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CAD Central (News and Analysis)

1 Oct, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

PTC Dodges 'For Sale' Rumors; Struc-Soft Struck by Bentley; New Cadalyst Blog: 'Kenneth Wong on CAD'; Cadalyst Updates Benchmark Test; GPU Battles CPU for Computing Hearts; IntelliCAD Users Unite in New Forum; Fashionable New Wrinkle in CAD/CAM


PTC Dodges 'For Sale' Rumors

Not too long ago, PTC, makers of Pro/ENGINEER and Windchill, paid $250 million to snatch up CoCreate, known for its freeform modeling product OneSpace. But soon the tables could turn. A Financial Times report surfaced in September, indicating PTC has hired a financial institution to woo potential buyers. According to the article, the asking price is more than $2 billion, and the matchmaker is none other than investment banking firm Goldman Sachs.

In June, Boston Business Journal reported that PTC agreed to a change-in-control policy that promised the top executives an additional $1.9 million if the company were acquired. In CIMdata's latest product lifecycle management (PLM) market report for 2008, PTC remained one of the five leading solution providers when ranked by 2007 revenues and market share.

When contacted to verify the Financial Times story, PTC's press office responded that the company doesn't comment on its merger and acquisitions strategy. When asked to address the article at Deutsche Bank's Technology Conference (September 9, Palace Hotel, San Francisco, California), Bill Berutti, PTC's senior vice-president of corporate development, said, "Things get printed in publications all the time. As a public company, I can't really comment on it, but our shares are always available for purchase."

UGS, a PTC rival, was acquired in May 2007 by Siemens Automation and Drives, a division of the Germany-based industrial titan Siemens AG. If news of PTC's search for a buyer turns out to be true, the company might be of interest to Siemens AG rivals as well as a number of enterprise software giants eyeing the PLM market.

Struc-Soft Struck by Bentley

What do you do with a reseller that's doing a good job? If you're Bentley Systems, you buy it. In August, Bentley acquired Struc-Soft Inc., its exclusive North American reseller of ProSteel 3D. Montreal-based Struc-Soft sells not only Bentley products but also Autodesk products, including AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT. George Ajami, cofounder of Struc-Soft, explained, "We anticipated this [Bentley's acquisition] might happen, so we split the company into two legal entities: Struc-Soft Inc. and StrucSoft Solutions."

 Struc-Soft, Bentley's exclusive reseller of ProSteel 3D, anticipated it would become Bentley's merger-and-acquisition target.
Struc-Soft, Bentley's exclusive reseller of ProSteel 3D, anticipated it would become Bentley's merger-and-acquisition target.

When Bentley bought ProSteel 3D's original developer, KIWI Software, in 2007, Struc-Soft began planning for the possibility that it too might become a merger-and-acquisition target for Bentley. At the time, Bentley and Autodesk were fierce rivals, so Struc-Soft's management reasoned that, even if Bentley wasn't interested in acquiring Struc-Soft, dividing the company into two entities would minimize conflicts in selling both Bentley and Autodesk products. Whereas Struc-Soft Inc. now concentrates on distributing and supporting ProSteel 3D under the Bentley brand, StrucSoft Solutions will focus on wood and light cage constructions. "StrucSoft Solutions will continue to sell and support Autodesk products," said Ajami. "I must say, the portion of the company Bentley bought is the slightly bigger one, with about 60% of the resources." Ajami has been named Bentley's director of global structural professional services.

Bentley and Autodesk remain business rivals, but the companies also have chosen to strike a mutually benefiting partnership to promote DWG interoperability among their products.

New Cadalyst Blog: 'Kenneth Wong on CAD'

Cadalyst announces "Kenneth Wong on CAD," a new blog by executive editor Wong. Well-known for his insightful, intelligent coverage of the CAD community, Wong invites readers to help shape Cadalyst's online and print content and, in some cases, become part of the stories. He provides periodic updates about the news items he's pursuing, gauges the readers' interest in the topics, and incorporates their views into his writing.

"Kenneth Wong on CAD," at www.cadalyst.com/kw, also monitors the social and technological trends that can potentially alter the way CAD users live, work, and think. Wong offers his personal views on a range of subjects, from CAD vendors' dalliances with emerging virtual worlds to the controversial remarks he overhears at industry events.

Cadalyst Updates Benchmark Test

The Cadalyst benchmark is designed to test and compare the performance of systems running AutoCAD. Cadalyst recently updated the C2008 benchmark to reflect the new 3D capabilities of AutoCAD. The previous benchmark ran the 3D models through four types of rendering: 3D wireframe, hidden, flat, and Gouraud. The new version, C2008 v5.1, matches the four visual styles used with the 3DRotate command: 3D wireframe, hidden, conceptual, and realistic. C2008 v5.1 is designed to work with AutoCAD 2008 and later. Learn more and download the Cadalyst benchmark at www.cadalyst.com/benchmark.

GPU Battles CPU for Computing Hearts

At NVISION 08, the inaugural visual computing event from NVIDIA (August 25–27, San Jose, California), the company's cofounder and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang suggested software developers should treat the graphics processing unit (GPU) as a general-purpose processor, not just a device to produce pretty pictures. "When we started the company, the GPU was really just an accelerator," he recalled. "When it started out, it understood only graphics languages — Direct3D and OpenGL. The GPU today understands C and C++, the language of computing." Some NVIDIA GPU product lines, including GeForce, Tesla, and Quadro, are built on CUDA, NVIDIA's C-language programming environment.

GPU advocates argue that because of its parallel computing architecture, the GPU can outperform today's fastest CPU. This may be true for the moment, but the CPU — especially the next generation from Intel — might have a few tricks up its sleeve.

In a paper presented at SIGGRAPH 08 (August 11–15, Los Angeles, California), the chipmaker released details about a project code named Larrabee, "the industry's first many-core x86 Intel architecture . . . based on an array of many processors."

So if you're a software developer, the sudden increase in available computing horsepower could be a blessing and a curse. Your software could perform much better, but only after you rewrite a significant portion of code to take advantage of the new chip, be it a GPU or a CPU.

IntelliCAD Users Unite in New Forum

Deelip Menezes, a CAD blogger and the owner of SYCODE, wrote, "Most Intelli-CAD vendors have some sort of communication mechanism for their customers, such as forums, discussion groups, etc. However, in all these years, I have not come across any central place where all Intelli-CAD users can meet up and help each other." So in late August, he launched IntelliCAD.net . Within two weeks of its launch, the community gained 18 members, including CAD programmers, developers, and consultants from Hong Kong, Taipei, India, and Colorado. It hosts discussion forums, wish lists, news, customization tips, and video clips. IntelliCAD, a DWG-compatible CAD platform, is maintained by the IntelliCAD Technology Consortium.

Fashionable New Wrinkle in CAD/CAM

Does supermodel Gisele Bündchen have anything to fear from a bunch of software developers? Not immediately, but perhaps in the near future, depending on the fashion and apparel industry's willingness to embrace computer-aided fabric simulation and digital human models. In late August at NVIDIA's NVISION 08 visual computing conference, OptiTex showcased its 2D/3D CAD/CAM software for fashion and textile design. According to the company, its Pattern Design System (PDS) uses sophisticated rules of particle deformation and physics to accurately simulate the look, feel, movement, and even wrinkling of different types of fabrics on digital objects. The analysis tools let users virtually drape and fit a dress on a digital human model and identify the tensions distributed over the figure (to give a general idea of the comfort). Both the dresses and the human models are customizable. Therefore, a customer theoretically could provide a digital scan of his or her body, and OptiTex could tailor a custom outfit.

OptiTex, an exhibitor at NVISION 08, develops CAD/CAM solutions that can accurately simulate the look, feel, and movement of fabric.
OptiTex, an exhibitor at NVISION 08, develops CAD/CAM solutions that can accurately simulate the look, feel, and movement of fabric.

OptiTex is one of the companies taking advantage of NVIDIA's CUDA, a C-language programming environment embedded in select NVIDIA graphics processing units. Autodesk Maya offers a comparable clothing simulation system, known as nCloth. In recent years, PLM software providers such as PTC and Oracle MatrixOne have found new sources of revenue in the footwear and apparel design markets.

Although OptiTex is not developed specifically for the AEC and MCAD markets, the company points out the software can import and export OBJ, IGES, and Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya file formats commonly deployed by CAD users. Possible use of OptiTex in architecture and industrial design might include simulating building environments accentuated with curtains or consumer products that have fabric-like textures.


About the Author: Kenneth Wong


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