3/1/2008 | 8 MINUTE READ

360 of CAD

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CAD-neutral CADSpaceClaim 2007+ from SpaceClaim Corp. (Concord, MA; www.spaceclaim.com) is a CAD-neutral mechanical design system that understands modeling intent simply by recognizing what geometry is selected and in what context.


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CAD-neutral CAD

SpaceClaim 2007+ from SpaceClaim Corp. (Concord, MA; www.spaceclaim.com) is a CAD-neutral mechanical design system that understands modeling intent simply by recognizing what geometry is selected and in what context. This intelligence eliminates excessive drop-down menus, dialogue boxes, and user clicks. It also lets users import and work on models without having to understand how the model was constructed.

SpaceClaim can open and create sheet metal parts, work with lightweight assemblies, drive 3D modifications via 2D sections, and add and modify driving dimensions. An electronic CAD module supports IDF and Mentor PADS file formats for printed circuit board designs.

The system uses the ACIS kernel and it is compatible with most of the major proprietary and open CAD data formats. Annual cost for SpaceClaim is around $1,700 per year.

Know this: Interoperability and data ownership. Because of SpaceClaim's open XML data format, users-not the CAD software vendors-retain ownership of and access to product data, regardless of the CAD authoring application. 


High-end displays for everyone

Deep Computing Visualization (DCV) from IBM (Armonk, NY; www.ibm.com) is middleware for displaying high-end graphical images from OpenGL-based applications. DCV makes the network card in a workstation act as a graphics card.

DCV consists of three components. One lets users display images across multiple high-resolution monitors or projectors. Another distributes graphical images to remote workstations while maintaining the speed of the display (such as in fly-through applications). A third component essentially applies grid computing to commodity graphics cards to display high-end visualizations. DCV supports 64-bit processors from Intel and AMD, 64-bit IBM POWER architecture servers, workstations running Microsoft Windows XP operating system, and IBM IntelliStation workstations running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.

Know this: Display graphics anywhere over standard networks, with no loss in real-time response and image resolution. Bean counters like DCV because it helps reduce the cost of high-end graphics displays. IT managers like DCV because only pixels move, leaving source data inside a data center (read: "high data security"). However, admits IBM officials, engineers are not too enthused with DCV because they'd rather have all the design data in their workstations.


Fast 2D/3D

IronCAD version 10 from IronCAD, LLC (Atlanta, GA; www.ironcad.com) now features HOOPS technology, which by taking advantage of the latest OpenGL and Direct3D graphics drivers, enhances graphical performance for large assemblies, such as more dynamic renderings, model selection, and rotations. For instance, Version 10 can create 2D views from 3D models up to 10 times faster than previous releases.

Another new feature: version 10 combines history-based parametrics and direct geometry manipulation in a 3D modeling system, which relieves users from dealing with history order when working on geometries. A new export option lets users create Adobe Acrobat 3D PDF files. The 2D sketching system includes new options, such as Smart Constraints, which automatically places common constraints on elements (e.g., chamfers, fillets, polygons, rectangles, and parallelograms), along with tangent geometry. As constraints are added, IronCAD will display in color an element's constraint status based on the degrees of freedom within a sketch.

Import/export includes Granite 4.0, Wildfire 3.0, Parasolid 19, and ACIS 17. Add-on translations support Unigraphics version 11 through 18 and NX1 through NX4. Version 10 costs $3,495 for a single seat. Know this: Here's another fast and affordable 2D/3D CAD system that can both provide photorealistic renderings and interoperate with a variety of major CAD systems.


Browser-based CAD

Aftercad Online (ACO) from Aftercad Software (Vancouver, BC; www.aftercad.com) is a browser-based 2D/3D CAD application. It uses AJAX technology (versus using ActiveX controls and Java applications) to provide the CAD data through the web browser. (Google Maps uses AJAX to provide GIS data.) AJAX is compatible with Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox on both Windows and Linux.

In operation, users upload CAD files to AfterCAD, which converts them to JPEG tiles for each zoom level and each layer, as in Google Maps. The CAD model is displayed on demand by the AfterCAD viewer running in the web browser. ACO can convert CAD files to a variety of formats and publish CAD models to platforms such as Google Earth, Google Maps, Facebook, and MySpace. Because ACO is also a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application, users only pay for the space and features they use.
Know this: Serve and collaborate design data to anyone, anywhere. No proprietary client-side software to install. Just use a web browser and pay as you go.


Are they identical?

Kubotek Validation Tool from Kubotek USA (Marlborough, MA; www.kubotekusa.com) compares versions of similar 3D CAD models to determine if they are geometrically identical in five easy steps: import models, select validation, validate models, view results, create validation report. The tool analyzes actual geometric data based on a specified tolerance, and then can compare mass properties results and count geometry and topology. The tool's output are a simple pass-fail report, details about any differences found, and a tamper-proof validation certificate. The Validation Tool can read models from all major MCAD programs.
Know this: Sharing 3D CAD data has risks: Costly errors can occur from unintentional edits or translations when the model is passed between engineering groups. This tool helps find those errors if they exist.


Mac-based CAD

ViaCAD Pro is the latest CAD program from Punch! Software LLC (Kansas City, MO; www.punchcad.com) that runs on Microsoft Windows XP and Windows Vista, and Apple Mac OS X. The Mac OS X version can be run on both PPC and Intel-based Mac-based Apple computers. Costing about $500, ViaCAD Pro adds interactive visualization (using OpenGL) to a full-featured 2D/3D CAD program. It includes NURB surface and solid modeling tools, including tools for skinning, lofting, covering, capping, filling, G1/G2 (tangent/curvature) surface edge matching, surface analysis, and Booleans.

ViaCAD Pro includes translators for several CAD file formats (proprietary and open), as well as imports for Rhino, BMP, and Google SketchUp, and exports for OBJ and VRML.

(Autodesk Maya 2008 modeling, rendering, and animation software from Autodesk, Inc. [San Rafael, CA; www.autodesk.com/maya] is now available for and optimized for Intel-based multi-core workstations from Apple.) Know this: Now that Mac OS can run on computers with "Intel Inside"-with all the reliability, ease-of-use, gorgeous display, and minimal hassle that are the hallmarks of Apple products-expect more solid modelers for Intel-based Apple computers. Such solid modelers will be especially enticing for industrial design shops where multi-platform operations have been a necessary evil. Says Marc Petit, Autodesk's media and entertainment vice president, "Our goal is to give digital artists choice and flexibility in their 3D tools and platforms."


From the "majors"

From SolidWorks Corporation (Concord, MA; www.solidworks.com). In the latest version of SolidWorks, 2008, the Design Clipart tool lets users search for sketches, tables, images, features, views, or DWG blocks that are inside existing designs. Once the design is found, Design Clipart dissects the target file so that users can drag-and-drop the searched item to the new design. SolidWorks 2008 alerts users when a referenced DWG block has been changed, and it lets users natively edit those DWG blocks.
Know this: Ease-of-use and reusing Autodesk AutoCAD data natively in a non-Autodesk product saves time and reduces design errors.

From Dassault Systemes (Auburn Hills, MI; www.3ds.com). Catia version 5 release 18 (V5R18) focuses on several design operations, such as composite design, electrical harness design, and sheet metal design workbench. The latter now manages double curvature, non-rulled sheet metal parts. A new Auto-draft foundry tool, which complements Auto-fillet (introduced in V5R17), helps automotive powertrain and chassis designers in designing casting parts. V5R18 can also automatically create Functional Tolerancing & Annotation features, thus ensuring that the 3D conceptual design complies with product specifications.

Know this: Explains Peter Schmitt, Dassault's Delmia brand vice president, marketing and business development, "Once you have a certain level [of solution], the increments are not as important to the overall solution than they used to be in earlier versions. We've embedded individual capabilities of different products to accommodate an overall workflow, an overall process."

From Siemens PLM Software (Plano, TX; www.ugs.com). Among a boatload of new features and enhancements, version 5 of NX lets designers alter design geometry where needed-without the constraints of dealing with defined features or history. A new feature, Active Mockup, links design and review so engineers use one software system for reviewing design changes in context with the total product. New assembly engineering capabilities include dynamic clearance analysis, spatial filtering, directionless assembly constraints, and automatic generation of motion envelopes. This version also sports a new user interface, which includes role-specific, workflow-oriented user prompts.

Solid Edge also got bumped up a version. One of the enhancements to version 20 is a graphically based Goal Seeking capability for solving 2D engineering problems, the results of which then drive the 3D geometry. New zones capability let designers define a permanent range box to isolate areas or subsystems of the massive assembly they are working on.
Know this: Proof positive of Siemens' commitment to its acquisition last year: The tried and true CAD systems from the former UGS, now Siemens PLM Software, keep getting better and better.

From Autodesk (www.autodesk.com). Many Autodesk products have been updated this past year. For example, DWG TrueConnect lets users read and write DWG files without translators, while maintaining full associativity with the Inventor 3D models. Autodesk AliasStudio was further integrated into the Autodesk line with new capabilities for importing and exporting AutoCAD surface and solid data. Autodesk's 2D sketch environment was made easier to use.

Autodesk Design Review 2008 is now available free (downloaded). For design reviews, this version includes improved 3D measure and markup, drawing version comparison, and better 3D model navigation. For viewing, printing and searching, this version includes native viewing and printing support for DWF files within Microsoft Vista XPS viewer; support for batch printing on HP DesignJet printers; and support for on-demand access to ThomasNet's product and service information from within a design.

A new, free, "light" version of Autodesk Inventor has the same 3D part modeling, automated 3D drawing views and updating, DWG interoperability, Inventor Studio (photorealistic rendering), Autodesk Design Review, and CAD data translators found in the Inventor Suite and Professional versions. (Inventor LT does not include 3D assembling modeling, specialty design and simulation tools, such as sheet metal and dynamic simulation, or AutoCAD Mechanical and Autodesk Vault.)
Know this: These are more than just software tweaks. The enhancements across the company's product line include faster creation and visualization, new features and tools, broader interoperability, and better data management for sketching, 2D/3D designing, and animation.