Posts by Martyn Day

The 3D revolution gains pace with two new printers announced

Published 10 January 2012

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with: 3d printing, 3d systems, 3d printer

Parts built on 3D Systems’ new Cube 3D printer, which is being unveiled at CES

The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is currently taking place in Las Vegas. As well as the usual gizmos and gadgets on display the event is also proving that interest in low cost 3D printing is growing with two of the major players in the field -  Makerbot Industries and 3D Systems -  announcing some exciting new 3D printers.

Makerbot Industries, has released the next generation Makerbot, the Replicator ($1,749). With a faster and finer resolution and a build area of 9 x 6 x 6 inches, it demonstrates a decent 44% increase in volume on the previous machines. As CEO Bre Pettis says, “Pump up the volume”. There are two models, a single extrusion head, or a slightly more expensive dual extrusion head for printing in two colours or multiple materials. Both have the luxury of a built-in LED control interface.

In many respects the design, and ‘garage-nature’ of the Makerbot, RepRap and Printrbot businesses remind me of the early days of computing, not dissimilar to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak selling computer kits to the hobbyists and ‘homebrew’ clubs. This is undoubtedly a market to watch and Makerbot Industries are upping the game by expanding the build size and complexity, while still keeping the price low. 

Makerbot Replicator with CEO Bre Pettis

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Autodesk goes bundle crazy with brand new 2012 product design suites

Published 28 March 2011

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with: autodesk, inventor, alias, suites

Autodesk’s new 2012 Product Design Suites come in three flavours: Standard, Premium and Ultimate

March has become the traditional time for the yearly release of Autodesk’s product updates. This year, however, the usual list of features and functions has taken the backseat to packaging and ‘bang for the buck’.

Previously Autodesk dabbled in creating Microsoft Office / Adobe Creative Suite-like bundles with products such as the Inventor Suite, but with the 2012 products this strategy has now been greatly expanded, offering discounts of between 18% and 68% on pricing.

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PTC states it’s agnostic on the cult of CAD-on-the-cloud

Published 28 July 2010

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with: solidworks, autodesk, dassault systemes, ptc, siemens plm, proengineer, windchill, brian shepherd, cad as a service, extinction level event

As a magazine that primarily deals with software developers, the last year has seen pretty much all the main protagonists come out with some statement or demonstration of how their products could work on the cloud. Companies, such as Autodesk, are actively trialling CAD solutions which run over the web from a central server, as well as rendering, simulation and document view and mark-up applications. Dassault Systems, SolidWorks (a DS company) and Siemens PLM (now renamed Siemens Industry Software) are all due to launch commercial cloud applications later this year. So, in design, the Cloud hype is soon to become a reality.

However, perhaps all is not well in the world of cloud-based computing, with some suggesting that customers are not ready for this and the technology is not proven for reliability. Having watched the ‘Tweets’ coming from SolidWorks World attendees, one could watch an arc of euphoria as future cloud technology was demonstrated, followed by a generic feeling of hangover as customers appeared to question if they really wanted to work over a web connection. These customers, it seems, are joined with the developer of Pro/Engineer, PTC. I recently was contacted by Brian Shepherd, Executive Vice President, Product Development who wanted to go on record as to how PTC saw all this talk of cloudy futures for CAD.

PTC already has a cloud application, its Windchill PLM solution is and has been available as an online service through partners such as IBM for a number of years. However, the firm is concerned at the level of hype around running CAD on the cloud.

Shepherd explained, “We are agnostic around the cloud. We don’t feel the need to, or think we should be championing CAD on the cloud to our customers. With our conversations with customers, they have not identified a problem that cloud delivery of CAD would address. To be clear, we are not anti-cloud. Areas such as grid computing around CAE is interesting, and can make some sense but there just hasn’t been the demand for CAD on the cloud.”

“Today we don’t sense that kind of overwhelming desire or drive for this.  We are not listening to analysts, or to cloud providers and trying not to get distracted by hype. We are just trying to address the real problems. Customers are not saying they have problems with deployment or scaleable infrastructure. Our focus for the future of CAD is around ‘Project Lightning’ which addresses usability, interoperability and assembly management.” (Project Lightning is PTC’s vision and strategy to define the next 20 years of CAD and can be read about here )

So, while PTC can see PLM as a cloud service and potentially for CAE analysis, when it comes to modelling over the cloud, Shepherd appeared at a loss as to what the benefit would be.

He continued, “Will CAD be faster on the cloud than it is on the desktop? Maybe for CAE that could be true but for CAD that might not be true, which is a surely a step backwards In fact, cloud computing in CAD sounds like a solution in search of a problem today.”

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View 3D Rhino models on the iPad, iPhone and iTouch

Published 01 June 2010

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with: rhino, iphone, ipad, 3dm, bob mcneel, irhino3d, pda, markup, mcneel and associates, itouch

Robert McNeel and Associates has just launched iRhino 3D,  a cool $3.99 app on the Apple App store which allows Rhino models to be loaded up on Apple’s touch-screen products, the iPad, iTouch and iPhone.

The product supports Rhino 3DM files from v1 to 5. The software displays surfaces and meshes, while at the moment curves, text and dimensions are omitted.

Once loaded from a web server, iTunes or Google docs, they can be quickly rotated, also with zoom and pan functions. It even supports 3D, so long as you have a handy 3D pair of glasses. It’s possible to markup,  annotate and email. For the iPad, files can be opened from email

Models need to be shaded in Rhino before being saved. Currently file size is limited to 50Mb or 1 million polygons.

I will be trying this out later today!

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Deal made to continue 3D technology development behind PDF

Published 26 May 2010

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with: adobe, ttf, hoops, techsoft3d, anark, ron fritz, acrobat pro extended, components, prc, pdf

Back in November 2009 we reported that Adobe had allegedly laid off most of the employees in its Manufacturing Solutions Group . Since then, there has been no word on what Adobe was planning on doing with regard to the development of 3D in PDF or its focus on the engineering sector. This month, it emerged that a deal has been done between Adobe and CAD / graphics component supplier TechSoft 3D that will offer some clarity on what will happen with 3D in PDF.

Before we look at what this new deal might mean for the future of 3D PDF, it’s worth going over a little bit of history. In 2006 Adobe introduced Acrobat 3D, a new version heralding the inclusion of lightweight 3D, in the form of the U3D format. Adobe had realised that PDF was big in AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) and took the plunge to incorporate the ability to capture 3D geometry in an open format. Up until that point the various CAD firms had all been trying very hard to give away their ‘open’ 3D formats to try and dominate the collaboration slice of the 3D market but nobody had reached critical mass. It was hoped that Adobe could be the big gorilla to drive through a standard. Unfortunately U3D was not a brilliant format, could get quite large in terms of file size, and there were not many ways to create U3D. In addition, as most CAD vendors had their own formats they were already promoting, not many wanted to include U3D capabilities.

Adobe then made a significant acquisition, buying Trade and Technologies France (TTF), a developer of data translation and viewing tools. TTF was a respected provider of CAD file conversion tools, which now gave Adobe the ability to create 3D PDF from the majority of key CAD applications, as well as a new highly compressed b-rep file format called PRC (Product Representation Compact). PRC has the ability to save geometry in low-level tessellated or high-level b-rep formats, the latter of which is so accurate it has been said you could machine off it. With this technology included in PDF, Adobe produced Acrobat Pro Extended in 2008. This version of Acrobat could be used to import many native CAD formats and included assembly information, object hierarchies and PMI for embedding in PDF documents. Adobe also worked with TechSoft 3D ( to sell development kits (SDKs) to CAD developers, providing all the translation tools plus native PDF creation for a pretty aggressive price. A year and a half later the majority of the team behind that product at Adobe was let go.

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Autodesk evaluating SaaS model: offers real time 2D DWG collaboration online with Project Butterfly

Published 21 January 2010

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with: autodesk, autodesk labs, dwg, saas, cloud computing

The battle to provide CAD tool online, in addition to the desktop took a step forward this month, with Autodesk unleashing Project Butterfly on its innovative Autodesk Labs website. Here users can try for free, a tool which allows the viewing, mark-up and editing of 2D DWG files, either solo or in realtime co-editing with a colleague. As the system is totally web-based the parties can be anywhere in the world and neither requires a copy of AutoCAD.

Previous cloud technology previews on the Labs website have been forthcoming new products, such as Project Dragonfly for room layout and more recently Project Twitch, to allow remote delivery of AutoCAD, Revit, Inventor and Maya (currently only available to those who live in US and Canada). Project Butterfly offers functionality similar to Autodesk View but the DWG files and the application are hosted on Autodesk’s servers and is accessed by a web browser. This means that drawings could be remotely stored, viewed, interrogated and marked-up on any PC with an Internet connection.

Once DWGs are added to the Project Butterfly servers, other users can be invited to view and edit DWGs online as well as download to their local computer. Two-party online review sessions can be held, where mark-ups can be added as well as notes made and stored. This first version also provides co-editing where two users can simultaneously create or delete geometry using familiar AutoCAD tools. For those who have used Google Wave, they will notice a similar philosophy.


Project Butterfly is the result of Autodesk acquiring PlanPlatform, a developer of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions based in Tel Aviv, Israel. The company was cofounded in 2007 by Jonathan Seroussi and Tal Weiss, who both used to work for Israel Aerospace Industries. PlanPLatform’s VisualTao product was demonstrated its beta DWG collaboration product early last year, after which Autodesk obviously took interest and completed acquisition in December 2009, for an estimated $20-$30 million.
In the drive to develop online CAD tools and a viable SaaS business Autodesk is evaluating a number of core technologies to get its products online, VisualTao is the latest. According to Autodesk CEO Carl Bass, there are four basic technologies currently under evaluation but he feels that there will be no one way, or single technology to deliver all the end-user experiences for cloud-based computing. Previously we have reported on Autodesk investment and testing of ‘onLive’ gaming technology which utilises cutting edge data compression algorithms to ‘squirt’ real time video over the web. OnLive is the technology behind the Project Twitter approach and relies of powerful servers to run the desktop applications on servers, sending the video and receiving keyboard and mouse input back over the web.

In both Project Dragonfly and Project Butterfly Autodesk uses Adobe’s Flash web engine, while we noted that Project Cooper (the potential LT version of AutoCAD LT) required the installation of Microsoft Silverlight. All these products have different ways of working and delivering the application experience over the web. Autodesk will use the best suited toolkits for each commercial product.

Project Butterfly is based on streaming technology but instead of dumb rendered graphics, sends accurate vectors and metadata using optimised compression, allowing for impressive CAD-like functionality and interaction within the browser. In use it does actually feel like a desktop CAD application. More CAD functionality is in the pipeline for Project Butterfly, together with the potential to handle 3D.


Autodesk is clearly making the most of its Labs website to allow its customers to test out these new technologies. With everything from full AutoCAD or Inventor, home layout tools and now real-time collaboration delivered to a browser near you.
A full review of Project Butterfly will be up soon.

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IMASS and Trionics join forces

Published 12 August 2009

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with: autodesk, autodesk inventor, watson, bartle, imass, pickering, trionics

Two of the UK’s top Autodesk resellers have announced that they are joining forces. Leeds-based Trionics and Newcastle-based IMASS will join their teams to sell Autodesk’s manufacturing design solutions.

Colin Watson, director of design solutions for Imass Ltd and joint-owners of Trionics Ltd, John Pickering and John Bartle, said that it would be “business as usual” with customers experiencing a seamless continuity of service. However, they stressed that by combining the strengths of the two businesses, they would be further enhancing their customer service, support and technical consultancy.

The two firms are longstanding Autodesk resellers and appear to be a good match, complimenting each other with expertise in different areas; IMASS in Oil, Nuclear and Gas and Trionics in heavy machinery and automotive. With the manufacturing segment suffering, Develop3D expects to see more mergers and acquisitions within the Autodesk sales channel.

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