MCAD Tech News (#314)

28 Jul, 2011 By: Cadalyst Staff

Tech Trends: CAD It Yourself

DIYers are moving out of the garage and into view of companies offering sophisticated tools and services that fuel creativity.

By Heather Livingston

No longer is the image of the lonely basement woodworker or garage tinkerer an accurate depiction of do-it-yourself (DIY) aficionados. Thanks to fast technological advances in design software, fabrication tools, and the Internet, today's DIYers, or "makers," are embracing CAD and related technologies. The result of their expansion is incredible innovation and creativity. Plus, they're changing the rules of industry by bypassing traditional mass production. Today's makers are shepherding their own products from idea inception through production with the help of DIY services such as TechShop and web sites such as Etsy, CafePress, deviantART, Ponoko, Shapeways, and Kickstarter.

Hobbyist Neil Reed used Alibre Design software to model his Star Trek-inspired 3D chess set, shown here in his own rendering.
Hobbyist Neil Reed used Alibre Design software to model his Star Trek-inspired 3D chess set, shown here in his own rendering.

Industrial History

It's been a long time since the playing field was level for tinkerers and inventors. Before the Industrial Revolution, just about anyone with a good idea, a knack for spatial visualization, and enough money to put together a model could create an object, from a simple functional hand tool to an intricately joined furnishing to a precisely tuned scientific instrument. When the Industrial Revolution took hold, cost- and timesaving processes were integrated into production that allowed a tremendous variety and quantity of products to be brought to market. But the assembly line came at a price.

Over time, the tools of mass production became costly and innovation fell to the purview of a few. Subsequently, many creative thinkers without the contacts and resources to capture corporate attention were relegated to basements and garages, and many were left without the technological and financial wherewithal to craft their visions.

The rules of industrialization are changing rapidly. Whereas the Industrial Revolution's technology placed power in the hands of a small group of people, today's technology is providing the means — the tools of design, production, and product proliferation — to all who are interested, Tatjana Dzambazova, senior product manager, Autodesk Consumer Group, says. "In principle, tools that once used to be exclusively for hired professionals, today they find their new interpretation in a cheaper, smaller, mobile version," she says. "Take, for example, a video camera. It [once cost] thousands of dollars. Now you have a little Flip camera and can [record] your own stuff." Read more »

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Cadalyst contributing editor Heather Livingston is a Wichita, Kansas–based freelance writer specializing in design, sustainability, and architectural technology.


SPECapc Releases New 3ds Max 2011 Benchmark

The long-awaited update is available in an economical personal edition and a comprehensive professional version.

By Cadalyst Staff

The Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation's Application Performance Characterization (SPECapc) group has released the long-awaited new benchmark test for evaluating the performance of systems running Autodesk 3ds Max 2011. Launched earlier this month, the updated test is available in professional and personal versions, both of which can be purchased from the organization's web site.

New features in SPECapc for 3ds Max 2011 include:

  • Updated tests based on new functionality in 3ds Max 2011.
  • An improved user interface that makes it easier to configure and run tests.
  • Increased level of testing for shading and rendering in the professional version, including use of the Autodesk Quicksilver engine for accelerated CPU and GPU rendering.
  • Automated benchmark results compilation in the professional version.

One Benchmark, Two Versions

The professional version of SPECapc for 3ds Max 2011 ($495) contains 58 tests for measuring modeling, interactive graphics, and CPU and GPU (graphics processing unit) performance. It includes a 32-million-polygon city scene that is modeled, rendered, and displayed in real time, testing the limits of high-end workstations with powerful CPU/GPU combinations. Licensees of the professional version of SPECapc for 3ds Max 2011 can publish benchmark results publicly and submit them for review and possible publication on the SPEC web site. Read more »

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CADspeed Blog


Mark Your Calendar: MCAD Events


Through November 17, 2011
Various cities
Rand's IMAGINiT Technologies division will sponsor Autodesk 2011 CAD Camps across the United States and Canada to help professionals gain industry-recognized credentials through Autodesk Certifications. Read more »

August 7–11, 2011
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
SIGGRAPH 2011, the 38th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, will bring computer graphics and interactive technology professionals together for technical and creative programs focusing on research, science, art, animation, music, gaming, interactivity, education, and the web. Read more »

CIMdata PLM Certificate Program: Oslo
September 26–30, 2011
Oslo, Norway
The CIMdata PLM (product lifecycle management) Certificate Program prepares PLM professionals at several levels to address the challenges inherent in PLM implementations. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to


What’s New at


Twitter Chat with SolidSmack's Josh Mings Today!
Join Cadalyst for a Twitter chat with blogger Josh Mings of @SolidSmack. We'll be talking about improving the performance of SolidWorks. The chat will occur on Thursday, July 28, at 4 p.m. ET. Follow the conversation at #DellCAD and jump in!

Event Report: RTC 2011 North America
The Revit Technology Conference made its U.S. debut in California, where attendees experienced extensive BIM education opportunities and a little Australian-style hospitality. Read more »

First Look Review: Dell Precision T1600 Workstation
Entry-level workstation offers great performance at a low price. Read more »

Earthmine Extension Brings New Perspective to AutoCAD Map 3D
Users who manage infrastructure can visualize their assets in a real-world context — without leaving their desks. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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