Synchronous Technology: part II

Published 08 May 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: design, siemens plm, synchronous technology, collaboration, engineer

I’ve been plugging through everything I’ve learned so far about Synchronous Technology, so here it is. The essential difference between Synchronous Technology and other systems out there that many are comparing it with (let’s be frank, that’s SpaceClaim, CoCreate and to a much less extent, IronCAD), is not so much the ability to interact directly with geometry, but rather the manner in which you add intelligence to your 3D product model.

When we design a product, we have two things in mind. What it looks like, whether in terms of aesthetic quality, but also that it need to fit and provide a certain function, and that’s often governed by form - after all, parts need to interact with those around them. But alongside this, you also need to be able to specify how a product is formed. Rough dimensions don’t cut it, you need to be able to tie information down, lock it out and ensure that the geometry you create fulfills a need, for function and performance.

In traditional history based systems, the latter part is much easier, as you are defining geometry from a very root level, which captures your design intent - but only just. the fact that you often have to add excessive dimensions and constraints at a feature/sketch level, means that the process is counter intuitive. In other words, history-based modeling is too over burdened.

What it DOES give you is the ability to add a lot of intelligence, so design change can be automated, dimensions and constraints interlinks between sketches, features, parts and sub-assemblies. But the end result is a dataset that’s horrendously complex and effecting even a small change can result in a parametric nightmare that take herculean effort to resolve - and in many cases, user remodel from scratch just to avoid it.

Direct Editing applications (such as CoCreate and SpaceClaim), work from the other end, where you play with the geometry and the constraints you apply (be they dynamically input, or more commonly, just a case of drag and drop geometry) are not maintained and stored. So, you can add dimensions if you need to, but they can’t be maintained and commonly accessed at a later date.

What Siemens has done is develop an architecture in which you can mix and match both. you can play with geometry to get it into shape, to ensure that the rough state of your model is how you want it. you can make changes very quickly indeed, by using inferred relationships, dynamic detection of ‘informal’ topology relationships - such as concentricity, parallelism, perpendicularity. this just enables to you edit the geometry and topology very quickly. But the trick is that when time comes to lock down feature size, dimensions, constraints, you can do is, just as you do already BUT, you can maintain them. Dimensions remain consistent, are stored and accessible, features are maintained, in respect to the dimensions, rules, constraints you provide.


They are applied after the geometry has been built - and this is key. you design, then you engineer. For me, the most interesting illustration i could find is the one shown here. its a model with parametric dimensions, but one that’s fully constrained - but the difference is that the ONLY dimensions, parameters and constraint you create, are the important ones - that, is the crux of the point and key to understanding what Siemens have developed.

Its a complex thought process to figure this out, with over 20 years of parametric, history-based modeling that the majority of us are familiar with and it’ll take time to settle and learn more.

NOTE: it’s been pointed out that I left Kubotek and its products out of these articles. Apologies to the guys over here.

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Crystal gazing: the future of wide format colour printing?

Published 08 May 2008

Posted by greg corke

Article tagged with: hardware, printing, colorwave, oce, wide format, crystalpoint

It’s not often I get animated about printing, but when I first saw Oce’s new CrystalPoint technology in action on YouTube recently I was genuinely excited - so much so I that immediately showed my girlfriend the video. She now thinks I’m genuinely ‘sad’.

This ‘sad’ individual has just got back from the official launch event at Oce’s headquarters in Venlo, Holland, so what is all the fuss about? Well, for starters, it’s the first new wide format print technology for a number of years and is designed to bridge the gap between inkjet and LED by offering full colour, faster colour print speeds, and there being no need for coated paper.

To do this CrystalPoint uses TonerPearls instead of inkjet ink or powder-based toner. Each TonerPearl is about the size of a small marble and is heated into a gel which is then jetted and crystallised onto plain or even recycled paper.

The first machine to bear this technology is the ColorWave 600, which Oce claims will beat any inkjet on the market when it comes to throughput. From what I saw today it is undoubtedly a fast technology, but image quality, while great for linework, fell a little short of my expectations for full colour - it’s good, but not photo inkjet quality.

It’s certainly a cool technology, and one that could have huge implications on engineering and architecture with the ability to produce colour prints in real volumes. However, I have to say I’ve calmed down a little since first seeing the video. This is undoubtedly a good thing for my relationship.

We’ll have a full review in the first issue of DEVELOP3D.

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Synchronous Technology: A taster

Published 08 May 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: siemens plm, synchronous technology, velocity series

So, everyone’s talking about Siemens and its Synchronous Technology recently. While many are talking about it, details are scant and everyone’s guessing, but from what I have seen (and questioned the #%^ out of Siemens on) so far, I can say this: it’s dammed impressive - this technology has massive potential and will provide Siemens with solid base for the years to come. But you kind of guessed this already, right? Want some more details? OK - let’s go.

To understand Synchronous Technology, you need to consider the background of Feature and History-based modeling. When developed (over 20 years ago) the 3D CAD systems were not capable of solving both Geometry and Topology at the same time, for a complete model - it was computationally too complex.

So, the developers compartmentalised the process, split it up into a list of features, which construct the model, which is solved in series, one after the other. The hardware could compute each stage more easily and output the results. These are the basics.

Systems like IronCAD, CoCreate, SpaceClaim differ in that they give you very powerful tools for editing geometry, but don’t handle topology changes well, where faces disappear, are subsumed into other geometry.

And never the twain shall meet?

Not exactly. What the technology does is solve five things at once: Geometry and Topology. But into this, it also solves Features, Design Rules (or Live Rules) and Dimensions - all at the same time. this means that editing a model, features, parameters, doesn’t have such an impact on calculation times - as there’s no history to replay - the system solves all these aspects in one go. And it’s slick people, very slick indeed.

What else did I find out?

Productisation: Synchronous Technology will be implemented differently in the two core modeling applications in the Siemens PLM arsenal (NX and Solid Edge). Both development teams are co-operating on the technology, but how it’s implemented will differ between the two product streams - and rightly so. This is a huge sea change for both and time needs to be taken to evaluate and do the job properly - and we all know what rushing into UI changes can do.

We’re going to cover this emerging technology more and more in the coming month as details and products emerge, but one ting is clear. Siemens has something pretty unique on its hands and the development has paid off. Other CAD vendors rely on Siemens PLM components for its core technology (such as Parasolid and D-cubed), but this is different in that it is an application layer in NX and Solid Edge.

Stay Tuned - more to come…

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Protecting IP with the new breed of 3D design

Published 08 May 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: design, siemens plm, pdm, collaboration, manage, intellectual property, engineer

One thing I’ve been thinking about of late is the new breed of modeling technology that’s clearly coming on stream, which allows you to work with geometry in a very freeform, unrestricted manner. If, you can load a part or assembly, then edit it, without recourse to the construction history, you have the ability to edit a part without having knowledge about how it was constructed. And believe me, I think that’s a good thing, when the tools finally get there, it means that we’ll be able to concentrate on design and engineering, rather that operation of software.


The benefit of history and features is that you are storing the intelligence in your model, of how you construct the part, how you design it. With the rise of more intelligent features and such, you can store a great deal more information about the design intent, the process you went through to create those forms. In other words, the CAD model, at present, reflection a big portion of your intellectual property.

While its a royal pain in the arse, it also means that if you’re working in a supply chain, you can protect your intellectual property to a large extent, because of this complexity. If a design change needs to be made, then the customer has to come back to you and your design team to effect that change, because, they have the knowledge of how it was constructed. and for many organizations, that consultative role is a source of revenue and on-going business.

If this new breed of modeling tool does not rely on that recipe that you store, and anyone can load the part, edit the information it represents, then that revenue might be lost.

Absolutely, I’m absolutely aware that the intellectual property held within a CAD system is the end result of the process, rather than the be-all and end-all of your organization’s skills, the fact remains that this is something that more and more organizations are going to have to accept and deal with. How do you protect your data? what tools are available to ensure that your intellectual property is protected. Does is mean that the integration of Digital Right Management tools, such as LivePolicy from Adobe are the way to go, or as Bruce Boes of Siemens PLM Software commented in an interview I conducted recently, “This is something that should be rationalised with the security capabilites within your software, whether that’s through your PDM system or through your CAD system”- it all that remains to be seen.

Its an interesting concept and I think something the industry as a whole is going to have to face up to at some point and I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on the subject.

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The power of the image

Published 07 May 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: rhino, mcneel

I could wax lyrical about the use of visualization tools as an aid to competitive advantage - the benefits of having photorealistic imagery of your products before they’re even getting near a physical manifestation, but I think these images, say it all.

Gulfstream rendered these in HyperShot and launched the 650 - its not due to be delivered until 2012.

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EFD updated by Flomerics

Published 07 May 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with:

Flomerics has launched a new rev of its Engineering Fluid Dynamics (EFD) fluid flow and thermal simulation product family. If you’re not familiar with the company, Flomerics have a range of CFD based tools that serve a range of markets, for architecture, mechnical and electronic design. The EFD tools are the result of the aquisition of Nika a little while ago. The concept behind EFD is that its based on the same mathematical Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) principles as all the other codes out there but is embedded in CAD.

Updated goodies in this release are an optimised mesher that’s less hardware intensive for larger models, Vista recognition, a brand new interface (yup - ribbons a go-go) and more porting of Flomeric’s electronics knowledge. One thing that’s intriguing me is Feature Recognition. The press release says: “unique functionality by recognizing features and parameters on an imported solid body. Therefore, users maintain all the benefits of parametric-based solid modeling and can easily modify geometry parameters to take advantage of effortless “what-if” testing regardless of where the solid model was created.” So, are they reconstructing features and allowing you to play with the parameters? that’s pretty impressive.

UI Rant

One thing I did notice is that with the rise of the Ribbon tool bar, the old days of saying that all these systems DID the same thing, is now compounded by the fact that they all LOOK the same. Look at the screenshot above - what’s that, is it SpaceClaim, SolidWorks, EFD? And is this a good thing? I’m not entirely convinced it is. The workflow of design and engineering, 3D modelling and interaction with geometry is NOT the same as filling out a spreadsheet and writing a word document. Should we be following the same user guidelines? Perfect example is AliasStudio - the interface is unlike anything else and never has been. And there’s a very good reason for that: you’re working with conceptual surfaces or class A surfaces.

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Bob’s got a Blog

Published 06 May 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with:

Why didn’t I know this before? Bob McNeel has a blog. Its updated regularly by himself and Carlos - Bob’s the founder of McNeel, developer of amongst other things, Rhino, Brazil, Accurender and all manner of other stuff that sells by the bucket load at a very reasonable cost and Carlos runs the European operation from their Barcelona office.

And as anyone who’s been to a Rhino event will know, this company has a following which other CAD vendors can only dream of. I don’t know if anyone has a Rhino tattoo, but its only a matter of time.

I was lucky enough to get to go to their DIMe event in Mexico last year and I was blown away - here, hundreds of Mexican design students gathered together, largely at their own cost, to learn about the process of design from some really big names in the game - and I don’t mean the 25 minute pitch of “how to innovate” nonsense you get at other user events, but hour long, in-depth details - and they listened.


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