CAD Central (News and Analysis)

31 Aug, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

Spatial Stays a Step Ahead with ACIS Kernel; Bentley and Autodesk: Off-Again, On-Again Rivalry; AutoDesSys Cultivates Bonsai 3D; CS-Map Versus PROJ.4; Dreamy Color in a Mobile Workstation

Spatial Stays a Step Ahead with ACIS Kernel

Explaining his game strategy, hockey star Wayne Gretzky once said, "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been." Keith Mountain, president and CEO of Spatial, is adopting a similar approach. Mountain has been refashioning Spatial's ACIS modeling kernel in anticipation of where the industry is headed. He points to ACIS 3D Modeler and ACIS InterOp Suite Release 19, announced in July, as evidence of this philosophy.

Spatial has added new features, such as the EDA 3D Analysis Suite shown here, to its flagship ACIS modeling kernel.
Spatial has added new features, such as the EDA 3D Analysis Suite shown here, to its flagship ACIS modeling kernel.

The new version marks the debut of a Wikipedia-style Spatial Product Documentation, which lets customers contribute to the online knowledge database. Recognizing the growing demand for industrial designers to incorporate electrical components into their designs, Spatial adds the EDA 3D Analysis Suite for electronic design automation. According to the announcement, "The suite consists of a 3D modeler, a mesher subsystem that includes utilities to implement adaptive meshing, and a graphics display that is integrated and accessible through a unified API to streamline developer learning curves and accelerate development time."

Also new in Release 19 is 3D Springback, a component that "facilitates a one-step method for springback correction of 3D models within die manufacturing applications." The InterOp Suite includes two new products: Generic Inventor Reader and Generic SolidWorks Reader.

In the announcement, Spatial highlights additional large radius blending, improved feature retention, more agile local operations, sheet body offset function, expanded tolerant-hot Boolean capabilities, 3D edge offset for coordinate-measuring machine applications, and fixed-axis sweep option to simulate 2.5-axis milling paths.

Although Spatial is owned by Dassault Systemes, the use of the ACIS kernel is not confined to Dassault products only. Currently, it's embedded in Alibre Design, Ansoft, Fluent, IronCAD, and emerging software such as SpaceClaim. In fact, Spatial components are in many products that compete directly with the Dassault portfolio. Mountain says, "Nothing prevents Spatial from entering into agreement with Dassault's competitors."

Bentley and Autodesk:Off-Again On-Again Rivalry

On the Bentley Communities blog (, Bentley Systems chief technology officer Keith Bentley clarifies the company's motivation for entering into an interoperability agreement with Autodesk. (The companies announced in July that they will exchange software libraries for accessing DWG and DGN files. See "Examining the Autodesk–Bentley Agreement,"

To quell anxieties that Bentley might abandon wider interoperability initiatives because of the influential position the new agreement offers, Bentley writes, "Interoperability among our products, and managing heterogeneous data sources, has long been a strength of our products and a hallmark of our company. MicroStation's ability to read, write, and reference files in 'foreign' formats is unmatched in the CAD industry, and I dare say in the history of the CAD industry."

But don't think this partnership is going to diminish the competition between Bentley and Autodesk. Bentley adds, "Do not get me wrong — this agreement does not make DGN and DWG equivalent, nor does it make MicroStation and AutoCAD interchangeable. We won't concede for a minute that anyone working in a DGN-based workflow should use AutoCAD, even though they technically could use AutoCAD."

AutoDesSys Cultivates BonZai 3D

At AIA 2008 in May and SIGGRAPH 2008 in August, 3D enthusiasts got a glimpse of BonZai 3D, a lightweight modeling solution from AutoDesSys styled after Google SketchUp. Currently in beta testing, the product is described as "an offspring of form.Z" (the company's flagship NURBS modeler) to address "the demands of designers who wish to express their thoughts graphically, easily, on the fly, but also clearly with the capability to advance to the next level of detailed solid modeling and production." Like form.Z, BonZai 3D relies on solids modeling, NURBS surfaces, and Boolean operations. The software features interactive rendering with shadows, transparencies, textures, support for 3D printing, graphic texture map editing, a content library (with ready-to-use trees, furniture, and entourage elements), support of Google 3D Warehouse, and compatibility with Google Earth and SketchUp. Pricing has not been set, but when BonZai 3D is ready for the public, AutoDesSys plans to make the software available as a download at

BonZai 3D, in development by AutoDesSys, will offer quick and easy sketching as well as the ability to advance the design concept to the next levels of detailed solids modeling and production.
BonZai 3D, in development by AutoDesSys, will offer quick and easy sketching as well as the ability to advance the design concept to the next levels of detailed solids modeling and production.

Dreamy Color in a Mobile Workstation

At SIGGRAPH 2008 (August 11–15, Los Angeles, California), HP launched three workstation-class notebooks: HP EliteBook 8730w, HP EliteBook 8530w, and HP EliteBook 8530p. The 8730w is currently the only mobile machine featuring an HP DreamColor LCD display, powered by NVIDIA graphics. The system runs on an Intel quad-core processor. Designed to improve color consistency from display through printing, DreamColor technology features 131% of the NTSC color gamut, true 8-bit color depth with support for more than 16 million colors, a tricolor LED backlight, brightness 50% better than that of traditional notebook PC LCDs, and the HP Display Assistant to customize color calibration. DreamColor also can be found in select HP Designjet photo printers.

The new mobile machines each come with a DuraCase magnesium chassis, eSATA Port, and dual-link DVI support. Optional features include a Blu-ray port, integrated high-definition multimedia port, Webcam, and business card reader software. The w series also includes OpenGL support and ISV certification. All HP workstations support HP Remote Graphics software, aimed at those in the digital content creation, MCAD, and CAE fields. According to HP, the software "uses the company's proprietary compression and decompression technology to enable cross-regional collaboration and sharing on graphics-intensive projects over a standard network connection with minimal lag time." Pricing for the 8730w begins at $1,699; the 8530w and 8530p start at $1,499 and $1,549, respectively.

CS-Map Versus PROJ.4

In July, Autodesk donated CS-Map, the map coordinate library it acquired from Mentor Software, to the project archive of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo), promoting celebration in the open source community. (Read "CS-Map Enters Public Domain," "This is indeed good news for the open source community and OSGeo," observed Dean Mikkelsen, who maintains the Terra ETL blog about open source geospatial tools ( "Congratulations to Autodesk and Norm Olsen [founder of Mentor Software] for taking this important step," wrote Jason Birch, who records his "geospatial ramblings" in his own Random Nodes blog (

Before CS-Map was made public, PROJ.4 served as a stellar coordinate conversion engine for the open source community. Inevitably, CS-Map's arrival could prompt some code shuffling. The first can be seen in a recent public request submitted to the open source software MapGuide's steering committee to switch the coordinate system from PROJ.4 to CS-Map. The petitioner, Hugues Wisniewski, provided reasons as follows: "CS-Map can address things that are not well addressed by PROJ.4, like: vertical datum shifting; WKT [well-known text] transformations in multiple flavors like Oracle; greater coverage in terms of coordinate system definitions. . . ." The request is pending review. CS-Map is also embedded in Autodesk MapGuide Enterprise, a commercial alternative to the free MapGuide.

About the Author: Kenneth Wong

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