Data Management

Expert guidance for implementing data management software and best practices in a CAD environment.
File Sharing/Publishing

Cadalyst White Paper Explores Future of CAD File Formats

19 Nov, 2017 By: Cadalyst Staff

Are you wondering about the changing role of DWG and other familiar formats? This guide provides insights into the changing landscape of CAD data management.

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Data Management

Year in Infrastructure 2017: Bentley Systems Seeks to Ditch Dark Data with New Take on iModels

13 Oct, 2017 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

By moving beyond information containers to timelines, the company hopes to give infrastructure professionals a better handle on the constant in AEC projects: change.

At its annual Year in Infrastructure event, Bentley Systems honors notable applications of its software in infrastructure projects around the world, and also announces major news and product updates. The theme for this year’s event, which was held this week in Singapore, was “going digital,” explained CEO Greg Bentley. The goal is finding and reusing information across a project — which is only possible if it’s recorded and stored correctly.

According to Chief Product Officer Bhupinder Singh, data is the most challenging aspect of digital transformation: “Moving all of this data to the cloud doesn’t help you get any more insights,” he noted. Currently, companies are only analyzing about 1% of their data, he said; the rest is “dark data.”

On Wednesday, Bentley Systems annouced significant changes to its data management and collaboration strategy. The company unveiled the iModel 2.0 cloud platform and its first new service, iModelHub, for users of its ProjectWise project information management and collaboration services. “I think it’s the most exciting thing we’ve ever done,” enthused Chief Technology Officer Keith Bentley.

According to the company, the iModelHub cloud service “synchronizes and distributes changes made through discipline-specific BIM [building information modeling] applications; aligns semantically and physically their constituent digital components; and maintains immersive visibility for comprehensive and continuous design reviews across all project disciplines and participants.”

The Limitations of 1.0

Bentley Systems first introduced i-models back in 2009. These “containers” for infrastructure information were designed to collect all the files associated with a particular project into one, enabling users to “extract a snapshot” of the project. “That has worked out fairly well, but I think we need to improve on that,” said Keith Bentley; the 2.0 version, he explained, it is both a file and a relational database.

In part because the company invented iModels (now styled more like the name of an Apple product) before the rise of modern cloud computing, the company “missed three things” the first time around, said Keith Bentley: alignment, accountability, and accessibility.

Alignment. The information in a database can only be queried and analyzed successfully if it is aligned — consistent in terms of units, semantics, and structure. But the programmers of various applications all have their own systems for structuring data: Are the distances in meters or feet? The angles in radians or degrees? The temperatures in Celsius or Fahrenheit? “That filter is aligned however that programmer thought [it should be],” Keith Bentley pointed out. The result of combining all those unaligned filters, when working with a half-dozen or dozen applications on a large project, can be compared to looking through multiple polarized lenses, all aligned differently: your data is dark. ”We can’t leave it in this tangled mess, so … we need to realign our data before we can use it and repurpose it,” said Keith Bentley.

Accountability. “iModelHub’s mission is not to store iModels; iModelHub’s mission is to store change in iModels,” Keith Bentley explained. Answering questions such as, “What changes brought us to this point?” and “How was the project affected by that change?” provides far more insight than the current state of the project can. He likened it to the amount of information provided in a bank statement: The context-free revelation that an account balance is lower than it was last month is much less useful than seeing all the intervening deposits and withdrawals that resulted in the new balance. “[This is] an accounting system for your projects,” he said.

In addition, this approach relieves users of the time-consuming burden of creating an entire new iModel every time something changes, even if the second is 99% the same as the first. “We should store not the result of change, but store the change,” he asserted.

Keith Bentley also acknowledged the thornier side of accountability: Some people feel threatened by the idea of having each change — and the liability that potentially could come with it, in the case of failure — tracked and recorded. But this same record could be used to exonerate innocent companies and individuals in the case of disputes, he believes.

Accessibility. Making the information in the database available to any project member or program that needs it, without impairing other users’ progress, is the goal. This is managed by replicating the database whenever necessary — made possible by the power of cloud computing — and then synchronizing all checked-in project changes through iModelHub, which uses Microsoft Azure cloud services. “There is no ‘master iModel’ … my master copy is my timeline,” said Keith Bentley. For example, field workers can use an iModel while temporarily lacking Internet access: “It doesn’t need connectivity to iModelHub to be valuable.”

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Dassault Systèmes Promotes End-to-End Model-Based Design with SOLIDWORKS 2018

29 Sep, 2017 By: Cadalyst Staff

Latest version of the 3D design and engineering software portfolio keeps the focus on the complete design-to-manufacturing process, and pursues a future of further integration and automation in design.

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3D Printers

Stratasys Replaces Dimension Line, Reflecting Shifts in Rapid Prototyping Market

3 Mar, 2017 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

The F123 series is intended to help less-experienced users produce prototypes at a lower cost than the company’s previous generation of 3D printing technology.

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Carry Out Mass Project Path Updates for AutoCAD Electrical Project Files

1 Mar, 2017 By: Stan Wile

IMAGINiT Tricks Tutorial: Whenever AutoCAD Electrical is upgraded, the default symbol library paths must be updated on all past project files — a time-consuming process. This tutorial demonstrates using a LISP routine to make this task easier.

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Data Management

Sponsored: Top Five Reasons You Need Data Management Today

6 Feb, 2017

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SOLIDWORKS World 2017, Part 1: New Products and Services for SOLIDWORKS Users

15 Feb, 2017 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin,Nancy Spurling Johnson

Event report: Virtual reality, 3D printing, and much more are highlights of this year’s Partner Pavilion.

Editor's note: Click here to read SOLIDWORKS World 2017, Part 2: What to Expect from SOLIDWORKS 2018

The Partner Pavilion at last week’s SOLIDWORKS World 2017 user conference in Los Angeles was alive with demonstrations and displays of nearly 125 exhibitors — the most the event has ever included, the company reported. That number included more than 30 companies that were new to the event this year. Virtual reality, 3D printing, and a handful of new computing products were highlights of this year’s show floor.

Following is a roundup of new and noteworthy software and hardware products and services compiled by Cadalyst editors who attended the event, including a glimpse at more than a dozen first-time exhibitors.

New Software for SOLIDWORKS Users

File security. For manufacturers grappling with intellectual property (IP) protection and regulations compliance, Seclore offers a noteworthy information rights management solution. Wally Bitaut, director of business development, briefed Cadalyst about the new IRMaaS for SOLIDWORKS. The plug-in tightly controls access to shared SOLIDWORKS models, and if a file is misused, misplaced, or stolen, it can revoke access remotely or make the file self-destruct. It centrally logs all activities and forensic details associated with protected files — whether inside or outside the enterprise network, including unauthorized attempts. IRMaaS is also available for AutoCAD, 3D PDF, and more than 60 other file formats and can work alongside any product data management platform, Bitaut said.

3D PDF authoring. The Tetra4D 2017 portfolio from Tech Soft 3D delivers an improved user interface, increased support for import and export formats, and new workflows focused on 3D printing. Tetra4D Converter, Tetra4D Enrich, and Tetra4D Automate each play a role in developing and sharing data-rich, interactive 3D PDFs.

Structural analysis. SIMSOLID is a high-capacity structural finite-element analysis (FEA) tool that analyzes CAD geometry directly in seconds to minutes, without meshing, according to the company. Designed to complement CAD-embedded simulation, it works with SOLIDWORKS, Onshape, and Autodesk Fusion 360 to analyze large and complex parts and assemblies, including complex lattice-based designs, using a desktop-class computer. A reportedly unique approach to bolt modeling uses full-fidelity 3D geometry, including threads if available. Multi-CAD analysis integration supports multiple design studies of large assemblies so users can quickly evaluate and compare the structural performance of different geometric configurations, even those from different CAD systems.

SIMSOLID extends the embedded simulation capabilities of CAD systems including SOLIDWORKS.

New Hardware for SOLIDWORKS Users

Pascal-based graphics processing units (GPUs). NVIDIA rounded out its new Pascal architecture–based product line with the announcement of six Quadro GPUs: the GP100, P4000, P2000, P1000, P600, and P400. The newest cards join the previously announced P6000, P5000, and mobile GPUs, all designed to support the demands of photorealistic rendering, simulation, and virtual reality (VR) with ultrafast memory and up to twice the processing performance of previous-generation products, the company reports, as well as visualize data in high resolution and HDR color on as many as four 5K displays.

The GP100, which NVIDIA calls the “absolute best GPU on the planet today,” offers 16 GB of high-bandwidth memory (HBM2) so users can conduct simulations during the design process and gather realistic multiphysics simulations faster than ever before, according to the company. The GP100 and P4000 have the power to create detailed, lifelike, and immersive VR environments at scale, even based on large, complex designs. The new cards will be available beginning in March from workstation OEMs and authorized distribution partners.

Radeon Pro GPUs and ProRender. AMD, in the midst of rebranding its FirePro professional GPU offerings as Radeon Pro, demonstrated the recently launched Radeon Pro WX Series. This group includes the Radeon Pro WX 7100, a single-slot workstation GPU that incorporates AMD LiquidVR technology to support virtual reality and immersive computing.

Also on display was the GPU-powered Radeon ProRender rendering engine, which features a native physically based material and camera system that enables global illumination (including caustics) and, unlike other renderers, can simultaneously use and balance the compute capabilities of multiple GPUs and CPUs on the same system at the same time, according to the company. Free ProRender plug-ins are available for SOLIDWORKS (beta to end in Q1 2017), Rhino, Autodesk 3ds Max, and Autodesk Maya (beta). Built on OpenCL, ProRender works across Windows, OS X, and Linux and supports AMD GPUs and CPUs as well as those of other vendors.

Office-safe industrial 3D printer. Showcased publicly for the first time, the Rize One is an office-safe and environmentally friendly 3D printer. Rize CEO Frank Marangell told Cadalyst, “Different 3D printers today typically offer some of the benefits of injection molding, but at the expense of others. The Rize One delivers all those benefits — and more — while overcoming the drawbacks of all other 3D printers.” The Rize One features no toxic particle emissions, outgassing, mess, or harmful materials, and no need for postprocessing, which dramatically reduces turnaround time and labor costs. A proprietary compound of engineering- and medical-grade thermoplastic results in watertight, isotropic parts stronger than polycarbonate and twice as strong as ABSplus. Finished parts (up to 12” x 8” x 6”) offer smooth surface quality, full color, and detailed text and images. Parts and waste material are recyclable. (For more information about the Rize One, see Cadalyst's report, "Rize Seeks to Decrease Effort, Expense of Desktop 3D Printing," August 2016.)

The new Rize One 3D printer uses a patented Augmented Polymer Deposition (APD) process to produce smooth, strong parts without postprocessing.

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SOLIDWORKS File Structure Explained

22 Jan, 2017

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Data Management

Selecting, Grouping, and Annotating 3D Point Cloud Data in Autodesk ReCap 360

10 Jul, 2016

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File Sharing/Publishing

The Rising Resistance to Cloud-Based CAD, Part 2

11 Aug, 2015 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: CAD managers share their perspectives, including concerns about security risks, control over data, and ongoing costs.

In the first part of this series, I started a discussion about the trend of cloud-based CAD software and data storage that’s being driven by major software and IT vendors, along with the cost, security, and licensing concerns that accompany them. (If you haven’t had a chance to read that column, you may want to do so now to have proper context for this issue.) I asked for comments in response, and boy did I get them — via e-mail, Facebook, and telephone, as well as posted on the Cadalyst website.

In this second part of the series, I’ll share some of the comments I received and delve more deeply into the trends that CAD managers should be aware of when considering how cloud-based processes can affect their CAD ecosystems. Here goes.

Comments on Centralization

Not 15 minutes after the last CAD Manager’s Newsletter went live, the comments started flowing in. The most popular subject of commentary was CAD and IT providers’ efforts to replace end users’ locally installed software and servers with rental software and leased server space. Obviously, cloud CAD software and data storage means that customers would have less control over their CAD ecosystem in this scenario, and that seemed to touch a nerve with many readers. Here are a few edited comments from Cadalyst readers and my CAD Managers Unite! Facebook group, so you can gauge the mood for yourself:

“Not gonna happen. CAD is my tool. I need it when I need it, regardless if my Internet connection is broken. As soon as skilled labor starts using cloud-based hammers and pliers, I'll consider it.” — M.M., via Facebook

“For certain things, it makes sense. Like using the almost infinite computing power for rendering, analysis, etc., where even a monster workstation would take 1,000 times longer. But for hosting applications and storing the data that keeps your company in business? I don’t see many people jumping on board.” — R.K.M., via Facebook

“I know, from our trench, we hate it. The reality is no one needs to access CAD from outside their desk. And the management feels it is the first step to software as a service, and no one likes that payment method.” — T.McD., via Facebook

“We will keep our core perpetual licenses. If forced to migrate to a non-perpetual version, we will consider alternative applications. The cloud is not being considered because of our security and cost containment concerns.” — D.P. via Facebook

“My firm is kicking and screaming against it. Regardless of the ‘security,’ there is still the impression that sensitive and confidential data can be compromised.” — K.F., via Facebook

Now that you’ve seen a few less-than-glowing comments about cloud centralization, let’s see the flip side:

“I don't mind Autodesk's new license rental method, mainly because I already have a good core of perpetual licenses that we maintain. I will leverage it when our workload picks up again and new hires exceed my base license pool.” — V.W., via Facebook

“The challenge within the contract furniture industry is that it is expected that all drawing platforms will be supported, regardless of release. If the cloud platform finally forces the issue for advancement in production and workflow ... why not?” — Alibia, via Cadalyst

“I work for a firm that uses its own VM [virtual machine] solution that, interestingly, is not housed in any of our production locations. So everything we do, including the software itself, is technically on our own controlled cloud location.” — B.M., via Facebook

Reading between the lines in the wide array of comments received, I’ve drawn a few conclusions about the perceptions regarding centralization of CAD software and storage on the cloud:

Strong resistance is common. Those who are against it are very much against it, with security risks and lack of control being the most commonly cited reasons. The commenters with negative opinions of cloud-based centralization far, far outnumber those who view it positively.

Supporters have reservations. Those who express some level of support for the concept usually qualify their position by saying they’ll keep their current licenses, or that they expect cloud solutions to solve particular workflow issues that are specific to their company. Not a single response said, “We are all for this and have no reservations about the approach.”

Private clouds — not public clouds — are the success stories. Some companies are hosting their own servers and CAD software at central locations for their branch offices (as B.M. above describes). This “private cloud” architecture delivers a cloud-like work experience to remote offices, but doesn’t sacrifice the company’s control over software or data storage.

Comments on Security and Control

Unsurprisingly, many comments I received focused on security and software control issues. Here are a few that provoke thought:

“Our ‘secure’ CAD workstation laptops, with no Wi-Fi device installed, are only connected to a local area network (LAN) that is not online, for various security concerns. A move toward any licensing scheme that requires an online activation or confirmation from a CAD-provider vendor license-server will never be used. Period.” – Rsanders, via Cadalyst

“My current facility is a brokerage and bank; previous was a medical facility. Every hole poked between our computers and the outside world is a potential breach that we have to maintain, document, and justify exhaustively. Sorry, not worth it.” — M.S.P., via Facebook

“We have to sign non-disclosure agreements for some of our clients. Cloud-based storage is unacceptable to them, so we cannot use Autodesk 360. When we do share drawings, we tend to use Dropbox.” – D.P., via Facebook

“It is interesting that the CAD vendors want to tell us what we need. They even go so far as to risk losing us as customers to do so. It’s working.” – Jmaeding, via Cadalyst

“One more little concern about the cloud-based CAD to add is: Would we still have the choice of when — and even if — we would migrate to a new release?” – Tifa, via Cadalyst

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About the Author: Robert Green

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