September 24, 2007
Alibre Design 10.0 Released
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Alibre, Inc. announced the latest version of its flagship 3D CAD application, Alibre Design 10.0 ("V10"). Primarily driven by customer feedback, the new release includes improvements which further differentiate Alibre Design as the most accessible and easiest to use 3D mechanical CAD product on the market. In addition to improving key feature performance ten-fold and decreasing memory consumption by 35%, the application includes productivity improvements in 3D modeling, parametric sketching, and 2D detailing. A new fully integrated CAM add-on, Alibre CAM, supporting 2.5 and 3-axis NC machining, is also available as a component in Alibre Design Expert.

"We've gotten great feedback from our customers and partners who have had early access to V10, so we're excited about the release," comments CEO Greg Milliken. "Alibre has built a unique position in the market by listening to our customers, and V10 is a direct response to their feedback. They are telling us the product is working well. They want us to stay focused on the core functionality everyone needs and not to chase the bells and whistles of the competition -- just make the core faster, easier and more efficient. So that's what we did."

Alibre Design 10.0 delivers significant performance gains while more efficiently utilizing memory. Versus Alibre Design 9.2, equivalent operations are completed in half the time with 35% less memory consumption. The new "Fast Views" feature projects 2D views of large or complex models 4 to 10 times faster. In addition, a variety of detailing features are more responsive including inserting dimensions and annotations such as BOM callouts, creating and editing Views, and generating hidden lines and centerlines. Associative updates of drawing views after a corresponding change to the 3D model have also been improved.

Alibre Design 10.0 includes the new Direct Editing toolset, which is ideal for early-stage conceptual design and working with models imported from other CAD systems. This toolset provides intuitive push-pull modeling as well as the ability to quickly move, add and remove design elements. A new inferencing engine automates many functions within these new tools, further reducing the time it takes to make complex changes. It easily identifies a pocket made up of multiple faces by simply clicking on a single face or allows quick edits to imported geometry without having to go back to the originating CAD system.

Because the tools are so easy to use, at times completely replacing sketch and feature editing, people who are not CAD experts can easily complete previously complex tasks. Direct Editing opens up many new uses like a machine shop needing to make a quick change before manufacturing or a structural analyst removing small details like fillets that unnecessarily complicate FEA.

"CAD vendors seem to be breaking into two camps regarding the approach to 3D modeling," said Milliken. "One camp is completely invested in direct geometry editing claiming that is the only way to go, while the other is committed to parametric, feature-based modeling. For some, it's become a religious battle, which we find a little amusing. We see value in both approaches so we support them both, and we do it at a fraction of the cost of anyone else, even less than the maintenance cost of a product like SolidWorks."

A key addition with Alibre Design 10.0 is the new manufacturing add-on Alibre CAM, a fully integrated NC machining solution supporting 2.5 and 3-axis milling based on proven technology from MecSoft Corporation. Alibre CAM was developed using Alibre Design's API and runs entirely within the Alibre Design user interface. Like all other elements of Alibre Design, Alibre CAM is fully associative, so when a part is edited a previously defined tool path will update automatically. In addition, Alibre CAM supports a large selection of post-processors for popular machine tools as well as the ability to write custom post-processors for any machine.

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

In early 2000 (what seems like an eternity in the MCAD business), Alibre launched the first version of Alibre Design that emphasized a then-new peer-to-peer architecture for collaboration in addition to parametric, feature-based solid modeling. At about this same time, Alibre had a lot of competition from other companies who bet that the mechanical design world would be moving en masse to collaboration within weeks or months. Many of these companies are now defunct because they concentrated on the collaboration aspect of their applications at the expense of modeling features and capabilities. These companies unfortunately realized too late that users for the most part wanted to first
model, as well as collaborate.

This is a lesson that Alibre learned early on as it put forth greater effort in developing more robust modeling functionality in parallel with collaboration functionality. Today, with v10, the Alibre Design application family continues to mature into a well balanced combination of the two functionalities.

For mechanical designers, Alibre Design is available in the following four flavors:

  • Alibre DesignXpress (free and formerly known as X-CAD) - Basic 3D design capabilities.
  • Alibre Design Standard ($995) – Parametric solid modeling and associative 2D drafting and detailing plus built-in real-time collaboration tools.
  • Alibre Design Professional ($1,495) – Includes Alibre Design with integrated sheet metal design and data management tools, plus add-ons.
  • Alibre Design Expert ($1,995) – Includes Alibre Design Professional and even more add-ons for more comprehensive design work.

    For those of you that care, the underlying modeling kernel and geometry engine is based on Spatial's ACIS R16 and the constraint management technology, for both 2D sketching and 3D assembly constraints, is based on DCM (Dimensional Constraint Manager) from D-Cubed.

    In Alibre Design, all work takes place in windows called workspaces. There are five types of workspaces - part, assembly, sheet metal, drawing, and bill of material (BOM). Each workspace is displayed in a separate window; however, a drawing workspace can contain multiple drawing sheets. Also, you can have as many workspaces open as you need at any time.

    The main part of a workspace is the graphical work area where you create parts, assemblies, and drawings. You can split the work area into as many as four views. You can zoom, rotate, pan and set various viewing modes (i.e., orthographic versus perspective, shaded versus wireframe, etc.) in each view independently. To activate a particular view, you click anywhere in the view border, and a red arrow is displayed that indicates the active view.

    Like just about every parametric modeler, you create new parts in the part workspace by starting with a sketch, adding dimensions, applying constraints, and adding features. You then extrude, revolve, sweep, loft, etc. the 2D sketch into a 3D form, much like you do in most other contemporary modeling packages. In 3D there is a full complement of additional features, such as bosses, fillets, holes, chamfers, cuts, draft, patterns and shells, along with capabilities such as mirroring and scaling.

    Sheet metal parts are designed by creating a new sheet metal workspace. Before starting to design a new sheet metal part, you can set important design properties, such as material thickness, minimum bend radius, k-factor, etc. You then create a base sketch of the sheet metal part, and then add features like flanges, tabs, closed corners, dimples and so on. You can also create punches across bend lines, cut features, and refold bends, and work in either the folded or unfolded state, switching freely between the two. Finally, you can flatten the entire sheet metal part in a single operation, although relief features, such as dimples, are not flattened so they can be dimensioned in a

    Once you've modeled some parts, you're ready to assemble them. Like all other modeling tasks in Alibre Design, you first create a workspace for your assembly. You then identify parts and subassemblies that will comprise the assembly, and move them into position. You anchor (or lock) some parts in position and define relationships between other parts. You then apply constraints to create permanent relationships and dimensions between parts, mate and align faces, and so on. You continue this process by inserting more parts and adding more constraints until the assembly is complete.

    In Alibre Design, a drawing can contain multiple drawing sheets, each created with user-defined or standard templates and drawing borders. 3D parts and assemblies are used to create standard orthographic views, as well as a full complement of other key view types including sections, details, and broken and auxiliary views. Dimensions can be placed as either driving design dimensions or reference dimensions that are driven by changes to the primary driving dimensions.

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    -- Jeff Rowe, Contributing Editor.


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