CAD Tech News (#3)

16 Oct, 2014 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ Tech Trends: Not Just Fun and Games

AEC professionals are adopting technologies from the video game domain.

By Kristin Dispenza

While it's true that video games are often thought of as mere entertainment, gaming has frequently crossed into other fields and has helped improve efficiency and information sharing in some of the most critical areas of society. For example, there has long been an overlap between gaming and military initiatives; the U.S. Army launched the America's Army game franchise in 2002 as a recruitment, training, and public relations tool. More recently, citizen scientists have made headlines by using Foldit, an online game interface, to model complicated protein structures that researchers had been attempting to understand for years.

AEC professionals have been experimenting with game technologies since the early 1990s. At that time the only virtual reality (VR) environments in existence were room-sized chambers housed in university, government, or corporate laboratories, and the hardware consisted of projectors and screens or — at the very cutting edge — stereoscopic eyewear known at the time as "eye-phones." The virtual worlds depicted had the same blocky, pixelated graphics as video games of the day. But studies were under way at the University of Washington's Human Interface Technology Lab, among others, that invited practicing architects to identify the overlap between the emerging fields of CAD and VR. Now, VR technology has progressed to the point where portable gadgets and interfaces are so affordable and accessible that they can be used in any office.

Changing the Game

In the mid-1990s, some video game developers began to include user-friendly level editors in their games. These tools allowed users to make changes within the game environment and "spawned the concept of making your own game," said Jeremy Harkins, director of design and digital technology consultancy at ineni Realtime, an Australian firm that develops custom software to connect the physical and digital worlds. Before that, games and VR programs were composed of strings of code that were inaccessible to most users.

In a program developed by ineni Realtime, one level of a ten-story office building has been pulled out from the model for closer inspection. In this mode, a user can arrange the desks and other furniture for planning purposes. Image courtesy of ineni Realtime.
In a program developed by ineni Realtime, one level of a ten-story office building has been pulled out from the model for closer inspection. In this mode, a user can arrange the desks and other furniture for planning purposes. Image courtesy of ineni Realtime.

Today, in contrast, almost all games are built upon game engines — entire packages of foundational code that provide the underlying framework of a game's mechanics and produce everything from its animation to its sound. Two of the best-known game engines that also have applicability in the architectural realm are Unity 3D and Unreal Engine. These programs have graphic interfaces, so designers can build games without being masters of coding, making the creation process accessible to more people.

Game engines have converged with another developing technology: building information modeling (BIM). Developers are currently experimenting with uniting the 3D models produced via BIM software with the more immersive, realistic environments that have so far been limited to the biggest-budget video games. The result is a simulation of the built environment that brings a new level of realism and engagement to designs, enabling architects, designers, and clients to see them in a whole new way. Read more »

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Kristin Dispenza is a freelance architecture and design writer.

▶ Tech Trends: Bespoke Medical Devices Suit Patients Perfectly

CAD software, 3D scanning technologies, and 3D printing are transforming the world of medical devices and implants.

By Scottie Barnes

In early 2014, a 22-year-old Dutch woman faced a unique predicament: She needed a new skull. A medical condition that caused thickening of the bone left her plagued by severe headaches. As the condition progressed, the increasing pressure on the brain impaired her motor coordination and slowly stole her vision. Without intervention, her prognosis was fatal.

Surgeons would have to remove part of the patient's skull to reduce pressure on the brain. In the past, the medical team would then have repositioned that portion or replaced it with an artificial implant, custom-made in the operating theater by hand using surgical cement. But, according to Bon Verweij, a surgeon at the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht, "those implants did not have a very good fit." So, for the first time in history, neurosurgeons instead inserted a tailor-made plastic replacement for the top half of the patient's skull.

To prepare for the surgery, medical staff provided computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data of the patient's skull to Australia-based Anatomics, which created a digital model of the implant using its AnatomicsRx CAD software. When installed on a hospital computer, the software enables medical staff to view CT and MRI data in 3D and electronically request a quote or place an order for a surgical biomodel or custom implant.

"Now we can use 3D printing to ensure that components are an exact fit," said Verweij. "This has major advantages, not only cosmetically, but also because patients [may] also have better brain function with this new method."

In this particular case, the patient's pain was soon gone, she quickly regained her vision, and she returned to work within three months. Her new cranium joins a growing list of 3D-printed prosthetics and medical devices that includes everything from hearing aids to entire limbs — each one custom-designed for the individual who needs it. Read more »

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Founding editor of GeoIntelligence and former editor in chief of Geospatial Solutions and GPS World, Scottie Barnes has covered evolving technologies for more than 20 years.


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CAD Manager's Toolbox: Justify the Purchase of Solid-State Drives
Online information offers good summary of SSD benefits. Read more »

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Flow Simulation: Key Technologies that Make it the Right Choice for Product Engineers
October 20, 2014
2 p.m. ET
SolidWorks Flow Simulation includes technologies that can make computational fluid dynamics (CFD) practical for design engineers. Webinar attendees will learn how they can implement CFD in their engineering processes. Read more »

Easy to Use Photorealistic Rendering with Iray for Maya
October 21, 2014
9 a.m. PT
Peter de Lappe of NVIDIA and Christoph Berndt of [0x1] Software Consulting will demonstrate how physically based rendering with NVIDIA Iray can accelerate the Maya workflow. Read more »

Reverse Engineering with RapidWorks
October 21, 2014
11 a.m. PT
Those who tune in to this webinar will learn the process of turning NextEngine Mesh models into fully parametric solid models using RapidWorks 3.5. They will then be able to save the redesigned shape as IGS, STP, or liveTransfer the parametric feature tree for creation of a native CAD model in SolidWorks, ProE, Creo, Siemens NX, or Autodesk Inventor. Read more »

3ds Max and SpaceMouse Pro Workflows
October 22, 2014
11 a.m. PT
In this webinar, Autodesk technical evangelist and SpaceMouse Pro user Chris Murray will demonstrate some of the new features in 3ds Max 2015 and will also cover some very specific workflows that leverage the 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse Pro and how it can be used in 3ds Max. Read more »

Overview of Scan to BIM 2015.1
October 29, 2014
10 a.m. ET
IMAGINiT Technologies will present a webinar with a focus on the updated version of Scan to BIM (building information modeling) 2015.1 software. This latest release features automated piping tools specifically designed to save mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineers and scanning professionals time when identifying, placing, and connecting pipes from a point cloud to a model created with Autodesk Revit software. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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