Gaudi, Gaudi, Gaudi
Even though I was in Barcelona four nights for a two-day conference, I got to see the city like a tourist only on my last day there. Conferences tend to be morning to late-night events, leaving little time for sightseeing. Which I why I now tack on a extra day.
I had been to the Spanish city once before, and so I know that the only way to visit the place is with your significant other. Touring it as a single is not recommended. The reason: the ramblas. These are the broad walkways that go through parts of the city and along the Mediterranean Sea. They are like freeways for people to ramble along. In the late afternoon and evening, thousands of Barceloneans take to the ramblas. To do this appropriately, you need your sweetheart on your arm.
My wife wanted to see Gaudi; I wanted to show her the ramblas. We did both.
In the morning and afternoon, we saw the famously incompleted Sagrada Família cathedral, Park Güell park, and Casa Batlló -- some of the buildings and facilities design by architect Antonio Gaudi.
In the late afternoon and evening, we went rambling.
Outdoor cafe next to Boqueria Market
Barcelona Travel Tips
Lichtefeld train station, Berlin
Alexander Platz funkturm, built by the former East German government
Hairdresser after hours in north Berlin
Chillin' at my cousin's home, Berlin
Aunts, uncles, and cousins from Canada and Germany get together for dinner
In the villiage of Celle
Becklingen miltary cemetary for Allied troops killed duirng a 1945 battle
Slices and dices
It's getting towards the end of the Bricsys International 2014 conference, and we are being treated to a early preview of the 3D CAD viewer that's being added to Chapoo. The 3D models we are seeing are being streamed from a server from the head office in Belgium (we are in Spain).
The viewer slices the model to see inside, and it also does more than one slice plane -- live sections that can be moved around in real time. Naturaly, there are standard viewpoints, as well as perspective mode. (The programmer is giving the demo, who reports he was writing code for it while sitting in the audience during this conference.)
If you upload a STEP file to Chapoo, it is converted to DWG automatically. Unlike other viewers, like the once from GrabCAD, Chapooo doesn't need to download the entire model before we can view it. It has LOD (level of detail) so that zooming in shows more detail.
The viewer is written with Unity and compiled with Mono. They are waiting for Unity 5, which will publish to WebGL, meaning no plugin needed for Web browsers. It also publishers to mobile devices like Android and iOS.
It takes measurements, and reports areas and volumes. Can choose all similar objects, like cylinders. Can select individual faces and make them transparent -- or even delete faces (just press Del). Will be getting annotations, and annotations for sliced planes.
This technology is not yet available, but is still being developed. "This is just the core technology; we still have to add lots of things, like the mechanical structure tree and BIM-IFC information. I think we can agree the base technology is looking OK!"
Through orange juice
"We have done no investment in mobile," states Bricsys ceo Erik de Keyser categorically. "We are following it; we think it is not yet necessary. We are investing in mobile [project] management through Chapoo, which runs on mobile -- but not [investing] in CAD."
Instead, he introduces to us Orange Juice, who are developers from London England. They have a new approach to the user interface for using CAD software on mobile devices. (I am proud to say that I introduced Orange Juice last year to readers of this blog, which caught the attention of Bricsys and at least one other CAD vendor. See, for example, http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/blog/2014/03/orange-juice-studios-cado-goes-on-kickstarter.html.)
Cofounder Attzaz Rashid tells us that Orange Juice Studios arose out of the frustration that iPads cannot be used effectively for CAD drawing creation. "There are other CAD programs in the mobile space, but I don't think they address the problem of using CAD in a touch environmen," he says.
We are seeing a live demo. The main item is the "virtual mouse" with two buttons, and is patent pending. Left button: performs the current function, such as drawing a line; second button: cancel or switch modes. Along the bottom is the context menu that changes depending on the mode selected along the top. At the right is a keypad, which appears only when needed. Options also appear near where the object is being drawn or edited. File-related functions appear from the left.
There is no limit to the canvas size, and can zoom out to the solar system -- something not possible on other mobileCAD products. File transfer is through Dropbox or email.
More to come
With BricsCAD running on the Mac (and due to be released after the Windows version of V15), we are now seeing that the same 3D modeling for architectural also working on the Mac version. (We need not remind readers that AutoCAD for Mac is feature-incomplete, even in the latest 2015 version released yesterday.) So we are seeing more of the 3D house modeling but now on the Mac.
But what about BIM -- the information that's attached to building model? During lunch, I had the chance to ask ceo Erik de Keyser about this. He agreed that today, we were mostly seeing 3D modeling in BricsCAD BIM, but that there is much more to come in the next 4-6 months. Mr de Keyser describes his version of BIM as "SketchUp for DWG users."
(As of V15, license keys are all-OS keys, so it'll work on Linux, Mac, or Windows.)
Lunch is over, and now Mr de Keyser gives his roadmap for BIM: To turn BricsCAD BIM into actual BIM, the materials database will be added to a later release. The link is through custom objects (not attributes, as I had speculated in another blog post). (More on the use of custom objects below.)
IFC export exists now; IFC import will come in another release; it is being worked on right now. "It would not make sense to write an IFC importer if nothing can be done by BricsCAD with the data," explains Mr de Keyser. BricsCAD will understand BIM data through IFCs: "BIM completeness" is the term being used here to describe BricsCAD BIM.
Mr de Keyser continues: "I am not sure BIM is being adopted because people want to adopt it; they don't love BIM. [During a break, another attendee told me that he knows people who hate using BIM, because of how it restricts their design ideas.] We want to make it better." He makes it clear that BricsCAD will also handle structural, MEP, civil, and GIS elements.
"Architects using DWG may never need SketchUp any longer," he says. Now, SketchUp is cheaper by a few hundred dollars, but works only with ignorant faces -- a serious drawback -- and not solids. So DWG and 3D solids together might make BricsCAD more appealing to architectural offices than SketchUp.
"Our goal is to complete this, and make BricsCAD a BIM platform." He hopes third-party developers to help add to the BIM capabilities. But he has this warning: we cannot wait forever, and so if necessary we will act [if third-party devs do not].
Bricsys is setting itself up to make plays all these areas:
His conclusion: "We will start where the projects start: intuitive modeling. We will work more forward faster than anyone else, as we have the interface in place."
Now someone (sorry, didn't get the name) from SimpleBim of Finland showing how the BricsCAD model looks and can have data attached to elements. "Imagine the SimpleBim functionality integrated into BricsCAD," he says.
BricsCAD model in SimpleBim software
APIs for BIM
BricsCAD has the key components needed for BIM modeling, we learn next from cto Luc De Batselier:
Parametrics has more use than just doors and windows, we are told. "We think we can use them for components, instead of dynamic blocks -- which have their own drawbacks." For example, dynamic blocks work well only in 2D, whereas parametric components in BricsCAD are true 3D.
Other key components already available in BricsCAD:
BricsCAD recognizes walls from their geometry; it also recognizes connected walls, so that walls can be moved connectedly. This is important for imported geometry, and if they are modeled in a normal way, then BricsCAD will also recognize the elements.
The technical approach: "We have deliberately design BricsCAD BIM to avoid the use of the command line as much as possible, and avoid use of settings," we are being told. "We extended the OPM API to handle BIM, and now there is a new C++ API that offers more possibilities -- and it is multi-platform (it is not tied to COM, and so is usable on Mac and Linux).
About BIM in DWG: "The word 'custom objects' was mentioned, which only is used to store extra data in DWG's dictionaries. We use only native entities in drawings, like native 3D solids and blocks. Native entities are also only used for 2D generated drawings; no hassles with proxies or whatever."
What is meant about parametrics: "It is based on our constraint technology, a technology that is going further than history-based modeling or parametric change engines. Our approach offers greater technology and freedom, although not everything is there yet -- such as cyclic conditions. We have constraints possibilities that other systems do not have, such as inequalities."
The API plan: "BIM API = BricsCAD/DWG API + extensions, and multiplatform. Already available are the modeler, Quad cursor, C++ OPM, and 2D constraints. But that is not enough. The next steps are 3D constraints-parameters-expressions, pparametric components, IFC streaming, more database connections, and collision detection."
Mr Luc De Batselier concludes, "This is a logical first step. There are things we have to focus on in the next months."
From the inventor of Microstation TriForma
This is the time a lot of us have been waiting for. What will Bricsys show us in the area of BIM. First off, a movie that shows now new AEC software constructs buildings using direct modeling, and a lot of the new functions we saw earlier today in the V15 announcement. So far, we are seeing just an architectural application of solid modeling -- more than what Dassault seems to have been able to do to date.
BIM is limited to IFC export. However, DWG is used as the base file format, and so it is more compatible than Revit.
"Maybe a disappointment for some," Pieter Clarysse, our demo jock starts. "Not a lot of toolbars or commands for BIM. But we wanted to keep things simple."
For instance, he uses PolySolid to create 3D solid walls. Well solids, not walls, the demo jock reminds us. So, how will he show the characteristics of the walls, such as insulation, studs, gyproc, paint color, R-value... ?
The Quad cursor is well used to modify the wall lengths and positions, because the Quad can be customized to react to specific entities in specific workspaces. (This means the Quad would react differently to polysolids in sheet metal workspace than in BIM workspace.)
Press Ctrl while lengthening a polysolid to make it jump to the nearest wall. To connect walls (to connect two arbitrary solids), use the new command (didn't catch its name); use the new widget to determine which kind of wall intersection to apply.
Roofs members, for example, make good use of the new lock angle tracking function, both to define the slope of the roof and its overhang. Now we are seeing how roofs can intersect: with the new command for connecting two arbitrary solids.
"Windows and doors are from DWG libraries, nothing special going on," says Mr Clarysse. "There is no dialog box for creating types of windows, but with parametrics you can create anything."
To insert a round window, he uses the BIM_SUBTRACT layer. The window is defined by a round cylinder that creates the hole. Another example, he says, would be a window with tilted glass. To do this, he opens a new drawing window to define the window, and then insert it as a block in the wall. Glass is transluscent. Drawing plans can be generated from the 3D model. Use parametrics to open and close doors from the Properties palette.
Well, we are not seeing BIM here, as the walls are only polysolids with holes for doors and windows. The demo jock reminds us that we need to first create the 3D model before adding information. He clicks a button to add information to the walls -- through attributes? -- such as their building material. The walls look no different, as they are still polysolids. Properties are reported and modified by the Properties palette.
"So now the second life starts, let's export this drawing to IFC," he says. IFC is the format used to exchange data about buildings between different programs. He opens the IFC file in SimpleBIM, and it displays the object names, properties, and 3D view of the house.
"We cannot complete BIM on our own; we are cooperating with two others on the data to store," he concludes.
"We have a slightly different view from our competitors," adds Erik de Keyser. More details after lunch, we are promised: their BIM strategy.
For Windows, Linux, and now Mac
Bricsys ceo Erik de Keyser introducing day 2 of the Bricsys International Conference
The new day is starting, and now its time to hear what's new in the next release of BricsCAD, V15. Hans de Backer is head of product development, and is in charge of the core code that makes up the CAD program.
What's New? BricsCAD V15
Under the hood, he updated wxWidgets from 2.9 to 3.0 (primarily to support the Mac version), Teigha 3.9 to 4.0 (Bricsys supplies 1000 to 1500 improvements to it), and RedSDK from 3.2 to 3.4 (rendering engine). Natalia from Russia is recognized at the key programmer for the core; during a break yesterday, she told me she has worked on BricsCAD now for 14 years.
Hans de Backer is Bricsys head of product development
In the user interface, the ribbon is new, and can be customized. The workspace is now saved to the CUI file, unlike AutoCAD; use the WsAutoSave setting to determine if this happens. Document tabs let us quickly switch between drawings.
MText now has a ruler for setting tabs, margins, and indents. Clipboard text can be pasted directly into mtext.
Tracking towards snap points; lock tracking line and lock direction angle; lock dynamic UCS with Shift key.
Tables support simple formulae, such as summation.
The Copy command now repeats.
Grip editing on hatches and edges of polylines.
Dynamic block grip editing: point xy, linear, polar, rotation, flip, and visiblity.
Dynamic dimensions for rectangles, mtext, boxes, cylinders, wedges, spheres, and cones
Real-time boundary detection, currently mainly used in 3D (for finding extrusion areas) but will be added to 2D
Fade locked layers and xref drawings
Layer previous for previous layer modes
Look-from widget to view 3D drawings from iso and regular viewpoints
Warnings when attached files are missing or modified externally; new variables for xrefs, images, and PDFs; set duration for notifications
Perspective views improved, such as with a new horizon; zoom to extents in perspective mode; and more; see figure below:
Printing has the None printer device for drawings set up for printers that are not available; this device supports all formats; useful for exporting to PDF, since it is not limited by paper sizes.
PDF printing improved, which Bricsys sees as the future. Avoids the problems created by printer drives. (Google uses PDF for printing.)
Web map services offers dynamic map underlays <- this is currently work in progress, because this is a new subject matter for Bricsys
Isolate objects with new HideObjects command; or hide all objects except for the selected one; and then unisolate. Use new ObjectIsolationMode to keep objects hidden for the next drawing session
New selection modes: select edges, faces, or boundaries only
New widget that will be used for more and more commands. Currently for selection modes and polysolids. Yes, there is a new Polysolid command, but unlike AutoCAD, BricsCAD has the Separate option for making individual walls; the Dynamic options sets height and width on the fly.
New widget that exposes the uses of the Shift and Ctrl keys
600 materials added to the rendering engine.
We are now seeing the new commands in action. In the image below, we see edge detection locating the 2D wall outlines, the polysolid command creating 3D walls, and the new options widgets (at the bottom).
Sorry about the blurry image; the conference center's projector is old and blurry.
Notice the new widget at the bottom of the screen for revealing Ctrl-key functions
The demo jock loads a multi-hundred MB image file, which we see load in seconds; he says it would take several minutes to load in AutoCAD. Exporting the drawing as a 27-page PDF, the resulting file is 55MB; in AutoCAD, the same drawing exported as PDF is nearly 1GB in size. The PDF driver is part of BricsCAD, and is not a third-party one.
Opening the 27-page PFD files in Acrobat, the BricsCAD-generated pages switch instantly; the AutoCAD-produced file slowly displays each page.
Maps loaded from the map server are available in common mapping coordinate systems, such as CRS84. The selected map is loaded over the Internet, and then placed in the BricsCAD drawing. Can place multiple maps in a single drawing, each on its own layer. Remember to use the same projection system! Can add as many maps as we want; the maps are updated dynamically as we pan and zoom.
Two map layers inserted in a BricsCAD drawing: red and yellow
The map function is a work in progress, and more features will be added during the life of V15. Bricsys normally releases a new update every few weeks during the year between major updates.
Now we are seeing dynamic tracking. Hold down the Shift key to lock a tracking line; enter a distance or project any point, which will be projected perpendicularly. (I wish I could show photos, but the image is too blurry.) Similarly, you can lock the angle of a trracking line. AutoCAD does it differently, he says, "And we don't understand why."
High-resolution materials are also downloaded from the internet, for the new rendering engine. Problem is, this won't work when there is no Internet connection. This is, however, only the first step. Next stage is to allow users to specify their own materials "based on DWG."
Scrolling through materials for 3Dk renderings
During the Q&A, some attendees asked for better display quality of 2D images. The demo jock showed two new variables that add anti-aliasing to 3D and rendered display modes.
Another complained of the slow speed. According to his benchmarks, BricsCAD is 4x slower than AutoCAD. The speed is a function of many variables, such as graphics boards, hardware, drivers, and entities in the drawing. The complainent is offered the opportunity to provide his drawings to Bricsys so that they can analyse where the slowdown occurs.
Another asked for creating dyanmic blocks. This is a difficult problem, says Erik de Keyser, and they have some plans for their own kinds of parametric blocks. Part of the problem, he hints, lies with the APIs provided by the ODA. I get the feeling that an AutoCAD-style dynamic block editor might not be in BrisCAD for a long time, if at all. AutoCAD's dynamic block editor is like its own entire miniature CAD system.
The first cheer of BIC
We are now into a trio of third-party developers, who are pushing BricsCAD to its limits. First up is Wildeman, a German developer of land development software. They got the first cheer of this conference by showing real time rainfall and water flow on a DTM [digital terrain model] file.
As the developer said, "Doing just plain DTM is pretty old by now." See photo below.
Blue dots falling from the sky represents rainfall, for which a variety of parameters can be determined, such as rain density, height of clouds. Blue dots on the ground is the water movement. The demo jock showed how he then designed the water retention pond, and how BrisCAD animates the filling of the pond
Next up, Owen Wengerd, who manages the OpenDCL project and also has his own company, Manusoft. (He is also a contributor to WorldCAD Access.) Today at BIC, he is showing his own installer for installing LSP and BRx apps in Windows-based BricsCAD environments.
He is giving a live demo of the five steps to create the installer:
It works with 32- and 64-bit versions of BricsCAD, and goes back to V9 (as well as AutoCAD 2000). It also installs the unistaller.
CGS Plus d.o.o. from Slovenia is showing off their software for civil engineering, architecture, GIS< and ITS. They started in 1990 with AutoCAD Release 9 and by 2005 were Preferred Industry Partners of AutoCAD Civil 3D. "We then had some tough years, as Autodesk wants to own our space," we hear from the presenter.
So in 2012, they ported their software to BricsCAD and now are doing much better. "We are speeding up [financially]." They have now 4,000 customers in 50 countries.
He lists the Application Developer's Wishlist:
During a demo, we see realtime movement of vehicles to find horizontal and vertical clearances with their AutoPath software. It works on BricsCAD V12 through to the new V15. They ported 120 ARx routines, ten .Net ones and some LISP routines from AutoCAD to BricsCAD smoothly. "We can handle roads longer than 300kn, which Civil 3D fails at."
PS: I've now heard from several third-party developers that they find BrisCAD runs faster than AutoCAD.
In 2002, Bricsys pivoted and based BricsCAD on IntelliCAD. A decade later, after some issues, they left the ITC, and now program their CAD program independently – like Graebert goes with ARES.
Erik de Keyser is ceo of Bricsys, and these are the notes I took of his keynote address:
“It is our impression that Autodesk is defocusing on AutoCAD,” Eric de Keyser told attendees this morning at Bricsys International Conference 2014. And so applications are disconnected from the core program. Autodesk applications are getting new functions not reflected in the core program; if the core program is not developing, then the rest of the market can take over.
By 2020, DWG will still be used, but is dying. Five years in technology is a long time. But Bricsys is very determined to solve the problem. “We are convinced we can take DWG further than it is today. We add smart behavior and real intelligence to DWG.”
“We want to eliminate settings-itis, where more and more settings are added to a program. After all, we are living in the smartphone era.” For example, dynamic blocks are a good idea, but Bricsys plans to go further. They want to add applications to their cloud offerings. They plan a mobile .dwg app. Whereas Autodesk is imposing the cloud on its customers, BricsCAD is making it an option.
Beyond the product, “we add the best user experience,” he siad. (As a beta tester, I have to agree that Bricsys has the best bug reporting system – and I am someone who has reported over 150 bugs.) “This is not something that is developed in one or two years.”
The best part of being a third-party developer is that Bricsys does not charge for being a developer.
“There are 12 million DWG users who could have an interest in our story,” he concludes. The problem over at Autodesk is that their major vertical apps are somewhat or largely incompatible with AutoCAD – Revit, 3D studio, Inventor, etc. In contrast, Bricsys is designing third-party apps that store all data in DWG files.
(Point of semantics: companies like Bricys print the DWG format as “.dwg”. They use this file extension format to avoid a potential law suit from Autodesk, who has been trying – and failing – to trademark DWG [all capital letters], and along the way has been suing companies who used "DWG" legally. Hence: .dwg.)
[Disclosure: Bricsys paid for half my airfare, my hotel accommodation, and some meals.]
Hello from Barcelona
Okay, we’re ready to start covering the annual Bricsys International Conference here in warm Barcelona by the Mediterranean Sea.
The theme of this conference is Choice, the choice being between BricsCAD and some other CAD package that has millions of users (no, not Graebert ARES). The slogan “I Choose BricsCAD” is everywhere.
Just before the keynote began, I happened to be speaking with a customer from California, who does roadway design. He wants to have CAD licensed for every workstation, but it was too expensive to license Autodesk’s Civil 3D on them all.
Autodesk suggested that he put AutoCAD on some stations. As he looked into this, he looked further, and discovered BricsCAD, and so saved . (He uses my ebook, “Inside BricsCAD.”) But it was not just the expense of licenses. Bug reports are ignored for years. And dealing with Autodesk generally is unpleasant, he told me.
So now they have some licenses of Civil 3D (“because America runs on Civil 3D,” he said), and the rest of BricsCAD. The biggest problem has been in the area of dynamic blocks: not that BricsCAD can’t create them (the design firm has Civil 3D for this task) but that BricsCAD in the past was not able to manipulate dynamic blocks well enough. He hires programmers to fix the little problems.
For the future, his hope is to replace Civil 3D entirely with road design software from Australia, which runs on BricsCAD.
[Press F5 to refresh this page for more coverage.]
While in Berlin this weekend, the city was having its annual festival of lights, where buildings are lit up in colors, with LEDS, or with images from giant projectors. Energy problems? No problem! Here are soome of the photos I shot.
The "Dom" Cathedral
Inside the Holocaust Memorial
All of these photos were taken handheld with my Canon SX280HS point'n shoot camera. Thank you to Robert Graebert for giving us the evening tour of Berlin.
Coding LISP on a Samsung
Graebert GmbH is not just porting an entire CAD system to Android. They're also throwing in two programming environments: LISP interpreted programming language and C++ Tx API. I'm sitting on a programming seminar on how to work with it. The goal is that desktop add-ons can simply copied to Android tablets, albeit with a few caveats.
At this point, LISP is largely complete, but does not include VL-COM functions (because they require Windows common object model) or DLG dialog builder. It does, however, include DCL dialog box description language.
Teaching programming for Android-based tablets
We are seeing showing us how LSP files are kept in a specific folder on the Android. Using Dropbox, developers can ensure that LISP code they develop on the desktop appears automatically in the Android's folder. Now, you don't need to write LISP on desktop: here is a text editor on Android for editing some LSP code:
Editing LISP code on an Android tablet
As for Tx (the OpenDesign Alliance's version of ARx), ARES Touch supports the entire ODA Teigha SDK, but only partial support for Qt. This partial support is because Graebert recommends that you use Java for the UI, which looks nicer (and more Android-native) than Qt. Graebert uses this API to create ARES Touch -- makes me wonder why no other "big" CAD vendor has released something like this.
Now, if you write only for Windows, then your desktop code might not work well on Android; if you write for Linux-Mac-Windows, then your code should work fine -- no need to change anything. Even custom entities work.
And 6,454,656 downloads, precisely
Here we are at the second day of the Graebert Annual Meeting. This is a bit of an odd name, considering this the first time the CAD media is invited. Graebert has three developer locations, and so once a year they all come together in Berlin for a week of meetings. After a few years, someone had the idea to also invite a few customers, to get their feedback on the ARES and SiteMaster programs. And this year, four CAD journalists were invited to join in the last two days.
Today we moved from the hidden theatre to the Graebert offices, which are located a few stone throws from the famous KuDam shopping district.
This morning we are learning about the advances of DraftSight. Mark Lyons, DraftSight senior user experience specialist with Dassault Systemes, tells us that it has become a runaway hit. He gives us , this morning's shock announcement that there are now nearly three million registered users of the CAD program.
We had heard one story about why DraftSight is popular. A construction company in Columbia is mostly running DraftSight, and has all its contractors running the free version of DraftSight. The reason: they didn't want anyone running illegal copies of AutoCAD.
(With Autodesk killing of perpetual licenses in the next two years, I figure we'll hear a lot more transitions from AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT to DraftSight, ARES, BricsCAD, IntelliCAD, and all of the others that now are just as capable for many design tasks.)
The other big news is plugins for DraftSight. This is not new news, but a relaunch. This time around, Dassault is behind it, because they are looking for new ways to monetize DraftSight. Cedric Desbordes, head of Graebert sales and marketing, says there will be lots of marketing of plug-ins:
The breadth of marketing plug-ins impresses me, especially after my poor experience with the estore of another CAD vendor.
Another way Dassault is monetizing DraftSight: the Enterprise version is going up in price, from $250 to $355; it requires a minimum purchase of five licenses, and is procured from resellers. The 5-license minimum was a problem for small companies, so Dassault added the Pro version at $250 , bought online.
For Third-Party Developers
For developers, there are two approaches:
Free plug-ins: developer pays an annual fixed fee
Not-free plug-ins: developer shares revenue with Dassault
The free version of DraftSight can run plug-ins, but only those certified by the estore; it cannot be used to develop plug-ins. Paid versions of DraftSight can run uncertified plug-ins, i.e., those developed in-house.
Plug-ins use a brand-new API written in C++ and developed by Dassault for DraftSight. This is not a copy of an API used by Autodesk or Dassault or anyone else.
To expand the market for plug-ins, the exact same API will be available in ARES Commander 2015 and CorelCAD 2015.
Graebert is going on a world tour to introduce the new APIs for developers:
by Norman Roith of ING Network
Norman Roith is formerly with Genius, which was bought by Autodesk for its 2D mechanical software, now AutoCAD Mechanical. He asks the question, “Is 2D mechanical a dinosaur or a competitive advantage?” He shows us a hand-drawn sheetmetal drawing made 60 years ago.
(This talk is a lead up to a new product to be announced later this afternoon.)
Who Uses 2D CAD?
He asks, “Isn’t the world 3D?” Why do we use “stupid” 2D?
People from technical sales of industrial equipment, designers, and factory layout planners still use 2D. Technical sales guys start with sketches of concepts to make a sale, and to sketch out process flows for custom machinery – there is nothing out of the box.
For designers of industrial equipment, they often retrofit old products, which involves existing 2D drawings; same for servicing of the machinery. For example, when toast goes into and out of the slots of a toaster, the motion is 2D. Same for the motion of a car door opening: 2D.
For factory floor planners, they mostly manage data from manufacturers and other suppliers, none of which is associative. Mr Roith goes on to give many examples where 2D is still used, based on his experience consulting for automotive and other firms.
Of course, 3D models are still needed for people like in the purchasing department (who like pretty pictures). But engineers needs to see things in 2D and even 1D. Many designs consist of rectangles, and rectangles move instantly around 2D drawings.
(Miscellaneous thoughts: Sales people are given libraries so that they are forced to sell only what is available; without this restriction, sales people will sell anything! The goal in most designs is to use 70% of existing components.)
He gives the example of figuring out how to fit a headrest manufacturing line onto a truck for delivery. It took one designer a full day to work it out in 3D; doing the same job in 2D took two hours. “I don’t spend all day at it; I get it done in one or two hours.”
Drawbacks to using 2D: does not look “modern”; non-technical people have difficulty understanding 2D.
All 2D commands and 3D viewing
Running full CAD on a mobile device is not new for Graebert GmhH. Company owner Wilfried Graebert in 2000 asked his son, “Can’t CAD run on Windows CE?”
“Of course,” said his son, and wrote it for his Master’s thesis. Not even Autodesk ever did this. And so Graebert had the first DWG-based mobile CAD that is known as SiteMaster and is popular with surveyors. It turned into a service business for Graebert under another company name.
The most recent version is SiteMaster BIM, which exports drawings in IFC format. This year, Graebert ports ARES to Android 4.0 and up, so that CAD can run on lightweight tablets with long battery life. The touch version has a different interface so that touch works better. But the command structure is the same, so there is little in the way of a learning curve. It works on phones, but Graebert recommends 7” or larger.
In addition, Touch has LISP and C++ API (Tx), making it easy to migrate code from desktop to the Android OS.
There are barriers:
We are now being demoed it on an 8.4” Galaxy Tab S, with an HDMI adapter to display on the room’s projector.
ARES Touch starts in file explorer, includes some 2D and 3D demo files, but also uses Dropbox for file transfer.
Once a drawing is open, the top has common tools. A popout displays all commands, and a command-line interface. Toolbar on the side has groups of commands. The toolbar changes as you change modes to display the most likely commands – just like the old sidebar menus from AutoCAD v1! For example, choose text and text editing options show up in the sidebar.
Along the bottom are options for the current command; along the top is the user input area. When touching the screen, an offset bird’s-eye view enlarges the area under the finger.
Dialog boxes are displayed as side-out layouts. OLE is not supported, just like Mac and Linux don't have it. The test drawing Budwiser.dwg works correctly, except for OLE and one text color is wrong. Even clipped viewports work. Tap and hold to create selection windows.
All 2D, but only views 3D (and renders them). Intitally ships with 150 commands; will add more Google Drive file cloud integration, email, and USB to come. Loads and runs LISP (and AutoLISP) files. "No artificial limitation" to DWG file size; it depends on the memory present in the tablet, which tends to be between 1GB and 3GB.
Install size 40MB -- which includes most of ARES and Teigha in a compact file; reads and writes native DWG 2013/4/5, unlike some other mobile CAD apps, which sometimes use proprietary formats. Ships beta in November with ARES Commander.
Graebert says that SiteMaster shows that there is a huge market for portable CAD, and so
This being Berlin, maybe the headline should read “Love Blogging”
Alright, so here we are tucked away in a small theater behind a room at the back of a craft store (The Snuggery). This is the Charlottenburg district of Berlin, part of the former West Berlin, and so holding a product launch in this secret cinema feels all very Spy vs Spy.
Wilfried Graebert is the CEO of Graebert GhbH, a software firm that began as an Autodesk distributor for Europe. I won’t go into all the history here, but now Graebert is one of the largest DWG-compatible CAD software companies in the world. They have operated under the radar: 7 million downloads of CAD software based on the ARES OEM engine, three million licensed. Them’s AutoCAD-sized numbers, and very few know that Graebert is #2 after Autodesk. CAD software based on OEM includes DraftSight and CorelCAD.
“Most 2D and 3D CAD packages now do the job. Most new features are just for a fraction of users,” says Mr Graebert. This year, his emphasis is on stability; next year, on mobile CAD apps.
Cedric Desbordes is head of sales and marketing, and is reminding us how tablets are overwhelming sales of desktop/laptops, and how Android is overwhelming sales of iOS devices (outside of USA and Japan). This is the reason Graebert ported its ARES CAD software to Android first. 40 million professional users of Android tablets for work, not including BYOD uses [bring your own device]. The biggest maker of tablets, Samsung, is pushing its stylus on its Note series; as well, Microsoft’s Surface supports styli. As well, they (along with Apple, it is rumoured) are shipping 12” tablets for “professional use.”
It it normal for people today to have multiple devices in different form factors. As a result, Graebert feels that users today have these new questions:
Mobile CAD, for Graebert, is not just CAD running on mobile devices. It means making CAD itself mobile, moving from platform to platform. Tablets will not, however, replace desktop computers – in the near future.
This is Graebert’s vision of “mobile” CAD:
To enable this, Graebert offers the cross-device licensing:
Once ARES Touch becomes available, you can buy it from Google Play for $250 and also get ARES Commander for PC/Mac/Linux.
Oh, and ARES Touch will support some of the desktop APIs, such as LISP and TX (ARX).
[Disclosure: Graebert provided me with hotel accommodation, covered half of my airfare, and provided some meals.]
Conferences for ARES and BricsCAD
Starting tomorrow and going on for the next week, I'm at two CAD conferences in two countries:
Grabert Annual Meeting is in Berlin, Germany on October 9 and 10. This is the first year the event is open to the media, and here they will be launching their new ARES Touch software for Android tablets. And they promise a surprise announcement.
Bricsys International Conference is the following week in Barcelona, Spain on October 14 and 15. Here they will be showing off their new BIM software, and another software package I am not at liberty to disclose, yet.
Look for my reporting of both conferences right here on WorldCAD Access, as well as on Twitter by following @upfrontezine.
[Disclosure: Graebert and Bricsys are providing me with air transportation, hotel accommodation, and some meals.]
The cameras of recent Android phones can take 360-degree photographs. But when viewed by software that don't handle spherical displays, the image is distorted at the top and bottom, kind of the way that maps of the world exaggerate the Arctic and Antarctic regions. (So, no, Greenland is not the largest land mass on Earth.)
Sometimes the distortion works, as it did in this photo I took of our cabin atop the sandstone cliffs that border much of Galiano Island:
When viewing the photo, keep in mind that the left and right edges meet, and that the bottom is horribly distorted: to take the photo, I stood on a small outcrop of sandstone -- not the massive expanse shown by the flattened representation of the 360-degree image.
upFront.eZine is back from its annual summer vacation with 2000 words covering last week's Siggraph 2014 conference. I met with 13 companies in 1.5 days:
You can read all about the business of CAD at www.upfrontezine.com/2014/upf-827.htm.
Siggraph 2014 in Vancouver, Canada
Siggraph 2014 took place in the spectacular ocean-side Vancouver Convention Center
Siggraph is the annual computer graphics show, and last week it was in Vancouver, Canada -- about a 1.5-hour drive from my home. When in Vancouver, the show tends to be smaller, as American vendors and visitors find it inconvenient travelling to a foreign country. (One New York editor complained to me that she couldn't find a direct flight to here, and that the flights were long; I responded that I endure that with almost all my trips the USA.) Indeed, I saw no coverage of Siggraph in the mainstream tech media.
Now, "computer graphics" at Siggraph refers the hardware and software that generate movies and games; it doesn't really encompass CAD, except peripherally. And so it's a stretch for me to find stuff to which my readers can relate. Nevertheless, 13 vendors invited me to meet with them over two days, and here is some of what I found. (I report more on Siggraph in my upFront.eZine newsletter today.)
The Still-Illusive 3D
Three years ago at Siggraph 2011, the vendors and their analyst enablers were gaga over the prospect of the juicy profits they anticipating savoring: entertainment was going from 2D to all-3D, and so there were new 3D tvs to be sold, 3D production techniques to ramp up, 3D-producing hardware and software to be marketed -- at much higher costs, naturally, because 3D is more more than 2D.
This did not occur, particularly. Consumers had just finished their upgrades from CRT to LCD tvs, and so weren't in the mood for another splurge. Plus, wearing those 3D glasses looked so dumb. No 3D gold rush.
So while there still was 3D at this year's show, the bigger story was mobile, which I report on in upFront.eZine. Here are some of the most interesting other things I experienced at Siggraph:
Putterfish is an interactive 3D viewer that looks like a fortune teller's crystal ball. It consists of a sphere about 1.5 feet in diameter that sits on a mammoth computer case. Its surface is touch sensitive; projectors inside the sphere project 3D images; infra-red sensors (made by Viecon) are mounted high on walls and sense motion; and you wear Viecon's 3D glasses with small white balls that the sensors track.
You put on the polarizing glasses to see the model in 3D; nothing new there. As you touch the surface, however, you manipulate the 3D model (rotating and zooming it). As you walk around the sphere, the model rotates with you. A larger version is available as an inflatable ball. The multi-user version dispenses with the touch interface; users wear the googles and walk around the sphere. The system needed two computers (or was it three?) to generate the imagery and control the cameras.
Even crazier, another booth offered the same idea, but using external projectors displaying images on a white cube, which are seen in 3D using the mandatory polarizing glasses. I did not have the opportunity to test it out.
I had a preview of Thinkbox's point cloud processing software last year at Siggraph; this year it is announced, and next year it ships. Thinkbox wants to be the biggest, fastest processor of point cloud data for the CAD industry, and they spent a whole year talking to people who work with such data, before starting to program. Which means the software has some pretty nice functions
The Sequoia engine is based on their particle physics code that generates artificial water, clouds, sand, and other effects for movies and games. Nevertheless, they claim that Sequoia is capable of the following:
The points can be meshed; colors are captured, if recorded; 360-degree photos can be applied as textures. ThinkBox is working on mesh editing so that 3D printing is more reliable (like thickening walls, closing holes).
While they had a computer the size of large suitcase powering the demo, they claim the software runs on portable devices, like Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet. The number of points that can be handled is greatly reduced, of course, like down to 50 million, and processing is slower.
Vancouver Film School
On Wednesday morning of Siggraph, AMD sponsored a tour of Vancouver Film School, whose brand-new, 250,000-sq ft campus is located just ten walking minutes from the ocean-front Vancouver Convention Center. The for-profit school offers one-year programs that focus on outcomes: animation, make-up, stage building, filming, and so on. For instance, students in gaming have to produce one level of a computer game, those in animation a three-minute animation. New classes begin every two months, and teaching is updated as quickly as technology matures.
Managing director Marty Hasselbach told us VFS has 775 identical HP Z420 workstations, which recently replaced Z400s. (HP, because Dell a number of years ago dropped the ball on support.) Each is equipped with an AMD FirePro W7000 graphics board and two monitors. (AMD, because the school found them faster than equivalent boards from nVidia.) The new location and the six satellite campuses are connected with fiber networking. The school does not want its paying student to have to wait.
Semi-live coverage from San Diego
Tuesday I was in San Diego for HP's North American launch event for two new large-format printers. I had taken along a new portable PC but it didn't work out so well on its maiden voyage. Brief explanation: a tablet with separate keyboard doesn't work well on one's knees; HP didn't provide the media with tables on which to do our work, and so I was reduced to recording my impressions by tweeting on my smartphone.
Here's what I tweeted:
@upfrontezine: HP event is being held in San Diego because this is where they began development of thermal inkjet. Print headquarters is now in Spain.
Two HP techies demonstrate how their newly-developed pagewide inkjet printhead works
HP's new large format printer does page-wide prints, with a stationary inkjet print bar made of 200,000 nozzles. Want to disrupt LED printer
HP says its new pagewide inkjet printers are 2x faster than LED printers, and cheaper to operate. And, it prints color as fast as monochrome
Rendering engine has to control over 200,000 print heads simultaneously in HP's new printers. Printheads are 5"-wide interchangeable modules
Pagewide printers, however, won't ship until [second half of] 2015.
New security function in HP printers: self-encrypted hard drive that cannot be read outside the printer. AES 256. Also, PIN protected jobs.
New T3500 printer from HP uses Intel i5 CPU to process data 8x faster. Prints a D-size page in 21 seconds. New ink color is real red.
In North & South America HP is neck and neck with Epson, selling 12,100 DesignJets in 2013. High-value customers use 14x more ink than average
HP new polymer ink lasts 200 years. New printers run 50% faster, so fast that they had to add diagonal anti-sway bars.
HP also introducing SmartStream Pre-Flight software that checks for print errors like missing fonts. $1,295 seems expensive. Ships June 30.
HP is not ready to talk about 3D printing here at its DesignJet T3500/7200 launch event in San Diego.
More coverage on HP and the technology behind its pagewide printheads in next Monday's upFront.eZine.
A photo taken by my dad in 1958. I am guessing that the location is Hamburg or Amsterdam airport, back in the days when the only security needed was chain link fencing. I am no airplane expert, but it seems that the tri-rudder aircraft is a Lockheed Constellation -- variously described as the fastest propeller airplane, the most beautiful aircraft, but ultimately brought down by Boeing's 707.
Solid Edge University 2014
When it was announced that Solid Edge runs on Surface Pro-class tablets, I got a bit excited. No major CAD vendor has adapted their software specifically for Windows 8.x Metro mode or for tablet computers -- seemingly a rebellious kick in the teeth for former overlord Microsoft -- (except for Autodesk, who added a single button to exit touched selection mode), and so I was pretty interested to see what Siemens PLM Software had pulled off.
Well, it wasn't so impressive. As the photo shows (snapped from the giant projection screen), Solid Edge works properly -- but not specially -- on a Windows 8 tablet. What's happened here is that Siemens PLM made sure that the software functions with the touch-aware operating system. Most CAD packages that I have tested are the same; just a few don't work with touch input.
Solid Edge works the way we would expect software to work on a touch screen. We got to see Solid Edge responding to multi-touch gestures, such as zoom and rotate, as well as to the input from the pen. Use of the pen is important to get past the fat-finger problem.
(The 3D mouse you see glowing blue on the left belonged to a laptop used for other demos, not this one. Is a 3D mouse still need in the touch screen era?)
So, what would a touchscreen-optimized CAD program look like? Moment of Inspiration is one that was designed from the ground up for touch input: get the 30-day trial from http://moi3d.com/.
Reminder: "Surface" tablets run Windows RT, which is not much good for anything; "Surface Pro" tablets run Windows 8.x, which is compatible with all your Windows software, but costs twice as much as the RT version.
Future Hardware and Its Implication
Jon Peddie began this roundtable discussion by describing how GPU server farms work, which can time slice. For instance, CAD users tend not to be very efficient, spending much of the day not exercising the CAD program. While the GPU server is not serving you, it is kept busy with another user, then another...
Henri Jensen of Luxion responded that the desktop keeps makes advances that causes cloud-pushed raster always seem like it is lagging. He pointed out that just yesterday Mr Peddie boasted about his office setup has two 4K monitors and another one that's vertically oriented -- "I am bathed in pixels," as he put it. Mr Jensen pointed out that that kind of data cannot be pushed from the cloud. Mr Peddie responded that a new video compression standard just being ratified now will handle this kind of huge raster stream and -- furthermore -- that Mike Riddle is working with a firm that can send realtime images of solid models from Virginia to Arizona with 100 millisecond latency. He admitted this is too slow for gaming, but fast enough for CAD users.
Now an argument is emerging between the techno-optimists and the techno-pessimists over whether the general population -- or even software -- can make use of things like the 5,000+ GPUs in the latest highest-end graphics board from AMD (nee ATi). Mr Jensen points out that CUDA is specific to just NVidia boards, while AMD and Apple support OpenCL kind of, but it requires that source code be sent, which can be intercepted by the nefarious.
There may be huge advances in compute power possible, but the practical problem we face is that it is taking longer to design new chips (with ever smaller spacing between chip components) and there is even the bigger hurdle in the cost of producing new chips.
"In the future, we will discover new problems that we don't know about today."
Each day, COFES begins with a keynote address, of course, like any other conference.
But then things change. Most of the first full day consists of "technology suites." Eight hotel room suites are hosted by a vendor or analyst. But they are not allowed to talk about their products; instead, they are to engage visitors to the suite in a conversation about an industry issue.
Engineering Software Can't Afford to be Aloof from Politics
For instance, one I attended was on politics and engineering software, hosted by Steve Wolfe, the man who launched the very first newsletter for the CAD industry, many decades ago. He began with the problem of software patents; he feels that there is so much competition that programmer will come up with new functions -- even if there were no patents to protect the ideas. He mentioned the Auto-Dimension troll who is making life miserable for all major CAD vendors.
The conversation switch internationally, however, due to the presence of a software developer from Russia. It is common for North American CAD vendors to outsource programming to workers in Russia; might the current Ukraine spat escalate to the point that such offshoring work become illegal in the USA -- as it currently is with Iran?
From my experienece working with firms in China and Russia, I have come to understand that the problem we have with these countries is solely in the realm of the politicians -- which we should ignore, and so deal with our counterparts as professionals and as friends.
Geometric Modeling Kernels Circa 2010
Another session I helped host, as the official Russian host was unsure of his English. C3D Labs is a branch of ASCON Group of St Petersburg. ASCON produces the biggest selling Russian CAD system KOMPAS-3D. It uses a home-grown kernel called C3D that's now 15 years mature; as of last year, it is being marketed for anyone to use by C3D Labs.
The topic of the session was not the C3D kernel but what a modern kernel should look like. As host Oleg Zykov reminded us, the dominant kernels ACIS and Parasolid are still written for desktop computers; today, however, we have young developers fooling around with iPhones and Android tablets, thinking of new ways to manipulate and visualize data. (I've see one such program that for iPads that I cannot yet talk about: it is impressive and is programmed by one guy.)
The conversation by the group naturally moved to issues presented by the cloud, and then moved further into the great data translation problem. Mr Zykov asked if a single file format would solve the translation problem, and the answer from the audience was an emphatic No! Partly because for technical reasons (ACIS and Parasolid used 2D curves, C3D and other modern kernels use 3D curves) and for political reasons: CAD vendors want to lock customers in by allowing only imports of proprietary formats, not exports.
There was some side discussion on the problems created in V6 by Dassault going to a single database, and no longer saves drawings in files. After some bad mouthing from the crowd, an employee from Dassault wanted to make clear that the decision was made to help customers (everything they use for a project is now in a single database, rather than scattered about), even if it did have negative side effects.
A significant point that limits the speed of the cloud: data is read serially from files, greatly slowly the potential speed of parallel operations.
Alright, here we are in Tokyo, about 60 media from Japan, North America, and Europe at this product launch from Graphisoft.
So why Japan? Graphisoft is headquartered in Budapest, but Japan is one of the company's largest markets. Most general contractors and large architectural offices here use ArchiCAD, not Revit.
Three reasons for this:
Another reason: architectural firms in Japan work as teams, and don't have an individualistic superstar architect at the helm. The team capabilities in ArchiCAD is attractive to them.
So, the reason we all are here is new software from Graphisoft, BIMcloud. It is a collaboration platform that works with data in real time using the company's patented Delta-Server that eliminates the need for server locks. It works equally well on private and public networks, and is available as of today in Japan.
It is integrated with BIMx, their model viewing software that runs on iPads. The non-computer-using executives with their iPads can not just view and navigate models, but also use the BIMcloud's new messaging system to ask questions and request additional information, such as a new section.
In the rest of the world, BIMcloud ships in Q2 with ArchiCAD 18. http://www.graphisoft.com/bimcloud
Graphisoft this morning is taking us on a tour of nine architectually fascinating buildings in Tokyo. If you want to do the tour yourself through Google Maps, then use this link:
Here's a copy of the tour brochure Graphisoft prepared for us:
[Disclaimer: Graphisoft provided me with air and ground transportation, most hotel accomodation, and some meals.]
Here are some of the photos I took during the last three days in Austin Texas, where the Precision Workstation division of Dell launched their new virtualization services, Center of Excellence for virtualization, and a new budget-priced engineering laptop.
Day 2 of the launch event took place at Dell Venue, located in downtown Austin next to the railroad tracks. Here Dell shows off its hardware and its commitment to recycling, as you see in the next photo
Inside Dell Venue, recycled keycaps recreate the Dell logo
The Dell launch took place just as Austin's SXSW (south by southwest) festival was starting up
[Disclaimer: Dell provided me with airfare, accommodation, most meals, and ground transportation.]
It's after lunch, and we are getting talks from various corporate sponsors and users. For instance, we heard from Framestore, the firm that did all the computer simulations and animations for the movie Gravity. It took four years to produce all the effects, which consume about 80% of the movie.
Now were are hearing from four firms who switched from Apple to Dell workstations. The primary reason, I would say, is because Apple abandoned the workstation market.
Reasons given by panelists:
- bang for buck
- power on a mobile computer
- Apple gave up on pros with Final Cut X, which did not align with the reality of professionals; for example, X did not support output to tapes, which the industry still uses.
- Adobe Premier Pro is better than Final Cut
- Apple computers cannot be customized for the needs of media houses
- all of Adobe software works on Macs and PCs, so if you are used to running them on Macs, then it is easy to switch to PCs
- Dell workstations are significantly faster than currently available Apple computers (laptops)
- Apple's Final Cut pro needs to convert files to its own format; Adobe's Premier works with native files
- What used to take ten hours now takes 20 minutes. This means more movies can be processed in a day
- Apple's laptops are not powerful enough, and cannot be customized sufficiently for video production
- Apple computers don't have touch screens, and are not as high resolution as Dell's laptops and monitors
So, here we are in Round Rock, the very flat part of Texas that is home as the global headquarters of Dell. Picking me up at the Austin airport, the limo driver confided he's given Michal Dell's brother rides to the airport.
Dell has us here for the "first ever global Precision workstation launch event," they say as introduction. The first after launching the Precision high-end desktop computers (called workstations) 17 years ago. I am estimating about 50 media here, many with British accents.
The introductory remarks are a bit off, where the host (didn't catch the name) starts off saying that 17 years ago everything ran on non-standard computers and operating systems -- and how difficult it was. Now, he says, we have a standard platform (I think he means Windows). Seventeen years ago would be 1997, at which point Windows already was the standard. In 1997, for example, Autodesk released AutoCAD 2014 on Windows only, eliminating the Mac, DOS, Unix, and OS/2 versions.
Among the non-standard versions, he mentions Sun and Silicon Graphics. He forgets to mention that their operating system (variants of Unix) has breadth of functions and level of security that Windows continues to struggle to match. But it is true that the universalization of Windows drove the commoditization of hardware -- making workstations affordable. Affordable means a thousand dollars instead of 10x the price.
The standardization that the speaker lauds resulted in Dell's change last year in financial status, where the pubic company became private, so that they no longer would need to meet external shareholder expectation. The need for the change was due to the near-non-existent profits on consumer-grade computers, estimated at around $20.
There is a lot more profit in selling workstations and servers. Which is why the speaker is emphasizing two themes for this launch event:
1. Application performance
2. Mission-critical reliability
Indeed, the speaker gets downright darwinian, claiming that if a workstation takes ten minutes to produce a rendering, then the human operator is just a useless resource wasting time by the water cooler. I wonder what he thinks of me, having spent 12 unproductive hours travelling here.
Roopinder Tara learns that the most common size of customer for this virtualization technology has 100-200 designers. Larger firms can do this themselves; smaller ones have no need or no budget.
Another editor and I asked ourselves, "What's going on here?" This is about Dell looking for new markets. I think they will eventually kill their consumer market; he thinks they will keep them around because this is what Dell is best known for.
I'm pretty excited that Graphisoft is holding a two-day press event about BIMcloud -- in Tokyo.
The press conference takes place in late March, although I first received the invitation back on Dec 19. (It was like a Christmas present, as I've never before been to Tokyo -- except for flying over Japan and changing planes in Narita a few years ago.)
The editors going to this event now have their travel info and so are getting ready bookings; my plan is to arrive a day early to get over jetlag and check out the city. I plan to live-blog the event, naturally. See you then!
[Disclosure: Graphisoft is providing transportation, most accomodation, and some meals.]
The big announcement from Dassault this week is the launch of Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual (SWMC), which despite the name doesn't run in Solidworks. And so the #SWW14 chatter on Twitter asked, "How do SolidWorks and SWMC communicate?"
(SolidWorks uses a model format based on Parasolid, but SWMC is incompatible, because it uses the V6 database format based on CGM.)
Randall S. Newton (@RSNatWork): If you create a design in SWMC, and when you say "I'm done, that's the idea" then what? Where does the data go next? And how?
Alex Bausk (@bauskas): Uploaded seamlessly and continuously into the cloud, empowering collaboration from any device, everywhere *jedi handwave*
upFront.eZine (@upFronteZine): Seriously, jedi handwave is pretty much the answer I got from Dassault PR. But the new SW software uses V6 file format.
Matthew West* (@matthewwest): You export a file then open it in SolidWorks to start your detail design.
(*) West is senior manager of social strategy at Dassault Systemes SolidWorks
Jon Banquer (@JonBanquer): What happens to the history based information when you export from SWMC to legacy code SolidWorks?
Jon Banquer (@JonBanquer): And vise versa, Matt. What happens to history when you export from legacy code SolidWorks to SWMC?
Kevin Quigley (@quigdes): and what happens when you want to go back and change the design after you get customer feedback? This is the issue.
Randall S. Newton (@RSNatWork): Hey press peeps at #SWW14, what's the word on INTEROPERABILITY for Mechanical Conceptual? There's nothing in the PR for us slubs at home
Elise Moss (@cadagility): there is no interoperability. mech conceptual is saved as an xml file. It is good for product development only
Randall S. Newton (@RSNatWork): XML as in Dassault's 3D XML?
al dean (@alistardean): yup. That's how you reduce CAD overhead. By doing shit twice.
Elise Moss (@cadagility): sw* guy told me your design is always better done the second time around...with a straight face
Elise Moss (@cadagility): When u bring in that great part from 3dcontentcentral to swmc, it converts to a dumb body....means u better save it for the move to sw. All metadata is lost from mech conceptual when u move over to sw....this is why autodesk's two attempts at this idea failed.
The big excitement over swmc is the ability to collaborate in real time on the cloud. grabcad does this for a tenth of the cost. With grabcad your models start in sw and stay there, no need to redo your work or lose your metadata.
I don't normally collaborate in real time...I email or throw it up on the cloud and wait for feedback. The only realtime remote collaboration I do is on Skype or gotomeeting. I do this maybe six times a year.
Kevin Quigley (@quigdes): the analogy is trying to work with someone standing behind you checking your every move...NOT good for productivity!
Elise Moss (@cadagility): Before you invest in swmc, you should crunch the cost* to benefit ratio: how often you collaborate remotely vs. the pain of redoing a design.
(*) SWMC costs $2,988 per year per user, higher outside of the USA.
al dean (@alistardean): No free trial on the cards for Mechanical Conceptual. Why? Because you're using Dassault's resources. Apparently.
al dean (@alistardean): Curious. SolidWorks Mechanical is tied to a named user. You can switch it but only after 30 days.
Elise Moss (@cadagility): don't worry...u don't have to diss this product...two years from now sw will pretend like it never existed
Elise Moss (@cadagility): aaron* asks that users go dark...please no more tweeting about mechanical conceptual...shhhhhh
(*) Aaron Kelly is vp of user experience and product portfolio management at Dassault Systemes SolidWorks
Elise Moss (@cadagility): Consensus: SolidWorks has lost sense of humor, no longer geeky down-to-earth kid; everything is scripted and on video
al dean (@alistardean): Remember when SolidWorks World was about celebrating users and inspiration rather than a sales pitch & self congratulation? Yeah. Me too
Alright, so here we are bright and early, 7am, with housecoats on, getting ready for the 4pm press conference. Why so early? Well, the event takes place in Old Europe and we are on the Best Coast of North America, nine hours earlier.
Now, the news isn't new, as the 3D Systems pr people let the news out early, already yesterday. What we're seeing this morning/late afternoon is a pair of new high-end printers. One of them does continuous colors, the other a variety of materials. Now, the press releases left out lots of juicy information, such as "How much?", so we'll see if these sorts of questions get answered.
35 seconds left to go. Here's a provided image of the output of the multicolor printer.
3D Systems is announcing 11 new products at EuroMold this week.It looks like we are getting a booth tour this morning.
First up, a "baby 3D printer" the size of coffee maker that prints small objects, like dental and jewelery, and are done in a half hour or hour, with built-in cleaning. MicroProjet 1200 is $4900, taking pre-orders today.
OK, so now the multi-color printer, ProJet 4500. He's calling it "Pantone-like colors," which means it's not PanTone; maybe that will be the next step. Unlike the MicroProjet, this one is the size of a fridge, so it's huge. He's saying parts will be $10 each. Available now.
ProJet 5500X is being called the "holy grail" of 3D printing, a multi-jet printer with simultaneous printing of several materials, instantaneous mixing of materials, producing composites. Biggest parts are 60% larger than those of similar competitors. Can go from glass-clear printing to rubber printing. Five-year printhead warranty.
(By the way, it appears this "livecast" was previously recorded, so we're not sure if there will be a Q&A.)
Now a switch to software, as we get a look at Scan to Design, from the Geomagic folks who were acquired by 3D systems a year ago. A 3-LED scanner is scanning a small complex-looking part to generate a 3D model in software. See the screen grab below. $14,500. Scan a part and get it into a CAD system like Solid Edge in 20 minutes.
And now we are back to more 3D printers. It's beginning to sound a lot alike to us -- "bigger, better, faster..." He is claiming that the cost and durability of 3D printed parts with the new ProX 500 is approaching that of the factory floor. Not sure if that is just the cost the materials, or materials+3D printer.
(Throughout this show, the host is repeating that the founders of 3D Systems invented 3D printing, perhaps in light of all the law suits flying around. The earliest 3D patents will be running out soon, and so some patent owners are busy suing to still collect all the $$$ they can.)
Now we are seeing the largest 3D printer, as the host hauls out a V8 engine block. Disappointingly, it is make of plastic, not metal.
Speaking of metal, we are now seeing another huge 3D printer that makes stuff from sintered metal powder.
Back to software: a new printer driver that will be embedded into all printers in the coming months. (Is this in reaction to Microsoft doing the Windows v8.1-only 3D printer interface?) One interface for all printers -- will this include consumer models like Cube? (Speaking of which, we're not hearing about consumer-priced 3D printers; maybe later.) The software lets you assign different materials to parts through drag'n drop. AutoPlacement places multiple parts to optimize the print volume automatically.
As the bonus, we get to hear and see the first 3D-printed drum set. Due to the limits of recording technology, we can't tell if the sound is better or worse than traditional wood and plastic materials.
Aha, now we've moved to the other 3D Systems booth, the one for consumers: Cubify. Showing the Sense for $399 for 3D scanning. Like photography from 100 years ago, the subject has to stand/sit completely still for a few minutes, as someone wanders around with the scanner hooked by wire to a tablet. The tablet acts as the viewer to ensure all of the subject is scanned -- 3D selfies, as is were.
...and that's it. No Q&A and so our burning questions remain unanswered.
Alright, so here we are in sunny Las Vegas for the North American edition of 3Dexperience Customer Forum, at which Dassault invites some 900 customers and media -- plus another 2,500 watching online. The conference theme is "If We" -- kind of like, we are limited only by our immagination.
This is a different kind of CAD environment than what I am used to, for it's not much about CAD. Dassault has targetted 12 vertical industries it wants to dominate, such as store marketing, mining, and clothing design. CAD is just one tool available of many.
For this reason, we see sponsor names like Archer Grey and Kalypso that I've never heard of, and ones like accounting firm Deloitte that we don't associate with CAD.
#3dxforum on Twitter
We are hearing from a series of Dassault executives about the company's success. Lots of hugging going on.
Motovational speaker Lynn Tilton of Patriarch Partners makes me feel bad: she has saved so many businesses (she runs 75 companies today) and 250,000 jobs in the USA. She buys failing firms cheaply, and then turns them around. She expressed her frustation that China subsidizes the cost of materials, making it so much more difficult to compete; she mentions a 21-point cost difference. Her secret: compassion and cash, and understanding both intimately: without cash, you can't go very far without compassion. "Make that low-hanging fruit of stupid go away." She knows a lot about running multiple businesses, for someone with a degree in poetry.
Ceo Bernard Charles was pleased to annouce 20,000 companies joined at Dassault customers in the past 18 months. Change does not come from the top, he says, but from people who use the software and make the products.
Two years ago, he says, we asked where we want to be, where we want to be. It was such an intensive process that he nearly resigned from the company. He took six months off to figure out where to drive the company and its 170,000 customer firms. "Our responsibility is not how we sell our next piece of software. This is only the result of you deciding to change your business." Where is the world going, what is our legacy, he wondered? Not just manufacturing processses, but what is your dream? The result was "3Deperiecne platform."
Now he sounds like Autodesk used to talk: there should be no need for physical prototypes. (I supposed Autodesk is changing it tune now that it is hintng strongly it will buy a 3D printer hardware company.)
Mr Charles credits exec vp of communcations Monica Menghini for helping define the Play icon, and other aspects of the company's new diretion.
After the break, we are hearing from customers, such as a Canadian maker of jet engines. But the most surprisingly to me, the most interesting speaker is from MWV. They make cardboard cartons for drinks, especially for beer, shipping 1 billion cartons a year from a paper plant in Alabama. They also manufacture the machines that package bottles in the cartons, 1500 glass bottle a minute or 2400 cans a minutes/
The part that surprised me is that it used to take them 18 months from idea to realization. Dealing with millenial males, who are the primary target of beer breweries, the process has to speed up to less than six months. Indeed, in 1.5 years, that male might have moved on to wine.
"Creative desisng firms come up with designs that cannot be manufactured. We have to design packaging that can be manufactured by our machines. What used to take several weeks now takes a day -- to analze a package to make sure it can be made: number of palettes, number of trucks to ship..."
[Disclosure: Dassault Systemes provided me with airfare, hotel, ground transportation, meals, and corporate gifts.]
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V14 is not binary compatible with V13, because some APIs are changed. Most third-party application need to be rebuilt, except for scripts and applications written in pure Lisp.
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BricsCAD V14 installs and runs independently from previous BricsCAD versions, so no need to uninstall the older ones.
After installing V14, you need to activate the license online, or run it for 30 days without activation. If you cannot get online, then you can obtain a license number through tech support. BricsCAD V14 license is different from V13 and earlier, and so does not affect older versions.
The V14 version limits installations to two, but a license can be deactivated from one computer to use it on another.
Dialog box for activating licenses
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LISP Fast-COM mode implements the following COM (common object model) methods: Rotate, Rotate3d, Mirror, Mirror3d, ScaleEntity, Move, Copy, and Delete, as well as the properties InsertionPoint and ConstantWidth.
VLE library adds new functions.
grread identifies function keys F3->F12 and the TAB key, but now ignores PgUp, PgDn, Del, Ins, Home, End and the arrow keys. Also reads clicks and enters from menu and toolbar items.
A new API for the QuadCursor.
Plus many other functions and bug fixes in LISP, VBA, DCL, COM, BRX, SDS, and DIESEL, such as implementing the (vlax-curve-getperimeter entity) and (vle-curve-getperimeter entity) functions.
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Sheet Metal Design is is the 3D highlight feature in V14. This module is not intended to compete with third-party developers, but to give them a base from which to turn BricsCAD into a sheet metal design contender. It does sheet metal design, and generates drawings that unfold the design automatically.
The sheet metal functions supported for now are: flange, bend, bend relieft, and corner relief. You can use direct modeling and 3D constraints on sheet metal bodies. New command include the following:
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The new BMGenDraft command automatically generates 2D drawing views from 3D components.
The new Helix command draws helixes with these properties: Position(X/Y/Z), Constrain, Height, Turns, Turn Height, Base Radius, Top Radius, Twist, Turn Slope and Total length.
The new Sweep command extrudes closed profiles along arbitrary curves with control over banking during the sweep.
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Among 3D Constraints, expressions and parameters can now specify the values of dimensional constraints.
A new Library tab in the Mechanical Browser accesses the standard hardware part library.
Library tab lists the parts library
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Camera command creates perspective views.
UcsAxisAng system variable is the default angle for rotating the UCS.
The history-based X-SOLIDS component is removed.
Okay, here we are at day 2 of #BIC13 and staring off with an hour-long keynote by humourist Helen Keen who regaled us with a twisted version of the space program's history -- including cats that went into space.
But now down to biz, especially what's new in BricsCAD V14. The first item is to show off the new interface (cleaned up), icons set (made consistent), and QuadCursor (vastly overhauled).
Introducing new UI elements
Next up, a live demo of the redesigned QuadCursor. I am not giving a lot of detail in this post, because I pre-wrote series of mini-reviews of aspects of the new release of BricsCAD, which I will post here as features are announced throughout the day.
Now this is different. While I want to get rid of the inefficient ribbon and its awful interface (must've been designed by the same person who came up with Windows 8), some organizations require it. A third-party developer figured out how to create a ribbon-line interface for BricsCAD, which is being demo'ed to us now. It even is customizable.
Demo'ing the ribbon GUI add-on
Miscellaneous Notes of What's New in V14
Just two lines in the slide, but ones that that take many man-months to implement:
We are being shown the new features on the Linux version of V14 to prove that it is just as good as Windows. Also, we got a brief view of V14 on Mac -- a very brief view.
See related blog postings for details on the following items we are seeing in demos:
Annotative dimensions and other entities, such as text
Quick dimensions (QDim) works with single and multiple-selected objects
In-place editing of dimension text (double-click)
Hatch editing adds and removes boundaries (Hatch\edit, BPoly, etc); undo for hatch operations; automatically replace boundary around boundary-less hatch
Paste spreadsheet range as a table object from Excel, including all formatting; But it does not work with OpenOffice, because V14 reads the XML version from the Clipboard formats. The workaround is to save in XML format and then import through file dialog box.
More format options for Field; can apply a factor to change units.
AddSelected, SelectSimlar, and SelectSimilarMode commands, work with QuadCursor.
Hold down Ctrl key to isolate tracking line; it turns red.
Drag and drop files into BricsCAD by holding down the right mouse key; select type of object from shortcut menu, such as block or xref or hyperlink. (Left click opens the drawing as normal.)
DWGs save preview images as PNGs, which uses loss-less compression, creating smaller DWG files; can specify the preview size, up to 2560x2560 pixels.
Printer calibration makes for exact-size plots
Camera command for perspective views.
GeoTiff support; caching of large raster images for faster loading
Delayed for a service release later: getting raster images from Web services
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V14 exports in the following formats:
New StlOut command (and Export command) exports models in STL format for 3D printing.
Export dialog box remembers the last file type between sessions.
PDF exports now take visual styles into account.
Exporting in WMF format has improved TrueType font quality, using the TextQlty sysvar.
TIP: Big values of TextQlty may unexpectedly decrease the quality if the view is zoomed out. In this case, zoom in or increase the PictureExportScale setting.
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The -Render command now runs in LISP routines.
Hidden shade plots now make proper renderings.
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When a layout tab is right-clicked, the Page Setup option opens the Page Setup dialog for the layout (CPAGESETUP command) instead PAGESETUP command.
The PreviewSubents system variable is removed, because everything is now selectable in idle mode.
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DWG files now store previews as PNG files, and allow much larger preview sizes.
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Huge raster images load near-instantaneously due to new caching after the first load.
Now reads Geo TIFF files.
Improved memory use of ECW and SID files.
About a month before Bricsys International Conference 2013, the company released the first beta of BricsCAD V14, which allowed me to peruse what was new. I was amazed: the readme file for new functions, changes, and bug fixes in commands, user interface, and programming ran to 11 pages.
I found this stunning, because I am also beta testing a new release from one of the Big Five CAD vendors: its upgrade "features" consist of a few tweaks to the user interface; not a single new drawing or editing commands.
I suppose I should argue that the big CAD vendor is running out of ideas, that the CAD market has matured, and that Bricsys is still catching up. But we all know that still there is much lacking in CAD.
Perhaps we are destined to be hobbled by the limitations of the computers our software runs on, perhaps there will one day be that breakthrough that finally makes CAD as easy to use as drawing on paper. As someone who began at age 14 in manual drafting, I long for some of that pencil-on-paper intimacy.
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Whatever the future holds, let's jump back to the present. Here in a series of posts, I provide you an overview of functions new and improved in BrisCAD V14.
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QuadCursor revisited. The QuadCursor name is not new, and was named after its diamond shape. But in V14, it is completely reworked, operating now as a context-sensitive customizable and dynamically configurable floating toolbar that works in 2D and 3D.
The redesigned QuadCursor, shown expanded
There is so much to the new QuadCursor that it warrants its own article. But let me say that I found it makes dimensioning a snap!
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3Dconnexion 3D mouse is now supported, and can be used together with a regular, 2D mouse.
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Dragging files into BricsCAD with the right mouse button displays a new shortcut menu with the following options: Default by File Extension, Insert Here, Open, Create XRef, and Create Hyperlink Here.
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The look of the user interface is made cleaner through fewer lines, boxes, and other distractions.
Cleaned up user interface and restyled icons
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Properties bar (palette) now reports the current view, allowing view settings to be modified. The bar remembers which sections are collapsed between sessions.
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Drawing Explorer has a new MultiLeader section for creating multileader styles.
Layer Explorer has a new Invert Selection option.
New settings in the View Explorer (at right)
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Sysvar values shown in square brackets
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The Customize dialog box used by ToolPalettes is now resizeable and scales properly.
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Command bar now accepts right-clicks as Enter, when no command active and no entities selected.
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To close day 1, Eric de Keyser is wrapping up by describing in 2004 the first time a third-party developer contacted Bricsys about running on BricsCAD. They had a dual-API that ran on AutoCAD and BricsCAD, very limited. Nevertheless, this German developer wanted to port over their software, because Autodesk had bought their competitor.
In 2008, however, this company said good-bye to Bricsys, because Autdesk bought it. Same happened to Savoy: last year they demo'ed their vehicle turning software on BricsCAD at BIC 12, but then Autodesk bought them, so Transoft Solutions began work porting their turning software to BrisCAD.
The story repeated last month when Autodesk bought Graitec for its structural steel design software, and CAD Systems is porting their software to BricsCAD.
Mr de Keyser notes that Autodesk feels it needs to buy up third-party developers, whereas Bricsys prefer to remain neutral, treating all third-parties equally. In fact, the company now promotes third-parties on its Web site's home page.
(This reminds me of Softdesk back in the 1990s writing an entire CAD system, because they too feared Autodesk would cut them off. That CAD system became IntelliCAD; today, worried third-party developers needs not write a CAD system to ensure their survival, just port to a DWG system like BricsCAD.)
So, it is ironic that Autodesk is driving the success of Bricsys. Mr de Keyser's MasterPlan is to sell BricsCAD by customers buying third-party applications that solve their design problems.
Tomorrow, Bricsys shows how they are going to go beyond being just a "DWG alternative" and become a CAD platform with unique functions.
See you tomorrow!
Day 1 of the Bricsys International Conference is devoted to third-party developers. We began with Bricsys staff telling us about what to expect in APIs, and now 11 third-party developers are spending the rest of the day describing the add-on software they wrote to work with Bricsys. Here's the line-up. (I'll be adding comments to each throughout the day, so press F5 for updates.)
PIT (software solutions for buildings and facility management). They asked their users if they would prefer the ribbon interface (as found in Word and AutoCAD), and not one of them wanted the ribbon. So, it is good that BricsCAD sticks with toolbars and menus.
"Who here likes *VARIABLE*? I hate *VARIABLE*," the presenter asks. When you select more than one objects, the Properties palette reports 'variable' for properties that are different. PIT solved the problem with a tooltip that reports the minimum and maximum values, the average, and the summation -- useful for things like room areas.
Redway (rendering technology used by BricsCAD). The company is announcing for the first time to anyone their plans for cloud rendering, allowing renderings from "any" device "any" where. [First mention of the cloud; hopefully the last.]
Redway showed something impressive: a turbine sliced with a quarter-view slice. The slice is transparent, the other three-quarters opaque -- with all the turbine parts moving.
Ceo of Redway at #bic13
Fian Systems (for sales, design and machining CNC stairs). A developer who first wrote for AutoCAD, and now uses BricsCAD as of 2011: they recommend BricsCAD for all customers due to (1) quality of geometric computions, (2) quality support from Bricsys, and (3) better price.
While stair design sounds mundane, this company's software is remarkably complete in handling any kind of stair design, even ones with -- say -- marble curved balusters. If the customer does not have CAM, then Fian has an up-to-5-axis CAM module.
They have 300 customers (150 using CAM), who produce some pretty unique looking stairs!
Fian Systems designing stairwell parametrically, multi-lingually
Open Design Alliance (APIs for reading, editing, and writing DWG files independently of Autodesk). ODA enjoyed 6% growth this year, with 60% of revenue spent on R&D. Neil Peterson is giving the talk, as Arnold van der Weide is transitioning him to take over as president next year -- subject to board approval.
ODA has launched SIGs (special interest groups), like support for civil special objects. Teigha for the cloud processes data, and then sends the results to a browser. He showed a Java-based applet running in Chrome that displays DWG files.
JetCAM (2D computer-aided manufacturing software). Tomorrow we will see the new sheet metal add-on from Bricsys but today we get to see the CAM possibilities. Design the part in BricsCAD, flatten to 2D, and then export to JetCAM for applying cutting information, nesting, and generating the NC code to drive the machine.
[I wonder how long until CAM is integrated into Bricsys? Even Solid Edge only got it this year.]
Getting the JetCAM presentation ready
And we're back...
DVS System Software (packaging software). The add-on software we are seeing this year is much more mature. This company, for instance, uses BricsCAD for designing cardboard and other boxes for packaging. Naturally, it does other functions, like calculating the weight of the box, viewing the box in 3D with labelling, export to 3D PDF, and generating price sheets.
"With a good box, you can sell anything. To do this, you need a special box, a pretty box. For this, we use a CAD system; now, we use BricsCAD." In 1981, they designed their own CAD system on Apple, but in 1985 they switched to PCs but decided to apply their packaging knowhow to AutoCAD by programming in AutoLISP. But the price of AutoCAD was a problem (too high), and so eventually looked at BricsCAD -- most importantly, on which their existing LISP functions could be resued.
Geo-Plus (geomatic software). From the country of Quebec, they deliver DWG and DGN files to customers generated from a database using SQL or Access, because drawing files are too limiting. They have ported three of their Vision apps (out of eight) from AutoCAD to BricsCAD, and only support the latest release, such as V14 as of next January.
CAD Systems (structural steel design software). These guys are finding that Autodesk is buying up their competitors, such as Robot and Graitec. For the last four months they have been porting their structural steel design from AutoCAD to BricsCAD. They told me during the lunch break that the work has gone surprisingly fast, except for waiting for Bricsys to add more API calls that they need. (Yup, Bricsys writes code as developers need it.) Plus, they have no competitors in the BricsCAD market.
There are hundreds of variations on how steel can be documented, and the usual solution (provides hundreds of options) is undesireable, because they tend to be hidden. So CAD Systems is developing a "learn by example" machine learning system, where the software tracks what the user does and turns it into a standard.
The designs are parametric, so move a grid line to move an entire row of columns. Clash detection shows problems in yellow. Generate arrangement drawings from the 3D model. They hope to ship next year, depending how how fast Bricsys can get them new API calls. They hope to expand their machine learning to other sectors, like AEC, and expand to other countries beyond BeNeLux.
Transoft Solutions (vehicle turning radius software). They are also porting their AutoCAD-based software to BricsCAD. The software is neededis because trucks (especially with trailors) damage signs and buidings by turning too tightly. The company has 20,000 users, including Ikea. (Their competitor was bought by Autodesk a few weeks ago.)
Determining if an articulated bus can manoeuver through city streets
Alright, here we are in Darmstadt, a town just south of Frankfurt Germany, in the ultra modern Darmstadium conference center. Twitter stream is #bic13
Some of the media pose in front of the conference center. Left to right: Randall Newton (USA), Ralph Grabowski (Canada), and Deelip Menezes (India). Photo by Roopinder Tara
Ceo Erik de Keyser says his company is growing -- unlike Autodesk and Dassault Systemes who are missing their numbers, and even shrinking in sales.
His key to the market is encouraging third-party developers, and there now are over 900+ third-party apps, of which only 300 or so are public. This is why the conference is free to attend by developers. "Today, DWG developers have a choice. That is what we are standing for."
The conference is two days long:
Bricssys API Plans
LISP. Performance through "Fast COM" (vla, vlax, vlr) and Optimizer. Extensions through vle (42 new functions) and Express Tools like acet-x (about 50 functions supported). Also, a new LISP developer support package.
BRX. Both 32- and 64-bit versions now available. Compatibility with ARX 2014. Utility headers from ARX 2007 through 2014. Not all ARX functions are supported, but missing ones are added on-demand as third-party developers need them.
"The list of things left to do [in APIs] is getting smaller and smaller. There are still some requests, but the volume is lower than before."
BModeler. Boolean operations, plus new bodies: pipe, cylinder, reducing elbow, skin, triangulate, and extrusion.
.Net. Plotting services, and extensions like editor, graphics system, application, prompt selections, object selection, and document collection.
COM (common object model). Minor extensions, upgraded database to Teigha v3.09, and bug and memory leak fixes.
User Interface. New API for accessing BricsCAD-specific GUI elements.
Dynamic Blocks. It is a huge job to replicate AutoCAD's BEdit environment, which is pretty much a CAD system of its own. New are point parameters and visibility parameters. More will be added as third-party developers request them.
Future plans for APIs: In mechanical, features, 3D constraints and parameters, and assembly structure. API for AEC (BIM module), and more standard APIs.
Digging through the backlot of my blog posting software, I discovered several items I had written but never posted. Here is one, written after I came back from Autodesk University 2012.
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I was puzzled why Autodesk this year added a pair of commands to AutoCAD 2013 and its other CAD software that lead to NSFW sites, Facebook and Twitter. It seemed like an anti-corporate move. After all, when design firms remove USB ports from workstations (to prevent IP theft), they're not going to then allow employees to catch up on company time what their friend's cat ate for lunch.
After attending AU, I understand that those two commands -- ai_open_facebook_with_product and ai_open_twitter_with_product -- were just a first experiment in social computing. Facebook and Twitter provide no-cost environments for companies like Autodesk to experiment with social. Can we get lots of fans, and be associated with today's cool thing.
The drawback to for-profit corporations being on Facebook and Twitter is that these two collect all the advertising revenue. In response, Autodesk decided to acquire and build its own social network.
So at the Media Day and at AU last week, Autodesk emphasized that social was important (plus a couple of other pithy words I've since forgotten. Cloud? Could be this was another of them.) They boasted repeatedly of having now 95 million customers [now 130 million]. (The number does not include the 78 million customers that fled SocialCAM between June and October.)
Members of the media, some of whom have been in the CAD business longer than most Autodesk employees, asked a pertinent question:
If your CAD software sells for thousands of dollars a copy, and if social software sells for free or a few dollars at most, how do you plan to make significant revenues from social media?
Autodesk has a number of sources in mind, Mary Hope McQuiston told us. She is the new director of marketing and business development at Autodesk's consumer group. The source that stuck with me was advertising.
Now, nowadays you don't just stick an ad somewhere and hope that people notice it. That's the old model and it's causing a lot of newspapers to fail and many magazines to fold. No, the new way is to learn as much as possible about each person and then target their socio-economic-status-desires-friends -- plus anything else that in the past was considered none of your business.
In the past, this was called "one-to-one marketing," and today it is still is sufficient immature that much of the time it doesn't work out well. (Ads from Staples, for instance, keep following me around on Web pages like a lost cat, even though I bought that new laptop or the new 32GB USB drive from other stores.) It is scary to think what targeted advertising will be like once it is no longer immature.
Autodesk's plan is to mine the personal data of its 95 130 million customers (give or take 78 million), sell the information to advertisers, who will then bombard the free Autodesk apps you're running with information relating to the hundred thousand hot singles available in Russia. Maybe the ads will even appear in AutoCAD.
For we customers, our solution is to become more opaque to the data miners:
What once was none-of-your-business is now the business of advertising. That's why Autodesk is hot on social, and why Autodesk loves the cloud. Without the cloud, it could not bombard us with targeted advertising through its apps, whether on the desktop or on mobile devices.
And so you know why Autodesk ceo Carl Bass says all software needs to move to the cloud. The "A" in Autodesk now may well stand for Advertising.
Here we are in downtown New York City, ready to report on HP's two-day media event here at the Sheraton New York hotel. Except we can't, having signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) that prevents us media from saying anything until September 10.
I am estimating there are 70-100 media in this ballroom, from North and South America, Europe, Middle East, and Asia. We are being told that HP marketing is excited about the new product announcements and interactions with customers.
"We are the only workstation vendor who made it, who thrived, from Unix on proprietary workstations to Windows and Linux and our friends at Intel,"
"We are not changing direction, we are not going private [a shot at Dell], we are not retreating, we are not spinning off. We are here to win." We are being shown graphs that show it is #1 in desktop and mobile workstations in every region and worldwide -- a shot at Lenovo.
"We are not exiting the high-end, like some vendors."
Some of the new products are shipping today, and so it is a puzzle to me that we are under NDA to not write about them. Anyhow, I have three interviews lined up for this afternoon. I plan to report on this event in a future issue of upFront.eZine, after Sept 10.
[Disclosure: HP paid for my airfare, hotel, ground transportation, and some meals, and gave me corporate gifts, such as a USB thumbdrive, notebook, and pen.]
Here are some of the photos that were taken at Siggraph 2013...
Above: The next morning, Autodesk bussed us to a New Orleans-themed restaurant in Disneyland. Much to my surprise, the food was excellent.
Above: The Siggraph exhibition floor opens, and here is Christie's turnkey CAVE-like Holostation running four digital projectors -- and sized to fit a regular office building elevator. $300,000 or so for the shared 3D experience.
Above: Also in the Christie booth, one of their theatre-grade projectors blasting out real-time 3D animations in 4K resolution at 120 frames per second. Siggraph visitor dons a pair of polarizing glasses for scale.
Above: In the Vicon booth, their hand controller (lower left), polarizing glasses (at right), and three infrared camera-sensors (along the top). The balls at the end of the sticks are covered with light sensitive coating, with which the infrared cameras detect motion.
Above: But over in the Leonar3Do booth, the same thing at a fraction of the price. Their bird-like hand controller is held like an airbrush.
NVidia and AMD competed with each other by holding invitation-only parties on the same night. Savvy media first took in the NVidia dance-floor party first (above) and then alter hiked over to AMD's sit-down dinner (below).
At Siggraph 2013, we met with several members of the SPEC graphics performance committee. (SPEC is short for "standard performance evaluation corporation.")
The SPEC organization produces a number of benchmarks, and the latest one is Specviewperf V12. it is a benchmark used by hardware vendors and by end users purchasing and upgrading workstations.
The process of creating view sets is very involved, because they are tied to working at a graphics driver level. SPEC went to a new direction with version 12: a timing framework that loads executable programs. For example, in volume rendering, the CPU calculates texture coordinates for every frame displayed on the screen. In addition, SPEC is no longer tied to OpenGL and so can use DirectX applications. Overall, the benchmark is more general, they tell us.
Application Benchmarks for CAD
Among CAD systems, Specviewperf support Catia V6, Creo V2.0, SolidWorks, and NX. We don't need the actual CAD software; instead the benchmark captures the graphics calls made by the program, because SPEC wants the benchmarks to be independent of the licensing, yet be representative of the workload. This way providers of graphics systems can optimize their drivers for each app. For instance, nVidia uses this to ensure future GPUs don't have holes in them that slow down performance.
The benchmark measures mostly the graphics performances, seeing how much load is on the CPU and on the GPU. Feedback is given to applications programmers when too much graphics load is on the CPU.
Released today at Siggraph was the updated benchmark for NX 8.5. (The last one was for NX 6, so there was some catching up to do.) The benchmark committee is working to produce the benchmarks more quickly, what with software vendors and their annual upgrades.
Because SPEC is independent, large CAD vendors have come to rely on them to find where the graphics codes could be optimized. By using SPEC, they don't have to write their own benchmarks, and so end up using one that are more representative for real-world performance.
"Why only MCAD?" we ask. Other types of CAD software are not left out due to a lack of desire, but for practicality: the SPEC members haven't gotten around to AEC, etc due to a lack of time. The new version of the spec, however, might make it possible to measure CAE performance. Perhaps the solution is use sub committees, who look at areas such as energy, oil and gas, and architecture.
Workstation Benchmarks in Beta
WPC (short for "workstation performance characterization") is scheduled to be released this fall. It handles CPU computation workloads, I/O, graphics, and combinations thereof. (I/O is short for "input and output," and includes memory and disk.)
"What about the Windows Experience Index?" we ask. It is actually pretty good, the guys tell us, because it does low-level analysis of the different systems -- graphics, disk I/O, and so on. The problem, however, is that Microsoft has not updated it in quite a while. As a result, all workstations tend to get the top score of 7.9 in Windows 7, and 9.9 in Windows 8. (Later, we found that Microsoft has removed Windows Experience Index from Windows v8.1.)