Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Bricsys, Now Under Hexagon Umbrella, Continues to Challenge Autodesk

13 Sep, 2019 By: Cadalyst Staff

Bricsys seeks to lure AutoCAD users to BricsCAD with a value proposition that includes unique BIM functionality and perpetual licensing.

Autodesk AutoCAD has long been the most dominant player in the 2D design software market. That dominance, however, is being challenged by Bricsys, a competitor whose relative size could invite a comparison to David vs. Goliath. About a year ago, however, Bricsys was acquired by Hexagon, a much larger company that has been on an acquisition tear as it rounds out its offerings in industries ranging from plant design to plant floor metrology to mechanical CAD and CAM. Bricsys, and its flagship product BricsCAD, were acquired primarily to provide Hexagon with a presence in the AEC design space to complement some of its existing offerings and the industries they serve.

Don Strimbu is currently the vice-president of communications at Bricsys, but in the past, he worked for Autodesk for many years. With this background, he is confident in stating that BricsCAD is highly compatible with AutoCAD (across DWG files, commands, menus, macros, and application programming interfaces [APIs]), and that minimal retraining is required for an AutoCAD user moving to BricsCAD. (“If you know AutoCAD, you know BricsCAD” is a company slogan.) The obvious prospective BricsCAD customer, therefore, is a current AutoCAD user; this year, Bricsys has targeted much of its marketing focus in this direction.

BricsCAD’s default 2D drafting user interface (UI) has a look and feel that are familiar to AutoCAD users.

BricsCAD delivers high AutoCAD compatibility because it has DWG 2018 at its core. Bricsys is a founding member of the Open Design Alliance (ODA) and continues to work with the organization to help develop a stronger DWG platform for all alliance members. The ODA drawing libraries reduce the compatibility burden by providing comprehensive DWG file input and output that let Bricsys developers focus on new features, functions, and workflows without having to worry about data compatibility.

At the HXgN LIVE 2019 conference, Strimbu stated that Bricsys has distinct advantages over its competitors: First, it is not trying to be everything to everyone, because it’s not possible to cover every subdiscipline in every market. Instead, Bricsys has focused on comprehensive API development, and has a consortium of application developers that provide more than four hundred products, delivering industry-specific workflows. Secondly, he said that the development team is confident that the DWG file format is not going away anytime soon. The file format is a global standard, and today’s DWG is totally suited for design data storage. “Things have changed a lot since Autodesk moved away from DWG back in the late 1990s,” he said. “Computers are thousands of times more powerful today. Why reinvent the wheel when it’s not necessary?”

The BricsCAD Family and Ownership Options

BricsCAD is available in the following flavors, all of which come in a single compact installer — called BricsCAD Ultimate — that’s less than 400 MB in size. (Note that all the products below are based on the DWG file format, including free-of-charge BricsCAD Shape.)

BricsCAD Classic. Positioned as an alternative to AutoCAD LT, it offers what Bricsys terms “familiar CAD functionality,” and also delivers the same level of DWG compatibility as the larger versions of BricsCAD. Classic provides cloud connectivity and a full AutoLISP-compatible visual LISP editing environment.

BricsCAD Pro. Contains everything in BricsCAD Classic plus direct, history-free 3D modeling, extensive rendering functionality, and access to more than 400 third-party applications. The BricsCAD modeling core is based on the ACIS geometric modeling kernel, and it’s 2D/3D parametric engine was developed in-house. BricsCAD Pro is the largest-selling version of BricsCAD, Bricsys reports, but Platinum is catching up quickly.

BricsCAD Platinum. Contains everything in BricsCAD Pro plus 3D constraints, 3D parametrics, design intent recognition and model comparison, and deformable 3D modeling. BricsCAD Platinum is also the foundation for two industry-specific editions of BricsCAD: BIM and Mechanical.

BricsCAD BIM. A fully featured building information modeling (BIM) workflow for AEC design and documentation. Strimbu stated that the BricsCAD BIM functionality is unique in the industry: “We offer a CAD-accurate BIM workflow from conceptual design through documentation. The product leverages what customers already know today. We use some smart machine learning techniques to propagate change across the entire BIM, delivering consistent level of detail (LOD) and high model fidelity.”

The BricsCAD BIM interface is designed to be clean, with the intention of keeping users’ focus on their designs.

One of the unique BIM tools is the BIMIFY workflow: Users can create concept designs without concern for object classification. BIMIFY can transform a conceptual model into a building information model in a single step. It automatically detects building objects such as slabs, roofs, doors, windows, spatial locations, and rooms. The underlying data model of BricsCAD BIM is based on the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) OpenBIM data model. These classifications describe architectural, building, and construction industry data in a platform-neutral, open file format specification.

BricsCAD Mechanical. Creates 3D mechanical assemblies of parametric components, subassemblies, and free-form mechanical solid models. The sheet metal capabilities of BricsCAD Mechanical are also unique: lofted solids are used to represent sheet metal forms. This schema delivers editable sheet metal parts and the ability to change a model to optimize the design for manufacturing. BricsCAD Mechanical enables users to create sheet metal forms from scratch, or via the import of solid entities from other CAD systems. Sheet metal parts can be automatically unfolded, edited in folded or flat-pattern states, and automatically exported to CAM systems.

BricsCAD Communicator. A tool for importing and exporting product and manufacturing information (PMI) data and industry-standard CAD models to and from BricsCAD Pro, Platinum, BIM, or Mechanical.

BricsCAD Shape. A 3D conceptual design tool for quickly developing CAD-accurate solid models with a push/pull direct modeling workflow.

Bricsys 24/7. A cloud-based common data environment that provides file sharing, versioning, and collaboration workflows. 24/7 also offers a workflow editor that lets users create custom workflows to help ensure that the right document goes to the right people at the right time. Bricsys 24/7 offers use by unlimited numbers of users, with the cost based on document storage space.

The PANELIZE tool in BricsCAD BIM converts lofted solids into high-LOD curtain wall assemblies.

While the general functionality, ribbons, and menus in BricsCAD are designed to emulate AutoCAD, some commands are unique to BricsCAD — one example is BLOCKIFY. This artificial intelligence (AI)-enhanced capability automatically detects repeated geometry in a model and replaces it with block references. BLOCKIFY can search a drawing for identical selection sets of entities (2D and 3D), or can analyze the entire model space of the current drawing. The number of blocks created is displayed in the command line. In addition to saving storage space, this feature can speed drawing load time.

BricsCAD licensing offers several options: Customers can buy it once and own it forever with a perpetual license, with optional maintenance for all upgrades, minor and major. Alternatively, they can subscribe every year, with software maintenance included in the subscription price. Any license works with any of the language versions supported (15 languages currently), and works anywhere on the supported platforms (Windows, MacOS, and Linux). Perpetual licenses allow two activations, so a user can have a BricsCAD license on a desktop at the office and a laptop on the road. All Bricsys products are available for free 30-day trial periods.

Plans for the Future

Bricsys is approaching multithreading cautiously, as CAD databases exhibit many dependencies that need to be addressed in a serial fashion. Currently, in BricsCAD V19, some program functions can be assigned to multiple processing cores. For example, drawing load is parallelized, along with rendering and cutting sections for BIM. Strimbu said that multithreading will be exploited wherever it makes sense, as long as it delivers a solid performance increase over conventional, single-threaded approaches.

Because the acquisition occurred less than a year ago, Hexagon’s ultimate plans and goals for BricsCAD are still being formulated. With the parts that are already in place, however, BricsCAD represents a real opportunity for Hexagon’s AEC market success. Strimbu said to expect a growing synergy for BricsCAD within Hexagon itself, with new opportunities with some of its sister divisions, and perhaps new forays into other vertical markets.

One of Hexagon’s short-term plans with BricsCAD is to leverage it as a platform for another of its acquisitions, CADWorx, for comprehensive industrial plant design. CADWorx design tools run on either AutoCAD or BricsCAD, and facilitate the design of process piping, structural steel, equipment layout and design, process and instrument diagrams, fabrication drawings, and bills of material.

BricsCAD provides a good alternative for designers who create small and medium-size buildings, from architectural design and BIM standpoints, with regard to product capabilities and price. If BricsCAD were merely an AutoCAD “clone,” lacking innovation and feature depth, it would be just one of many such products. Its unique capabilities, however, set it apart from “me-too” products, and — coupled with its variety of licensing options and lower price — may position BricsCAD to give AutoCAD a run for its money, especially in the AEC market. 

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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