DWG editing goes Web

Published 21 May 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: solidworks, design, autodesk, inventor, collaboration, dwg, interaction design, web

It seems that the battle over the DWG format is still raging - Autodesk claim it’s theirs, others protest. Autodesk tries to copyright and protect it, others protest and to be honest, it’s a battle I’m not really interested in. DWG was an abbrieviation long before the advent of CAD and the copy of BS308 (for those non-brits out there, this is a British Standard for Technical Drawing) proves it - job done.

Anyway, what is interesting is that SolidWorks Labs just launched an online hosted DWG editor called BluePrint Now and it looks pretty slick. With many talking about delivery of CAD over the web, then this is a good indicator of what the first batch of tools will look, feel and smell like. Its built using the Microsoft’s SilverLight technology and the UI is nifty, if a little clunky (as all over the web, CAD apps have been to date). But does it work? I’m going to spend some more time playing with it, but first impressions are that it has some basic tools, lines, circles, arc etc. You can output the drawings as PDF, as DWG again (useful if you’ve made an edit) from AutoCAD R14, right through to the latest rev - or you can email a link to share it with someone.

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SolidWorks DWG data - works fine - as you would expect.

I did try loading some data, both from Inventor as AutoCAD DWGs and from SolidWorks. The app has a 1Mb file limit, which is going to be pretty quickly hit if you’ve got any data of any size. It loaded the SolidWorks DWGs fine, displayed them after a few hiccups but you could actually pan and zoom the drawing, add some basic detail. Same for the Inventor generated data.

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Inventor DWG file, uploaded to Blueprint Now - seems to work just fine

But this isn’t the point of Labs projects. these things are put out there to show the vendor’s future thoughts - whether they actually reach fruition and become a shipping product remains to be seen. Oh and I just realised two things - Yes, I tried this using Safari and Yes, it works on OSX.

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CoCreate is back with 2008

Published 20 May 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: design, ptc, siemens plm, synchronous technology, cocreate, manage

Things all went a little quiet on the CoCreate front while the PTC acquisition worked its way out and through the system, but that’s done with and the company is pushing its latest release. Today saw the announcement of CoCreate 2008. You’ll notice that the hideous OneSpace Designer Modelling nonsense naming has been dropped. What we’re now dealing with is CoCreate Modelling and CoCreate Model Manager: a much clearer naming convention. What’s also interesting is that the press release mentions “incremental enhancements” that peaked my curiousity so I took a closer look. Updates for this release after the jump:

A) Improved and reworked pattern, that guides the user through the process of creating a pattern features, but also gives you better options for non-uniform patterns and selective suppression of specific instances.

B) Shaded and rendered drawing views

C) You can now capture work-in-progress and this is an interesting one. By allowing the user to save daily work and “what if” scenarios, even when you have multiple revisions of locked parts and assemblies loaded into your session. This type of thing will save that, end of day – “Who the eff locked out my parts, I want to go home?” problem that many PDM users will be familiar with.

Modelling updates

With the recent interest in Direct Editing, Explicit Modelling, Push me Pull me modelling technology, its also no wonder that PTC are making some noise (if a little subdued) about the modelling tools in CoCreate. This release sees some enhancements made to cross-sectional modification and there’s some new surface editing, which allow you to maintain curvature tangency, coincidence, and continuity.

Considering the noise that Siemens are going to make this week with the dual-headed launch of Solid Edge and NX with Synchronous Technology, this release is perfect timing. CoCreate 2008 is scheduled to be available in May 2008 in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish.

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Sky is the limit for new product design

Published 17 May 2008

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with: design, rendering, visualisation, art-vps

I’m always interested in new forms of transport and thanks to modern product design systems, new materials and a few determined inventors inability to limit their imaginations. The recent BBC news piece on Swiss ‘mentalist’ Yves Rossy’s home made rocket pack really is something else. Basically, the guy leaps out of a plane, his 3 metre wing unfolds and his four rockets ignite and off he goes. He has soared to heights of 8,000 metres at speeds over 100 knots. It’s probably not surprising that Rossy is an ex-military jet fighter pilot and commercial pilot, so he knows a lot about flying. It’s absolutely amazing and normally the kind of thing that’s mentioned in a conversation about the Darwin Awards, where some idiot has removed themselves from the gene-pool by doing something absolutely stupid and deadly, like attaching a rocket to their back, igniting it and flying into the ground.

It seems that he was formerly known as Jet-man but a sponsorship deal with Hublot watches meant he became Fusion-man to coincide with a watch name. Still, hey, you can’t blame him, the damn thing cost about $300,000 to develop.

Mr. Rossy’s madness led me to search for some more you tube fun. Looking for Swiss Rocket-man I found some chap who’d attached a rocket to his bicycle, reaching a speed of 242 Kmph, which is actually faster than Mr. Fusion-man’s rocket glider. The video doesn’t show how he actually managed to brake but we guess he survived. There is something weird happening in Switzerland, seems they will strap a jet engine to anything that blatantly shouldn’t!

I also found an actual new product, the world’s smallest helicopter. The Gen H-4, from Gene Corporation, costs about $32,000 and has two, 4 metre coaxial, contra_rotating rotors which eliminates the need for a tail rotor. The four 125cc 2 cylinder engines use standard petrol. The Gen H-4 can fly up to 1000 metres, at 59 mph for up to 30 minutes. It’s really impressive but I’m not sure about nipping to the shops in it.

You can’t have a round-up of ‘Jetsons’ flying vehicles without talking about Moller. The company has two flying cars in development. The two seater M200D Volantor is a round, space-ship like platform that can vertically take off and land and costs around $125,000. The ship is software limited to fly at 10 ft and uses 8 Moller’s Rotapower engines and Rotafan ducted fan for lift and propulsion, although the maximum payload is 250 lbs. I think this is the one i would choose for myself as it does have the air of a Marvel comic baddie vehicle. The M200D is a prelim to Moller’s other big design, the SkyCar.

and the Skycar:

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3D without glasses

Published 16 May 2008

Posted by greg corke

Article tagged with:

The first time I used a 3D monitor was at the end of the nineties. The problem was that to see the 3D image clearly I had to sit directly in front of the screen and even then it gave me an absolutely massive headache. With Philips’ new WOWvx 3D display you don’t have to sit directly in front of the screen and it doesn’t give you a massive headache. Now why didn’t the guys who developed my old 3D monitor think of that? To think how much paracetamol I could have saved.

Helping turn its WOWvx 3D technology into something ‘real’, the boffins at Phillips have teamed up with London’s Picture Production Company Group (PPC). The London-based outfit has plenty of expertise in turning 2D into 3D and is supplying media content for the displays. The major focus at PPC is currently on product marketing, but beyond turning heads in your local high street or car showroom, this technology has the potential to become an essential tool for the product development process.

Indeed, PPC told DEVELOP3D that they already have a motor manufacturer who is using this technology to revisit legacy 2D drawings, but is also considering putting the screens on designer’s desks for a true 3D modelling experience. Skipping industries, Dutch architects, OMA, is using the technology to bring its buildings to life for design exploration and client presentations.

In terms of producing the 3D imagery Philips explained that 2D video can be converted into 3D using a rather clever box of tricks called the Philips BlueBox. However, if a 3D CAD model exists, it can be adapted for the screen by taking it into 3ds Max and Maya and using special plug ins to produce the ‘2D plus depth’ file required for the display. It would also be possible to develop plug ins for other CAD applications.

Anyway, to learn more about the technology I’ve included the obligatory YouTube link. The problem is you kind of lose the effect a bit watching it on a 2D monitor. It’s a bit like watching R2D2’s Princess Leia hologram on the silver screen. OK, it’s not, but you get my point.

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ARTVPS Releases AV6.5 ART Renderer

Published 16 May 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with:

ART-VPS has released a new version of its ART Renderer which updates support for the latest revisions of 3ds Max and Maya and brings some new goodies to users. One of the biggest bottlenecks is the creation of accurate lighting and scene set-up to ensure your product rendering looks absolutely photo realistic.

If you haven’t come across ART-VPS (it stands for Advanced Render Technology - Virtual Photography Systems) it developers raytracing acceleration hardware in the form of standalone devices (RayBox and RenderDrive) as well as component cards for your workstation (Pure). New options include a new ‘infinity cove’ and ‘sphere’ options within a skylight feature allowing you to alter the shape of the environment dome upon which your HDR image is going to be mapped. The new real-time reflection feature enables users to view ART materials and HDR reflections in real time, giving you instant feedback and real-time environment shading reduces test renders.

There’s also a bunch of other updates including quicker GI (Global Illumination) calcs, added support for Microsoft Vista and RayBox monitoring system now runs better on Mac OSX.

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Microsoft Touch Screen TouchWall

Published 15 May 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: design, hardware, visualisation, user interaction, engineer, multi-touch

Seems like Josh over at SolidSmack.com got to it first, but this looks sweet. Its a hacked together rear projection unit with some fancy bits and bobs running on Vista. What’s interesting is the multi-touch manner. A lot of the CAD vendors are talking about this as the future - SolidWorks went multi-touch crazy at their press event preceding the last SolidWorks World. I wonder how it could be packaged up - maybe some sort of hand held device like the Wacom’s Cintiq maybe. One thing’s for sure, we all ain’t gonna be standing in front of a wall to get the job done are we?

As a recent convert to the Apple platform and owner of a macbook air, I have to say multi touch is pretty compelling - as this technology develops, its going to be interesting to see how its implemented in CAD systems. Of course, most of my work is done on a big old workstation running windows, but I do my writing on OSX.. but if I do fancy designing something, I now have the early test version of Rhino for the Mac - and that has multi-touch implemented in a very subtle manner.

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Reading Matter: Designing Interaction

Published 14 May 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: design, industrial design, human factors, innovation, interaction design, engineer, ideo, visualization

I don’t really want this to turn into a book review blog, but there have been some amazing publications in the last few years. One of my personal favourites is Designing Interaction by IDEO founder, Bill Moggridge. For anyone involved in design, in product development, its chock full of interview and studies of how designers are adapting to accomodate how users interact with their products, be that by software, hardware - whatever. One of my favourite chapters is an interview with Kenji Hatori, a software engineer at Canon who developed PhotoStitch. It describes the stitch assist mode for cameras and Rikako recounts the process used to design the screen behaviors for the PhotoStitch software, with a clear structure indicated by tabs and actions clarified by animations. The book is supplied with a DVD that’s worth sitting a watching (and yup, boring your families with) - a great deal can be learned. You can see a video of the interview here.

If we’re to develop truly stunning products, whatever field they are active in, then the whole user experience needs to be address - and its something that CAD vendors should take note of - more so now than every before. The technology we use to develop products seems to be getting easier to handle, but without some form of forethought, some sort of rationalisation, its all for nothing. and again, the question of whether the Microsoft Ribbon UI is the way forward spring to mind. We develop in 3D - should our tools follow the same UI characteristics as Word, Excel and Outlook. Familiarity is the reason that vendors have jumped all over it. the argument being that if you can drive Word or Outlook, you can drive SolidWorks, SpaceClaim, Inventor et al. I’m not convinced.http://www.designinginteractions.com/

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