General Software

Anark Core (Cadalyst Labs Review)

20 Feb, 2008 By: IDSA ,Mike Hudspeth

Highly Recommended software moves CAD data to technical and nontechnical access while protecting intellectual property.

Highly RecommendedWhen you were a kid, your parents tried to teach you to share, but they had no idea what sharing would be like for a big company. It's rife with risk. Companies spend millions of dollars each year creating and protecting their intellectual property (IP). They're understandably nervous about it. They aren't going to just give it away to anyone who asks. But what about people who are doing work for them? For example, I remember that SolidWorks had a problem with some software guy in India who was checking code. He made a copy of the source code and tried to sell it to SolidWorks' competitors. (For more information, see Kenneth Wong, "What Happens in Delhi, Stays in Delhi," Cadalyst, September 2006.)

Anark Core But what about the people who need your information legitimately? How do you supply them with the appropriate data without sending your precious IP on a one-way trip out the door? You might just need something like Anark Core.

Anark Core is an interactive multimedia platform for developing 3D applications. It's big in the aerospace industry. Essentially, Anark Core moves CAD data to nontechnical access (as well as technical access). It acts as sort of a liaison between applications while maintaining backward compatibility. It comes in two varieties: workstation and server. The workstation version is for individual users, and the server version is for enterprises.

The interface is really rather simple -- and familiar. The Product Structure tab is like a bill of materials (figure 1). You have access to everything in your model or assembly.

Figure 1. Using the Anark Core Product Structure browser, you have access to each portion in your model or assembly. It's in a very familiar interface.

What Does It Do?

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Figure 2. When it comes time to make changes to your 3D data, Anark Core gives you several choices from which to choose. You can select by size. (Click image for larger version)
Anark Core adds automation to the process of editing data. First, your company's designer makes necessary changes to the product in whatever software package he or she normally uses and then saves the files to the company product data management (PDM) system. Next, the technical illustrator opens those 3D modeling files natively in Anark Core. Importing the data changes the data format to the Anark format -- rather, it makes a copy of the file. Anark has agreements with most 3D modeling vendors, so compatibility isn't usually an issue. The illustrator makes his or her changes; for example, deleting holes or components.

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Figure 3. When you opt to select things by something such as size, you get a slider to adjust the range. (Click image for larger version)
There's more than one way to make changes. Users can select things that they don't want to show by picking them either off the Product Structure browser or directly in the graphics area. They also can select things by their size (figure 2).

Selecting by size gives users a slider with which they can specify what range to include or exclude (figure 3).

Features as well as components can be selected (figure 4).

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Figure 4. Anark Core lets you eliminate holes from your models by specifying anything bigger than or smaller than a given size. (Click image for larger version)
After he or she is satisfied, the illustrator then exports to his or her chosen technical illustration program. The two most often sited are PTC's IsoDraw, which can read Parasolid files, and Auto-trol Technology's Tech Illustrator. Finally, the illustrator opens the 3D data in the illustration program.

So far, Anark Core just sounds like a fancy translator, but it's much more than that. You see, those changes the illustrator makes are captured in what Anark calls recipes. Anark Core remembers what a user did so it can do it again if changes need to be made. Say, for instance, you make a change to a part that will affect the look of your training manual. Illustrators usually dumb down the models for inclusion in a manual. They eliminate extraneous blend edges and other details that just confuse the image. Anark Core records what the illustrator does to get the image they're looking for. The next time a change is made, Anark Core remembers what was done and does it again. If certain changes are no longer possible (perhaps extensive changes have eliminated geometry), it will tell the illustrator and give him or her the option of fixing or deleting the change.

Of course, you don't even need to make a change to a design to use Anark Core's functionality. Because it remembers what it's done, it can repeat those actions any time you need to send information beyond your control. That means that when an outside vendor asks for your models, you can prepare them any way you want. (You don't necessarily want to send just anybody something they can reverse engineer.)

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Figure 5. Anark Core can protect your intellectual property by tessellating your models. The result is still fairly accurate, but it's basically a triangulated file. (Click image for larger version)
Anark Core prepares your data to go out to others. You can tessellate your models (figure 5) and specify just how accurate you want them to be.

Internally, Anark Core works with boundary representation (B-rep) solids and can be very accurate indeed. Maybe you want to put your product images onto a Web site. All you need for that is the envelope that is visible (the outside of the car, so to speak). You don't need to see everything on the inside. And the beauty of creating the recipes is that you can reuse them whenever you want. How many different makes of automobile does the average carmaker produce? With Anark Core, it wouldn't matter. The manufacturer could send out a prepared version of each car design because at a certain level they are all the same (four wheels, an engine, passenger seats, etc.).

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Figure 6. One very handy function in Anark Core is the ability to schedule your automated work for whenever you want. You can even have it do tasks on a regular schedule. (Click image for larger version)
Anark Core has many more capabilities. Because it's compatible with so many modelers, it can even be used as a translator of sorts. Interestingly, the server product can use all those extra cores in your CPU because it multiprocesses. But there are only so many hours in the day for you to get everything done! What if you have a lot of files to change? Not a problem with Anark Core. A scheduler will let you plan out when you want your work done. It looks and works very much like Microsoft Outlook (figure 6). It will use your recipes to alter and save whatever files you tell it to. And when you're done you can even make DVDs of your information for distribution.

Anark Core can be used to prepare CAD data for product design collaboration and review, technical illustration and interactive part catalog creation, training, product visualization, and marketing presentations. A license of Anark Core workstation is approximately $5,000. The server license is $28,000 per CPU, so it's not cheap. See the company's Web site for more information about Anark Core. Highly Recommended.

About the Author: IDSA

About the Author: Mike Hudspeth

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