AEC Tech News (#339)

20 Aug, 2014 By: Cadalyst Staff

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Cadalyst Labs Report: Free CAD Software for Mobile Devices

With mobile CAD programs, the days of desk-bound design are in the past.

By Curt Moreno

Remember when we thought it was amazing that we could take a few songs with us — by toting stacks of cassette tapes? Now we don't bat an eye at carrying around thousands of tracks in a digital music player or mobile phone. That sort of exponential mobile technology growth is changing every part of our lives, including the CAD world.

Today our laptops, tablets, and even our phones have so much computing power that we can carry our CAD work in a backpack or pocket. More importantly, today's technology not only allows us to work anywhere, but it also connects us to the rest of the world, so we can take production and collaboration capabilities wherever we go.

Who Uses Mobile CAD

Although the first commercial cellular phones entered the market around 1984, it was not until Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007 that the modern mobile data age began. Cell phones transformed into handheld computers capable of much more than facilitating voice communications. Since then, the term mobile has permeated many aspects of modern life, and the number of people owning one or more of these devices has exploded. According to Digital Trends, the number of mobile phones will exceed the number of people on Earth in 2014.

Needless to say, a huge number of people use mobile devices in their jobs, including CAD users who must perform work-related tasks on the go. Some of these user categories are obvious, such as engineers needing to review drawings at a job site, but there are others who should consider mobile CAD options as well. Architects marking up plans in a meeting, drafters making edits in the field, and construction managers clarifying important design details for crew members are all prime candidates for mobile CAD. And in reality, the list is even longer: Selection board members, material estimators, warehouse managers, and transport load chiefs also need this technology.

In short, all types of professionals in the design, construction, engineering, and manufacturing fields could find themselves using mobile CAD software in the near future. And these people have a wide range of mobile CAD software options to choose from, each with its own feature set. But before we compare some of those choices, let's define what qualifies as a mobile CAD application.

What Makes CAD Mobile

A wide and growing range of CAD software can be used away from a traditional desktop workstation, but not all of it is considered mobile CAD. The line is blurred by the fact that some hardware types — such as powerful tablets, which you might consider to be mobile devices — can operate full-blown installations of the Windows operating system and, in turn, run full-blown desktop CAD software.

The difference between mobile CAD applications and traditional CAD programs installed on mobile workstations is that modern mobile CAD applications are small-footprint installations on mobile devices. While the line between mobile devices (such as tablets and smartphones) and portable devices (such as laptops) is becoming increasingly indistinct, a common differentiator is that mobile devices run lightweight operating systems such as Android or iOS. Portable devices, in contrast, normally run operating systems that require more powerful hardware, such as Windows 8 or Mac OS X. Read more »

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Curt Moreno is a Houston, Texas–based CAD coordinator, writer, and highly rated Autodesk University speaker who has been using AutoCAD since 1990.

Herrera on Hardware: Is Cloud-Based CAD Ready for Prime Time? Part 3

A new generation of server-side technologies offer high-performance, interactive computing for CAD.

By Alex Herrera

When it comes to high-performance computing, where should the concentration of power reside? The first part of this series retraced the basic history of client/server computing, highlighting many compelling advantages promised by server-based computing (SBC) solutions. With so much going for the technology, one might think these solutions would be commonplace in CAD applications today — but they're not. Yes, SBC approaches such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) have found broader acceptance in mainstream corporate applications that don't demand much in the way of complex graphics. But when it comes to serving up the rich 3D CAD content that engineers and designers create and visualize, SBC implementations are essentially nonexistent.

Why is that the case? Part two of this series explained that while the theoretical rewards are truly compelling, the technical limitations of both previous-generation hardware and network service quality — in terms of both latency and bandwidth — made it difficult and/or expensive to deliver in practice. Simply put, SBC solutions either fell short in their performance or disappointed in their versatility.

But dramatic shifts in both technology and usage models over the past decade — in particular, the explosion of visual data — have flipped the script on the old constraints. Today's "big data" challenges have reignited interest in centralized computing approaches, buoyed by a reordered set of high-priority IT goals — including maximizing security, enabling collaboration, and opening access to computing from any Internet-enabled location.

A new generation of comprehensive hardware solutions are coming to market from the biggest suppliers of conventional workstations and servers. Exploiting fresh silicon technology from suppliers including NVIDIA, AMD, and Teradici, and garnering support from remote-hosting software vendors such as VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft, OEMs including HP, Dell, Fujitsu, and Boxx have all launched server-class products capable of delivering a 3D graphics experience comparable to what CAD users have come to expect from their deskside machines. Workstation-caliber SBC solutions are emerging in two forms: physically hosted remote workstations and virtually hosted workstations, typically deployed with VDI technology. Read more »

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Alex Herrera is a consultant focusing on high-performance graphics and workstations.


Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events

October 7–9, 2014
Berlin, Germany
INTERGEO is billed as the world's leading trade fair for geodesy, geoinformation, and land management. This event will include more than 500 exhibitors from 30 countries. Read more »

Dallas BIMForum 2014
October 9–10, 2014
Dallas, Texas
With the theme of "Optimizing Construction with BIM," the Dallas BIMForum will feature four tracks including "Designing for Construction Optimization" and "On the Job Site." Read more »

AVEVA World Summit 2014
October 14–16, 2014
Berlin, Germany
This event will provide an opportunity for delegates to learn about new developments at AVEVA and to share their own experiences with colleagues from the world's leading EPCs, owner–operators, and shipbuilders. A combination of AVEVA and delegate speakers will provide a mix of business, technology, and project insights. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to


What’s New at

AutoCAD File Tab Tips
If you work with multiple open drawings at once, then file tabs are a must! Join Lynn Allen as she shows you all the ins and outs of working with the File Tab feature that was added in AutoCAD 2014. Watch the video »

Freeform Surfacing with a Network of Curves in Bentley MicroStation
In this clip, trainer Peter Mann shows how to construct a custom surface using a mesh network of curves. Watch the video »

Manipulate and Modify 3D Solids in Bentley MicroStation
Author Peter Mann walks viewers through basic object manipulation and editing commands, and shows how they can be applied to 3D primitives versus 2D drawings. Watch the video »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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