April 16, 2007
Spatial Releases New 3D Software Components
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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As with each Spatial release, the enhancements in R17 are driven strictly by customer feedback and Spatial's industry research. Years ago, Spatial made a commitment to be a component company with no end-user products, so that, unlike other component providers, it doesn't have to split its loyalties and product development priorities between internal requirements and those of its external customers.

"Spatial always looks over the horizon to see how we can better fulfill the requirements and expectations of traditional customers as well as breakaway technologies," said Keith Mountain, CEO of Spatial. "Our ongoing dedication to our partners' success, demonstrated both in the quality and functionality of our products and the attentive care of our services and sales team, is providing the foundation for our customer's innovation and our business growth."

The following enhancements are included in the R17 release:


Assembly Modeling

ACIS now supports Assembly Modeling as well as Part Modeling. A complex feature that is usually developed by ISVs, the inclusion of Assembly Modeling in ACIS substantially reduces time-to-market and saves programming resources.

Reduced Memory Consumption

Improvements to ACIS' internal data storage reduces memory usage in run time up to 30%. The resulting additional memory capacity enables applications to run larger part models.

Memory Minimization

Developers can use this feature to selectively page ACIS data, effectively expanding the addressable virtual memory.

Three Entity Blend

New blend type added which creates a variable-radius fillet surface that is tangent to three faces.

Capping and Mitering

Greater capability to create blends with larger radiuses thanks to improved capping and mitering algorithms.

Tolerant Modeling

Intersector and Boolean enhancements significantly improve how ACIS can operate with imported and approximated geometry and optimize it to be tolerant. This allows the application to increase its efficiency by feeding more information to the modeler.

Local Operations
  • The success rate and performance of the Shelling and Offsetting of imported data has been improved dramatically.
  • Shelling now works with improved performance on bodies with high curvature.
  • Most Local Operations now support sheet bodies as well as solid bodies.

  • Non-Manifold Stitching

    A new stitching interface has been optimized for tool and die creation workflows.


    By enhancing the point-in-face test algorithm ACIS enables CMM/Metrology applications to speed evaluation of inspection data, on the order of a 10% to 50x increase.

    Windows VISTA Support

    R17 introduces the support for ACIS on Microsoft® Windows VistaTM operating system.


    New 64-bit translators for Windows
  • Provides more capacity for model translation
  • Allows integration with end-users already moving to 64-bit
  • IGES Assembly Support

    The IGES translator now supports translation of assembly and product structure into and out of IGES.

    Connect SDK Translators

    R17 introduces the capability to translate to and from proprietary CAD systems using InterOp Plug-in architecture. This InterOp Plug-in architecture will allow customers to expand the capabilities of InterOp beyond the CAD file formats currently supported by InterOp.

    Windows VISTA Support

    R17 introduces the support for InterOp on Microsoft Windows Vista operating system.

    Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

    While I’m fairly sure that most of our readers already know this, the ACIS Modeler is a 3D modeling kernel (or engine, if you will) developed and marketed by Spatial Corp. (formerly Spatial Technology), and is a software component set with an interesting history. As it has been since the beginning, ACIS is used by many software developers serving a wide variety of technical markets, such as CAD, CAM, CAE, AEC, and 3D animation. In a nutshell, ACIS is the technology that provides the underlying functionality for creating, manipulating, and visualizing 3D models.

    ACIS is based on an object-oriented C++ architecture that enables its 3D modeling capabilities. ACIS is used to construct applications with hybrid modeling features, since it integrates wireframe model, surface, and solid modeling functionality with a comprehensive set of geometric operations.

    As a geometric kernel, ACIS, along with its main competitor, Parasolid (owned by UGS), are considered second-generation systems, coming after the first geometric engine – the Romulus b-rep solid modeler. It was first released in 1982 by Ian Braid and Charles Lang from a company called Shape Data. Romulus incorporated the CAM-I AIS (Computer Aided Manufacturers International's Application Interface Specification) and was the only solid modeler (other than its successors Parasolid and ACIS) to offer a third-party standard API for high-level integration into CAD software developed by other parties.

    In 1985 Lang and Braid formed Three-Space Ltd. which had been hired by Dick Sowar's Spatial Technology to develop the ACIS solid modeling kernel for Spatial Technology's Strata CAM software. The first version of ACIS was released in 1989 and was licensed by HP for its ME CAD software.

    In the industry there are several stories about what the word “ACIS” actually stands for, if anything, or whether it is even an acronym at all. Over the years I’ve found that the most widely accepted explanation is that ACIS stands for Alan, Charles, Ian's System (Alan Grayer, Charles Lang, and Ian Braid); or Alan, Charles, Ian, and Spatial. In any event, ACIS stuck and is still the moniker today, whatever it means.

    In the beginning, ACIS prided itself on the fact that its file format was open and could be explored inside and out. That all changed, however in 2000, when Spatial was acquired by Dassault Systemes – the ACIS file format changed and since then is no longer openly published.

    By definition, ACIS is a software component — a collection of software functions that serve a specific purpose. A component serves as a constituent part of a bigger software system or product of one or more software components that are assembled together and sold as a package. Components are also versatile because they can be added, subtracted, and arranged in different combinations for creating different products.

    The ACIS product line is designed such that it allows an application to use only the components it requires to perform given functions. In some cases, more than one component is available for a given purpose, so application developers can choose and use the components that best meet their needs.

    ACIS core functionality can be broken out into three main categories:
  • 3D modeling
  • 3D model management
  • 3D model visualization
  • The ACIS modeler has some extensions that include an interactive sculpting tool for shaping 3D models, and a defeaturing tool that automatically identifies and removes small features that CAE analysts typically want to eliminate from a 3D model prior to meshing. Also, the 3D ACIS PHL V5 is a hidden line removal (HLR) tool based on CATIA V5 technology. Hidden line removal is an important aspect of creating accurate 2D representations from 3D models.

    ACIS saves modeling information to external files which have an open format allowing external applications, even those not based on ACIS, access to the ACIS geometric model. ACIS supports two kinds of save files, Standard ACIS Text (SAT), and Standard ACIS Binary (SAB). The two formats store identical information, and SAT files are ASCII text files that may be viewed with a simple text editor.

    Even though it seems like more and more MCAD companies are creating and maintaining their own geometric modeling kernels, Spatial continues to attract new customers for its 3D technologies. As testimony to this, recently, Spatial announced newcomer SpaceClaim Corp.'s inclusion of Spatial 3D components in its SpaceClaim Professional 2007 product. SpaceClaim says it made its decision after thorough testing and product evaluations of the other commercially available geometric modeling products.

    I have to say that the choice of geometric kernel was a bit more than pure chance or coincidence. Mike Payne who is the current CEO at SpaceClaim was formerly the head man at Spatial. That little tidbit, however, does not diminish the significance of a major new customer for Spatial and the technology that SpaceClaim received.

    SpaceClaim is using several pieces of Spatial's product portfolio, including:
  • 3D ACIS Modeler for geometry creation & modification.
  • Precise Hidden Line V5 for generating hidden, visible, and occluded line information for drawing views.
  • 3D InterOp Translators for data exchange capabilities between ACIS and CATIA V5, CATIA V4, Unigraphics NX, Pro/ENGINEER, SolidWorks, Inventor, Parasolid, IGES, STEP, and VDA formats.
  • With the advent of R17 of Spatial’s software components, and the fact that it continues to attract new customers bodes well for the company, its technologies, as well as its customers, and ultimately, MCAD end users.

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    -- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.

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