Dialog Box September 2008

31 Aug, 2008 By: Cadalyst Staff

Readers have their say.

For your letter to be considered for publication, please include your full name and daytime telephone number. Letters are subject to editing for length and clarity. Send letters to:

Cadalyst Dialog Box

Value of CAD Standards
Regarding the need for CAD standards -- Mike Hudspeth is right on in his August "MCAD Modeling" column, "Do You Need Modeling Standards?" Standards really make a huge difference in many ways, especially for downstream users.

I have been promoting and writing about this idea for many years. And in so doing, I've discovered an odd but prevalent paradox.

Every single company I visit says they have a problem with models blowing up, etc., as Mike describes -- problems that could easily be solved by creating and applying standards. However, every one of the same companies tells me it already has a standard. In fact, on further investigation [I discover that most] have multiple standards, at least one for each design team, sometimes one for each so-called design expert. Everyone has his or her preferences, developed over years, and they are loath to give them up. After all, each person is the best CAD guy in the company, right?

So a design team, or engineering division, tries to collect the best ideas from the experts in that division, and they create a quasi-standard, diluted down to the least effective, but most agreeable, common denominator of all their experts. And it took so much work for the design team to agree on their watered-down standard, it has now become institutionalized. But this is just the design team. The problem is far more complicated to get the manufacturing or engineering (analysis) teams to adopt these standards, as established of course by the CAD guys. They have much different requirements. But they won't be able to get design to change their institutionalized quasi-standard, especially since by now the execs have heard of all the gnashing it took to get what they have. And heck, it works for design!

And there's the rub -- the execs.

The benefits of standardization are clear and proven over and over. Executives in companies need to step in and force people in design/CAD to work with people in engineering and people in manufacturing, etc., so that everyone's needs are accommodated. Until this happens, the benefits of the tools they use will continue to be limited and competition will continue to beat them while they waste huge amounts of time fixing or recreating CAD data -- non-value-added work that contributes nothing to the customer nor the company. Oh, by the way, I bet each of these executives/companies swear they were committed to being more lean!

FYI, Delphi Steering developed a design standard years ago. The company has a fully documented set of standards for design and process engineering that it is willing to share for the cost of a training class.

—David Prawel
Longview Advisors, Loveland, Colorado

Where are Harry and Lynn?
Where can I find a link to "Hot Tip Harry" tips and my favorite, "Tips & Tricks Tuesdays" from Lynn Allen, for the ancient AutoCAD 2007? Tips for 2009 are nice but futuristic. We've only moved as far as version 2007, upgrading from version 2004. I'm looking to start with the usable shortcuts and all the neat stuff. Thanks for your help.

—Jerry Buhr
Dashiell, Houston, Texas

Editors Respond
You can access all the latest "Hot Tip Harry" tips, as well as tips dating all the way back to the mid-1990s, at Cadalyst's new CAD Tips site. Current tips were tested using AutoCAD 2008; earlier tips were tested using the current version at the time. Use the CAD Tips site Advanced Search to locate tips by date of publication, but keep in mind that many AutoLISP routines work with a variety of AutoCAD versions, new and old.

Lynn Allen's latest AutoCAD video tip is posted each Tuesday in the Cadalyst Video Gallery. Lynn strives to offer tips for AutoCAD 2009 as well as previous versions, so be on the lookout for tips that will work for you. Subscribe to Cadalyst's Tips & Tricks Tuesdays free e-newsletter to receive an e-mail reminder when each new video tip is live online. At the same time, you might also like to sign up to receive our Tips & Tools Weekly e-newsletter, also free.

Looking for Good Old Harry Tips
Do you still have "Hot Tip Harry" tips available as a file that contains each month's tips or must we now download them separately?

—Joe Posge
F.R. Drake Company, Waynesboro, Virginia

Editors Respond
Cadalyst's new CAD Tips site offers lots of great new functionality, but some of that requires a bit of workaround for those who are fans of the monthly downloads. We are working on a way to make it easier for you to access the monthly batches of code; in the meantime, here are some options for you:

  • If you are looking for the latest code, check under the list of "Recently Posted" tips (in the left margin). The last six tips are this month's batch. Check off the new ones and click the Download Selected button.

  • Alternatively, each month you can access the latest "Hot Tip Harry" column archive and check out the title and description of each of the latest tips. Pick the ones you like and do a quick search on the new CAD Tips site for that tip number or title. Now, you can directly download just the code/tips you want to view without having to sift through the entire month's batch. You can also leave comments about the code (or your own improved versions) and view the comments and revisions of others.

  • If you want to simply grab the code for an entire month without previewing all the details, you can use the CAD Tips site's Advanced Search (click on the red button at the top of any page). Enter your desired date range in the Published Date fields. (To locate all tips for August 2008, for example, use the date range August 1, 2008 to August 31, 2008.) On the Search Results page, click Select All, then Download Selected.
The new site offers great search functionality compared with the old site when you are looking for something specific. You might also like that fact that the new site searches inside the code files if you're looking for an example to meet your programming needs. If you're looking for different solutions to a given problem, Browse Tips by Category allows you to see a variety of solutions in a given category.

Ultimately, we hope that this new site will go above and beyond what we could offer with the old Get the Code! site. We encourage users to e-mail with all comments, questions, and suggestions.

More Chewing the CAD
"Chewing the CAD" presents an overly utopian idea. Too bad it flies in the face of market forces. The raison d'etre of CAD is to confer an advantage, so the early investors would certainly be loathe to give up what they heavily invested in for a leveling of the field.

—Henry Wong
Scarsdale, New York

The CAD developers are in it for the money -- plain and simple. It is an intensely lucrative market, and the greed and arrogance displayed (primarily of an unnamed France-based company) ensure that there won't be any low-cost solutions anytime soon. Try building a commercial aircraft using Google SketchUp. If you want to play, you gotta pay and pay, and pay, and pay . . .

—Nick Berry
Precision Machine Works, Tacoma, Washington

I find it difficult for anyone to believe that CAD software has grown in price. AutoCAD has always had a suggested retail price of approximately $4,000, and the other big boy CAD companies used to sell their products for tens of thousands of dollars and are now in line with mid-range products. I have no clue how the author can claim that CAD is getting more expensive. And while Google SketchUp and other low-end CAD products are available, they are not viable to companies that depend on engineering and design. How many R&D dollars are spent by Google compared with Autodesk, Siemens PLM Software, and SolidWorks? CAD is not about drawings anymore, folks, it's about data.

—Julia Grant
Autodraft, Rochester, New York

The yearly subscription costs for CAD make it difficult for a small shop to update. Unfortunately, with SolidWorks changing the file format each year, my older version is useless. At $7,000 per year per seat, that seat has to generate about $250,000 in revenue to be viable. Having gone through many of the updates, it is apparent that CAD publishers practice "the lucrative marketing of meaningless improvements."

—Harold Parks
Minden, Nevada

The author completely ignored the transformation to 3D parametric solid modeling. The very concept of drafting is dead. 3D Dimensioning standards have already been written. I am not saying paper 2D drawings are all gone, but the stage is set. It's just a matter of time. The migration is beginning, and in many industrial centers is already nearly done. I agree that CAD is now about information, not just drawing. I also agree that many companies have subscribed to the "the lucrative marketing of meaningless improvements." Yearly updates with changes that add little functionality, yet drastically change the look and feel of the software, are the norm. I hope it improves the stock prices for those big investors.

—Kevin Thomas
Illinois Central College, Peoria, Illinois

Managing Part-Time Demands
"The Part-Time CAD Manager" is a great article. Like many, I am a part-time CAD manager. Because our firm is small, having a full-time CAD manager is just not practical. Additionally, if you consider that our production team is me and one intern with everyone else being either a project architect or a project manager, you can see that moving me out of production would be a problem. Fortunately, I started exactly one year after the firm had started and was the only employee at the time. The work load was not extreme as we where building our clientele. My approach was simple in the beginning: create standards and tools to make myself more productive as I went along. Making myself more productive meant I could create time to develop more tools and standards to continue to improve the system. These days we are far busier, but my earlier work has continued to pay off for the entire 14 years I have been here. Good luck to all who take on this challenge.

—Glen Sullivan
Hershenow + Klippenstein Architects, Reno, Nevada

I'm a CAD manager in the AEC market. I used to be in the part-time role with a small firm, and I can definitely relate and agree with your comments. Now with a bigger firm of 60 users or so between two offices, I do it full-time (mostly). Even for one person working on a full-time basis, it can be overwhelming. Now with BIM exploding in the AEC marketplace, it's impossible for one person to keep up with everything. In my opinion, if firms are to remain competitive (in this new BIM world), that old management philosophy must change to survive. Some very successful firms have made the shift, but most aren't there yet. Then again, in all fairness, BIM adoption, software, and various other major issues are still playing themselves out and will be for sometime. But that shift, at the very least, needs to start now.

—Jeff Sliepka
Darien, Illinois

Beware GPS Limitations
The concept of "Bringing GPS Data Quickly into CAD" is really good. I would like to have seen a bit more emphasis on the accuracy of the consumer units in difficult environments such as tree cover or steep-sided canyons. All GPS units can be affected by multipath (reflected signals), which can degrade accuracy of positions, sometimes severely. The 10 feet mentioned in the article is probably easily achievable in open country and relatively gentle terrain. Anyone using these units for mapping, even for planning purposes, needs to be aware that the 10 feet could easily become 10 meters or more. By all means, use the technology appropriately and be aware of the limitations.

—Lawrence Holt, PLS
Lacey, Washington

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

More News and Resources from Cadalyst Partners

For Mold Designers! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the mold design professional. Sponsored by Siemens NX.  Visit the Equipped Mold Designer here!

For Architects! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the building design professional. Sponsored by HP.  Visit the Equipped Architect here!