CAD Tech News (#89)

4 Jul, 2018 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ Umbra Levels Up to Take on 3D Optimization for AEC

After mastering occlusion culling for video game engines, the company is expanding into CAD territory with a platform that serves AEC professionals' needs.

By Cyrena Respini-Irwin

Professional users of 3D graphics owe much to the video game industry. Umbra, which develops 3D optimization solutions, is determined to increase that debt, it seems. Known chiefly for its contributions to game engines, Umbra is now "on a mission to display any 3D content in real time on any device," according to the company, and is targeting the AEC realm in particular.

"We did so well in the gaming industry, we pretty much saturated the market," said Shawn Adamek, chief strategy officer at Umbra. Searching for a new market in need of its expertise, Umbra was spoiled for choice: "3D is getting more and more complex, and data sets are getting larger and larger," Adamek noted, particularly in industries such as mechanical engineering, automotive, aerospace, shipbuilding, and medical devices. At the same time, more and more people want to view data on smartphones and tablets, in browsers, and in augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) experiences.

Among the many options for a new challenge, "AEC really bubbled up to the top," Adamek said. One advantage was that "buildings don't have a lot of moving parts," so AEC was deemed an easier first step than fields that would require complex animations. And the need is clear: building information modeling (BIM) models are unwieldy, he explained, and take a long time to render. In addition, it can take days or weeks to simplify a model enough to move it onto a mobile platform, he said.

The Umbra team decided that the best way to tackle these challenges was with a cloud-based platform. Last October, Umbra launched Composit, which it calls "the first fully automated optimization and delivery platform for even the largest and most complex 3D data" — including polygon models and point clouds. Composit moves data sets up to the cloud, processes them, and makes the resulting visualizations available for streaming down to web browsers, smartphones, and other devices — all "with the single click of a button," Adamek said.

In February of this year, Composit was fleshed out with the "minimum requirements for AEC users," and the platform now claims more than a thousand individual AEC users from dozens of companies, according to Adamek. "We're seeing some really nice progress there," he said.

The Process of Data Processing

Once the user exports a data set to Composit — say, through an Autodesk Revit, Autodesk Navisworks, or Graphisoft ArchiCAD plug-in — the system divides it into smaller portions, so processing with Umbra's algorithms can be distributed among multiple Amazon Web Server (AWS) instances. As with other compute-intensive chores, chewing through the processing tasks in parallel results in much speedier completion. Four large instances suffice for most needs, Adamek reported, but a few companies have requested more in order to complete projects in even less time — a request that can always be accommodated (for a price), thanks to the near-infinite computing resources available in the cloud. "There's no limit to the scalability," Adamek confirmed. Read more »

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Cyrena Respini-Irwin is Cadalyst's editor in chief.


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