Vendors Display Minor Updates, Workflow-Altering Solutions at AU

12 Dec, 2013 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin,Nancy Spurling Johnson

Autodesk University 2013, part 2: The exhibit hall showcases technologies for CAD users that range from the familiar to the disruptive.

At the annual Autodesk University conference, users of AutoCAD and other Autodesk software products gather to take part in keynotes and forums, classes and certification exams, and diverse networking opportunities. But there's another major draw as well — one that features not Autodesk itself, but a host of partners, resellers, and third-party developers: the AU Exhibit Hall. This year, close to 200 exhibitors showcased their hardware and software solutions, services, and training materials; here's a sampling of the new and noteworthy offerings.

Hardware: Workstations

BOXX Technologies debuted its GoBOXX 1920 mobile workstation, which features a fourth-generation (Haswell) Intel Core i7 mobile processor (running at up to 3.9 GHz in Turbo mode) as well as NVIDIA Quadro K2100M workstation graphics and up to 32 GB of 1600-MHz memory for 64-bit applications. The GoBOXX 1920 is designed for professional applications including CAD, animation, video editing, and light rendering. The workstation starts at $2,544 for the recommended base configuration.

Lenovo had its own mobile workstation on display: The new ThinkPad W540, which boasts a roomier keyboard and bigger touchpad than its predecessor, as well as Thunderbolt support and an optional 3K display with 2880 x 1620 resolution. Despite these enhancements, this model is half a pound lighter and 5 millimeters thinner than the previous generation; even the power brick is 30% smaller and lighter. The workstation incorporates fourth-generation Intel Core processors, two NVIDIA Quadro Kepler-based graphics cards, as much as 32 GB of 1600-MHz RAM, and optional X-Rite PANTONE color calibration. The W540 costs $1,300–$3,000, depending on the configuration, and will be available later this month.

Hardware: Displays and Printers

BenQ is a name more familiar to technophiles in countries outside the United States, but the developer of specialty monitors is busy trying to change that. Its first foray into the U.S. market is the BenQ BL2710PT ($699), described as the world’s first custom-built, wide quad high-definition (WQHD) CAD/CAM monitor. The 27” monitor features an IPS panel, 178-degree viewing angle, 4-ms response time, a color map that is optimized for wireframe display, and a special mode for rendering that improves detail display in shaded areas. “It’s packed with resolution,” said Robert Wudeck, associate vice-president of strategy and business development, adding that the feature is unique among CAD monitors on the market today. The BL2710PT also pivots and is height adjustable and glare-free. A light sensor automatically adjusts brightness as lighting conditions change in the user’s workspace. A 32” model is coming in January, priced at less than $1,000, Wudeck said.

The BenQ Display Pilot software detects the monitor's physical rotation and will automatically rotate the image to landscape or portrait orientation (above left). And with one click, the software can partition active windows (above right).

The SMART Technologies booth featured one of the largest displays on the show floor: the 84" SMART Board 8084i. According to Rick Kennedy, vertical account director for SMART Technologies, the touch-enabled, ultrahigh-definition display is ideal for architects, general contractors, and other AEC professionals collaborating on and off the job site.

The need for collaborators to travel to meetings is greatly reduced; Kennedy cited an economic impact study conducted at Stanford University that found architects could get a return on their SMART Board investment in seven weeks of use. For general contractors, that estimate dropped to one week. The SMART Board 8084i costs $16,000, including software, and began shipping in September. Smart currently offers Navisworks, Revit, and AutoCAD plugins, which increase the utility of the solution; an Inventor plugin is in the works.

HP was exhibiting several of its wide-format printers, including the Designjet T2500 eMultifunction Printer, which was released in October. Todd Hatfield, AMS category manager for HP's large-format Designjet business, explained that this second-generation model has been "taken from the ground up with a brand-new design" that features two print media rolls up front, a lower height that allows for easy operation from a seated position, and a document stacking tray at the back. More subcontractors are buying — or renting — such printers and distributing building plans themselves, said Hatfield.

Users can scan and print on the compact HP Designjet T2500 from a USB drive, or e-mail projects directly to the printer.

The HP Z5400 PostScript ePrinter, which was released in September, is intended for the graphics market — including GIS professionals who need to print internal and field maps. Support for two rolls of media cuts labor significantly, said Hatfield, as users don't have to swap out regular paper for specialty media. A reduction from eight colors to six in this model yields more speed without significant quality loss, he explained, thanks to a high-quality printhead. "We're bringing color more effectively to end users," Hatfield stated.


Hardware: Positioning

Topcon Positioning Group, a developer of precision location and elevation measurement technologies, announced the LN-100, described as the world’s first 3D positioning system designed specifically for building information modeling (BIM)-based construction layout. The waterproof unit provides all the measurement functionality contractors require for construction layout applications, without the complexity of a total station, the company reports. An Android app enables users to connect seamlessly with the Autodesk 360 cloud, sync data from the office to the cloud and from the cloud to the field, and receive instant change notifications.

The new Topcon LN-100 3D positioning system is designed to deliver all the measurement functionality required by contractors for construction layout applications without the complexity of a total station.

Eduardo Falcon, executive vice-president and general manager for the GeoPositioning Solutions Group, described the simplicity of the new model, which he said is designed to “remove the intimidation factor” that comes with many positioning systems: “All that’s required to begin operation is to place the LN-100 anywhere on a project site — on a tripod, column, or on the ground — and press one button. The unit self-levels and an operator just has to turn on the wireless controller and get to work.” he said.

Available this week, the LN-100 includes a complete hardware system, controller software, and the Android app. It sells for $14,000–$19,000, depending on configuration.

Software: AEC

ClearEdge3D debuted its EdgeWise BIM Suite, which unites the company’s EdgeWise MEP and EdgeWise Building software into one platform. Using new object recognition and feature extraction technology, the building information modeling (BIM) suite automatically extracts piping, conduit, round ducting, walls, and windows from laser scan point cloud data to speed the process of creating Revit building models. Walls can be exported to Revit plumb and square, and best fit to the point cloud or converted to their exact as-built condition; windows, pipes, round ducting, and conduit can be extracted and exported to Revit as properly specified family objects.

Piping extracted by EdgeWise BIM Suite and exported to Revit.

Ideate was exhibiting the latest versions of two products for Autodesk Revit users. Ideate BIMLink lets users pull information from a Revit model into Microsoft Excel and easily push volumes of precise, consequential BIM data from Excel into Revit. Ideate Explorer for Revit is a quality-assurance tool that facilitates extensive model management, allowing users to locate any element in the current view or the entire file, analyze and clean up Revit projects, and delete problems that lead to unnecessarily cumbersome file sizes.

IMSI/Design introduced version 2 of TurboSite Pro and TurboSite Plus, as well as a new subscription pricing option. These apps for mobile devices such as the Apple iPad or iPhone enable AEC professionals to document site inspection findings with photos, videos, dictation, and text notes, and create field reports. TurboSite Plus v2 for iPad and iPhone is available now; subscription pricing starts at $4.99 per month or $99 per year. TurboSite Plus can also be purchased for $199. TurboSite Pro v2 for iPad and iPhone is available for a subscription price of $29.99 per month or $299 per year, or a purchase price of $499.

LATISTA Technologies unveiled BIM for the iPad at the conference. LATISTA with BIM is integrated into the LATISTA cloud and mobile solution, and enables users to navigate, interact with, and launch workflows from a model in the field. Users can publish Autodesk BIM models to the LATISTA Cloud, then synchronize these models to iPads for use in the field.

Leica Geosystems showcased its new BIM Field Trip solutions, which are designed to help contractors move information back and forth between workers in the field and models in the office. BIM Field Trip's customized packages combine hardware — such as multistations, laser scanners, and robotic total stations — with field and office software. The three available levels include BIM 101, described as the simplest way to get started with digital layout, using paper or CAD files as a starting point; BIM 102, an intermediate-level solution to help contractors improve their BIM workflows; and BIM 103, which is intended for contractors who are already experienced in BIM.

Sefaira, which creates building design software, announced that its energy analysis platform now supports Autodesk Revit models. Sefaira for Revit enables architects to perform energy analysis on Revit models throughout their design process, from the first design iterations on. According to Sefaira, this update reinforces the company's commitment to empower architects to incorporate energy analysis into the early stages of building design.

Sefaira enables users to quickly compare several design options. This function can now be accessed directly by Revit users.


iConstruct 2014 for Autodesk Navisworks is now available from iConstruct, featuring new modules and options that extend Navisworks collaboration and review functionality. iConstruct enables the vast information stored in the latest generation of BIM models to be extracted, organized, and used in an efficient and logical way. iConstruct interacts with most building design software and can read a large number of CAD formats, according to the company. New key features include the Smart DWG Exporter, Smart DWFx Exporter, Smart IFC Exporter, and the BIM-FLOW workflow designer.

Rand Worldwide's IMAGINiT Technologies division released new features, including greater task automation and querying of room data and datasheets across selected previous projects, for IMAGINiT Clarity, IMAGINiT Clarity LT, and IMAGINiT Clarity Workshare. The first two components of the Clarity product line extend the Autodesk Revit Server platform with security, management, and monitoring tools; task automation; and project dashboard reporting. The third helps firms that are not using Autodesk Revit Server improve their file-based work-sharing approach, automate Revit software–related tasks, and build reports.  All three IMAGINiT Clarity products are available through a perpetual license, and a new annual rental plan is now available as well.

Software: MCAD

CADENAS unveiled a new integration with cloud-based modeling software Autodesk Fusion 360, giving designers access to more than 400 manufacturer catalogs and millions of 3D CAD models via the cloud-based download portal PARTcommunity Mobile. The parts library pre-populates a catalog of standard and supplier parts for use within the Fusion 360 user interface. PARTcommunity Mobile, now available in the Autodesk Apps Store, offers springs, motors, gears, cylinders, hydraulics, factory automation, and other categories of digital parts models.

Risersoft was displaying its new UnitCAD for Inventor, which automates the creation of assembly models by defining reusable unit components stored inside a database and controlled through parameters and formulas. The company also offers a similar product, UnitCAD for AutoCAD, that helps automate and manage engineering drawings and data.

The new Batch SpellChecker app for Inventor from Sungrace extends the Autodesk Inventor SDK spell-checker add-in to provide automated spell-checking for Inventor drawings in a batch-processing mode, bypassing the need to open and update Inventor files one at a time.

Cloud Platforms and Other Software

Altiva Software was at Autodesk University to talk about CADconform, a tool for promoting and enforcing 100% conformance to CAD drafting standards. The add-on becomes a seamless part of the native AutoCAD environment, according to the company. Based on CADconform, a CAD manager can establish a defined, repeatable process that ensures drawings will conform completely to company CAD standards. CADconform places a digital, tamper-proof seal on drawings that conform 100% to standards.

Mainframe2, a Silicon Valley–based startup, showcased its cloud platform at the NVIDIA booth, running Autodesk desktop software via an Internet browser. Mainframe2 can host any Windows or Linux application on the cloud, making workstation solutions available on demand from any device, anywhere.

Jon Peddie Research recently reported on the Mainframe2 cloud platform, currently in private beta, and is offering a limited-time experimental public preview of Autodesk Inventor running via a Google Chrome browser, no plugins required. Mainframe2 reports that it will announce products and services by the end of the year, and that agreements with major software providers will be announced in the coming months.

Panzura is a global cloud storage gateway that's new to the CAD vertical, but well suited to tackle design software's "File Open" problem with centralized storage in a distributed office environment, said Richard Weber, Panzura's vice-president of product management and operations. Panzura's global lockdown happens automatically, at at the block level; only changes are transferred up and down.

In addition, there is the struggle with large files; as Weber put it, "I don't want my CAD operators to have to take lunch every time they open up a project." He gave the example of a file that previously required 22 minutes to open, but needs only 90 seconds with Panzura — or as little as 8 seconds with a cache hit. Apart from this difference in speed, "the user, in large part, won't even know they're using the product," Weber commented. Customers can opt to pay $5,000 for the system, plus monthly user license payments, or buy a perpetual license starting at about $17,500.

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