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Archive for December, 2012

2012 — The MCAD Year in Review

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Well, another year is just about over, and what a year it’s been for the MCAD industry. Let’s qualify that statement, though. Busy, yes. Innovative and disruptive? With relatively few exceptions, not so much.

Granted, a lot went on, but the magnitude of the events just seemed smaller this year than in recent years past.

With that said, let’s take a brief look at some of the major things that did transpire in 2012:

Technology Advancements

There were a number of incremental technological advances, but the two that really caught our eye this year were:

Direct modeling that continues to attract proponents from a list of MCAD vendors that continues to grow every year, and 2012 was no exception.

Reverse engineering and 3D modeling contained in one package — Geomagic Spark — an innovative scan-to-cad platform that incorporates SpaceClaim as its CAD engine.


Autodesk acquired HSMWorks (CAM software),Inforbix (PLM software). To complement its “virtual prototyping” initiative, Autodesk also acquired Qontext and its enterprise social collaboration software technology.

3D Systems continued its buying binge that began a couple years ago by acquiring Z Corp., Vidar, Rapidform, Viztu Technologies, FreshFiber, and a couple major service providers.

PTC acquired Servigistics for its service lifecycle management (SLM) software that could change how traditional PLM is viewed.

New Computing Platforms

Although not really new, tablets continued to make their way into the tool palette for designers and engineers. They are still used mostly for viewing and markup, but some interesting sketching, conceptual design, and rudimentary simulation showed up on tables in 2012. The future of tablet engineering software applications is tied closely to the next category, the cloud.

The Cloud

It wasn’t all that long ago that an MCAD executive referred to the cloud as “mere vapor,” but that is rapidly changing as real engineering applications become available.

Autodesk 360 is a cloud computing platform suite of services that include PLM, simulation, rendering, and conceptual design. Will these cloud-based services ultimately replace traditional applications that reside on users’ computers? That remains to be seen, although Autodesk has not made a definitive statement one way or the other.

Kenesto is a cloud-based service for social business and process collaboration. A socially oriented PLM, if you will that is an interesting approach. With Michael Payne and Steve Bodnar on board, this company and technology could be poised to go places.

3D Printing

This segment of the larger rapid prototyping/additive manufacturing industry really took off, thanks largely to MakerBot’s Replicator 2 machine. 3D printers distinguish themselves by being lower in cost (less than $5,000), but also (for the most part) producing less than stellar parts.

A New Kid on the Block?

Several of the founders and early employees of SolidWorks, including Jon Hirschtick, Dave Corcoran, Scott Harris, and John McEleney are back together again. They have formed a company with a venture known as Belmont Technology. What they are up to remains to be seen, but there is strong speculation that they are developing an innovative approach to 3D design (no surprise there). Absolutely no details have been disclosed to date, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be a cloud-based platform. This will be one to watch as an encore from some very smart guys.

The Future

That’s anybody’s guess, but look for huge news from DS SolidWorks, starting with the product announcement(s) it is likely to make at its annual user conference in late January. Expect to see more of a presence of Solid Edge in the MCAD market. Autodesk should make its intentions more clearly known on its future software offerings — whether they will be on-premise, cloud-based, or a combination of the two. 3D printing will continue to proliferate because of prices that continue to plummet and quality that incrementally improves. Interoperability will continue to be a major challenge for mixed CAD environments. Look for more native engineering software available on the Mac platform.

Whatever happens in 2013, the technical/engineering software industry will continue to be a fascinating and vital place to be, and I’m glad to be a part of it.

Geomagic Spark: 3D Scan-to-CAD

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

We have seen a lot of interesting things happen in the MCAD industry this year – everything from acquisitions to new products. One of the things that I’ll remember this year for is an especially innovative product that was announced this month and will be introduced in January – Geomagic Spark.

Geomagic Spark enters a competitive market, but as unique 3D software that combines a live 3D scanning interface, 3D point and mesh editing capabilities, modeling design, assembly modeling, and 2D drawing creation in one comprehensive application. While traditional CAD packages have modeling capabilities, (with few exceptions) they lack the tools to process 3D scan data into usable 3D for modeling. Geomagic Spark, however, incorporates 3D scan data functionality, integrating Geomagic’s scanning technology with direct modeling capabilities, using the SpaceClaim platform. With this combination, you can create accurate, manufacturable solid model parts and assemblies using combined scan and CAD data in the same application. Partial scan data also can be used for creating models.

Geomagic Spark is well-suited for engineers and manufacturers that design in 3D from existing objects or those that need to finish or modify scanned parts.

Geomagic Spark can handle scan and mesh data from both parts and assemblies

Geomagic Spark is the result of a collaborative effort between Geomagic and SpaceClaim, a company known for its 3D direct modeling capabilities. The companies’ partnership began when Geomagic introduced its initial SpaceClaim integration in the 2012 release of Geomagic Studio. Based on user feedback, both realized that a fully integrated application was viable and could change the landscape of designing directly from 3D scans. This resulted in the creation of Geomagic Spark.

“Geomagic Spark, in a single application, introduces a whole new paradigm for the capture/modify/make process. It can be used by CAD professionals but, more importantly, by the millions of manufacturing engineers who are not CAD experts,” said Tom Kurke, president and COO, Geomagic. “The high level of support, technical expertise and the quality API from SpaceClaim allowed Geomagic Spark to come to market quickly.”

Geomagic Spark’s integrated package includes point cloud, mesh, and CAD modeling in the same user interface. You can scan directly into Geomagic Spark or load an existing point cloud or polygon mesh. From there you can choose from the range of automated tools used to convert and edit data into a polygon mesh: sampling, noise reduction, wrap, mesh simplification, etc. Geomagic Spark’s solid modeling tools simplify the process of creating solid geometry from the mesh, with curve, surface, and solid extraction. Once a solid model is created, you can compare the solid model to the mesh upon which it is based, identifying areas of deviation. 2D drawings with annotations and dimensions are available and can be created interactively with the 3D data. This combination of 3D data processing and CAD functionality promotes process efficiency in reverse engineering, production-focused manufacturing, prototyping, concept modeling and creation, documentation, and production.

Geomagic Spark makes scanning and designing in 3D a more straightforward process. With SpaceClaim’s direct modeling you can interact with models without the complexities and limitations of a multi-level feature tree.

Geomagic Spark follows the typical Geomagic workflow logic, starting with Spark and transitioning over to SpaceClaim in a seamless process under the same UI.

Some of the features in Geomagic Spark include:

  • Direct scanning into Geomagic Spark using hardware plug-ins for Faro, Hexagon and Creaform (others to be announced)
  • Point cloud editing – Deletion, sampling, noise reduction, etc.
  • Native CAD format import via add-ins from SpaceClaim
  • Mesh editing – Deletion, hole filling, trim and repair
  • Intelligent selection tools
  • Accurate extraction of surfaces, solids and sketches from the mesh
  • Push/pull geometry modification tools
  • Sketching and solid modeling capability
  • Mesh-to-solid deviation analysis
  • 2D drawing creation
  • 3D PDF generation
  • Assembly creation, manipulation and editing
  • Compatible with a powerful collection of third-party add-ins for SpaceClaim (e.g., photorealistic visualization, PDM, analysis and CAM)
  • Interoperable with a range of CAD and PLM tools in addition to neutral file formats (IGES, STEP, OBJ, ACIS, and PDF)

According to Evan Fader, Geomagic regional manager, Geomagic Spark was not created to replace other Geomagic products, such as Qualify and Studio, but rather, to complement them. In a nutshell, Spark is intended to quickly reverse engineer and model parts and assemblies. Beyond availability as a standalone product, Geomagic Spark also will be available as part of Geomagic’s new Enterprise Bundle, which will also include Geomagic Studio and Geomagic Qualify.

When it hits the market early next year on January 28, 2013, the price for Geomagic Spark will be $9,900, plus $1,800 maintenance.

I’m on the list for a software trial when Geomagic Spark is released next month. Based just on a brief Web demo, this is one I’m looking forward to because it could really be a game changer for directly converting scanned data into 3D models.


InspectionXpert For SolidWorks 2013 First Article Inspection

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

With SolidWorks 2013 now available, the roll out of partner products is just beginning. One of the first we’ll cover is InspectionXpert for SolidWorks 2013, an add-in for SolidWorks 2013.

InspectionXpert for SolidWorks is first article and in-process inspection software that automatically creates bubbled print and inspection reports for quality control inspection purposes. This automation minimizes time-consuming, error-prone processes for (according to the company) a time savings of more than 90%.

Integration into SolidWorks ensures direct access to the necessary dimensions, tolerances, units, and custom properties of SolidWorks 3D models and 2D drawings, so ballooned drawings and inspection reports can be created quickly.

InspectionXpert’s Characteristic Tree displays the dimensions, geometric tolerances, notes, hole callouts, weld and surface finish symbols extracted directly from SolidWorks drawings. Filtering capabilities enable specification of which types of drawing annotations to include in an inspection form. This alone can be a big time saver.

Inspection characteristic data is saved in a SolidWorks file for reuse or subsequent updates. InspectonXpert revision changes require just a refresh of an inspection project with InspectionXpert when a revision change is made. Accept the changes to re-balloon a drawing or model, as well as export the updates to a new inspection report form.  Another time saver.

InspectionXpert integrates with quality systems including a direct publish to Net-Inspect and synchronization with CEBOS MQ-1.  Because InspectionXpert exports to Excel/CSV inspection data can be imported into almost many database or other software programs, including CMM, ERP, MRP, etc.

I’ve reviewed InspectioXpert in the past and have found it to be one of the easiest to use and comprehensive first article inspection programs available.

The price for InspectionXpert for Solidworks 2013 is $1,395 for the license and $279 for first year maintenance — a total of $1,674.

For more information on InspectionXpert for SolidWorks:
Editor’s Note: Because a lot of innovation is still taking place with partner products of all types, we’ll be taking a quick look at several of them over the coming weeks and months as they are introduced as complements for engineering software applications from Autodesk, Dassault Systemes, PTC, Siemens, and others.

Kenesto: 30 day trial

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