Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Autodesk University 2011, Part 3: BIM Is Everywhere

8 Dec, 2011 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

With the help of the cloud, Autodesk is extending building information modeling in new directions.

Autodesk University (AU) is an annual conference that caters to all of the company's varied users, providing education and inspiration for architects, automotive designers, and animated filmmakers alike. During AU 2011, held last week in Las Vegas, Nevada, the big news for those of the AEC persuasion was the confluence of BIM (building information modeling) and the cloud.

During a press briefing, Jim Lynch, vice-president of AEC solutions for Autodesk, pointed out some key trends that are influencing the AEC industry: BIM is gathering momentum, especially in the infrastructure space. Owners are becoming more interested in the technology, and Autodesk is working to expand BIM across the building lifecycle, extending it into operations and maintenance. And of course, the combination of the cloud and mobile devices is making BIM tools accessible in new ways. "Let's face it — BIM is everywhere," said Lynch.

Although BIM adoption is accelerating around the world, Lynch acknowledged that the company isn't seeing much movement at the low end of the market. That's the motivation behind Autodesk Labs' Project Spark, a technology preview of a simplified 3D BIM solution. The attempt to create a lower-end BIM tool has roused interest among price-sensitive customers, Lynch reported.

Mark Strassman, vice-president of the Construction Solutions Business Unit, commented on the notable BIM uptake among builders, who benefit from the insights it provides about costs, schedules, and the like. He also noted that 75% of AEC workers perform their jobs in the field, not behind a desk — a number that makes mobile solutions even more resonant.

Paul McRoberts, vice-president of the Infrastructure Product Line Group, clarified that Autodesk does not have plans to move back into the facilities management (FM) space in the near term, but will continue to provide FM solutions through its partners, including FM:Systems. For Autodesk, the priority in the short term is not FM but asset management, and McRoberts indicated that a solution that connects Revit models with asset management is in the works.

Collaboration and Data Management in the Cloud

AU served as the debut venue for Autodesk 360 for BIM, a project collaboration software collection that takes BIM into the cloud. Intended to help AEC project team members better collaborate on, and communicate about, building projects, the solution manages multidiscipline models, drawings, and other project information.

Autodesk 360 for BIM comprises existing and new capabilities, including:

  • Autodesk Vault Collaboration AEC. The heart of the package, this on-premise data management solution enables project teams to manage and track digital models without leaving their BIM design tools.
  • Autodesk Buzzsaw. Enabled by Autodesk Cloud technology, the project collaboration solution enables secure exchanges of designs and documents with external partners and distributed teams. Buzzsaw has a mobile version, and integrates with AutoCAD WS. According to Autodesk, "By selectively and automatically mirroring data between the network-based Autodesk Vault and the Autodesk Buzzsaw cloud, project teams can more securely share information and better maintain accountability beyond the enterprise."
  • Autodesk 360 Nexus. Although Autodesk 360 Nexus was introduced initially for the manufacturing industry, Autodesk also intends it to support configurable AEC workflow and business process management needs.

Autodesk also announced that it will acquire Horizontal Systems, a global provider of cloud-based BIM collaboration solutions for the AEC industry, and integrate its offerings into Autodesk 360 for BIM. Horizontal's web streaming BIM technology unites project stakeholders in a live, collaborative 3D environment.

"Horizontal Systems technology will help accelerate our Autodesk 360 for BIM capabilities by allowing multidiscipline teams to more easily communicate and synchronize information — helping reduce waste and errors during the design and construction of AEC projects and leading to faster, more efficient project delivery," said Lynch.

AEC Apps and More on the Show Floor

A visit to the build site via VIMtrek. Software developer SMARTBIM and 3D technology company Vizerra showcased VIMtrek, a Revit plug-in that enables users to create architectural renderings in a matter of minutes, with no special skills needed. First, VIMtrek Producer converts Revit design files into interactive 3D environments and applies environmental conditions; then, the files are exported to VIMtrek Viewer for in-house or client review. While navigating the rendered file with a keyboard and mouse, reviewers can add markers and notes for other users to see.

SMARTBIM CEO Arol Wolford explained that the model is similar to Adobe Acrobat — it's a read-only way to share a Revit model, so people are more comfortable sharing their files — but objects retain their property information from Revit. VIMtrek is currently available through web browser, PC, and Mac platforms; the company is currently working on a mobile version.

Astacus opens Revit app outlet. Astacus Labs of Sweden, a developer of CAD, GIS, and BIM technologies and processes, was on hand in the exhibit hall to promote its Revit ApplicationStore. The company encourages Revit users to submit ideas for tools they’d like to see developed (and if the idea reaches fruition, the user would receive the tool for free), and it is looking for application developers who wish to partner with the company to create and market Revit apps.

BuildEdge showcases tools for Revit users. Newcomer BuildEdge launched the first of a series of new building software tools, BuildEdge Roof for Revit 2011 and 2012 ($199). The add-in enhances Revit's roof-design functionality by allowing designers to create roofs in seconds, the company reports. A free trial version is available.

HP provides cloud printing capability for AutoCAD WS. Earlier this year, HP launched its free ePrint & Share application, which enables users to interact with web-enabled HP printers such as the Designjet T2300 eMFP, and also to organize and share documents via a cloud storage space.  In October, the company launched a mobile version of the app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Now, HP has announced remote printing support for the AutoCAD WS CAD editing app. After initiating a print with the app's plot feature, users simply choose from a list of projects and select a web-connected HP printer. The print-ready file is transferred from the Autodesk cloud to the HP cloud, then to the printer. Users can scan marked-up documents to the cloud as well.

Emre Ozguc, worldwide marketing director for HP's Designjet business, explained that HP is trying to adapt to the changing behaviors and collaboration schemes of its customers. "The AEC community is very mobile, relying more and more on tools that are in the cloud," he said.

Contex continues to multiply printing options.
Hardware provider Contex touted its newest wide-format scanners at the show, including the lightweight, 36" SD3600 and its new HD Ultra Professional line, which automatically detects the length and width of the document being scanned and can accommodate materials ranging from flimsy tracing paper up to 1/2" thick rigid stock. The company has also released NextImage v2.0, its scanning and archiving software that can also keeps track of accounting information for charging customers.

More from AU 2011


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