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Archive for September, 2009

What’s New in Alibre v12 (cont’d)

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

In my prior post, I discussed some sketching highlights of the next release of Alibre Design.  Today, I’m going to dive into the modeling improvements users will see.  Since the release of v12 is rumored to be just around the corner, I won’t find the time to research drafting improvements.  Too bad, too because that is one area that all MCAD software, especially Alibre Design, seems to need the most focus.

Animated View Transitions

This is something that has existed in the competition for several releases – any competition.  It’s a feature that is expected in a 3D visualization product – any product – at version 1.0.  Yet, here we are at v12 and finally getting to the point where the Alibre graphics engine can handle view transitions of solid parts and assemblies.

Multiple Lights in 3D Workspace

multiple-lightsThis is a wonderful implementation of something that happens behind the scenes of all other CAD packages I have experience with.  I think Alibre did a great job by allowing the user the option of controlling their default light sources, specifically the choice of 1, 2, or 3 light sources.  Prior to version 12, Alibre only had 1 light source.  It’s location in the model space was fixed and therefore was possible to get areas of the model that blacked out, i.e. no light reaches it so it is not rendered on the screen.  To remedy that graphic anomaly, Alibre implemented the ability to use additional light sources, up to 3, each located to create a triad of light onto the model, forever removing the black outs.  Alibre has not given the user the option of changing the type of light or the light color, those features are saved for full-on rendering packages, not modeling shaders.  I have also noticed that 2 lights seems to be the best.  With all 3 lights on, there is the potential to wash out smaller-sized models, at least some edges, which the 3rd picture starts to show.

I have to admit that I am pretty happy with the default color choices that Alibre chose.  I know of several studies by large organizations on color, lighting, etc. etc. to make the workplace better and to also be color-blind friendly.  I don’t know how much research Alibre put into this, but their light locations and color choices are better than what I could have set up for myself.  Lighting is probably one of the most painstaking and time consuming parts of photorendering.  Had Alibre not chosen 3 distinct light colors, I believe the wash-out effect would be much more pronounced.  The lighting also works well with another enhancement of Alibre’s, more default color schemes.  I know default color schemes sound trivial, but they are the spit-and-polish that make a good CAD system better.  If the models look cartoony on the screen, there is less implied confidence in the robustness of the design.  A good default color scheme not only makes sitting in front of the computer for 9 hours a day easier, but it saves the user a lot of time having to set up their own custom schemes just reduce eye strain.

Contour Flange (sheet metal)

Here’s one sheet metal design that won’t win Alibre any awards, since any sheet metal modeler should have this in it, but they way Alibre implemented it is fairly unique and may hint at future enhancements available to feature tree management.

contourflangeNotice the feature tree.  In other MCAD packages, a contour flange is considered to be a single feature.  In Alibre Design v12, each flange on the contour flange is made as an independent flange feature and then collected into the contour flange group.  So one super feature, or feature group, or feature collection, or whatever term you are familiar with from another CAD package, is now possible in Alibre Design.  Although the contour flange feature doesn’t excite me, the potential for expanding on the feature tree organization into part and assembly environments by techniques used to create the contour flange does.  Are we seeing the preview of a history free feature tree?

Lofted Flange (sheet metal)


OK, this sheet metal enhancement does excite me.  Why? Because I rarely ever need to do them so when I do, I forget how and it’s a trial-and-error-and-error-and-error before I finally get a flange that will flatten.  As much as I’m against adding features and bloating the code just for the sake of new features that will rarely get used, there are some rarely used features that are great to have.  For me, this is one of them.  Who cares that I only use it once every few months, the amount of time it saves me in my design process is worth the bloat to have it coded into the software.

View Performance for Large Assemblies

To round out my list of notable solid modeling enhancements to v12 is the performance increase for large assemblies.  Isn’t that one of the main complaints/requests of users for each new version?  More stability and better performance!  I still don’t know what the definition of “large assemblies” is, but at least I know that my screen with pan/zoom/rotate more fluidly now.

Like my previous post, all images shown were taken from the Alibre Design v12 Release Notes which can be downloaded from links with this forum.

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