July 02, 2007
Dassault Systemes Unveils 3DVIA
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Dassault Systemes (DS) unveiled the next steps in its strategy to turn 3D into a universal media, and launched 3DVIA, DS's new brand for 3D online lifelike experiences.

"Imagine a world where everyone can leverage the power of 3D, in which we can create, share, and experience life in 3D online, enabling us to join efforts to improve our living spaces and the products we use daily," says Bernard Charles, president and CEO, Dassault Systemes. "DS and its partners will develop 3DVIA to lead the way in this area, enabling anyone with access to a computer and the Internet to use innovative, fun-to-use 3D services online."

3DVIA services will be accessible at
www.3dvia.com. The first services that will be made available later this year, leveraging DS's 26 years of technological experience, will empower passionate 3DVIA communities with services to invent and create objects in 3D, upload, share, and tag 3D, and enjoy interactive experiences in 3D.

DS's customers, working in all kinds of industries, create tremendous IP assets with CATIA, Solidworks, DELMIA, and SIMULIA, and need to be able to leverage and reuse their assets to revolutionize the way that they interact with their own customers. Their global collaborative platform, supported by ENOVIA, will provide appropriate content and process information right up to a lifelike experience with 3DVIA. The first professional online community, 3DVIA SupplierSource, is a way forward, connecting designers and suppliers.

3DVIA is a powerful platform for partners to deliver unique 3D experiences to all kinds of online communities in the consumer and professional arena. As part of today's 3DVIA announcements, DS and Microsoft announced an extension of their partnership, and DS announced that REALVIZ and Allegorithmic will contribute to increase the realism of 3D environments with, respectively, 3D backdrops and lifelike textures. More partners will be announced soon.

3DVIA brings together a global team, dedicated to delivering 3D technologies to online communities.

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

As is often the case when Dassault introduces something, whether a new product or technology, technical details are lacking. That being the case again this time around, I’ll attempt to decipher the possible significance and potential of 3DVIA. This announcement was also made the day of our deadline for publication, so we didn’t have a lot of time for contacting Dassault for questions to answers we wanted to pose. The ones we did pose, however, went unanswered.

That aside, 3DVIA is Dassault Systemes' brand for what it is touting will produce “online 3D lifelike experiences.” It will attempt to establish 3D as a universal media for consumer and professional communities, and allows anyone to imagine and experience products and services. According to Dasssault, once perfected in the virtual world, these can be delivered and realized in the physical world. The Virtools product line is part of the newer and ultimately bigger 3DVIA, although it is unclear how big that part is. I’m sure, too, that Dassault’s 3D XML file format also figures pretty heavily into the 3DVIA, but again, it’s hard to discern at this
point in time.

At first glance, 3DVIA appears to be a renaming/rebranding of Virtools, although there may be more to it than that. Dassault Systemes says that 3DVIA was developed for creating online 3D “lifelike experiences” (whatever that means) and is a new product area for the company, much like CATIA, ENOVIA, etc., thus the “IA” at the end of “3D”.

Let’s next take a quick look at a couple of the origins of 3DVIA (Virtools and 3D XML) and it first application (3DVIA SupplierSource).

Virtools is a software developer that started in 1993 and was acquired by Dassault Systemes in July 2005. Virtools provides 3D software and related services, targeted at system integrators, digital game studios, and corporate end-users. Over the years the Virtools development platform has been used in the video game market (prototyping and rapid development), as well as for other interactive 3D experiences, in web marketing, virtual product maintenance. The latter Web applications for Virtools are intended to transform marketing, multimedia, or learning applications into interactive online 3D experiences, so this is staring to make a little bit of sense.

Although virtually nothing associated with the 3DVIA announcement comes right out and says it, Dassault’s 3D XML format has to be one of its core technologies. 3DXML is a “lightweight” XML schema-based file format developed to share 3D models between different software applications. In theory, and according to Dassault, 3D XML compresses complex data with file sizes up to 99 percent smaller than those of other formats. It was developed in conjunction with industry partners Lattice Technologies and Microsoft as a means of providing rapid file transmission and shorter load times while maintaining the exact geometry of the files exchanged. Dassault even touted
3DXML as “a new way to democratize 3D” as an open file format.

Over time several third-parties have confirmed that Dassault's so-called "open" 3D XML format is, in fact, not so open after all. 3D XML actually contains two binary formats that are not, by definition, “open”. This goes counter to the fact that that XML is supposed to be ASCII code that documents itself so that can be read and understood by people and computers. At least part of the problem owes to the fact that 3DXML is based on the proprietary XVL from Lattice. As part of this, too, comes the ironic question of just how closely Lattice and Dassault actually worked as partners on 3D XML as an “open” format.

All that aside, however, let’s take a brief look at the first 3DVIA application, SupplierSource. SupplierSource was created and is operated by SolidWorks Corp. It is an Web-based search engine application intended to help engineers and suppliers find and communicate with each other. SupplierSource is currently focused on helping engineers search for and find custom manufacturing services. Any engineer or purchasing agent, no matter what design platform they use to develop products, can access and use SupplierSource free of charge. That’s all well and good, but I don’t understand the need for 3D for this sort of application.

So, is Dassault the first or only company to marry try and marry its comprehensive product line to another 3D technology in the same house? Well, yes and no. I don’t thinks any other vendor has attempted to combine interactive 3D with as comprehensive a product line as Dassault is attempting. However, other companies, such as Autodesk are giving it a shot. For example, using Autodesk AliasStudio, Inventor, VIZ, and 3ds Max. In any event, it will be interesting to see where Dassault takes this by either creating a perceived need or fulfilling a real need.

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.

SGI unveiled SGI Altix ICE, a platform that brings all the advantages of the company’s expertise in high-performance computing (HPC) to a tightly integrated, cool-running blade solution. Designed by SGI to close the growing gap between performance and user productivity, SGI Altix ICE 8200 is the first in a new line of bladed servers purpose-built to handle true HPC applications and large scale-out workloads. SGI Altix ICE enables large scale-out environments while minimizing their demands on the data center’s space and power. Its ultra-dense rack architecture delivers up to 40 percent more compute performance per floor tile than competing blades. A single SGI Altix ICE 8200 rack can be powered by as many as 512 Intel Xeon processor cores and deliver 6 TFLOPS of performance. SGI achieved density improvements by implementing a new, highly integrated version of the “Atoka” board, which SGI co-designed with Intel Corporation. This next-generation board, designed specifically for the HPC market, allows a single SGI Altix ICE 8200 blade to be powered by two Dual- or Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors, and up to 32GB of memory. By dedicating a Gigabit Ethernet network for administrative tasks, SGI has freed up the 20Gb/second DDR InfiniBand connection for compute traffic. For optimal dynamic communication, the new
system also utilizes a hierarchical network topology that requires no external switching.

Dassault Systèmes announced that CD-adapco, a provider of full-spectrum engineering simulation solutions for fluid flow, heat transfer and stress, is now a Component Application Architecture (CAA) Software Partner. As a CAA Software Partner, CD-adapco will leverage Dassault’s CAA environment to extend and enhance the capabilities of its STAR-CAT5 product for flow and thermal management integrated within CATIA. Simulation set-up and input/output requirements have been automated and integrated into CATIA, enabling users across many industries, to concentrate on evaluation of engineering
results and optimization of designs while taking full advantage of CD-adapco’s simulation technology.

CDC Software, a wholly owned subsidiary of CDC Corp. announced the launch of CDC Factory, the first packaged manufacturing operations management solution that integrates finite factory scheduling, manufacturing execution systems (MES), real-time performance management, quality, maintenance and analytics processes so users from shop floor operators to executive management can make real-time actionable decisions throughout the plant and across the enterprise. By standardizing the best practices of lean manufacturing, OEE, (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) and continuous improvement, CDC Factory
provides a real-time framework that unlocks hidden capacity on the factory floor by managing production scheduling in real time, pinpointing the causes of plant inefficiencies and providing immediate feedback on key operating metrics including rate, yield, utilization and per unit cost. Its role-based design extends to middle and senior management where information is summarized to make the daily operations of all plants throughout an enterprise transparent.

Dyadem announced an enterprise solution that helps manufacturers increase competitive advantage by managing quality throughout the lifecycle of a product. Stature is an enterprise Quality Lifecycle Management (QLM) software solution that allows stakeholders from design to manufacturing to collaborate in real-time and improve quality, compliance, and communication across a global manufacturing enterprise. By automating processes, Stature helps companies reduce the cost of poor quality and proactively improve the design, manufacture and delivery of high-quality, high-value products and processes. As organizations are tasked to comply with a multitude of quality standards such as International Standards Organization's ISO 9001 and ISO 14971, Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) and Six Sigma, they realize the importance of building quality into their processes and sharing information across the lifecycle. Stature enables companies to automate compliance processes, which in turn allows manufacturers to reduce the time they spend on compliance and improve quality through the removal of manual processes. Quality planning early in the product lifecycle, better sharing of knowledge across business
units, and the collection and application of lessons learned enables companies to overcome these obstacles, and improve profitability by delivering high value, reliable products.

Gibbs and Associates, developer of GibbsCAM, software for programming CNC machine tools, announced that Tornos S.A., has certified GibbsCAM for programming the Tornos DECO [a-line] single spindle Swiss machine tools. This accomplishment was realized through the combined efforts of Gibbs, Tornos and Productec, the GibbsCAM Reseller located in Switzerland, who is also a developer of GibbsCAM application extensions. This certification recognizes GibbsCAM's ability to successfully generated part programs for three complex parts with multiple and diverse machining operations with zero errors. The
three programs were then loaded into a DECO 13a machine and executed, producing parts to print specifications.

Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of
MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at
Email Contact or 408.850.9230.
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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.


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