December 11, 2006
UGS Releases Parasolid V18.1
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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UGS Corp. announced the availability of Parasolid version 18.1 (V18.1) software, the latest release of its geometric modeling component software. Parasolid V18.1 includes numerous customer-driven enhancements that further increases automation and ease-of-use across a broad range of functionality.

This latest release marks a significant milestone in the continued growth of Parasolid-based software, as the estimated user-base of Parasolid-powered applications has now exceeded two million seats. UGS licenses Parasolid based on a "level playing field" policy that ensures all Parasolid customers will get access to software fixes and enhancements at the same time they are made available to UGS. Due in part to this policy, and Parasolid's widespread success in diverse design, manufacturing and analysis applications, industry analysts have been quick to recognize Parasolid's impressive growth.

In fact, in a new article about the 3D Component Software Market being issued tomorrow in Cyon Research's CADCAMNet publication, the firm's vice president and Chief Visionary, Dr. Joel Orr, cites Parasolid's strong growth as a positive indicator for the future of the market, saying, "Look at the success of UGS' Parasolid, which just broke the two-million user mark. UGS' success is in no small part due to the company's commitment to a level playing field (policy) ... (Nearly) all other MCAD vendors who promote their own kernels as components don't live up to that standard ... "

Parasolid V18.1 includes numerous extensions in key functional areas that directly benefit customer applications. New modeling functionality for advanced blending, general sweeping and complex tapering allows greater support for design intent, while end-user productivity is boosted through increased automation in offsetting, patterning and imprinting. Interoperability support now includes enhanced continuity in geometry construction, together with optimizations in tolerant modeling and model interrogation, and new options in rendering, previewing and tracking have also been delivered. In addition, UGS has extended Parasolid's continuous, multi- level testing program to over 1.5 million automated overnight tests, ensuring that Parasolid will continue to lead the industry in product quality.

Also announced was Version 9.1 of Parasolid Bodyshop, a Parasolid- based toolkit that repairs, optimizes and validates
3D models imported into Parasolid to maximize downstream success in modeling and interoperability. This release includes enhancements in output pre-processing, tolerancing, quality and performance.

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

About 10 years ago a good friend and colleague promised me that geometric modeling kernels would be extinct by 2005. He made the same promise five years ago, insisting that the end was near. He based his promises on the belief that many MCAD and other types of visualization companies would grow tired of licensing the technology and just develop it in-house.  Well, here it is 2006 and geometric modeling kernels still appear to be alive and well, because developing a modeling kernel is a very complex and demanding (expensive) proposition.

In the world of modeling kernels there are two major players, Parasolid, owned by UGS, and ACIS, owned by Dassault Systemes. There are a number of other smaller players that handle relative bits and pieces of geometry, but Parasolid and ACIS are the big guns that supply a majority of the geometric "heavy lifting" for many MCAD products that we're all familiar with. Customers that employ these modeling kernels will very likely do so for some time to come based on the expense and expertise that is required to develop and maintain them. However, a surprising number of MCAD companies do, in fact, handle their own modeling kernels, although, admittedly in my opinion, with varying degrees of success. For this discussion, though, we'll stick to Parasolid.

Parasolid is a geometric modeling kernel originally developed by a company known as ShapeData that is now owned by UGS Corp. Like ACIS, Parasolid can be licensed (and that term has a number of different definitions that vary by software vendor) by other companies for use in their 3D computer graphics software products as an integral 3D solid modeling software component. Also like ACIS, it is used in many CAD, CAM, CAE, product visualization, and CAD data exchange packages. Just some of the examples that employ Parasolid include UGS NX (Unigraphics), SolidWorks, Solid Edge, Femap, Powershape, MasterCAM, DesignFlow, DesignSpace, STAR-Design, and Moldflow. This is all possible because Parasolid functionality is underpinned by configurable mechanisms that help integrate Parasolid into a wide range of applications.

Parasolid's contains over 750 functions geometric/mathematical that include model creation and editing utilities such as Boolean modeling operators, feature modeling support, advanced surfacing, thickening and hollowing, blending and filleting, and sheet modeling. Parasolid also provides tools for direct model editing, including tapering, offsetting, geometry replacement and removal of feature details with automated regeneration of surrounding data. Finally, Parasolid provides graphical and rendering support, including precise hidden-line, wireframe, and drafting, as well as tessellation (that is, when a shape is repeated and covers a plane without gaps or overlaps - in other words, tiling).

When exported out from the parent software package, a native Parasolid geometric entity usually has the file extension .x_t. I believe that most Parasolid files can only communicate and migrate 3D solids and/or surface data. As far as I know Parasolid files cannot directly communicate and migrate 2D data, such as lines and arcs, although I will probably hear from UGS if that is not the case.

So, it's clear to me (and my formerly insistent friend) that geometric modeling
kernels, such as Parasolid and ACIS, are not going away any time soon. Most software companies that employ them are able to devote their time and energies to other core product functionality that, hopefully, distinguishes them from the competition.


The Week's Top 5

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

Gordon Russell
, whose boardroom tables, executive desks, and system workstations grace the offices of several major companies, uses
SolidWorks to design the custom furniture. The 83-year-old U.K. company adopted SolidWorks to accelerate time to market for its specialty office furniture products. Headquartered in London, Gordon Russell has established a reputation for quality, not quantity. It prides itself on the handcrafted elegance for which its furniture is known. As customers increasingly demanded more specialization, working in 2D became cumbersome and sometimes resulted in errors that forced craftsmen to scrap the work. That's when the company chose to standardize on SolidWorks software. Gordon Russell uses SolidWorks to modify different product lines to suit customers' unique needs. The
software's associativity means engineers can adjust one component of a design, and SolidWorks will automatically adjust the rest of the design accordingly. The company also is developing a library of standard parts that it will be able to quickly add to custom designs to accelerate development.

announced that
KONE Corp., one of the world's largest providers of elevators and escalators, is integrating 3D into their 2D design processes with
Autodesk Inventor . Leveraging the 3D capabilities of Autodesk Inventor lets KONE focus on functional design, the creation of designs based on the functional requirements of a project. As a result, function drives form. KONE had historically done most of its modernization design work in 2D. The company saw the advantages it could gain by integrating 3D design into these modernization projects, where the constant challenge is to incorporate a universal product into many different brands, models and types of escalators.

You can find the full MCADCafe event calendar here.

To read more news, click here.

-- Jeff Rowe, Contributing Editor.

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