Dialog Box November 200416 Nov, 2004 By: Cadalyst Staff Cadalyst
I enjoyed the article by Ron LaFon on visualization software in your August 2004 edition. Having used CAD software for more than 14 years, I've always enjoyed creating visualizations. But as much as I love it, I have yet to see it become an actual part of my job. Read: "We don't want to spend the extra money to produce visualizations of our designs." Although the marketing department usually thinks differently.
Be that as it may, those who have an interest in this field usually find themselves without the means to invest in the software with which to practice this art -- unless you include the patched-in components of today's CAD packages.
There is a less expensive option out there: the open-source software package called Blender. Once owned by a now-defunct company called Not a Number, it has been in free release for more than a year now. Since its release to the public, it has been improved by leaps and bounds, with refinements and additions happening all the time. It's now a capable software package in its own right that not only allows you to create models and animations, but also supports ray tracing and even radiance rendering, when combined with an almost-integrated open-source rendering engine called YafRay. Various plug-ins let you import many standard 3D geometry formats, and built-in tools accomplish a lot.
Intended to compete with the likes of Maya and 3ds max, Blender has some way to go yet to reach that goal. It can handle industrial visualization with aplomb now, as you can see if you visit my Blender gallery. In particular, see the LT2000 images and animation.
The September 2004 AEC From the Ground Up column is titled: "Are you up to standards?" with the sub-title "Homegrown standards vs. the U.S. National CAD Standard." Anyone unfamiliar with this might believe that the "U.S. National CAD Standard" is the official standard put out by the relevant national standards body or organization. For example, in Australia it's Standards Australia, and in the United States it's the ANSI (American National Standards Institute). The U.S. National CAD Standard is nothing more than a normal commercial venture that sells what it believes should be a standard.
What confuses CAD managers is that its title implies some sort of credibility. It's a clever use of words. Many contracts require drawings to be carried out in accordance with the local "national CAD standards". Many organizations purchase the book with a title that matches those words, only to find that what is purported to be a national CAD standard is not that.
National standards are not standards just because they have that in their title. They are standards because they've been carefully considered by experts in the particular field and take into account all aspects that are likely to be affected by its introduction. Hijacking a phrase does not make it a national standard.
If the publisher of the U.S. National CAD Standard is serious about this, it would submit the standard for certification by ANSI. That's not going to happen, and so it's misleading to push it the way it is being pushed. It's just another book -- nothing more, nothing less.
Standards development in the United States is decentralized, with a variety of organizations developing sets of voluntary standards for their particular sector. These organizations can range from ANSI-accredited groups to industry consortia. (The NCS is in fact cobbled together from standards developed by three different industry and government groups: the AIA, the National Institute of Building Sciences, and the U.S. Department of Defense Tri-Service CADD/GIS Technology Center.) For more on the state of standards in the United States, check out the National Standards Strategy for the United States.
An Answer to Your Question
Let me answer your last question from the Editor's Window, September 2004.
We do a lot of work for a government agency. Forty years ago, if we found an error in the drawings, we didn't believe it. In the most recent two jobs for this agency, we made eight-six changes to the fabricated items on the first job, and we are at sixty-six and counting on the second.
Errors range from addition errors to specifying material no longer made to leaving access holes completely out of the design to requiring that welds be made to the inside of a box. As a detailer of shop drawings, I'm expected to find all of these problems and offer a fix or change in design. Drawings today may be made by CAD software but that doesn't make them accurate.
Back to the Board
The answer to your September editorial lies within your subtitle: "Employers say they have trouble finding CAD operators." The key word is operators.
For too long now, drafters and the drafting board have been shoved aside in favor of just learning the toolbars and their functions. Operators trained through seminars, weekend classes, and, yes, even Autodesk University are not knowledgeable about drafting practices or standards. Dimensioning and GD&T are lost causes with many of these operators. In truth, many of the engineers turned loose upon an unknowing society can't dimension their way out of a paper bag.
In fairness, many employers don't know what they want. Many think knowledge of the software is sufficient. I was turned down for a job because I didn't use every toolbar possible, because they clutter up my screen. I used aliases instead. One employer threatened to fire me because I scaled the drawing to the size of the paper. He wanted it full size and the paper sized to the drawing, a common practice that still baffles many in the drafting world.
No CAD operators should even be allowed to touch a computer until they pass a proficiency exam that involves drawing lines, circles, and the like with good old-fashioned 2H lead.
We need more articles exposing the CAD bluffers. Good job.
It's the biggest headline on the August 2004 cover, so exactly how far into the magazine should I have to go to find out what BIM means so I can then decide whether I care about its benefits? It's not anywhere in the table of contents, so I gave up. Undefined acronyms are just so much gibberish.
We'll keep a closer eye on our use of acronyms to make sure they are clearly defined. In this case, BIM stands for building information modeling, though it can also mean basic industry marketing, ballistic intercept missile, or boat information manual.
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