Product Design

Parasolid Pumps Up Vectorworks ’09

17 Sep, 2008 By: Heather Livingston

Modeling kernel speeds up the design software and provides more flexibility.

When I met with Sean Flaherty, CEO of Nemetschek North America, at the AIA Convention in Boston last May, he admittedly was cagey in his response to my question, "What of interest is happening with Vectorworks right now?" Though he wasn't letting any secrets loose at that time, I recently learned that the company was hard at work on its next iteration of Vectorworks (note the change in the product name from a capital to a lower-case "w"), one that dumped the Solids++ modeling kernel for the robust and powerful Parasolid by Siemens PLM.

Vectorworks' new logo.
Released on Monday, September 15, the 2009 line of Vectorworks products (Designer, Architect, Landmark, Spotlight, Machine Design, Fundamentals, and Renderworks) offers customers the vigorous Parasolid modeling kernel that supports larger models with greater complexity and higher levels of modeling automation; manages data with accuracy and consistency; and provides the openness and interoperability necessary for 3D data exchange. Asked why the company made the switch, Flaherty replied, "We were seeing people really putting 3D to use in architecture and we started to see those barriers to why people weren't doing it in a more integrated fashion. I think all of [the barriers] are solved with the Parasolid kernel."

Faster, Better, More Flexible
Siemens PLM's Parasolid modeling kernel enhances Vectorworks 3D capabilities by providing a sophisticated and stable digital representation that's applied across the entire design process. Vectorworks 2009 is said to be as much as 12 times faster for Boolean operations including surface addition, subtraction, and intersection. Viewport renderings are two to four times faster than in Vectorworks 2008, and 3D modeling operations are four to five times faster. Based on precise boundary representation technology, the Parasolid kernel supports precise solid modeling; powerful feature modeling; improved NURBS surfaces and resolution-independent, smooth, curved surfaces; solid geometry that can be decomposed into its surfaces for NURBS deformations; and NURBS surfaces that can be "stitched and trimmed" into free-form solid shapes.

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This entire project was done in Vectorworks 2009, from the building design to the landscape design to the lighting design in the theater. (Click image for a larger version)

Overall, more than 70 new features enhance Vectorworks 2009, which Nemetschek believes will provide users with the necessary flexibility to design the way they want, the versatility to address all phases of design, and the intuition to enable designers to work the way they think. A few notable attributes include similar object creation; reference deletion improvements for design layer viewports; true referencing of dash styles for design layer viewports; duplicate array command for symbols in walls; improved offset insertion mode for 2D symbol insertion; drag and drop import; visibility tool; improved DWG/DXF file support; polyline arc improvements; improved snapping; PDF snapping; new worksheet functions; object info palette enhancements; improved drawing label object; site modifiers applicable to existing site models; variable radius fillet across tangentially connected edges; extrude along path enhancements; and accurate cut and fill calculations in site model.

When asked which feature he is most excited about, Flaherty responded, "The whole Parasolid integration is obviously what I'm most excited about, but if I were to pick a tangible new capability, I would probably say our snap loupe. That's the type of thing that saves every one of our customers 15 minutes a day and pays for itself. ... I think it got done really well, and it's exactly what our customers have been asking for."

BIM, Now
Flaherty strongly believes that many 3D software developers' emphasis on creating a building information model has become about how to work downstream in the construction process and not about improving design today. Vectorworks, he said, addresses the model-centric BIM of tomorrow, but also has plenty to offer architects who, along with their clients, may not yet be ready for fully integrated project delivery.

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VW09 lets designers create customizable roof geometry for massing models. (Click image for a larger version)

"BIM has become this big, amorphous, scary term," he explained. "BIM is about putting more of the model into the software, allowing you to use more of the architectural design sense. The BIM model is in the architect's head; that's where it's always been, so if they can put more of that model into the software, it allows junior architects to be involved, but it also lets them work out a lot of the design programming in greater detail. I think all of the spreadsheets and automation stuff that you hear about are more futuristic things. For me, BIM really is about better design today, and it doesn't need to be a big, mysterious thing. ... If you have a 3D model inside of Vectorworks, there's a lot that you can do as far as working out your design that you couldn't do before."

One further change for Vectorworks users is the transition from 18-month release cycles to 12 month. The U.S. price for the first seat of Vectorworks 2009 Fundamentals is $1295; Architect, $1995, Architect with Renderworks, $2395. For the entire Vectorworks 2009 line, the cost is $2895. The remaining seats are 20% less than first seat. Trial versions are available for prospective users by contacting Nemetschek N.A.

"I want people to take a second look at Vectorworks," Flaherty concluded. "We've been a 3D leader for years, and there's a certain perception because our presentation graphics are so strong that we're a 2D package, which is definitely not the case. If you're interested in BIM, take another look at Vectorworks Architect. We're making all the right moves to make BIM that really works — and works today — instead of selling you a dream that one day is going to be delivered on."