August 23, 2010
Software Review: Photoshop CS5 and Engineering Applications
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| by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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The newest version of Photoshop, Creative Suite 5 (CS5) Extended, marks Photoshop's 20th anniversary as the standard in digital photography processing and workflow. I've been a big fan of Photoshop for many years. Even though it's 20 years old, it still isn't perfect. Its ever-expanding features can be complicated to understand and use. And, even though it's well-suited for “creative types,” it's increasingly finding a home in the engineer's toolbox. In fact, I find it to be one of the more useful technical/engineering applications, especially coupled with CAD or analysis software.
As in the past, instead of trying to cover all of the new features and capabilities of Photoshop CS5, we'll stick to applications of interest to engineers, namely, creating 3D objects, analysis, measurement, and using a photographic image as the basis for a design using a CAD product. In other words, this evaluation will only cover engineering-oriented image processing with Photoshop CS5. Note that while I am using Photoshop CS5 Extended, for the remainder of this review I will refer to it only as CS5.
I think some of the most compelling capabilities for engineers are the 2D and 3D creation and measurement tools in Photoshop CS5. These tools let you create and extract real quantitative information from digital photographic images or drawings.
The first thing you'll notice when you startup Photoshop CS5 is how fast it works compared to previous versions. If you've recently invested in a dual- or quad-core CPU and expanded to GBs of RAM, you'll be rewarded with increased performance for Photoshop CS5. If you are running a 64-bit OS (I'm using Windows 7 64-bit), according to Adobe, Photoshop CS5 now processes tasks at up to 10 times faster than previously. In Preferences there is also a RAM slider to set up how much RAM Photoshop can use. You can now use and take full advantage of as much RAM as you have installed in your machine and really crank up the performance.
Now, on to 3D . . .
In Photoshop CS5 there is a full dropdown menu dedicated specifically to working in 3D. The most interesting pick is Repoussé, a term that describes a metalworking technique where object faces are shaped and patterned by hammering on the opposite side. It can be used to create 3D objects, text, artwork, logos, layer masks, or images. In Photoshop CS5, the Repoussé command converts 2D objects into 3D meshes that you can extrude, inflate, and reposition in 3D space fairly precisely. Mesh tools function much like 3D object tools for moving, rotating, or scaling a model. Extrude extends a 2D shape in 3D space. Depth controls the length of extrusion, and Scale controls the width. Inflate
expands or collapses the middle of the front or back of an extrusion. Bevel applies beveled edges to the front or back of an object. Contour options are similar to those for layer effects (long a Photoshop staple).
I was surprised to see that the 3D capabilities in Photoshop CS5 had internal constraints that let you improve mesh resolution in specific areas (with inactive constraints), precisely vary inflation (with active constraints), or poke holes in surfaces (with hole constraints). Along a path you specify on a Repoussé object, constraint curves extend away from an object for expansion, or toward an object for contraction. You manipulate these curves using the constraint tools that are analogous to 3D object tools that most of us are used to.
You can also create some basic 3D objects (shapes and meshes) from 2D images (layers) as a starting point. This can take some doing, though, but it is a start and an indication where Adobe might be taking Photoshop 3D in the future.
All in all, some very cool and capable 3D stuff for a mature software application not necessarily associated with 3D.
In Photoshop CS5, you can measure the dimensions of a photograph or a digital model (2D or 3D) using the measurement feature. You begin by assigning a known measurement to any part of an image or model, then you can take other accurate measurements. For example, you can import a photo of an object, enter a known dimension from the photo, such as the width of a slot, and then generate measurements of any other feature of the object, such as its height, width, depth, distance apart, etc.
Using the measurement feature in Photoshop CS5 you can measure any area defined with the Ruler tool or with a selection tool, including irregular areas selected with the lasso, quick select, or magic wand tools. You can also compute the height, width, area, and perimeter, or track measurements of one image or multiple images. It's best to choose a measurement tool that matches the kind of data you want to record in the Measurement Log that keeps track of data including width, height, area, units, scale, and file name. You can customize the Measurement Log columns, as well as sort data within columns, and export data from the log to a text file or spreadsheet.
To ensure that I was accurate from the beginning for my first experience with the measurement feature, I set my measurement scale using a digital macro photo of a 100-mm machinist's scale. This absolutely ensured that I had known dimensions. I discovered that the higher the resolution of the photograph, the higher the accuracy of the measurement, as I experimented with photos of different resolutions.
Once the measurement scale is established, you can draw lines with the Ruler tool to measure linear distance and angle. Each measurement measures one or more data points. The data points you select determine the information recorded in the Measurement log. Data points correspond to the type of tool you're measuring with. Area, perimeter, height, and width are available data points for measuring selections. You can create and save sets of data points for particular types of measurements to speed the process. The workflow steps for performing the process are pretty simple.
Use the Ruler tool to set the measurement scale for a document. You can create measurement scale presets for frequently used measurement scales. Presets are added to the Analysis> Set Measurement Scale submenu. The current measurement scale for a document is checked in the submenu, and appears in the Info panel. Measurement scale markers display the measurement scale used in your document. Set the measurement scale for a document before creating a scale marker.
If you measure multiple selected areas on an image, one row of data is created in the log containing summary or cumulative data for all selected areas, followed by a row of data for each selection area. Each selection area is listed as a separate Feature in the Label column of the log and assigned a unique number.
For more advanced analytic engineering work, and although I haven't tried this yet, I understand that it is possible for Photoshop CS5 to export to and import data from
(a technical computing environment and programming language for visualizing data) and visualize the results of MATLAB algorithms. With Photoshop CS5, MATLAB can be used to view the results of algorithms created in MATLAB from within Photoshop, as well as export images created and/or edited in Photoshop back out to MATLAB for detailed analysis.
The measurement tools in Photoshop CS5 could be used for fairly sophisticated purposes ranging from inspection to reverse engineering. As engineering-oriented features and capabilities such as the measurement tools continue to evolve in Photoshop, expect to see it on more engineers' workstations because of its possibilities. The 3D creation features, not so sophisticated, but will only get better with subsequent versions. After the initial learning curve, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with the 3D objects you can produce within Photoshop CS5, without needing an external program. Will it replace even a simplistic traditional CAD program? Well, no, not yet anyway, but it does provide
some interesting possibilities.
Photoshop CS4 Extended Evaluation Quick Guide*
Overall Product: A-
This version: A-
Ease of use: B
Price: Pricing for Photoshop CS5 is $699.00 to purchase and $199.00 to upgrade from Photoshop CS4. A free trial download version is also available.
*Editor's Note: The Evaluation Quick Guide is based only on the engineering imaging features and capabilities (3D creation and measurement) of Photoshop CS5.
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.
Consulting and research firm CIMdata announced the availability of its annual Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Market Analysis Report. The report provides detailed information and in-depth analysis on the worldwide PLM market. It contains analyses of major trends and issues, leading PLM suppliers, revenue analyses for geographical regions, industry sectors, and historical and projected data on market growth. Additionally, the 2010 PLM Market Analysis Report presents a multi-faceted analysis of the 2009 PLM market covering Tools (e.g., CAD, simulation and analysis, etc.), collaborative Product Definition management (cPDm), and Digital Manufacturing. The PLM Market Analysis Report comes in
two modules. 'Module 1' presents CIMdata's overview of the PLM market, overall market statistics, and an analysis of PLM suppliers' performance in 2009 and CIMdata's overall forecast for 2010 through 2014. 'Module 2' builds on the information presented in Module 1 by providing detailed 2009 geographic and industry revenue results and forecasts for 2010 to 2014.
Extensible CAD Technologies announced the release of the new versions of InspectionXpert First-Article and InspectionXpert for SolidWorks. InspectionXpert helps companies balloon CAD drawings and create first article inspection forms and in-process inspection forms from CAD drawings. Some of the the new enhancements include:
InspectionXpert First Article
Enhancements to the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for improved accuracy
Ability to flag key characteristics by using a prefix or suffix in balloons
Improved Data Recovery settings and options
Support for Excel 2010
Auto-resizing of captured images to fit cell sizes in Excel-based report forms
Ability to set default tolerances by range in addition to precision
New balloon formatting options including ability to create solid or filled balloons
InspectionXpert for SolidWorks
Better support for fractional dimensions
Set default tolerances by range in addition to precision
Custom letter and number options (such as excluding letters and numbers) for data grid
Support for Excel 2010
Improved hole callout splitting
Better font translation for characters in hole callouts
Ability to explode notes into multiple characteristics
Improved accuracy with balloon placement
MSC.Software announced that SimXpert 2010 is released and ready for download. With this release, engineers can access all the new features of MD Nastran 2010 and MD Adams 2010 and perform advanced simulations in the areas of nonlinear analysis, bi-directional thermo-mechanical coupling and expanded physics simulations including co-simulation with CFD codes. Integrated with MSC's advanced multidiscipline (MD) solver technologies, SimXpert provides an efficient "end-to-end" solution that takes you from CAD to analysis report in a single easy-to-use application. SimXpert 2010 delivers several new functionalities and improvements in the areas of usability, CAD support, geometry cleanup,
meshing, FEA and Multibody Dynamics (MBD) solver support and the introduction of a Systems & Controls Workspace
Icona Solutions Ltd., the developer of the perceived quality simulation and visualization software, aesthetica, together with its business partner in Italy, EDIST Engineering Srl, announced that FIAT Group Automobiles will implement aesthetica as part of the car firm's plans to improve the perceived quality of its vehicles. The software will be implemented in FIAT Group Automobile's Elasis and Centro Ricerche Fiat units - the FIAT Group's centres of expertise for innovation, research and development - where it will be used in perceived quality studies as early as the concept development stage of the vehicle design and development process. It will enable issues of fit and finish quality to
be identified and resolved when the cost of design changes is lower. By using aesthetica to apply information on tolerances and locator schemes directly to the 3D digital model of a vehicle, Fiat's engineering teams will be able to simulate and visualize, in real time, their effects on components and assemblies in terms of form and position variation and component deformation etc. Root cause analysis will allow them to diagnose the cause and quickly try out “what-if” scenarios.
MSC.Software announced that it will participate in a project coordinated by Airbus called CRESCENDO, which stands for Collaborative & Robust Engineering using Simulation Capability Enabling Next Design Optimization. The project focuses on the development of what is referred to as the Behavioral Digital Aircraft (BDA). The BDA can be viewed as a federated system that will comprise all the modeling and simulation capabilities and services required to enable a more complete, mature and reliable definition of the behavioral, functional and operational aspects of an aircraft and constituent systems. The project will move beyond modeling and simulating of parts to simulating the complete aircraft
and its overall behavior.
Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of
and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at email@example.com or 408.850.9230.
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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.