Jeff's MCAD Blogging

Archive for May, 2012

Collaboration & Interoperability Congress 2012: Where’s JT?

Monday, May 21st, 2012

This week we are attending the Collaboration & Interoperability Congress (CIC) 2012. CIC is a unique independent vendor/technology/product-neutral event that addresses collaboration and interoperability in manufacturing and business processes. The event seems particularly well attended this year and represents by a wide range of industries and standards bodies.

One notable absence, however, was any representation from the JT camp — Siemens PLM Software. I would have thought that JT would take advantage of an event such as CIC to showcase and grandstand the data format. With no real presence, what are we to think? Is JT really as ubiquitous and pervasive as we have been led to believe? Maybe yes, maybe no. Admittedly, JT has its own conference this coming fall, but when just about every other interoperability technology provider shows up, why not JT? On the other hand, an organization that had a major presence was the relatively new 3DPDF Consortium.

CIC is an interesting conference because collaboration and interoperability are undergoing huge changes, due in large part to clould-based computing, storage, and software as service. Will the cloud be used exclusively tomorrow? Probably not, but over time it will be increasingly used as a primary digital data creation and management platform. In any case, interoperability in the cloud will become a bigger and bigger issue with great challenges, but also great opportunities.

An interesting session on the first day of the Congress discussed the following lightweight 3D formats:

  • STEP
  • 3DXML
  • 3D PDF
  • JT

Free viewers are largely what differentiate the above formats, but it was made clear that there is no such thing as a free viewer due to implementation and IP protection/security costs.

The 3D PDF format really got a lot of attention, at least during the first day of the Congress. It seems the reasons for this are the industrial strength tools available for 3D PDF, excellent user acceptance, and the fact that PDF is a widely recognized ISO standard (ISO 32000).

In the coming weeks, we’ll detail the advantages and disadvantages of each of the lightweight formats because they definitely have each.

As its central theme, CIC drives home the point that like living creatures and technologies, when it comes to evolution, it’s not necessarily the strongest or brightest that survive, it’s those who are the most adaptable. I think this will prove true and apply to collaboration and interoperability going forward.

MCADCafe e-Magazine: ASCON Releases Geometric Kernel As CAD Component

Monday, May 21st, 2012

ASCON Group, developer and integrator of professional MCAD and PLM solutions, announced that it is making public its proprietary geometry kernel C3D as the foundation for creating computer-aided design systems and applications. The kernel is also well suited for designing computer-aided engineering (CAE) software, computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) programs for CNC machines, and modeling of engineering processes for product lifecycle management (PLM).

Development of the geometric kernel began in 1995, and then in 2000 ASCON released KOMPAS-3D v5.9, the first computer-aided design software system based on its C3D. Since then, the company has updated the kernel, and is now launching it as a separate product for the CAD component market. It handles all aspects of a CAD system: 2D drawing and sketching, 3D hybrid and solid modeling, parametric constraints, and translation.

“The decision to open access to our technology was the next logical step in our on-going development of the geometric kernel,” said Maxim Bogdanov, CEO of ASCON. “We are confident in the quality of C3D. For more than a decade, it has been the basis of our own line of successful CAD/CAM software.

“We see great prospects for its use, as new players appear on the market needing components for their CAD systems,” he added. “Standard 2D systems will inevitably switch to 3D, and consequently require a fundamental change to the core of the systems — or else find a replacement. The CAD component market is changing, and so there is a place for a Russian company with 17 years experience in geometric kernel development, and whose mathematical quality is recognized throughout the world.”

The main feature of ASCON kernel is that it is complete. The core of C3D combines everything necessary for the development of application solutions, as follows:

C3D Modeler is the geometric modeler with functions for 3D solid and hybrid modeling, sketching, and 2D drawing

C3D Solver is the parametric constraints solver with functions for creating and solving parametric constraints on 2D and 3D geometry

C3D Converter is the translator module that reads and writes geometric models in all primary exchange formats

Potential users for the C3D kernel are developers of CAD, CAM, and CAE systems and related applications requiring the processing of 3D models and 2D graphics. Among them are large industrial companies who often create software for internal use. Third-party developers can use the ASCON kernel to extend functions and abilities, increase performance and reliability, quickly create 3D modelers based on existing 2D systems, and reduce cost of development of their products.

Even before C3D was released officially, an early tester was already putting it to real-world use. “We were among the first to work with ASCON’s geometric modeling kernel,” explained Andrew Lovygin, CEO of LO CNITI and the official distributor of Esprit CAM in Russia. “In just four months, we embedded a full 3D solid modeler in our CAM system. Our choice of C3D was driven by ASCON’s flexible pricing policy and quality technical support. I am confident that ASCON will achieve excellent results with its kernel on the international market.”

C3D was first announced in April at the Congress On the Future of Engineering Software (COFES). C3D kernel is available now for limited licensing based on individual requests. Full access will be opened in January, 2013.

 

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

When you think of geometric modeling kernels, does anything immediately come to mind? For most of us who have been long enough, the ones probably at the forefront are ACIS and CGM (owned by Spatial Corp., a part of Dassault Systemes) and Parasolid (owned by Siemens PLM Software). Now, though, ASCON has entered the arena.

There was a time when geometric modeling kernels were the keystones of the MCAD industry. Most CAD vendors then relied, at least to some degree, and licensed them as engines for making their software applications go. While newly developed and released kernels were a good thing, some CAD developers felt that they were held hostage by the release cycles of their geometric kernel developers.

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Wohlers Report 2012 Report: An Excellent Source for Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Information

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Wohlers Associates just published Wohlers Report 2012, an in-depth analysis of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing worldwide. This new edition marks the 17th consecutive year of its publication. I can attest that the Report is the most thorough and comprehensive document of its kind.

Wohlers Report 2012 covers all aspects of additive manufacturing, including its history, applications, processes, manufacturers, and materials. It documents pertinent developments in the past year, covers R&D and collaboration activities in government, academia, and industry, and summarizes the state of the industry in countries around the world. It also tracks the extraordinary growth of personal 3D printers—machines priced under $5,000, with the majority in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.

The information is used to track industry growth, provide views and perspective, uncover trends, and offer insight into the future of additive manufacturing. “The 2012 edition is the most ambitious effort in the report’s history,” said Terry Wohlers, president of Wohlers Associates and a principal author of the new report. Major new parts on applications, materials and processes, and front- and back-end considerations were added. The final part of the report concludes withtrends that are expected to shape the future of the technology and industry.

Additive manufacturing is the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies. Additive manufacturing is used to build physical models, prototypes, patterns, tooling components, and production parts in plastic, metal, and composite materials. AM systems use thin, horizontal cross sections from computer-aided design (CAD) models, 3D-scanning systems, medical scanners, and video games to produce parts that can be difficult or impossible to produce any other way.

The report sells for $495 worldwide and is available in PDF form. The report’s table of contents, as well as additional information on the market and industry, are available at wohlersassociates.com.

I’ve known Terry Wohlers for many years and consider Wohlers Report THE source of timely and comprehensive information for additive manufacturing. I don’t recommend many books, but highly recommend this one for anyone who wants to get accurate in-depth information on AM.

MCADCafe e-Magazine: Dassault Systèmes Acquiring Gemcom

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Dassault Systèmes announced its intent to acquire geological modeling and simulation company Gemcom Software International (Gemcom) for approximately US$360 million. Privately-held Gemcom is the world leader in mining industry software solutions, headquartered in Vancouver.

“With the acquisition of Gemcom, coupled with our 3D Experience platform capabilities, our objective is to model and simulate our planet, improving predictability, efficiency, safety and sustainability within the Natural Resources industry and beyond,” said Bernard Charlès, President and CEO, Dassault Systèmes. “To support this ambitious goal, we have created a new brand, GEOVIA. Raw material provisioning and long term resource availability is a major concern for society. Today’s announcement is a significant step towards fulfilling our purpose of providing 3D experiences for imagining sustainable innovations to harmonize products, nature and life.”

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NC Software Sales Making a Strong Comeback

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

I recently read some encouraging news from CIMdata contained in its soon-to-be-published Version 21 of the CIMdata NC Market Analysis Report. They estimate, that based on end-user payments, the worldwide NC software and related services market grew by 14.4% in 2011. The estimated end-user payments grew from $1.333 billion in 2010 to $1.525 billion in 2011. The market growth rate in 2011 reflects strong overall PLM spending, continuing the recovery from the downturn in the global economy that manifested itself in dramatically higher machine tool sales into the manufacturing industry. Estimates are that worldwide shipments of machine tools increased by 35% from 2010 to 2011, which is directly related to the volume of CAM software employed to drive these tools. CIMdata projects that in 2012 growth in manufacturing will continue and end-user payments for NC software will increase by 12.4% to $1.714 billion.

Since 2002, the NC software market has shown modest but steady growth as global economies generally improved. There has been worldwide growth in the sale of machine tools and manufacturing output; greater emphasis has been placed on the efficient operation of machine tools as manufacturing firms have strengthened their competitive positions, and the overall PLM market, of which CAM software is a component, has continued on a strong growth path during this period. CAM software purchases are related to all of these factors—particularly machine tool sales.

Alan Christman, CIMdata’s Chairman and author of the NC Market Analysis Report said, “2011 was an excellent year for manufacturers and most providers of NC software. Most firms saw good growth in 2011, and CIMdata expects this growth to continue in 2012 and beyond. The continued strength and growing importance of global manufacturing powers like China and other emerging economies should result in increased investment in advanced technologies like CAD, CAM, and other segments of the overall PLM market. We have seen moves documented in the popular press to bring manufacturing back to the US, which will require still more investment in advanced manufacturing technologies to be competitive with economies with lower labor costs. The next few years should continue to be strong for NC and the broader PLM market.”

This is good news for not only the NC software market, because since 2009, when all engineering/technical software sales sucked, most manufacturing software sectors are today experiencing and enjoying a resurgence in sales. So, is engineering software for manufacturing really emerging from the depths of despair of just a couple of years ago? I’d have to say, yes. Not only are sales stronger, but a number of software vendors have socked enough cash away to make a number of notable acquisitions, making them stronger. Sales aren’t like the “old days” yet, but indicators are definitely moving in a positive direction.

Trimble Acquiring SketchUp

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Trimble, a company  historically focused on applications requiring position or location, including surveying, asset management, and mapping is acquiring SketchUp from Google, a widely used drawing package for creating simple 3D models. It’s so popular, in fact, that Google says SketchUp had 30,000,000 activations in the last year alone. While SketchUp is targeted more toward architectural design and model buildings for Google Earth, I’ve used it for years as the name implies – for sketching. Mostly for diagrams and concepts, but sketches, nonetheless.

However, there is the SketchUp 3D Warehouse that contains a lot of user-created collections of 3D objects, such as office furniture, people, and buildings.

Google acquired SketchUp from @Last Software in 2006. At the time, SketchUp users feared the worst, but Google did a good job continually improving it and supporting the 3D Warehouse.

Can the same be said for Trimble with regard to a continuing commitment? That, of course, remains to be seen, but see it become a bigger part of Trimble’s positioning technologies, especially for construction and mapping purposes.

For my part, I use SketchUp in a limited way for MCAD-related purposes that it wasn’t really intended for and will probably continue to do so.




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