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By Ralph Grabowski, Oct 2, 2012
This summit is an annual gathering of Spatial employees, third-party developers, and four of us from the CAD media - in total, about 100 here. Spatial is the division of Dassault Systemes that specializes in translators and 3D modeling kernels that are licensed by other CAD vendors. It is best known for ACIS, the venerable kernel that dates back to the late 1980s.
To start off, director of strategy for 3DVIA Garth Coleman is taking us through the abilities of this software, which seems like a super-duper version of Navisworks. Dassault's 3DVIA handles massive data sets from all kinds of sources (even terrain data and video streams), and then generates renderings, movies, and interactive presentations. It has a programming interface, and an API for connecting to external devices, like Kinect. "We are not a CAD kernel; we are an experience kernel." He sums up, "If your product had a Play button, what would it do?"
Now the topic switches to the cloud, which unfortunately turns out to be an introductory talk on "What is the cloud?" - surprising, given the high level of the attendees. Most didn't bother raising their hand at the mandatory "How many of you have used the cloud?" question.
There is a 3DVIA Cloud, which provides cloud hosting for 3DVIA Scenes, Live Marketing Apps, Mobile HD, Composer Play Pro, eDrawings Pro, and Visual Compare - as well as third-party apps. But no mobile app, because of the tough constraints of getting big data sets working on such small devices.
InterOp is Spatial's translation system, and today we are hearing about what's new in release 23 and in future releases. It has enhancements for importing product structures, geometric data, and PMI (product manufacturing information). Applications using InterOp R23 can now extract tessellated data and graphical PMI from CAD files.
For instance, InterOp now directly translates from competitor Parasolid, non-competitor SolidWorks (which uses Parasolid - it's a complicated relationship), competitor Siemens NX, and non-competitor CATIA V6; it reads and writes Dassault's 3DXML with tessellation. It extracts graphical data from CAD programs like SolidWorks, and then displays it. "Graphical data" means that the imported 3D model looks just like in the originating CAD system, completed with shading, rectangular boxes at the ends of leaders, arrowheads, and so on.
"We want to the world's leading translator when it comes to SolidWorks," a surprising admission, given that Dassault owns both SolidWorks and Spatial.
Translation companies run in a hamster wheel in trying to keep up CAD vendors changing their files formats "Every year, at least one of the five CAD vendors we support does a major change to their file format." This year, it is Creo 2.0 from Pro/E, which now handles simplified representations, hidden entities, and better fillet surfaces. (Only major MCAD not supported right now is Inventor 2013.)
What's going to be new in R24, the next release is some of the following:
"You cannot buy even a laptop anymore that is single-core; our software should not be single-core." And so R24 gets multi-threading. Look for it in June 2013.
Features added to ACIS this year may well show up in your MCAD system next year. That's because ACIS enables functions useful for 3D modeling, which are then implemented by the CAD vendor. I should emphasize, however, that an MCAD vendor does not need to implement new ACIS functions; it depends on whether they have the time or the inclination.
Nevertheless, should the vendor implement them, then these are some of the things you could expect see next year or later:
Fuzzy Booleans - during Boolean operations (union, intersect, subtract), ACIS now handles cases where the 3D solids do not match exactly.
Seeded feature recognition - specify a seed face and feature type, and ACIS returns all faces that are similar.
Cellular topology - identify sub regions in solids, and then mark them up as volumes
Meshing of sub regions
Multiprocessing enhancements - thread-safe Linux binaries; there is a maximum of 1,024 threads, but today that is pretty much unlimited given the limitations of CPUs.
In ACIS R24, the release to come next year, Spatial plans to add the following functions:
Dassault Systemes may well be the only CAD vendor having to deal with three modeling kernels: SolidWorks uses Parasolid from competitor Siemens PLM Systems; CATIA uses its own kernel, CGM (Convergence Geometric Modeler); and Spatial makes ACIS, unused by Dassault.
A couple of years ago, Dassault asked Spatial to turn CGM into a licensable component. "This is like a clean sheet for us. What have we learned from the last 20 years that we can make a better customer experience," says Ray Bagley about CGM. CGM is very old, but as a component it is very new; Release 1 shipped in 2011, and is focused on CAM and CMM, coordinate measurement machines.
For release 2, Spatial is adding these functions:
For release 3 next year, Spatial already has these plans:
Mr Bagley concludes that "3D is more than just b-rep"
[Disclosure: Spatial provided me with hotel accommodation, meals, and some corporate gifts.]
Ralph Grabowski is one of the leading CAD journalists and authors, with over a 100 books and many hundreds of articles. His upFront.eZine may be the industry's longest running newsletter. Ralph holds a civil engineering degree. More...