tab of the Tool Palettes panel), you can edit it directly and parametrically through the Properties bar.
The library contains most commonly used form features, such as bridge, louver, and emboss. You can import form features from other systems, and define your own custom forms. When you import geometry from other CAD systems, you can search for similar form features, and then replaced them with ones from your libraries.
The smFlangeBend command lets you bend an existing flange along a line, obeying the k-factor for given bend radius. The “k-factor” determines how much of the material’s thickness compresses and how much stretches during the bending process. When you import geometry, BricsCAD recognizes incorrectly-made bends and automatically repairs them.
IMPROVED: LOFTED BENDS
Lofted bends gain a feature validation function, which lets you ensure that the bend will work correctly.
Bricsys Technology Russia
Alright, we are back after the mid-morning lunch (at 12:15? Well, that's how Europe rolls) with info about direct modeling in BricsCAD.
The Bricsys vision for MCAD (mechanical CAD design) is...
Compared to other MCAD systems, Bricsys says they are...
What's new in Direct Modeling in BricsCAD V17
See the earlier blog entry (below) for information about what else is new in direct modeling in V17. See our Twitter stream @upfrontezine and #bricsys2016 for more photos and new functions.
Component Based Features
New feature in BricsCAD V17 allows custom parameterized symbol libraries for BIM and sheet metal design. For example, drag a louver part from library into a sheet metal part. Material is kept on special layers, one for subtracted volumes (like holes), another for added volumes (like the added louver). 3D constraints control the feature, and unneeded parameters can be hidden.
Here's the crucial part: when you drag a 3D part into a BricsCAD drawing, it automatically merges with the existing 3D model. Once in there, you can tweak its parameters (constraints) to resize it, and the model updates in real time. Generated 2D drawings are updated in real time, as well (although there is a setting to turn off real-time updates, if preferred).
Generated Drawing Views
Generated drawings have been in BricsCAD for a couple of releases, and so they get some more updates in V17. (Generated drawings are 2D views made from 3D models semi-automatically and then updated automatically). The new AutoVpFitting variable preserves scale, size, view center, and viewport size. Selected entities can be removed from views. Partial section views can be created. Detail views can be attached by leaders to the parent view. Section views move along with parent view automatically, as the parent view is moved about the sheet. Can change detail boundaries from rectangular to circular to other shapes. Drawings can be attached with dimensions; these also are associative, so when the 3D model is changed, the dimension in the drawings are updated automatically.
Now here's a feature that AutoCAD used to have, but then abandoned years ago: material properties. This is where you assign a material to a part (like steel) and analysis reflects the mass. BricsCAD V17 has a materials database for MCAD and BIM models which add physical properties to 3D parts. The material is reflected in 2D drawings and sections as appropriate hatch patterns (see figure below). Impressively, materials can be imported from other CAD systems, should their drawings contain such information -- such as from Solidworks, Pro/E, and Inventor.
If a part does not have a material, it can inherit material properties from other parts; indeed, "inherit" is the default. Properties include density, specific heat, and thermal conductivity. More can be added. Naturally, the properties are reported in BOMs (bills of material). LISP gets a new function to inquire the material data: bmListGet.
AI, the buzzword
Artificial intelligence algorithms go back to the 1950s. In fact, LISP was written originally to assist with AI, but then adapted by Autodesk for AutoCAD's first native programing language. What does BricsCAD plan?
AI takes lots of examples from which to pick a best option, whether in chess playing or driving cars. Fifty years later, the technology is available to actually use AI practically. Where does AI fit into CAD? It is...
Bricsys took steps 1.5 years ago to start, and now have the following functions:
You don't have to start over with BIM. Bricsys says, "Take existing geometry and turn it into a BIM model." So they use AI to detect which are floors (storey numbers), internal and external walls, slabs, and so on. See figure below. Also, window alternatives, connection alternatives, and so on.
New and Improved for 2D drawing and 3D modeling
This is a partial list of the new features in BricsCAD V17 provided by Bricsys. It lists new features in alphabetical order, followed by improved functions. For the full list, look at https://www.bricsys.com/common/releasenotes.jsp?i=4471
3D DRAWING COMPARE
The new 3dCompare command opens two drawing files and then reports the differences in 3D solids and 3D surfaces using color coding. This lets you quickly see the changes made to otherwise identical-looking drawings. The differences are represented as separate entities displayed in two viewports – red entities for additions, green for subtractions.
3DCompare dialog box
Simultaneous 3D navigation in both viewports lets you get a closer look at what has changed. You have the option of leaving blocks and frozen layers out of the checking process. When you have the Communicator add-on, you can check differences in 3D models from other CAD systems, making BricsCAD a universal CAD model checker.
The new AniPath command creates movies by rendering views from a point or along a path. This lets you create movies to show collaborators and clients your building designs and other 3D projects. In creating the movie, you have options like specifying the frame rate and resolution, the overall duration, the visual style, and the movie’s file format.
Dialog box for Anipath settings
Materials in BricsCAD now support physical properties. This means that when you analyze 3D models with commands such as bmMassProp and bmBom, the correct mass is returned no matter how many different materials make up the models. You can use materials provided with BricsCAD, or else define your own. Component materials correctly generate their hatch patterns when shown in section views.
The optional Communicator add-on imports materials with physical properties, should they be assigned to the parts in imported products. When you export sheet metal models, materials are included in DXF and OSM files.
DIMENSION STYLE FAMILIES
The new dimension-style families feature consists of a parent style with one or more child styles. This is a handy way for you to make subtle modifications to just parts of dimension styles. For instance, child styles let you make linear and angular dimensions look different from one another. To create a child style, right-click a parent style in the Dimension Styles explorer, and then select the New Child Style option from the context menu.
Starting a new child style
When you have more than one panel docked to the side of the screen, you can have them share the same space, with each panel getting its own tab. This increases the drawing area, yet gives you all the information you need with a single click.
The Layers and Content Browser are new dockable panels. Whereas before the Layer explorer had to be dismissed, now layer names and their settings are always available to you through the Layer panel while drawing and editing. The Content Browser dockable panel displays DWG and DXF content in a tree-like view from folders that you specify.
Layers in a dockable panel
The new PlaceView command is for when you work with sheet sets. It places named views in layouts.
The new dmTwist command lets you twist 3D solids, surfaces, and regions around an axis by an angle that you specify. This makes it easy to create spiral objects, such as drills and augers in MCAD and cockscrews shapes in BIM.
IMPROVED: 3D CONSTRAINTS
BricsCAD V17 introduces the cone half-angle constraint, which constrains the size and angle of cone shapes. You can now apply 3D constraints to 2D entities, such as lines, xlines, rays, circles, and arcs. New measuring modes are available for circles, cylinders and spheres. The arguments of 3D constraints are now displayed and selected through the Mechanical Browser.
IMPROVED: GETTING STARTED
When you start BricsCAD V17, the redesigned Getting Started dialog lets you easily select from user profiles and work spaces, open existing drawings, start new drawings, and access educational resources, like video tutorials.
New interface for the Getting Started dialog box
When you use the dmMove command on edges, BricsCAD now forces adjacent faces to rotate, instead of moving them along with the edges. This lets you create, with a single click, complex roof-like forms from imprinted edges.
IMPROVED: PARAMETRIC COMPONENTS
Parametric components now define 3D solid features to be created on insertion. This lets you place user-defined features, such as parametric holes, form features, and ribs. BricsCAD does this by applying Boolean operations to the target 3D solid. You can change the visibility each component through the new Exposed property for parameters. Parameters take units, which lets you insert metric components into imperial documents and vice versa.
The dmThicken command now works with more than just surfaces. You can use it to create tube-shaped objects from 2D curves like lines and circles, with just a couple of clicks.
BMW Welt (World)
OK, we're just setting up here at the BMW Welt conference center adjacent to the Munich Olympic Park, getting ready for the start of the Bricsys International Conference 2016, full day. We had a pre-conference day yesterday, with an overview of some of the new technology we'll be seeing in detail today. I covered the pre-conference yesterday through my Twitter stream @upfrontezine and the Twitter tag #bricsys2016
Bricsys ceo on stage at the BIC 2016 conference
Bricsys ceo Erik deKeyser begins his keynote by talking about the user-hostile path Autodesk is leading customers down. Its software can be used for a year, and then customers don't know which software will still be available, what the pricing will be. AutoCAD development has nearly stalled for several years, with just a few new functions annually.
Now he turns to the current technology trends, listing them and indicating where Bricsys stands on them. For example, Bricsys is exploring how far they can automate turning point clouds into solids, something we can expect to see next year. AI is, he says, something BricsCAD already has to a certain extent; he is not explicit, but I think he is referring to the direct modeling in BricsCAD. The cloud is provided through their Chapoo product. LOD in AEC is levels of detail, and apparently governments are pushing for more regulation and higher LODs; while Autodesk and Nemetschek dominate in BIM, there is no .dwg-based solution. An Onshape-like collaborative CAD system is "important" and something Bricsys is monitoring. IFC is a prerequisite in BIM and Bricsys last week received IFC certification; working on COBie and BCF certification -- want to from point clouds to BIM.
"Is all this possible in DWG," he asks. Autodesk, he asserts, went another direction. There are far more users in AEC/BIM of DWG than Revit.
In MCAD, Bricsys plans to continuously improve 2D and 3D integration, manage geometry + model data + material data, they have a bi-di translator between DWG and most MCAD formats, but they are still working on partnering with CAM vendors. He sees their mechanical modeler as important for BIM modeling.
His view is that .dwg can offer:
Open Design Alliance
Now we are hearing from the Open Design Alliance. It is an overview of all the news we reported from Prague last month, the major news being the Revit API replicated through "Teigha BIM." The reason for the independent API is that there is no way to work with Revit RVT and RFA files except from inside Revit -- or exporting as IFC files, which is not desirable as parametric information is lost. Note that the entire API is not yet ready, the full development will take a few more years. Currently they can read Revit files, display many entities; later, creating and writing is to come.
What's New in BricsCAD V17?
See separate blog posts above that detail what's new in the next release of BricsCAD. The full list is 17 pages long!
[Disclosure: Bricsys provided me with airfare, accommodation, and some meals.]
#graebert16 on Twitter
OK, we are back at the Graebert Annual meeting in Berlin, but we've moved from the funky 25 Hours hotel to Graebert Gmbh's head office elsewhere in Berlin.
We're starting with Graebert sales and marketing executive Cedric Desbordes telling us how Graebert strives for uniqueness.
"Many alternatives are fighting for a portion of the low-cost alternative-to-AutoCAD market. If you are aiming at price, then you are looking at only a portion of the market. AutoCAD LT, for example, is only US$360 per year. The problem is that when you tell a potential customer that it is just like AutoCAD but cheaper, then the customer spends his time looking to see what he is getting for less -- what is missing.
"Innovation is key to being a leader, because followers are one or two years behind. Resellers tell us that we need to have all the features others have, but this means we would be behind, because we have to wait to see what the others are doing. So, we take a head start on new technologies even before larger competitors. Another benefit is that Graebert doesn't have the financial needs of a big company, like Autodesk. It even has different style of marketing.
"But Graebert needs to tell its story that customers might otherwise miss."
New dashboard interface displayed when ARES 2017 launches
This is why Graebert emphasizes the trinity approach with the similar software running on desktop/laptops (Linux, MacOS, and Windows), on smartphones/tablets (Android and iOS), and in Web browsers (HTML5 browsers). Plus, they have one license for running the software on all platforms, with portable licenses that allow use on various desktop/laptop computers. The license is checked once every 30 days. A new customer portal lets users adjust license needs.
Finally, Mr Desbordes told us, his company does not attempt to produce a clone of AutoCAD, but rather a CAD package that includes productive tools . Some of its unique functions are these:
The company has several people working on marketing through videos, social media, Web sites, and is launching a new blog.
Graebert Annual Meeting 2016
The Graebert CAD conference is this year at the 25 Hours hotel, located in the Bikini building, in Berlin Germany. Here is the view from the restaurant at the top floor. The "bikini" name comes from the building being built after WWII, when Americans set up sewing jobs for the post-war population. Some 700 sewing machines, which sewed, among other things, bikinis. Berliners are, if nothing else, wrly and sarcastically humorous.
This is the end of Day 1. The conference continues tomorrow at the Graebert head office elsewhere in Berlin. I'll be writing more about what was revealed today in a future issue of upFront.eZine e-newsletter. To subscribe to the e-newsletter, send 'subscribe upfront' to email@example.com .
Bob Miner, Onshape R&D
"Agile" is the keyword at Onword these days. But "Traditional CAD and PDM work against agile design," says Mr Miner. That's due to downloads, updates, license codes, different versions of software and design files -- all working against being fast to market. One solution from a competitor, he says, doesn't work as well as having drawing control in the CAD program itself.
The Onshape idea is to do everything in the 3D CAD package:
Mr Miner says there are three requirements for agile CAD:
Drawings is the 2D drawing component in Onshape that runs in a tab. It went into beta a year ago and was formally released last December. New code is released every 3-4 weeks, so 18 updates in the last year.
Wilfred Graebert, CEO
There 25,000 architects in England with five CAD packages chasing them, but a million construction sites. Wilfred Graebert did not want to go for a Revit challenger in a tiny market, but go for the million potential customers with his mobile software.
His strategy is to have a full CAD system on ARES Touch for mobile devices. It is, however, a split market: one the one side, it is a price-sensitive market that tends towards $0; but on the other hand the specialized market is not price-sensitive.
For example, kitchen designers who output for example 800 kitchens a month, where ARES charges euro99 per month -- what Onshape charges. Right now, Graebert specializes in the kitchen market for Germany and Austria. But "from kitchens to bathrooms is not very far; from bathrooms to interior design is not so far," he says.
"We want to take our customers along from desktop to cloud, and not do it instantly, because that costs a lot of money," he says. "Some of our competitors are struggling and going very slow."
Enhancements on mobile currently can be dramatic, whereas on the desktop it is small these days, like a few percent improvement each year.
On Android and iOS
Graebert got an early start in mobile, originally writing a CAD program for Windows CE devices back in 2000. Now it is porting the functions of its ARES desktop program to Android and iOS devices.
More details on subs:
ARES Touch for mobile has three modes:
To encourage free users to pay for the full version, all the commands of the full version are shown but are shown grayed out.
Note that ARES Touch for mobile has many of the APIs found in the desktop, such as LISP, a major failing of Autodesk's mobile apps. Here is a screen grab of the UI of the iOS device. Note that 3D can only be viewed, not edited.
Klaus Vossen, sr product manager from Corel Corp
Dassault may have been the first to license ARES Commander for desktop, Corel was the first to license the mobile version, ARES Touch. Corel licensed ARES five years ago, because its CorelDraw and Corel Designer users need a way to edit CAD drawings.
So, CorelCAD has links to cleanly exchange drawings with the two non-CAD packages. For example, CAD drawings are used in marketing material, technical illustrations, and photo editing. It is extensible through VSTA and LISP.
The mobile version has 25,000 users, and some users ended up buying the desktop version. No surprise, but CorelCAD 2017 is based on ARES 2017, and will be shipped on October 18 -- a month ahead of Graebert!
Second only to AutoCAD
Solidworks has been working with Graebert for six years now, adapting ARES for its own needs under the name of Draftsight. The initial effort was to provide a 2D editor that works directly with DWG files. Over the years, they added functions, some of which are passed back to Graebert for use in ARES -- the two engage in technology transfers.
Draftsight now has 1.3 million active users in 440,000 companies, second in market share behind Autodesk. Except that this growth occurred in just six years. (Elsewhere I heard that there have been nine million downloads of Draftsight, which is available in a free version.) Draftsight is free but there is a paid version that provides a lot more functions.
New in Draftsight 2017:
More features will be announced in the weeks to come.
Andre Neumann, development lead
Here is a list of what's new in the latest release of ARES Command for the desktop:
New attribute editor dialog box in ARES
Using a test suite of 106 drawings ranging from 1MB to 80MB, they...
XTra tools are LISP-based tools and this year are available to Mac and Linux (instead of just Windows):
ARES Commander 2016 ships in November, with three service packs to follow in each quarter (Q1, Q2, Q3)
#Graebert16 on Twitter
All right, here we are in rainy downtown Berlin Germany, in the funkiest hotel ever -- the 25 Hour Hotel in the oddly-named Bikini Building, right next to the money pavilion in the Zoological Garden. You know where we are if you think about the Kaiser William Remembrance Church, the bombed-out cathedral that remains from WWII. The hotel? Think post-modern.
Me and the other media are at the annual meeting of Graebert, called the Graebert Annual Meeting -- third time in a row. The theme of this year's conference is "The ARES Trinity for CAD." This refers to desktop, mobile, and cloud. They are complimentary, but Graebert believes there is a ten-year transition where mobile and cloud predominate in the CAD world. This is different from a company like Autodesk, who thinks cloud needs to be now.
So Graebert offers three products for the three platforms:
Graebert can boast being the first to provide 2D/3D CAD for all platforms in this millennium. I note that, because in the 1980s Autodesk was similar, providing AutoCAD on "all engineering platforms," which in those days meant DOS, CP/M, Unix, and eventually Windows -- but no longer.
Trinity comes from the fact that a single subscription gives you all three products for $250/year -- with the limitation that Kudo is not yet shipping as of today. If you are not on subscription, then you can get a permanent license to ARES for desktop, and a view-and-markup-only version of Touch.
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[Disclosure: Graebert provided me with airfare, accommodation, and some meals.]