CAD Central31 May, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong
Inventor LT: Free for Another Year; Adobe 9 Is Ready for Collaboration; AI-Driven Simulation; and more.
Inventor LT: Free for Another Year
In April, roughly a month before the previously downloaded Autodesk Inventor LT Technology Preview licenses were set to expire, Autodesk extended the offering with the release of Inventor LT 2009, which will be free until May 2009. The latest version is downloadable at Autodesk Labs (labs.autodesk.com). But the availability is currently limited to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.S., prompting someone from the United Kingdom to ask, "Any chance of making the United Kingdom the next country? We do speak the same language — well almost!" (discussion.autodesk.com).
Autodesk has extended the free offering of Inventor LT with version 2009, valid until May 2009.
Like the previous version, this release also is limited to part-level modeling only. Some features from the paid versions, such as sheet metal, dynamic simulation, standard parts library, tube and pipes, cables and wires, and stress analysis are left out of the LT version. Autodesk is pitching Inventor LT 2009, a native 64-bit version, as a multi-CAD collaboration tool, capable of reading competitors' formats, such a Pro/ENGINEER, SolidWorks, and Siements PLM Software NX. In addition to Autodesk's preferred DXF and DWG, the software also supports neutral formats, such as IGES and STEP. If you try to open an Inventor assembly file with the LT version, you'll be prompted to open it in the free Inventor View application instead (installed with LT). As with the previous version, LT 2009 cannot coexist with full version of Inventor on the same machine.
New features specific to Autodesk Inventor LT 2009 include sketching constraint enhancements and cropped drawing views.
Adobe 9 Is Ready for Collaboration
With each new release of Acrobat, Adobe Systems advances the campaign to promote PDF as the de facto standard for product data exchange. Previous releases let Acrobat users quickly and easily convert CAD parts and assemblies into 3D PDF files with embedded intelligence. The latest version, Acrobat 9, casts the net wider by enabling Acrobat users to collaborate with those using the ubiquitous — and free — Acrobat Reader. With tools for embedding video clips and inserting 3D PDF modules in Office documents, Acrobat 9 facilitates the easy distribution of CAD data to the rest of the enterprise — such as marketing, sales, and sourcing — that don't traditionally operate CAD software.
Acrobat 9 features the ability to single out topology differences by comparing two models.
With version 9, users can include manufacturing information (such as dimensions and tolerances) in their PDF documents. The new version includes, among other things, features for comparing seemingly identical 3D files to single out the topological differences, much in the same way Microsoft Word allows users to compare one document against another to identify the disparities between them. For some users, Adobe's Digital Rights Management (DRM) features may prove a valuable way to control how the intellectual property is disseminated. With it, users can limit access, set an expiration date, or disable certain commands (for example, Copy or Print). Adobe anticipates DRM will appeal to those who are seeking ways to add security measures in their collaborative workflow but don't want additional IT overhead. PTC's Pro/ENGINEER is one of the CAD products that integrate Adobe's DRM technology in its toolset. Those contemplating using Adobe as the standard for supplier communication (for example, publishing requests for quotes as PDF) may find Acrobat's automatic field detection a handy way to turn an existing document into a template for new forms.
The new release comes in three configurations: Adobe 9 Standard (full $299, upgrade $99); Adobe 9 Pro (full $449, upgrade $159); and Adobe 9 Pro Extended, formerly Acrobat 3D (full $699, upgrade $229).
Autodesk's acquisition of Kynogon, completed in May, offers a glimpse of what is possible when you combine building information modeling (BIM) and artificial intelligence (AI) middleware. Paris-based Kynogon's flagship product is Kynapse, an AI technology used in computer games such as Fable 2 and The Lord of the Rings to populate scenes with autonomous secondary characters. Obviously, Autodesk's entertainment and media division will benefit from this technology, but it also offers simulation possibilities for Autodesk's AEC division. The same middleware from Kynogon that animates thousands of battle-hardened orcs in computer games also could be used for traffic simulation (people and vehicles), town planning, traffic study, accessibility evaluation, 3D visualization of urban projects, and vehicle driving simulation. Automakers, civil engineers, and architects using Autodesk products already possess 3D digital replicas of vehicles, building structures, landmarks, and even city blocks. They could easily take advantage of the automatic path-finding capabilities offered by AI engines such as Kynapse to populate the as-built environment with virtual being — or agents, as they're commonly called in the AI industry — to study how the public will interact with their products and designs.
NC on the Rise
People are spending more money to control their machines — that is, computer numerical-controlled (CNC) machines. Analyst firm CIMdata recently revealed, "NC (numerical control) software and related services market grew by 7.2% in 2007 to reach a level of $1.4 billion. Moreover, CIMdata estimates that in 2008 these payments will further increase by 7.8% to reach a level of $1.5 billion. If so, this will be five consecutive years with a growth rate of 5% or more." ("CIMdata NC Software and Related Services Market Assessment," Version 17).
Alan Christman, CIMdata's chairman and primary author of the report, noted, "Some software vendors have had annual revenue growth rates of over 30% per year, a number of significant acquisitions or mergers have been made, integration with other elements of manufacturing software is occurring, new manufacturing areas such as China are emerging, corporations are placing greater emphasis on streamlining manufacturing operations, and the underlying CAM [computer-aided manufacturing] software technology continues to evolve."
Studying to become a mechanical engineer? If you're getting your certification from the Chinese Mechanical Engineering Society (CMES), your exam might require you to run a few stress analyses using the solvers in ALGOR, a finite-element analysis (FEA) package from a company by the same name. According to a recent announcement from ALGOR, CMES has "chosen to formally incorporate ALGOR software into its national Mechanical Design Engineer qualification examination."
A similar announcement nearly two years ago from ANSYS, a competitor to ALGOR, stated, "The CMES and the Examination Center of Ministry of Education have formally incorporated ANSYS software" for the qualification exam. Both announcements were preceded by an earlier one from COSMOSWorks, which announced in 2002 that it managed to place 40 seats of its FEA package in South China University of Technology.
Alex Tsechansky, vice-president of research and development at Proficiency Software, believes his product can automatically accomplish the kind of manual translation tasks some companies have been outsourcing to overseas CAD technicians. Proficiency's patented technology, marketed under the name Proficiency's Collaboration Gateway, "extracts explicit and implicit product knowledge from a source system, such as a 3D CAD system, and converts the model to the Universal Product Representation (UPR). This extensible format represents . . . features, parameters, history, manufacturing attributes, and associative properties. Once stored in the UPR format, the product knowledge can be extracted into a diverse set of other formats" namely CATIA, Pro/ENGINEER, Unigraphics, I-DEAS, JT, STEP, and IGES. Speaking to Cadalyst at the 2008 CATIA Operator Exchange conference (April 2008, Orlando, Florida), Tsechansky pointed out, "The advantage of automating the translation is, you cut down on human errors, and we can process the conversion in large volume, so we can offer competitive pricing." Is it competitive enough to rival the hourly rates of a CAD drafter manually tackling the model one feature at a time in Bangalore or Singapore? You can ask Tsechansky yourself. He's scheduled to be at UGS Connection Americas 2008 Users Conference (June 1–5, 2008, Orlando, Florida).