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Dassault Systemes is not to shut the home of SmarTeam

Published 30 June 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: dassault systemes, office closure

OK – a little judicious editing is needed here: We got word today that Dassault Systemes is not closing its Israeli office, the birth place of SmarTeam but 86 people are losing their jobs because R&D is movng to Boston/Paris.” DS comment that:

The Tel Aviv, Israel, office is not closing nor are there any plans to close it. The Tel-Aviv location is the local market center of PLM expertise. It will be an important regional sales and sales-support office for V5 and V6 PLM, focus on the development of EST V5 and its customer base, combining superb understanding of the DS portfolio with hands-on knowledge of the local business environment. Moreover the organization will broaden its business-orientation and better serve local Value Added Resellers.

We got word today that Dassault Systemes is closing its Israelli office, the birth place of SmarTeam, allegedly “Firing 86 people today in Israel. R&D movng to Boston/Paris.” In an official statement, DS comment that:

Dassault-Systemes announced today a plan to consolidate development efforts in Velizy, France and Lowell, USA for the V6 solution portfolio. V6 provides a single integrated platform for all Brands, Industries and Channels as well as delivering on the PLM 2.0 strategy.

Following this decision the V6 related activities in DS Israel shall be ceased, and over the upcoming six months 86 employees will terminate their employment in the company.

DS-Israel continues to lead the development of the current generation PLM solutions (ENOVIA SmarTeam V5) to fully support the satisfaction of over 8,000 customers world-wide. DS-Israel will also enhance its focus on supporting the Israeli market for the entire DS portfolio.

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Inventor Fusion Part II: Working with existing geometry, assemblies + annotation

Published 29 June 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: autodesk, autodesk inventor, inventor fusion, direct editing

#2: While the tools we’ve discussed are predominantly targeting the creation of geometry from scratch, one of the reasons that there’s been a groundswell of interest in direct modelling technologies is the inherent ability to work with existing geometry. The reason this is providing such interest is that with history-based design tools comes an issue of knowledge and recalculation as we’ve already discussed, but also of knowledge. History-based design relies on a linear of recipe of features, built on top of features, on top of even more features. Editing that geometry can be painful, purely for the lag that editing early features can cause and the inherent problems with subsequent features breaking.

Alongside this purely technical hurdle to effective editing, there’s also an issue with regarding knowledge. Because you have a very granular and lengthy recipe for even the simplest of parts, to make edits, to reconfigure geometry to make a design change requires some serious knowledge. Not only of the system in question and its eccentricities, but also of how it was designed in the first place. It’s bad enough diving into a complex part you have designed yourself, but editing someone else’s work, can be the stuff of nightmares – and bad ones at that.

Importing data

Inventor Fusion, at this release, allows you to read the native Inventor and AutoCAD format data directly – note that the system will only import solid geometry (not wires, surfaces or points in this release) – if you’re also working with non-English speaking colleagues, then you need to ensure there are no non-English characters in the file names. Also, when importing Inventor data, the system again will only import solid data (not surfaces) and also will not work with assembly features (typically used for weldment design). In terms of third party data, Fusion supports the importing of SAT files (between version 4.0 and 7.0) and STEP files (supporting the AP214 and AP203E formats). In terms of Export, it’ll save out to the Inventor format but the other formats are limited to SAT (7.0 only) and STEP using the AP203E standard.

Feature recognition

As we’ve discussed already, Inventor Fusion is a non-history-based application but still takes advantage of feature-based working methods. When you create specific native features (such as holes, fillets in this release), these are stored and remain editable. But what about imported data which typically won’t have this feature date? To get over this and to add some intelligence to the system, Inventor Fusion has basic feature recognition tools built into it. Once you have your geometry imported, you can then run the Recognize Features from the Home panel. This will interrogate the geometry you have selected (it only works with one part at a time) and will find any hole, fillet or pattern features and store them in browser. It should be noted that when with imported data, this doesn’t replicate the features used to build that part originally, but rather uses recognition technology to find features that Fusion can work with. The same is true of Inventor parts too. As you’ll see, the system doesn’t replicate the traditional Inventor feature tree, instead using a series of mirror patterns, holes and fillets to recreate the cycle fork crown part.

The Fork Crown part (from the suspension fork dataset in the Samples folder). As you can see, it has a multi-item feature and history tree detailing each operation used to build the part.

Importing the same component into Inventor Fusion give you a dumb solid which you can edit. Using the Recognize Features command will interogate the part and find features that Inventor Fusion can replicate, such as fillets, holes and patterns.

Making edits

When it comes to making changes to parts, I’ve found it’s best to dive in and work with the data directly, using a combination of the Press/Pull and Move command to edit the geometry, shift it and work with it. When working with direct modelling tools such as this, it is important that you realise that all these systems (without exception) have quite specific limitations in terms of topology. While you can move, push and pull faces seemingly at will, the model must remain watertight and closed and the geometry/topology must solve. When you see faces disappearing, this is usually in the area of fillets and such, where the underlying modelling engine can handle the removal of those faces and patch the surfaces back it. If you try to make too drastic changes to complex geometry, perhaps to move features across faces and boundaries (particularly when those faces are non-planar), you’ll run into trouble and the operation will fail. The good news is that, as with many similar systems, Fusion gives you good feedback about what the system can do and will clearly flag up problems.

Working with Assemblies

The Constrain panel gives you access to assembly both parts and multiple bodies within a single part file.

Alongside the part modelling and editing tools, Fusion also allows you to create assemblies using some basic mating tools. As the system is multi-body in a single part capable, you can work with both explicit seperate parts or use the same alignment and mating tools to build up an assembly using mulitiple bodies. Found when clicking the Constrain icon in the Home panel, the basic commands are Align, Center, Angle and Tangent, all with offsets where appropriate. One thing to note is the order in which you select your mating geometry is key. As Fusion doesn’t have a fix or Anchor command to lock the first part down, you need to remember that your first selection is automatically locked and the second selection moves to it.

The Anchor glyph denotes that the first selection is locked and your next selection will move to it.

Annotating your data

Now, while the name of the Fusion game is direct editing of geometry, you do have a range of dimensioning tools, either for creating precise geometry or for annotating your model. In the former, the system allows you to create dimensions to position geometry exactly using the usual methods – but the system isn’t really geared up for that yet. When it comes to annotation of a model, the system follows the new 3D annotation methods that are being introduced across the industry.

Dimensions are added directly to the model (rather that to a drawing) and you have the ability to add dimensions to specific work-planes. These can be specified directly or dynamically. As there could be a complex set of annotations, you can switch between existing annotation planes (using the tab key), which lets you keep order in your dimensioning schemes. You can also toggle between ANSI and ISO methods of dimensioning in this release.

Next up we’re going to have a little chat with Kevin Schneider at Autodesk about the launch of Inventor Fusion, what Autodesk’s plans are and where this is all headed. Look out for more later in the week.

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New Samples from Z Corp’s new ZP150 material

Published 26 June 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: z corporation, 3d printer, zp150, powders, material developments

I love the smell of bubblewrap, packing peanuts and prototypes in the morning (excuse the state of the desk – I’ve been travelling again).

A couple of weeks ago, Z Corporation announced a new composite material for its range of 3D printers, zp150. As ever, we’re keen to see what these new materials can do and how they perform with data we sent to the provider, rather than just relying on a material spec sheet and some stock photos.

The SeaDoo dataset (which is coloured like this due to a bug in SolidWorks) – the new model, in the new material does have a much richer colour set than the previous test (in the background).

Well, this morning, I was greated with a slightly baffled FedEx man looking for DEVELOP3D magazine – and of course, he was rather bemused to find it was in fact my front door. Key much banging around in the back of a van and signing of paper/electronic screens and I was presented with two very large boxes sealed up with Z Corp tape. Living, as I do, in a ridiculously small house, I decided to unbox the rapid prototype joy in the street, much to the hilarity of one of my particularly noisey neighbours (he and his wife sign their christmas cards “Les and Jess.” After eight years, we’ve yet to figure out which is which) as the packing foam decided to escape and make its way down the street. Still, after much running about and sweeping up, I was presented with three new RP models to add to my collection. Those that remember the Z540 try out, I had the same dataset built, another from Inventor (which never arrived last time) and Z Corp threw in a new model of an angle grinder. All of which have been packed up and shipped across from Z Corp’s headquarter in Boston.

Deeper blacks more vibrant colours. Seems to stack up for the new material

The results are good. The blurb for the zp150 material claims 40% increases in both ‘green’ strength (meaning when it’s fresh out of the build chamber) and when post processed using the standard infiltrant (which is cyanoacrylate or superglue to me and you). They also claim greater richness of colours, including brighter whites (which is key for architectural users) and deeper blacks). The models we’ve had built certainly back up the colour claims, but on opening two of the three models, the models were damaged – something which hasn’t happened before. I’m pretty sure this is down to the rather battered nature of the box when it arrived, but I did find it curious. If you build parts with a more stiff material, then this is going to happen and in all fairness, most prototypes built on an in-house machine don’t get shipped 4,000 miles, they’re built, played with, examined, tested maybe, kept if they’re good, or binned. The good news is that the models that arrived more accurately represent the colours of the data provided (we tested it using one of my favoutie devices – the Colour Cue – I’ve got an older one, but the new one does more), give you a better indication of design intent and let you get on with making decisions and progressing a design project.

Final Note: Another thing that my ’tests’ don’t really effect and that’s the fact that instead of the standard infiltrant, you can also use water to post cure and toughen up the model, rather than nasty chemicals – which is particularly useful for schools and other educational establishments (where the Z Corp machines have found a healthy home).

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Inventor Fusion Part I: Inventor Fusion – getting started and creating geometry

Published 25 June 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: autodesk, synchronous technology, inventor fusion, direct editing

Perhaps the most eagerly awaited bit of technology in the last few months has been Inventor Fusion. This is Autodesk’s first foray into the world of direct editing of 3D geometry, which has been one of the most talked about technologies of the past 12 months with products like Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology, SpaceClaim and CoCreate creating much of the buzz. Yesterday saw the application launch, so we thought we’d give you a guide to the functionality you’ll find on the web-site.

Unlike Inventor 2010, Inventor Fusion doesn’t rely on history. Features are still very much an intrinsic part of the application, but it doesn’t carry with it the headache of history recalculation when features are edited.

Autodesk first showed off Inventor Fusion at its annual user event, Autodesk University, in December 2008 and we got the scoop on DEVELOP3D.com with some rather shaky videos. Seven months on and the technology has just been made available for download from the Autodesk Labs web-site. Out of all the CAD vendors, Autodesk has one of the most impressive Labs sites and many technologies that started out in Autodesk Labs have been refined over the past couple of years and now form a key part of Inventor and its associated extensions, such as simulation and tooling. Inventor Fusion is likely to remain in Autodesk Labs for some time as each successive public release is put out for all to see, play with and give feedback to help drive its development.

I’ve been lucky enough to have access to the software for the past couple of weeks prior to it going live on the Labs site and have spent some time playing with the application. Over the next few days I’m going to share my experiences and conclusions of Inventor Fusion, kicking off with the minimal User Interface (UI).

The Inventor Fusion UI. Dynamic. Very.

User Interface

The Inventor Fusion UI is minimal to say the least and because it has a small set of commands (which actually do a lot more than might immediately be obvious) there are just two panels and tabs. Let’s look at the basics of view manipulation first.

The View tab and panel gives access to the view controls for view and display. Like Inventor 2010, there’s a View Cube at the top right of the UI, then the display toolbar below gives access to the rest of the view controls.

In terms of navigation, all of the controls for pan (middle mouse button or F2), zoom (scroll wheel or F3) and rotate (F4) are there, with the exception of the shift + middle mouse button combo for rotate (a little tip for Inventor 2010 users courtesy of Steve Bedder). There’s also control over the display of grids, shadows, View Cube, navigation bar, and browser. As in Inventor 2010, it is worth noting that there is a toggle for orthographic or perspective display, but I encountered some display issues when in perspective mode, so be warned (I’m told this is to be fixed very shortly indeed).

There is also a material definition and texturing control for parts, so the visual appearance can be set to help put models in context. The familiar browser – now integrated into the user interface, rather than as a separate panel – gives access to named views, origins, work geometry, annotation planes and a feature list (Note: no history).

The final command for this panel is the ShowMotion tool. This is new for Inventor-related products and it sees cross-pollination of technology from Autodesk’s Showcase product. Showcase excels at helping users quickly create presentations to show off product models, and allows view positions and display states to be captured and animated – think a 3D PowerPoint for design review and presentation.

ShowMotion enables users to create a shot for a view and add the animation details so it can be stored for reuse and presentations. Simply bring up the little panel in the UI, flick between views, and run simple animations. It’s very slick.

Modelling from scratch

There are several things you need to familiarise yourself with before digging into Fusion. Firstly, the user experience is much more dynamic than Inventor (and many other applications, for that matter) and there is much less reliance on toolbars and icons. While all of the modelling and editing operations are available on the Home toolbar, once you get the hang of things, you’ll find you don’t use this much. This is a heads up interface to the extreme.

Fusion Tip #1: Fusion defaults to Inches. If you want to switch units, look at the dimension indicator at the bottom right corner of the screen. Click Inches and select from a number of unit displays (mm, cm, ft, metres are supported). The rule to the left gives you control over snap distances for the Press/Pull, dynamic manipulation controls. You’ll also see the toggle icons for grid, snapping and ground shadows at the very bottom of the UI

.

Much of Fusion is driven from marking menus, something that was introduced into the Alias products many years ago and which has been adopted by many modelling packages as a replacement for the context sensitive right hand mouse button menu. Fusion combines the two. To begin, hover your cursor in the middle of screen. Now, hit the RMB (Right mouse button). You’ll see a radial marking menu pop up and a more traditional menu. The radial commands give you access to the following:

The Marking Menu’s give you access to the most commonly used command around the cursor and a secondary, more comprehensive list of commands in the more traditional menu.

For modelling. To begin, select Draw. This brings up the usual plane selection triad and you can either select a working plane or one from the browser. Once that’s done, the view presents the plane normal to the screen, starts a sketch and switches on the grid if you’ve turned it on (either from the View Panel or from the small icon at the bottom right of the screen).

Inventor Fusion’s sketching tools dynamically add ad-hoc dimensions that allow you to eye-in values (the grid helps greatly) or to tap in values to lock length and angle.

Immediately the line, circle, arc drawing tool starts and you can create a sketch. Sketching within Fusion is pretty slick. Hit the start point, add the first line and immediately the dimensions are displayed, for length and angle. While you can eye these in, it’s much more powerful when tapping in known values. The tab key switches between the length and angle, and you can tap in one and eye in the other – or indeed, tap in both.

To create an arc, you drag from the end point of your last line and add the arc, again eyeing in or tapping values as you go. This process can be used to create a lot of geometry, but for more complex forms there is a pretty comprehensive range of additional sketching tools, including splines, circles, rectangles, filleting, other methods of arc construction and extending and trimming. These are available either from the Home Panel or the marking menus. To assist with geometry creation there is also the usual range of work-plane, axis and point tools to create references. These are simple to set-up and use the same dynamic movement and positioning tools as every other command.

Automatic closed loop profile detection gives you the ability to create geometry very quickly. Model glyphs give you access to operation options, such as direction of pull, and draft angle.

Once you have a closed profile (Note: Fusion only supports closed profiles at the moment for feature creation, as there’s no surfacing), you’ll find that the profile automatically becomes shaded indicating that it’s ready for feature construction. To exit the sketch, you can either hit the small icon at the bottom right of the sketch plane or hit the marking menu and choose the modelling operation. Now, this is where things get interesting so let’s look at the various commands available in this first Labs release.

The major modelling operation is the Press/Pull command, found in the marking menu or the panels. This can be used to create extrusions, either to add material or cut it away. Hit the command, select the profile you want to work with and the display brings up a preview and a small arrow. This lets the geometry to be dragged out to the desired depth (again, you can key in or eye in values). There are two additional controls you need to be aware of. Firstly, with the small glyph near the feature (by default it shows a plane and an arrow), you can either define the extrusion as running from one side of the sketch-plane, from both (to different values) or symmetrically about that plane. Secondly, below the length arrow, you’ll see a small ball. Dragging this will create the required draft angle. Of course, you can also tap the values into the panel that pops up at the top of the screen.

Adding addition sketches allows you to quickly sketch, pull/push new features into your model.

The Press/Pull command is a multi-purpose tool, in that it allows you to create extrudes and fillets depending on your selection. Select a profile and you have a cut/add extrusion. Select an edge or set of edges and you have filleting to hand. Filleting allows you to work with single edges and multiple selections and you simply press the fillet into place. There is also a handy “match radius” glyph that allows a numerical reference to be taken from another existing fillet radius.

The Press/Pull command can create extrusions, offsets and fillets depending on your selection.

Move

While the Press/Pull command will be used in most instances when modifying and adding geometry, the Move command lets you work with existing geometry and shift it – simply grab the geometry and use a triad to move or rotate sets of faces. There’s also a very handy ‘Select Other’ tool from the marking menu. This gives a heads up way to find geometry related to your current selection, either by topological neighbour (edges or faces which are connected directly to your current selection), by Z depth (which allows you to select obscured or hidden faces behind your current selection), or using the feature selection tool (to find extrude, fillets and such from your selection). The options are displayed on-screen with dynamic previews that show exactly what you’re working with. These allow you to grab the feature or face you want to work with, and then hitting the move command brings up the familiar Triad. This gives you several things to do with your geometry selection. Each axis on the triad allows you to move the geometry in that direction. There’s also a visual reference for rotating geometry about an axis and a free move option using the sphere at the origin.

Using the Move Triad and the F5 key allows you to grab geometry, align the triad to the direction you want to move that geometry and pull it into position.

These small black arrows animate to you show you how your geometry selection can be manipulated.

More traditional features

Alongside the Press/Pull command, there are familiar commands for sweeps, revolves, fillets, chamfers and shell. There’s also a Delete Face operation, but it’s worth noting that the system will only allow you to delete a face if the removal of that face results in a watertight model, once the boundaries have been filled in.

The hole command epitomises Inventor Fusion’s dynamic way of working. When you create a hole, you have a number of options for a straight bore, counter bore or counter sunk holes. These are not standards-based yet (I’d expect that’s coming at some point, as Autodesk already has a wealth of data for that within Inventor 2010), but you simply drag and drop the handles into place to create the feature. That feature is then stored in the browser and can be copied/pasted into another position when required.

Hole creation isn’t yet standard-based, but uses the same dynamic interaction methods to define the various constituent parts of simple bores, counter sunk and counter bored holes.

Alongside standard features, there are patterning tools (radial and linear), mirror of features and part splitting. Because these are maintained as features and remain intelligent, modifications to one mirrored face will result in updates to others within that Mirror set.

Reference geometry is available to assist creating reference with accurate references.

While this might sound complex, in reality, it’s a very easy way to work. When you build successive features, you follow the same, sketch, model, preview, build workflow. Sketching is much more fluid than in Inventor 2010. If you create a sketch on an existing face, the system uses the boundaries that already exist and you can simply drag that profile loop into shape, without all that messy face splitting business.

That’s it for Part One. We’ll be back at you soon with Part II looking at working with existing geometry, assembly creation and model annotation. Before we go, no post would be complete with some video.

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