Cadalyst MCAD Tech News #126 (August 5, 2004)5 Aug, 2004
Every year or so, I like to provide an update on what's happening in the world of MCAD interoperability. So let's take a look at some recent announcements by four major interoperability companies and discuss what they mean for the end user.
Earlier this week, this Farmington Hills, Michigan, company, introduced three new CATIA V5 translators: CAT5Ug, CAT5Pro, and STEP/Cat5. CAT5Ug is a bidirectional translator between CATIA V5 and Unigraphics NX2, and the other two translate CATIA models with Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 2 and STEP.
As do CADCAM-E's other products, the new translators don't require you to own a license of the software that the model originated in. Though some of the company's other interoperability products include minimal capabilities for translating part features such as fillets and shells, the CAT5Ug and the CAT5Pro programs make no attempt to handle them.
CADCAM-E is shifting to a business model in which it will provide feature-based translations as a service. This is because of the differences between MCAD software products -- when a feature from one product doesn't have a match in the other, human intervention is required. CAD/CAM-E believes that this is best handled as a service.
CADCAM-E's recent announcement also covered two updated CATIA V5 products -- translators for Parasolid and IGES. It also launched v2.1 of UGWorks, a bidirectional SolidWorks/Unigraphics translator. One of the major enhancements here is the ability to flatten a SolidWorks assembly before you translate it.
In short, these new and enhanced products go a long way to extend and improve the company's product line, which is already one of the industry's most comprehensive. For instance, CADCAM-E is the only MCAD translation company that extends into the manufacturing arena with translators between popular MCAD products and Mastercam. Visit http://www.cadcam-e.com for more details.
Founded in 2001, Denver-based TransMagic is one of the newest interoperability companies. This week it introduced the TransMagic 2005 product line.
Version 2005 is important because it includes support for the latest releases of Unigraphics and CATIA, as well as ACIS (v13) and Parasolid (v16). You can now use the application to create STL files needed by rapid prototyping machines as well as 3D meshes for FEA applications. According to the company, the update also features user interface enhancements such as expanded hot-key support for most commands and context-sensitive menus. In addition, several speed improvements have been made.
Another enhancement is the ability to employ new tools to measure surface area, arc radius, and edge length, helpful when comparing a translated model with the original model. The program also includes repair functionality so, for instance, you can stitch together surfaces to create a solid model. The software also has viewing and collaboration tools, but it was unclear if these had been updated. For more details, visit http://www.transmagic.com.
Unlike CAD/CAM-E and TransMagic, this company offers feature-based translation products. Based in Staffordshire, England, with U.S. offices in Loveland, Ohio, Theorem Solutions also offers an on-line translation service. About a week ago, it announced the availability of CADverter Revision 8, a set of interoperability tools.
Unlike many other translation products, CADverter works on both Windows and UNIX platforms. This update is the first to provide a uniform graphical user interface for both platforms. However, the big news in Revision 8 is the large number of new products supported, including CATIA V5, Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire, Inventor, ProductView, VisMock (JT), and ICEMSurf. According to the company, there are also more than 300 enhancements and updates. More information appears at http://www.theorem-usa.com and http://www.theorem.co.uk.
This Marlborough, Massachusetts-based company specializes in feature-based translation products and doesn't offer interoperability services. About six weeks ago, it introduced v3.5 of the Collaboration Gateway. Perhaps the biggest enhancement is support for assembly constraints, meaning the model is much more intelligent when it emerges on the other side. The assembly constraints supported include mate/contact, offset/distance, align, coincidence, and fix. Also new is the ability to translate a program's coordinate system.
In past versions, support for surfaces was limited to simple extrudes, revolves, and a few other features, but now the Collaboration Gateway supports trimmed and extended surfaces as well as surfaces that have been copied, replaced, and merged. However, the Collaboration Gateway doesn't yet handle Class A surfaces, typically found on automobile exteriors.
This new version also includes updates to the UPR Viewer, a lightweight application that allows any user to query, view, and leverage the product design data defined within CAD models and assemblies, independent of the system they were created in. The Collaboration Gateway supports CATIA V4 and V5, Pro/ENGINEER and Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire, and Unigraphics and I-deas NX Series. However, there's no support for midrange applications such as SolidWorks, Solid Edge, and Inventor. According to the company, this is because it doesn't currently see a major need for interoperability between the traditional high-end and the midrange MCAD applications. What are you thoughts on this - do you agree or disagree? E-mail me your experiences at firstname.lastname@example.org. Meanwhile, for more information on Proficiency go to http://www.proficiency.com.
Whether translations are feature-based or not, the problems associated with interoperability are slowly being solved by companies like CAD/CAM-E, TransMagic, Theorem Solutions, Proficiency, and others.
When looking for an interoperability solution, you should consider a number of issues. For instance, do you need features? Do you even need translation software, or is a viewer application good enough? If you do need translation software, find out whether translations were achieved using reverse engineering of the MCAD software or using the APIs (application programming interfaces) made available by the software developers. Using APIs ensures that the translators will still work after the MCAD software has been updated. If your work usually involves numerous changes, you may want to make sure your interoperability software has associative capabilities, so changes to the original model percolate up to the translated model. Otherwise, you have to retranslate the entire model. However, the best way to evaluate interoperability software is to test it with several of your most typical models and study the results.
Barriers to model exchange