December 04, 2006
Alibre Design 9.1 Released With Adobe Acrobat 3D
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor


by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Alibre released Alibre Design 9.1 and also added a new bundle to its product line. The new bundle offers customers an additional $995 value by combining Adobe Acrobat 3D software with Alibre Design Expert for the standard Alibre Design Expert price of $1995.

 

In addition to the set of publishing and collaboration features offered by Acrobat 3D and Adobe PDF, Alibre Design 9.1 includes new features, enhancements, and performance improvements. Two new additions to the flagship Alibre Design Expert product include Alibre Motion and EngineersToolBox.

Alibre Motion provides integrated motion simulation and allows kinematic and dynamic analysis of designs with moving parts. Users can add springs, dampers, motors, actuators, and prescribe kinematic motion or forces and torques, such as those generated by a motor or actuator in a real-world machine. In addition, design constraints created when modeling an assembly are automatically mapped
to corresponding motion constraints. The new module is fully integrated into Alibre Design Expert, making it easier to use and increasing user productivity with seamless simulation. Alibre Motion also eliminates the purchase of third-party motion modules, potentially saving thousands of dollars.

 

EngineersToolBox is a comprehensive solution library for engineering design and analysis. This popular software features integrated computational modules that enable engineers and designers to quickly explore design solutions, evaluate virtual prototypes and make data-driven decisions to improve products. The Engineers Toolbox consists of 34 modules covering domains such as solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer and dynamics and controls.

All versions of Alibre Design 9.1 will also include the ability to publish directly to the de facto standard Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Alibre Design Professional and Expert will allow including animated exploded views and sequences of steps to help communicate design intent or document an assembly process. All PDF files with 3D objects published with Alibre Design, including those with animation, can be viewed with free Adobe Reader® software.

Additional enhancements to Alibre Design 9.1 include:
  • 2D Drawings: dimension styles to efficiently manage corporate and industry dimensioning standards
  • User Interface: cursor-centric zooming
  • Sheet Metal: Intuitive determination of Flange and Tab lengths
  • Performance: Improvements to both drawing and top down assembly design

The bundle Alibre is offering consisting of Alibre Design Expert and Acrobat 3D makes it much easier to publish, share and collaborate on 3D designs with a broad audience beyond traditional CAD users. Previously, high software costs, complex and difficult to learn 3D software and vendor-dependant formats limited 3D design and collaboration to only a very select group of CAD users and engineers in the detailed design phase. Early-stage conceptual design and collaboration has been relegated to little more than back-of-the-napkin sketches, while later-stage technical publishing has required costly, vendor-specific solutions with only expensive corporate CAD systems as the only source for 3D data.

"As we have pushed down software cost, improved ease-of-use and increased functionality, we have seen customers utilizing Alibre Design much earlier in the product life cycle, users who typically do not have regular access to their corporate standard CAD system," said Greg Milliken, CEO of Alibre. "More than 70% of a product's cost is committed in the earliest stages of the process, and as a result of the Acrobat 3D bundle, we have a unique solution that will help companies innovate more effectively at this critical stage."

With the new publishing features of version 9.1, once a model is built in Alibre Design, the user can save it as a PDF with 3D objects, then, with Acrobat 3D, add information to the 3D model, format the layout, look and feel, and share it with others for review and comment. Since the 3D objects in the PDF file are interactive, reviewers can rotate the models and, when enabled by Acrobat 3D, measure and section them using nothing more that the ubiquitous Adobe Reader. This design sharing will allow changes to be made while still in the high-leverage, lower-cost concept design phase. When combined with version 9.1 engineering analysis features like Alibre Motion and EngineersToolBox, designs can be more deeply analyzed and verified by numerous stakeholders in the product development process, either external or internal.

"Our bundle with Acrobat 3D gives users everything they need to formalize and model concepts and innovations and then quickly and easily share them with a wide audience," continued Milliken. "With Alibre Design conceptual designs can be created at the earliest stages of the process by any, and every, engineer, and with Acrobat 3D the designs can be easily communicated and collaborated upon, optimally harnessing an organization's creativity and knowledge to drive innovation."

"We're pleased to welcome Alibre to the Acrobat 3D Platinum Reseller program," said Stephen Fehr, director of Acrobat Sales, Adobe. "Acrobat 3D enriches collaboration by enabling extended teams to use interactive,
universal Adobe PDF documents to more quickly, securely and cost-effectively drive to completion critical communication processes that require 3D visualization. Alibre's bundle of Acrobat 3D with Alibre Design Expert provides customers strong value and enables participants at every stage of the manufacturing process to communicate the visualization benefits of true 3D parametric solid modeling through Adobe Reader and PDF."

 

Commentary

by Jeffrey Rowe, Editor


Alibre has an interesting product line that is quite diverse, both in terms of cost (free to $1,995) and associated capabilities. At the various price points, the Alibre applications are targeted at small- and medium-sized businesses for parametric modeling, and associative 2D drafting and detailing.

The various packages include:
  • Alibre DesignXpress (free and formerly known as X-CAD) - Basic 3D design capabilities.
  • Alibre Design 9.1 ($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.

A couple of the more important new features and enhancements in Alibre Design 9.1 include:
  • Alibre Motion that provides integrated motion simulation for Alibre Design Expert 9.1. It provides kinematic and dynamic motion simulation, including prescribed forces and torques, such as that generated by a motor or actuator in a machine.
  • Model only publishing is available in all flavors of Alibre Design. With Alibre Design Professional and Expert you can also create 3D PDF files with animated exploded views and sequences of steps to help communicate design intent or document an assembly process. Of course all 3D PDF files can be viewedwith the free Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.

Some of the more significant recent add-ons for free and paid Alibre Design versions include:
  • EngineersToolbox: solution library for engineering design and analysis in Alibre Design Expert.
  • Access to CADRegister free part library through add-on menu for all versions of Alibre Design.
  • Machinist Toolbox now has an unlimited license in Alibre Design Expert.

As I eluded to earlier; from the beginning Alibre has sort of done things their way. As an example, last year Alibre (somewhat secretly) announced that it would provide free software (then known as X-CAD) if 100,000 potential users registered for the chance to receive it for free. At the time I was extremely skeptical when I first caught wind of X-CAD - about the product itself and whether 100,000 people would actually register. As a matter of fact, I waited several hours before deciding to post the original press release. Truth be told, I almost didn't run it because I had been burned on other so-called "free" software offers in the past. This offer by Alibre, though, turned out to be completely legitimate.

Although admittedly light on features and capabilities, Alibre Design Xpress is indeed a parametric solid modeler and is relatively easy to use. Features and capabilities aside, you sure can't beat the price. The target customers for this software is exactly as the company has stated all along, those new to 3D, casual/occasional users, and hobbyists - users with pretty light demands and requirements. I also suspect that Alibre Design Xpress could be construed as sort of an Alibre "Lite," but most companies hate that moniker. Are users outgrowing Alibre Design Xpress and moving up to Alibre Design starting at $995? That's hard to gage, but the company has bet that at least some will.

As of November
27, 2006, there were over 264,000 registrations for Alibre Design Xpress, well beyond the initial requirement of 100,000. Not exactly shoddy numbers for a CAD product download.

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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.


Rating:
Reviews:
Review Article
  • October 09, 2008
    Reviewed by 'R. Williams'
    As always, Mr. Rowe brings you the facts and nothing but the facts. A well written article that shows the immediate advantages of the new Alibre 9.1 flagship product. Just why it took so long for this competant MCAD package to take off and get noticed I will never understand. Mr. Rowe, proves that a great product cannot be hidden for too long. I've seen this MCAD software package come up to be a real contender in the ring for recognition. At this pace and price it could even in time take on a leadership role. Great Article my friend, I enjoy your expertise with words.

      One person found this review helpful.

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