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Posts Tagged ‘Alibre Design’

Alibre Goes Social in a Big Way

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

I have had quite a few criticisms volleyed towards Max Freeman, the Marketing VP for Alibre, Inc. in regards to Alibre’s presence in social media.

As an engineer, I am conservative in my approach to new, untested technologies.  I was late to LinkedIn, late to Twitter, and I still don’t have a Facebook account.  Like many others, I questioned the value of these tools but could easily see the distraction they created.  None the less I couldn’t criticize if I haven’t tried them.  After using them, I realize there is value in these products, more than just name or brand recognition.  When used properly, they really do create relationships; provide timely, meaningful information about my industry; and don’t take up much time out of my day.

My criticism, though, lies more with the mentoring of future engineers.  Why? Because Facebook and Twitter are where the future engineers are.  If we are doing our duty as senior engineers and mentors, then we need to reach out to the young engineers – and that means social media.

Much to my surprise, last week Max announced on the Alibre forums a new website, Alibre Powered.  This is a Facebook-like clone developed specifically to allow Alibre users to showcase their abilities.  So, not only is it social media, but designed from the ground up to be a value-added user experience.

Alibre Powered

(image courtesy of Alibre Powered website)

I wasn’t about to let Max off the hook so easy.  He stated that Alibre spends its resources making the best CAD for the money and therefore doesn’t have time for social media.  But, Alibre has time for an entire social website?  Much to my dismay, I couldn’t pull one over on Max.  This is Alibre’s vision for Alibre Powered, via Max’s response to my razzing.

The amusing this about this project is that it required literally no resources. We thought about the idea, made it happen, and went  live inside of basically 24 hours. :)  The real goal is to let the users come and post their designs – and we can point schools, young engineers, media types, prospective customers, etc. here so they can see what “real” people do with our software, versus “marketing people” (us). We made this with a specific goal of making a living gallery basically, which is why the 2 main sections are “designers” and “their stuff” – but as you suggest it will also serve nicely as a social media aspect.

So congratulation to Alibre and their marketing team for putting together a very cool, useful, social outlet for Alibre users.  And, you can even use Alibre Design to create the logo.

(image courtesy of Max Freeman)

(image courtesy of Max Freeman)

Hopefully Alibre can expand on this and join the ranks of Siemens, Solidworks, and Autodesk by having an official, or at least unofficial, presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Open Beta Begins for Alibre Design 2011

Monday, August 9th, 2010

If you are not a regular reader of the Alibre forums, and you don’t subscribe to their newsletters, you may have missed the announcement that Open Beta for Alibre Design 2011 has begun.  All you need to participate is an active maintenance agreement.

Much like other superstitious CAD companies, the v13 release is being renamed to match the year of release.  (You can still thank AutoCAD R13 for that trend.)  As a matter of fact, this Photoshopped box cover for Alibre Design v13 has been floated around the internet to joke about the subject.

Alibre Design v13 Shipping Box

Alibre Design v13 Shipping Box

If you enjoy being on the bleeding edge of CAD technology and can’t wait to see “What’s New” in the upcoming release of Alibre Design, stop by the forums, register for the Open Beta, and begin testing.

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.

Alibre Releases More Treats about v12

Monday, August 24th, 2009

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.)

Alibre Design v12 Sneak Peak

Friday, July 10th, 2009

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.

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