CAD Tech News (#31)

10 Dec, 2015 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ Autodesk Expands Photorealistic Rendering Options

After several years of acquisition and development, two ray-tracing engines reach the market — one in standalone format, and the other as part of existing Autodesk software products.

By Randall S. Newton

For years, a vibrant network of third-party solutions (including V-Ray from Chaos Group, AccuRender from Robert McNeel & Associates, and many others) has been providing alternatives to and augmenting the existing rendering and visualization technology inside Autodesk applications such as AutoCAD, Inventor, and Revit. Even Autodesk's two best-known animation and visualization products, 3ds Max and Maya, work with a variety of third-party rendering products.

In recent years, however, Autodesk has aggressively built up its in-house rendering expertise through acquisition and research. The results of those efforts are now starting to hit the market, in the form of two ray-tracing engines — one that's embedded within the design workflow, and the other for standalone rendering projects.

An Introduction to Ray Tracing

The most popular technology for turning CAD models into polished, photorealistic visual images is ray tracing, which mimics the real-world effects of light bouncing off objects. Ray tracing makes light a calculated data type instead of a manual input, allowing ray-tracing solutions to run much faster than other approaches to photorealistic rendering. Each digital ray of light is analyzed repeatedly as it moves and bounces through the model; the longer a ray tracing engine works on a model, the more sophisticated and realistic the image becomes.

Ray tracing simulates the results as if the objects in a model were physical objects. It relies on previously defined physical definitions for all objects in the model; contemporary design software, for the most part, supplies this information as the design is created. (Occasionally, a rendering expert will edit assets after the fact.) Read more »

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Randall S. Newton is an independent engineering software industry analyst and journalist.

▶ Circles and Lines Tutorial: Revamped Revision Clouds in AutoCAD 2016

Unlike the old RevCloud command, the new version creates symmetrical revision clouds with easy-to-use grips for editing.

By Lynn Allen

Many of us use revision clouds to highlight various parts of our drawings, yet our AutoCAD tool for doing so has long been in dire need of improvement. Fortunately, there's a fabulous updated revision cloud tool in AutoCAD 2016, and I can assure you that once you've tried it, you'll never look back!

A Little RevCloud History

The first official RevCloud tool was introduced via the wonderful Express Tools. Prior to that, it existed as an AutoCAD Release 14 bonus tool called Cloud. It was written by former AutoCAD User Group International (AUGI) President David Harrington, who found himself frustrated by the lack of a revision cloud utility and opted to write his own using AutoLISP. Later, the Express Tool programmers polished up the idea and wrote the RevCloud tool. Eventually RevCloud grew up and became a real AutoCAD command — which was certainly good news for AutoCAD LT users, since they can't access the Express Tools!

The old RevCloud command was difficult to control, however, and created a polyline object with grips on every vertex, as seen below. Editing the old revision clouds was extremely difficult, because the individual arcs could not be edited as a symmetrical whole object. (On the brighter side, the old RevCloud made great representations of shrubbery, bushes, and trees.) Read more »

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Lynn Allen, Autodesk Technical Evangelist, has written Cadalyst's "Circles and Lines" column since 1993 and is the creator of Cadalyst's popular AutoCAD video tips.

▶ Build a Plugin Command for AutoCAD Architecture

Use Visual Studio.NET to customize vertical applications.

By Andrew G. Roe

In previous articles, we've explored the process of building plugins for standard AutoCAD and AutoCAD Civil 3D. This time, we'll look at a programming example that you can use to customize AutoCAD Architecture. While Architecture is primarily geared toward those in architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professions, this example demonstrates some key concepts for customizing other Autodesk products, so it is relevant to users in other fields as well. This example will build on the concepts covered in two of my earlier articles: "Create a Plugin for AutoCAD" and "Build a Plugin Command for AutoCAD Civil 3D."

To review, a plugin is a custom command that can be run directly from the AutoCAD environment. In this example, the command will prompt the user to select an entity in a drawing and return some information about it. If it is an intelligent AEC object, the command will identify what type of object it is. If it is not an AEC object, the user will be prompted to select a different entity.

As in the articles mentioned above, this example uses the Visual Basic.NET programming environment, although you can use Visual C#.NET instead. To complete this exercise, you'll need either Visual Studio.NET or the free Visual Studio Express. If you are using AutoCAD 2016, make sure you are using Visual Studio 2012 or newer, which includes the .NET 4.5 framework. Read more »

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Cadalyst contributing editor Andrew G. Roe is a registered civil engineer and president of AGR Associates.


Q&A with Dan Staples, Vice-President of Solid Edge Development
In an interview with Cadalyst, the executive discusses the state of Solid Edge ST, its position in the MCAD market, Solid Edge on the cloud, and more. Read more »

AutoCAD 2016 Introduces Smarter Dimensioning Tools
Do you think of dimensioning as a dreary task? With these time-saving new tools, you might start looking forward to it. Read more »

Herrera on Hardware: More CPU Cores or Faster CPU Clocks?
To best address the demands of a modern CAD workflow, look for a balance of CPU core count and clock rate in your next CAD workstation. Read more »

Explore the World of CAD Training Option
CAD and related software tools are more sophisticated and varied than ever — but fortunately, so are the resources available to help you master them. Read more »

Level Up: Become a Power User
All CAD users need a workplace guru they can rely on. With these ten simple tips — and some dedicated effort — you can become that person. Read more »

Make the Most of Your CAD Career
To excel at your job, you'll need to do much more than simply show up for work every day. Learn about the various factors that affect success in the workplace and make a plan for your future. Read more »

CAD Manager: To Get the Tools You Need, Learn the Right Way to Ask Management
You've got to secure better hardware and software resources for your users — but how? And which items should top your priority list? Read more »


Fundamentals of Fatigue
December 15, 2015
11 a.m. ET
This Siemens PLM webinar will discuss fatigue, how to interpret typical fatigue-related curves, and common approaches for fatigue estimation. Read more »

International LiDAR Mapping Forum (ILMF)
February 22–24, 2016
Denver, Colorado
International LiDAR Mapping Forum (ILMF) is a technical conference and exhibition about airborne, terrestrial, and underwater LiDAR as well as emerging remote-sensing and data collection tools and technologies. Read more »

REAL 2016
March 8–10, 2016
San Francisco, California
This event will focus on reality computing and includes hands-on experience of professional 3D sensing, making, and visualization technologies. Read more »

28th Annual Additive Manufacturing Users Group Conference
April 3–7, 2016
St. Louis, Missouri
The annual Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) Conference was developed for both novice and expert users seeking insights, assistance, and guidance on technologies, applications, and processes. Read more »

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Lynn Allen

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