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Scott Wertel
Scott Wertel
Scott is a full-time Configuration Manager. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from MSOE and over 10 years experience in mechanical design and engineering. Scott started his career on the drafting board, a discipline he feels every new designer or engineer should experience. He discovered … More »

Alibre Releases More Treats about v12

August 24th, 2009 by Scott Wertel

In case the 40 minute video was too…40 minutes…for you” was the announcement on the Alibre Forums when Max published the 11 page pdf file with the major features in Alibre v12.  This little taste of what the future holds is, of course, freshly on the heals of the still active $99 Alibre Design Standard offer.  If you find yourself with more time on your hands, you can also take a look at the v12 Readme file, also published to the Forums by Max.  It’s 23 pages of upgrade goodness.

Tentatively scheduled for release in September (as projected by speculation from yours truly), now is a good time to take a closer look at a few of the changes in v12 and see how they may affect you.  Users of other MCAD products will probably notice having these abilities for a while.  I think v12 is taking another big step towards closing the gap between “$99 software” and $5000 software.  (Note: Images taken from the v12 release notes.

Text Tool

v12texttoolThe text tool is a 3D text tool typically used for embossing lettering on molded parts.  It has other uses as well, such as to define cutting paths for engraving.  Needless to say, it is a much desired and welcome addition to Alibre Design.

Color by Feature

v12colorbyfeatureI remember my first experience with a color-by-feature modeling environment.  It was on SDRC I-deas Master Series program and oh how I hated it.  Nothing like making your well-engineered and mathematically defined design look cartoony.  Well, too bad for me, it’s not available in Alibre Design, too.  Why?  Because of high user demand.

I really can’t complain about new feature, though.  And this one is no different.  Man users requested this and it’s great that they got it.  In the meantime, it’s optional, so I won’t have to use it unless I need to… And I have experienced times of need.  One in particular comes when making screen captures for presentations.  Having the ability to “highlight” the feature in question on a static presentation is worth 1000 words.  So thank you, Alibre, for listening to your customers.

Box Selection Methods

Many people say bad things about AutoCAD.  I have voiced my opinion of the 2D CAD tool many times, not all of them positive, but that many years of development has given AutoCAD some very intuitive ways of dealing with 2D geometry.  As a matter of fact, they should be considered industry standard, even for 3D apps because of how much 2D sketching is done.  Take, for example, selecting sketch elements.  When box selecting elements, if the box goes right, the geometry inclusive of the box gets selected.  If the box goes left, the geometry inclusive and intersecting with the box gets selected.  Intuitive, easy, and very productive.  All I can say about this one is that it’s about time.

Sketching Enhancements

With so much time spent in the 2D environment, any sketch enhancement is a productivity booster.  One in particular that I deeply miss from other MCAD packages is Degree of Freedom (DoF) indicators.  Alibre Design has always had a status bar stating the number of DoF remaining, but no visual clue in the sketch as to which elements were not fully constrained.  Any good modeler knows that a robust sketch is a fully defined sketch.

v12sketchcalloutsThe first method is by a Degree of Freedom Callout.  With this option on, Alibre Design shows which elements do not have a magnitude defined, and only a magnitude.  It does not display location DoF.

v12sketchcolorsThe second method is by Degree of Freedom Color Coding.  This is the feature I’m more familiar with, and will have turned on.  Fully defined sketch elements are black; partially defined are yellow; and undefined are red.  The only problem I had with this one in beta is that the undefined red color was the same red color as the selection highlight color.  I couldn’t tell if my selection was active or no for undefined elements.  Hopefully this will be adjusted by release and be easier for color blind CAD users also.

Real Time Dimensioning

Just like it says, as you create elements, not only are geometric constraints automatically added, but magnitude dimensions are also.  Of course, these don’t take into consideration robust modeling practices or design intent, but at least it’s a starting point.  I haven’t played with this feature in beta enough to comment more, but I do like the way Solid Edge implemented theirs.  If I enter a number (diameter for a circle, length of a line) while creating an element, then the dimension appears.  If I just sketch-and-drag an approximate size, the dimension is not placed.

Converting Between Reference Figures and Modeling Figures

This, too, is for the sketch environment.  I should, and finally can, toggle a line or other geometric element between a solid line or a reference line.  Bravo Alibre, it’s about time this mundane task became easier.

Mirror Over Axis (Sketching)

You are probably wondering what this is and why this a big deal.  Prior to v12, in order to mirror sketch elements, a reference line to mirror about had to be defined prior to mirroring.  Not a big hassle, but definitely not efficient and one of my pet peeves is having to have all the geometry built ahead of time before a feature will work.  Why not prompt the user to create the geometry in context of the feature?  That to me is more intuitive — if it’s created, let me select it; if it’s not, let me create it.  This is one step towards that goal.  If the model has an existing axis created, a 3D axis existing outside of the sketch, it can now be used as a mirror line.   Intuitively obvious and a long time coming.  There is still more work to be done on this front – to better utilize existing geometry across all feature definitions, but at least progress is being made and the models should be more robust because of it.

That’s it for the sketching enhancements in v12 (plus the color by feature).  In another post, I hope to expand a bit on some of the other modeling and drafting improvements.  Each one worthwhile in respect to improving user efficiency and productivity.

(My apologies for the formatting.  WordPress apparently thinks it is smarter than I am when it comes to usage of white space.)

Multi-touch to 3D CAD?

July 20th, 2009 by Scott Wertel

Josh Mings over at tweeted about some breaking news based on a youtube video he saw.  Apparently, Spaceclaim is readying multi-touch capabilities for release with their 3D MCAD program.  Spaceclaim currently (at the time of this writing) does not have an official announcement about the news.  We can only guess as to which release this capability will be made public, but hopes are as soon as the next release.

This news is more exciting than when Spaceclaim posted the video combining Spaceclaim with social media.  Solidsmack was again at the forefront of that news.  But, joking aside, this announcement looks real.  Stay tuned for more integration of multi-touch into your MCAD workflows.  For me personally, the sooner the better.

Speaking of Spaceclaim, they are still having their modeling challenge scheduled for July 29.

Alibre Design v12 Sneak Peak

July 10th, 2009 by Scott Wertel

alibre_keylogoAlibre has released a 40 minute sneak peak video of the upcoming changes in version 12.

Considering that v12 hasn’t even hit public beta yet, the new features are well developed and will add a lot of ease-of-use for the user.   Version 12 should be hitting public beta sometime soon.  Alibre has opted against a private beta for this release, counter to the release cycle they have had in the past.  Expect me to be a beta tester, but due to NDA I will not be able to leak out any sweet treats about the new release until after the news has gone public.

When you think PLM

July 7th, 2009 by Scott Wertel

What comes to mind when you hear that TLA (three-letter acronym)? What about PDM? For most CAD users, the acronyms PDM and PLM are basically synonymous for data management. How do I store my CAD data? How do I revise my CAD data? How does my CAD data flow through its life cycle? The further along those questions one progresses, the more departments outside of Engineering and Drafting get involved, and PDM moves more and more towards PLM.  For others, those two acronyms immediately invoke a response much like Kleenex® is to facial tissue, like Xerox is to photo copying, like Band-Aid® is to bandages, and like Tylenol® is to aspirin. In other words, CAD users think Teamcenter, or SAS, or Enovia and companies like Siemens, IBM, and Dassault (certainly there are others). Design Data Manager is even a name that often comes up when talking to SMB.

But there is another product out there as well. It is not as well known as the names I dropped above, but it is full of features useful to most CAD departments. The product is Visual Vault.

What makes Visual Vault different from all the other PDM/PLM solutions on the market? Frankly, the same things that make those other ones different from Visual Vault: the features you need through an interface you can understand at the price you can afford. To avoid making this look like a sponsored advertisement, I’m not going to list the features of the software; finding them is easy enough by clicking on the link provided above. Instead, I can tell you about my experience with Visual Vault.

In short, I’m a fan of it. I used it for a short while during my tenure at a company that had it installed. Compared to Teamcenter, which I also have experience with, Visual Vault was much easier to grasp. The web interface was very intuitive. The only training I required was specific corporate workflows and how they were implemented within Visual Vault. This company integrated sales quotes flowing to engineering design requirements to drawing release. From there it progressed to the shop for part fabrication and of course revision control. Scheduling and planning were in the flow after engineering, so notifications of jobs in-queue were essentially “broadcast” to all needed parties. It was also easy to customize workflows. The out-of-the-box solution may follow the 80/20 rule, but Visual Vault was so easy to use it was no problem adapting it to the special 20% without the expertise of a full-time PLM administrator – and the cost associated with keeping one on staff.

Granted, not all software is perfect. The one thing most lacking, in my opinion, was a visual process flow diagram. It would have been much easier, and much more intuitive, if there was a block diagram feature to map the life cycle instead of only a text-based web interface.

If you are still in the market for a PDM/PLM solution, consider looking into Visual Vault.

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