Cadalyst MCAD Tech News #132

3 Nov, 2004 By: Joe Greco

Cadalyst MCAD Tech News

OneSpace Designer Modeling v2005

Latest version of CoCreate's 3D CAD software takes steps in the right direction

Earlier this year I reviewed OneSpace Designer Modeling 2004 software (see Issue #114), which CoCreate released toward the end of 2003. Last week, the company released v2005, and I had the chance to work with many of its new modeling tools.

3D Curves
The 2004 version of Designer Modeling offered a 3D curves feature, but you had to purchase a separate surface-modeling package to access it. This proved to be a real problem if you just needed to build 3D curves to create items such as a wire harness or tubing. Now these curve capabilities are available as part of the base product.

A powerful new command has been added to Designer Modeling 2005: the ability to fillet 3D curves. This is an option you'll find in only a few other

Figure 1b. Surface was undone and the 3D curves that make up that corner were filleted, resulting in a new skinned surface with a smooth corner .
Figure 1a. This surface was created using the Skin tool in OneSpace Designer Modeling 2004 -- notice the pointy corner on the right.

MCAD products, such as VX CAD/CAM. This is important. Let's assume, for instance, you are creating a surface that was to be built from a pair of off-plane 3D curves running perpendicular to another set of curves. Most programs will let you create such a shape -- Designer Modeling uses its Skin command -- but the resulting surface would have sharp corners because the curve pairs were set at right angles to each other (figure 1a). Because most programs don't have the ability to automatically fillet these surface corners, you would need to employ some sort of manual trimming techniques to create rounded edges on the surface. Applying a 3D fillet to the underlying curves before you run any surface operation avoids this manual work later (figure 1b).

Surfacing Enhancements
The separate Surfacing module has numerous changes. For starters, it adds the ability to extrude a curve to create a surface A powerful new command has been added to Designer Modeling 2005: the ability to fillet 3D curves. This is an option you'll find in only a few other
Figure 2b. Fillet had to be added with Extend option on, which splits original surfaces. Sections that weren't originally trimmed back are deleted. The resulting shape is probably not what was desired.
Figure 2a. OneSpace Designer Modeling offers some nice interactive modeling tools, but when this fillet is created, it won't trim back the surfaces as expected.

-- although you could say that this capability should have been in there already. The same could be said of the new ability to perform Zebra Stripe analysis. The Round tool, which lets you fillet two surfaces, is another 2005 addition, but the surfaces first have to be grouped using the Gather command, thus adding lots of extra steps and making the process less intuitive. In addition, this new Round tool doesn't automatically trim back the surfaces (figure 2a). The only way to trim is to ask the program to extend the fillet beyond the sides of the original surfaces, but this results in a less than desirable fillet when you delete excess surfaces (figure 2b).

Speaking of trimming, the first surfacing improvement I will discuss is found in the Trim Surface command. You can now trim multiple surfaces in a single operation. There is no need to gather surfaces as you do when using the aforementioned Round command.

Other surfacing advancements are found in the Skin Surface command, which can now work with open profiles, thus giving the user more creative flexibility. Other new options include the ability to flip the direction of the surface normal as well as tools for smoothing and optimizing the resulting surface. In previous versions, open profiles could be used to construct a surface, but you had to use the Loft tool.

The Loft command has been improved by allowing the use of a spine curve to define the direction of the loft as well as two rail curves to determine the shape between the profile curves. In the past, instead of using a spine curve, you had to set up multiple angled work planes to get the loft to follow a curved path, and there was no way to control what happened in between the profiles.

While these enhancements are useful, in reality they amount to a lot of overlap between the Skin and Loft tools. In fact, if the Spine option were added to the Skin command, the Loft tool could go away. Developers of 3D systems in general should follow the lead of UGS. The company's Solid Edge software with its BlueSurf technology has managed to eliminate many overlapping commands.

User Interface Updates
Other 3D curve and surfacing enhancements to OneSpace Designer Modeling 2005 are essentially user interface improvements. For instance, CoCreate made 3D curves easier to build by expanding on a 2004 innovation called CoPilot. CoPilot makes input more interactive, and by applying it to 3D curves, you can easily change the current plane on which you're creating the curves. Version 2005 adds CoPilot to other areas. For instance, you will find CoPilot when using certain commands -- they help define direction and thus eliminate the confusing menus that appeared in the previous version.

In surfacing, user interface improvements can be found in tools such as Cap Surface, which was introduced in v2002. The new version lets you create this shape without first building construction geometry, thus saving time.

As far as more traditional user interface changes, v2005 has them. Although the Modeling Main Task toolbar is still available, it has essentially been replaced with a series of tool icons located on the right side of the screen. Many of these icons look the same as those in the Modeling Main Task toolbar, but they are accessed more quickly. Instead of seeing a long menu of commands when you click on an icon, now a panel opens when you pass the mouse over the icon. This reveals the set of tools related to each icon. In short, the new technique requires one click instead of two, and it is more visual and a little better organized.

OneSpace Designer Modeling still has all the editing tools that its developers feel save time by allowing direct manipulation of model faces, without having to worrying about history and features. This makes changing an unfamiliar design a lot less worrisome, and it can save a lot of steps, especially when late changes are required. However, this technique doesn't solve every problem. For instance, as I pointed out when I reviewed v2004, when I increased the diameter of a modified cylinder, a solution couldn't be found, and that problem still exists in v2005.

While OneSpace Designer has its share of user interface issues, most are similar to those found in other MCAD applications, such as inconsistent operations. However, what I find most bothersome is how operations that should be no-brainers, such as Save and Open, are unnecessarily tricky. It seems that CoCreate is aware of issues like these; let's see if some fixes are coming soon.

The base pricing of OneSpace Designer Modeling has stayed about the same, at $6320. This price includes the module called Annotation for integrated 3D to 2D drafting as well as a stand-alone 2D drafting program, Designer Drafting (formally ME10). Translators for ECAD formats that used to cost extra are now included. However, the package starts getting very expensive when you begin adding modules such as Surfacing or Sheet Metal ($5260 each) and Mold Base ($5700, for creating parting lines and so forth). Maintenance averages about 20% extra per year.

To offset some of these high up-front costs, CoCreate just announced a subscription service, similar to that of think3. Instead of shelling out $6320 for the modeling program and $1390 maintenance every year after the first year, users now pay just $2780 per year. By doing the math, you'll find that after the fourth year, you will have paid more using the subscription services than if you had purchased the system and maintenance outright. However, some small companies might find it desirable to avoid the big investment early on. The subscription service may also offer some tax benefits.

OneSpace Designer Modeling v2005 does indeed offer some nice additions and enhancements. You should also note that, for only $995 per year, you can add ability to collaborate using Meeting Center software, which was also recently updated. This is something to be considered if project collaboration is important to you. Only Alibre Design and ImpactXoft have equally integrated and powerful collaboration tools.

But the real factor that should determine if this system is for you is whether you find your current parametric history-based application is causing more problems than it is solving. And if this is the case, you should also look at applications such as IronCAD and ImpactXoft. If you are migrating from 2D, Designer Modeling is worth a look, but you must carefully consider whether the program's style of modeling will work for you.