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CAD Central (News and Analysis)

2 Feb, 2009 By: Kenneth Wong

SolidWorks CEO Blogs and Twitters; IMSI Delays Launch of CAD Freeware; For Design Answers, Ask Nature; Autodesk Rounds Out FEA Portfolio; Taiwan Plays Catch-Up in RP Development; Judge Partially Dismisses Autodesk vs. SolidWorks Suit; Geomagic Studio 10x Ships; The Fate of Macworld Expo; AMD Looks to the Clouds


AMD Looks to the Clouds

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, AMD's president and CEO Dirk Meyer revealed his company's upcoming contribution to cloud computing: ADM Fusion Render Cloud. Flanked by officials from Lucasfilm, Dell, HP, and game publisher Electronic Arts, Meyer explained his vision.

Using OTOY's web plug-in, AMD Fusion Render Cloud will deliver cinematic quality renderings (such as the one here, from OTOY's web site) to remote desktops.
Using OTOY's web plug-in, AMD Fusion Render Cloud will deliver cinematic quality renderings (such as the one here, from OTOY's web site) to remote desktops.

AMD Fusion Render Cloud, he said, is "a new kind of supercomputer . . . designed to break the one petaFLOPS barrier and to process a million compute threads across more than 1,000 graphics processors. . . . And it will be powered by OTOY's software for a singular purpose: to make HD (high-definition) cloud computing a reality."

Theoretically, when the supercomputer comes online, people will be able to play video games and run graphics-intense applications and horsepower-hungry programs from a web browser or a mobile device. AMD Fusion Render Cloud will execute the users' commands and deliver cinematic-quality output to the users' devices and machines, using OTOY's web plug-in (www.otoy.com). In short, users will have access to a supercomputer's rendering and processing power without having to own one. The AMD Fusion Render Cloud will be powered by AMD Phenom II processors, AMD 790 chipsets, and ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics processors.

AMD's announcement came barely one month after Autodesk CEO Carl Bass expressed his interest in cloud computing during the Autodesk University conference at the same locale ("Event Report: Autodesk University 2008, Part 2 — cloud computing in the forecast for desktop-dominated CAD market," December 10, 2008, www.cadalyst.com). For the CAD community, AMD and Autodesk's flight into the cloud promises faster, cheaper ways to visualize sophisticated architectural scenes, render animations, and display finite-element analysis results.

IMSI/Design Delays CAD Freeware Launch

At Autodesk University last December, IMSI/Design, makers of TurboCAD, unveiled a 2D CAD product it planned to give away. At the time, the company introduced the software as A/CAD LT Express. (For more, read "IMSI/Design Freeware Targets AutoCAD LT Users," CAD Central, November/December 2008.) IMSI/Design announced it would make the free version available by year end from the designated download site at www.acadnow.com. But at press time, the portal redirected visitors to firstlook.imsidesign.com, showing a half-drawn curtain and the message "Coming soon."

"A/CAD is now called DoubleCAD (for Drafting & Detailing)," explained CEO Royal Farros. "Autodesk abandoned the ACAD trademark some 17 years before, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records," he said, but Autodesk said it would oppose use of the name. DoubleCAD XT and XT Pro are now expected to ship in February.

Judge Partially Dismisses Autodesk vs. SolidWorks Suit

Who has the right to use an orange square around its logo — Autodesk or SolidWorks? That's one of the questions Judge William Alsup had to ponder late last year. In September 2008, Autodesk filed a suit against SolidWorks, alleging "unfair competition, false designation, trademark infringement, [and] trade dress infringement," among other claims. Autodesk argued that SolidWorks' product naming strategy — for example, DWGeditor, DWGgateway, DWGseries, DWGviewer, and DWGnavigator — aims to "confuse design professionals about the ability of DS [Dassault Systemes] SolidWorks programs to interoperate with Autodesk's AutoCAD software . . ." Autodesk also takes issue with SolidWorks' "marketing campaign featuring a logo design that combines the 'real' element of Autodesk's RealDWG program and tagline with the distinctive trade dress found on the Autodesk Inventor packaging." As evidence, Autodesk furnished the Autodesk Inventor logo enclosed in a thin yellow border, next to a SolidWorks banner that reads "Real Solution," with the word Real enclosed in an orange square. (For more information, read "The Battle Over DWG Continues," January 8, 2009, at www.cadalyst.com/kw.)

On December 18, a judge partially granted SolidWorks' motion to dismiss the case. SolidWorks argued that Autodesk cannot state a claim of unfair competition and false designation of origin based on the use of DWG and Real because those terms are generic. The judge denied SolidWorks' motion to dismiss based on those grounds. Regarding the questionable square, the judge noted, "It is unclear whether Autodesk contends the mark and tagline are also part of the total image, design, and appearance of the product that constitutes its trade dress. . . . Autodesk's trade dress infringement claim is dismissed."

For the complete text of Judge Alsup's order, visit www.cadcourt.com, which tracks court cases related to the technology sector.

For Design Answers, Ask Nature

What does CAD software giant Autodesk have in common with Janine Benyus, a naturalist who wrote The Secret Language and Remarkable Behaviors of Animals (Black Dog & Leventhal, 1998)? The short answer is: Ask Nature. In November, Autodesk and Benyus launched the portal AskNature.org, an online database of design ideas inspired by nature. Announcing the site, Autodesk and the Biomimicry Institute (founded by Benyus) wrote, "This free database is the only public-domain online library of its kind in the world, where architects, designers, and engineers can search for and study nature's solutions to design challenges — learning, for example, how organisms filter air and water, gather solar energy, and create nontoxic dyes and glues."

At AskNature.org, designers and architects can find information about projects inspired by nature.
At AskNature.org, designers and architects can find information about projects inspired by nature.

The site currently features pages discussing bioSTREAM's tidal power system inspired by the tuna and mackerel's swimming movements and NanoSphere fabric inspired by the butterfly's wing surface, among other topics. At Autodesk University, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass suggested biomimicry might be the next frontier in sustainable design. (See my blog post, "Dispatches from Autodesk University 2008: Day One," December 3, 2008, www.cadalyst.com/kw.) Because mimicking nature requires creating many variations of the same design to find the best, biomimicry is expected to drive digital manufacturing, Autodesk's vision.

Autodesk Rounds Out FEA Portfolio

One week before Christmas, Autodesk delivered what might be a long-delayed present for Autodesk Inventor users: integrated finite-element analysis (FEA) features. At the moment, the present is just a promise. It's expected to appear in the form of software code after Autodesk completes its acquisition of ALGOR, a recognized name in the FEA market. Amy Bunzel, Autodesk's director of the Inventor product line, predicted, "Over time, some of [ALGOR's] features will find their way into Inventor."

Previously, some speculated Autodesk might snatch up ANSYS, another leading FEA software developer ("FEA for All — Part 3: Autodesk and ANSYS Just Friends?" June 26, 2006, CAD Insider, http://cadinsider.typepad.com). The match seems sensible, because SolidWorks, Autodesk's major competition in the mid-range CAD market, has been offering a CAD–FEA combo by pairing SolidWorks CAD software with COSMOSWorks analysis software for nearly seven years. But Autodesk instead relied on partnerships with ANSYS, ALGOR, and other FEA software makers to provide Inventor users with analysis features.

Subsequently, the company purchased PlassoTech, a small FEA provider, and Moldflow, a mold-simulation software maker. Currently, Autodesk is showcasing the Autodesk Inventor Plastic Features Technology Preview as a teaser of what Inventor users can expect. If Autodesk manages to incorporate ALGOR's FEA features into Inventor, Autodesk manufacturing customers would have reason to celebrate.

ALGOR also offers FEA products for Autodesk competitors. Bunzel said Autodesk plans to "keep a CAD-neutral product line from ALGOR." Autodesk's partnership with ANSYS is also expected to continue.

Taiwan Plays Catch-Up in RP Development

In January, Professor Sen-Yung Lee, mechanical engineering, National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), and his colleagues completed the prototype of a rapid prototyping (RP) machine or 3D printer. The project was an R&D initiative funded by the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs, but a domestic company, MicroJet, is poised to reap its benefits. Lee's technique has been transferred to MicroJet, presumably for developing commercial variations. In the announcement, the university predicted, "The annual revenue garnered from this technique is expected to reach . . . approximately US$10–16 million in five years." Terry Wohlers, founder of Wohlers Associates and the author of Wohlers Report 2008 (an in-depth study of the advances in additive fabrication, including 3D printing and rapid manufacturing), observed, "It's possible to ramp up to $10–16 million in five years, but they'd have to invest aggressively, put together a strong R&D team, create a good method of distribution and support, and make few mistakes along the way."

In the announcement, the university highlighted the use of "nanoscale powder manufacturing technology, precision positioning and process control, powder compounding, bonding and coherence technique, [and] improved ink injector and driving technique," among others. If NCKU's technology results in a commercial RP machine, it would have to compete with some imported RP units already on the scene. Wohlers pointed out, "The Dimension product family from Stratasys, followed by the machines from Z Corp., have been the most successful in Asia."

SolidWorks CEO Blogs and Twitters

SolidWorks CEO Jeff Ray recently added a new title to his curriculum vitae: blogger. In December, Ray posted his first blog entry, "Here's a Social Networking Success Story" (December 15, 2008, http://blogs.solidworks.com). In it, Ray sought inspiration from the way Barack Obama's presidential campaign mobilized community organizers and grassroots activists through social networking. "So, the legacy monolith [traditional fundraising efforts] lost to the agile net roots. And the social networking has only begun," Ray wrote.

Ray also can be found on Twitter (http://twitter.com/jeffray), the online service you can use to share frequent updates of your activities. In one Twitter broadcast — a "tweet" in Twitter lingo — Ray revealed he'd just met the agent of Sir Richard Branson, the enigmatic British industrialist and founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways. Branson is expected to be a guest speaker at SolidWorks World (February 8–11, Orlando, Florida). Ray's past Twitter updates reveal he's concerned with U.S. education ("Just learned that the U.S. has dropped from #1 to #10 in education," November 13, 2008) and his faith in humanity was restored when he recovered his lost laptop ("Left laptop behind at Logan security two weeks ago, and it just arrived intact. There is a Santa Claus," December 11, 2008).

The Fate of Macworld Expo

Apple dealt a crushing blow to Macworld Expo (January 5–9, San Francisco) by announcing that its participation in the conference ends with 2009. In the official announcement, Apple explained, "Trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple's Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com web site enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways. Apple has been steadily scaling back on trade shows in recent years, including NAB, Macworld New York, Macworld Tokyo, and Apple Expo in Paris."

Macworld Expo, where some 3D software vendors reach out to Mac users, may continue without Apple in 2010.
Macworld Expo, where some 3D software vendors reach out to Mac users, may continue without Apple in 2010.

Though people associate Macworld Expo with Apple, the expo is organized and run by International Data Group (IDG), an event planning and media production firm. In a town hall meeting prompted by Apple's decision, Paul Kent, vice-president and general manager of Macworld Expo, hinted he was open to new ideas on resuming Macworld sans Apple, including turning the event into a traveling road show that takes place in a different city each year. HP, Microsoft, and a few other big names have already signed up for the 2010 event, he revealed. (See "Town Hall gives clues to future directions for Macworld Expo," January 8, 2009, www.macworld.com.)

Autodesk didn't participate this year but released three new products — Toxik, a procedural compositing tool; Mudbox digital sculpting and texturing software; and ImageModeler photogrammetry software, all for Mac OS — to coincide with the event. Roohi Saeed, Autodesk's senior PR manager for media and entertainment, explained, "Historically Autodesk doesn't exhibit there. We haven't had a booth at the expo for at least five years. We usually just hold press meetings in conjunction with the show, which is what we did this time."

Also absent in the exhibitor list were regular 3D software vendors such as AutoDesSys, makers of form•Z software, and Nemetschek, makers of the VectorWorks series. Those who did show up included IMSI/Design, makers of TurboCAD, and SolidThinking, makers of the SolidThinking industrial design and styling software. In a mixture of defiance and optimism, the expo organizers picked the tagline "The Start of a New Era" for Macworld Expo 2010.

New Products at Cadalyst.com

The Product Showcase at Cadalyst.com lists the latest introductions of software and hardware for CAD professionals. Get more information about the products listed below and many others at www.cadalyst.com/newproducts.
— Compiled by Amanda Burhop

Hardware

  • 1. HP Designjet 510 Printer Series wide-format printers, HP
  • 2. MAXscan handheld laser scanner and HandyPROBE CMM inspection tool, Creaform

General Software

  • 1. AutoCAD Automation Tools, JTB World
  • 2. MEDUSA4 design automation software, CAD Schroer
  • 3. ZWCAD 2009 2D and 3D drawing software, ZWSOFT

AEC

  • 1. NetSPEX v4 CAD standards management software, Optimal AEC
  • 2. Revit Architecture 2009 training manuals, ProSoft

Collaboration/File Sharing

  • 1. Prolog Connect project management software, Meridian Systems
  • 2. XVL Player Pro v9.2 3D data viewer, Lattice Technology
  • 3. XVL Plug-in v2 for Acrobat 9 Pro Extended, Lattice Technology

MCAD

  • 1. PointCloud v4.0.3 point cloud processing, Kubit USA
  • 2. GEM v2 3D pattern generator, ParaCloud
  • 3. PolyWorks IMAlign 3D scanner plug-in for Faro and Romer 3D Scanners, Laser Design
  • 4. AutoTURN Extended Vehicle Libraries, Transoft Solutions

CAE

  • 1. GrafiCalc 2010 engineering software, from GEOMATE
  • 2. Femap v10 finite-element analysis software, Siemens PLM Software
  • 3. MapleSim modeling and simulation software, Maplesoft

CAM

  • 1. progeCAM CNC machining software, iCADsales.com|~iCADsales.com/
  • 2. ESPRIT Mold v10 CAM software, DP Technology
  • 3. CAM350 v10 and BluePrint v2 for printed circuit boards, DownStream Technologies
  • 4. CAM Express v6.0.1, Siemens PLM Software

Geomagic Ships Studio 10x

In January, Geomagic, known for its point-cloud processing technology, released Geomagic Studio 10x. Engineers and designers use Geomagic's software to process the point-cloud data obtained by 3D scanners. Geomagic Studio 10x is available in three editions: Fashion Edition, Shape Edition, and Complete Edition. The company described the Fashion Edition as "the premier product for mechanical design applications, such as new design and reverse engineering." Shape Edition is targeted at "medical and scientific applications where users want to create exact 3D replicas of organic objects, such as bones or historical artifacts," the company added. The Complete Edition includes both the Fashion and Shape Editions.

Among the new features in the software are constrained surface fitting for aligning surfaces and correcting imperfections in the as-built model or scan data, advanced classification tools for excluding regions of a mesh that deviate from the desired surface classification, polygon decimation for producing smaller and more accurate polygons, automatic surface extension for creating sharp edges between neighboring surfaces, and enhanced registration algorithm for more accurate point-cloud data registration.

Cadalyst executive editor Kenneth Wong explores the innovative use of technology and its implications. Read his blog at www.cadalyst.com/kw.


About the Author: Kenneth Wong


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