The latest from the DEVELOP3D Blog:

The Ribbon of Doom

Published 30 May 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with:

Solid Edge is now fully Ribbon’ed up

I’ve spent the last ten years or so writing about the technology we use day-in-day-out. What’s interesting is that as my career transitioned from designer to writer to publisher, the software within this space also went through a transition, from the UNIX-based hardware to the more cost effective Windows platform.

With that shift brought about a transition in user interface design. When CAD software ran on SGI, IBM-AIX or Sun Solaris systems, the user interface was pretty much up the development teams, they designed it (or didn’t in some cases) to fit the purpose it was intended for; hence, I-deas looked nothing like Unigraphics which looked nothing like AliasStudio. Which definitely looked nothing like Pro/Engineer. But things changed when CAD vendors adopted the Windows platform and things started to standardise - but even still, every application retained its own look and feel.

SpaceClaim was one of the first to adopt the Ribbon UI

But now, we’re seeing an even greater process of commonisation across the software within this magazine. The Windows Vista UI style, specifically, the Ribbon toolbar, is become the de facto standard for software vendors and user interaction. Look at the images on this pages, can you tell them apart at first or even second glance.

EFD.Lab from Flomerics latest release adopts the ribbon toolbar

In there we not only have SolidWorks, Solid Edge and SpaceClaim but also Flomerics’ EFD.Lab. The Ribbon toolbar is everywhere and seemingly omnipresent. So what’s my point?

I can understand the argument that familiarity with user interaction methods is a healthy thing. That if you use Word and Excel then you have immediate familiarity with the 3D design software and it eases the learning curve. This can be argued back and forth and I’m personally not convinced. Much of it, I’m sure, is the vendor appealing to the lowest common denominator. The majority of users, particularly within our readership, have adopted 3D design tools, but the vendors are still chasing the laggards, those slowest to adopt 3D and drive forward with it - and for those, the “its just like Word” might be a good sales line.

But if you look at each application, look at the technologies they use, there are common components; many use Parasolid, many user D-cubed, many use other libraries to provide their features and functions. If UI design is also standardised, where can the vendors find the room for innovation, for differentiation and how can they truly support the 3D-based design workflow? I guess the answer is that the Devil is truly in the details. How does your system allow you to work directly, but intelligently with your geometry and parameters of design? How do you use on-model interaction and context sensitivity to its fullest. Does your design system enable that? What additional tools has your vendor developed to assist with design, to make it more fluid - are things like SpaceClaim’s direct modelling approach, Siemens Synchronous Technology, the future or is there something else required? Personally, one of the most impressive UI updates I’ve seen in some time is the forthcoming NX 6 release that Siemens has just shown off.

The new NX UI which sees no ribbon action whatsoever

Yes, it has the Sync Tech behind it, but more impressively than that, the UI is stripped down and minimised. Use of Roles allows you to have the commands you need for the task you re working, at hand and switch able, and the level of at cursor interaction and command/operation access is unbelievable and will make users way more productive.

And guess what, there’s not a ribbon in sight.

it seems that its not just me that’s been considering these things - Ralph Grabowski’s been pondering the same thing over at WorldCADaccess.

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Seize the data

Published 29 May 2008

Posted by Greg Corke

Article tagged with: simulation, cae, slm

ESI Group is driving the industry trend to give order to the seemingly endless pit that is becoming enterprise CAE data. The simulation specialist announced today that it will enhance its VisualDSS solution with the latest technologies and product architectures from database boffins, Oracle.

For those that don’t know, ESI Group develops digital simulation software for prototyping and manufacturing processes. It’s truly high end stuff - Volkswagen uses it for crash test simulation, Boeing and Nasa for noise and vibration. If you have trouble imagining the sheer power and complexity of this software, spare a thought for the poor the guys that use it and have to keep control of their data.

That’s where VisualDSS comes in. It’s designed to enable enterprises to build and manage simulation models for multi-domain usage, automate project workflows, and manage simulation content and data. ESI Group refers to this as an ‘advanced end-to-end decision support solution for simulation’, others are calling it SLM (Simulation Lifecycle Management). Whatever label you give it, it’s destined to become the biggest thing since PLM, but try not to yawn too loud as your crumple zone and crash test dummy whiz effortlessly around your extranet.

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Just how fast is your graphics card?

Published 27 May 2008

Posted by Greg Corke

Article tagged with: hardware, graphics cards, benchmarking, viewperf

SPECviewperf is a worldwide standard for assessing graphics performance. It’s easy to use, freely downloadable and doesn’t require a design software license to run. It uses datasets from a variety of CAD/DCC applications and these are developed by tracing graphics content from actual applications. These include 3ds max, Catia, EnSight, Maya, Pro/Engineer, SolidWorks, UGS NX, and UGS Teamcenter Visualization Mockup.

So what’s this post all about? Well, I’m a bit puzzled about the recent release of the Linux/Unix version of SPECviewperf 10. I understand it has SolidWorks and 3ds Max datasets in it. Now, the last time I looked, neither of those products ran on Linux/Unix, so why include them in a Linux/Unix benchmark?

Putting that rhetorical question to one side for a minute, my point is that the results from SPECviewperf can often be misleading. The benchmark’s scores are broken down by software brand names, but the scores don’t necessarily reflect the performance you’d achieve in the real world application of the same name. Historically, some scores have been known to be off by a huge factor, but I’m pleased to say SPECviewperf 10 is much more accurate than its predecessors - much more accurate, but still not perfect. This is because the graphics card vendors continue to spend precious development time optimizing their drivers to make the benchmark run faster instead of channeling all of their resources to the applications themselves. Why? Well, the clue is in the first line of this post - it’s a ‘worldwide standard’ and gets coverage all over the Internet.

So, what’s the alternative? Well, the SPECapc benchmarks are better as they actually run inside the CAD/DCC application, so the graphics cards vendors can’t optimize their cards as much for these, but the downside is that some benchmarks are quite a bit out of sync with the actual software releases.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC). I think they do an excellent job in helping guide engineers and designers in decisions on hardware purchases, I’m just saying don’t take the results as gospel.

The only real way to assess how fast a graphics card is to take your own datasets and test them in your CAD/DCC application of choice. The problem is most end users don’t have access to the many different graphics cards, just as most journalists don’t have access to the many different software applications.

So I guess that brings us back to Viewperf 10. Why don’t you download it and let me know what you think. I’d also be interested to hear how you make decisions on hardware purchases, what internal benchmarks you carry out and what you’d like to see us test on DEVELOP3D.

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Fun with Sketching and Physics

Published 25 May 2008

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with: design, solid edge, siemens plm, synchronous technology, engineer

I found this by accident last year but it dates from 2005. It’s still pretty damn cool if you haven’t ever seen it. One wonders what ever happened to this, it’s surely has a commercial application, even with or without the whiteboard and projector. It would be a great application to have on a Tablet PC, although I can’t say I’ve seen that many Tablet PCs in actual use (the first ones were a little bit crap from memory).

If only all CAD systems were this easy to use and powerful, mind you i think there would be lots of 2D ‘games’ developed with the physics engine by bored engineers and students. If this kind of tool was available in schools surely we would be able to get more kids interested in science?

The system was created using three different technologies:

  • Working Model 2D v.2005
  • Mimio Whiteboard Capture System by Virtual Ink
  • ASSIST sketch understanding system pioneered by MIT Professor Randall Davis

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