April 07, 2008
AutoCAD 2009 Software Family Released
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| by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Autodesk today announced that it is shipping AutoCAD 2009 software for conceptual design, drafting and detailing. The AutoCAD 2009 portfolio includes updates to AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT, as well as the discipline-specific applications AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD Electrical, AutoCAD Mechanical, and AutoCAD MEP software applications.
AutoCAD 2009 features significant user interface enhancements along with new productivity tools to help AutoCAD customers of all levels work more efficiently toward competitive design ideas and compelling presentations:
Improved User Interface & Usability – The new AutoCAD 2009 software task-based user interface is designed to make new and experienced users more productive and has been optimized to reduce the number of steps it takes to reach commands. Furthermore, it is customizable and extensible, can be migrated forward using the standard migration tools and offers a “classic workspace” that provides access to the traditional toolbar and menu interface. In addition, the new AutoCAD 2009 user interface provides a common toolset for operations such as file open and close, rotate, pan, and zoom, into the next several releases of Autodesk products, streamlining the transition
between products and reducing learning time.
Faster Drafting – AutoCAD 2009 can boost productivity by helping automate tedious tasks. The action recorder provides a simple to use macro recorder, and the interactive layer manager instantly makes changes appear in the drawing.
Autodesk Impression – AutoCAD 2009 subscription customers will receive Autodesk Impression illustration software for the creation of presentation-ready graphics with a hand-drawn look.
AutoCAD LT 2009, one of the world’s largest selling 2D drafting and detailing products, also features the new user interface to increase productivity for experienced and new users. Pricing starts at $1,295 (USD).
Autodesk is also shipping the latest version of the AutoCAD software portfolio, that includes mechanical design-oriented discipline-specific applications built on AutoCAD technology.
AutoCAD Electrical 2009 is purpose-built to design electrical controls systems quickly and accurately with automated tasks, comprehensive symbol libraries, and an electrical-specific workflow designed to increase the productivity of controls engineers. Priced at $5,295 (USD), international pricing may vary.
AutoCAD Mechanical 2009 is designed to accelerate the mechanical design process with standards-based symbol libraries, engineering calculators and a mechanical-specific workflow created to significantly improve productivity for AutoCAD users in manufacturing. Priced at $4,495 (USD,) international pricing may vary.
AutoCAD MEP 2009, the AutoCAD software for mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) businesses, features intuitive system drawing and design tools and built-in design calculators for more efficient and accurate designs. Priced at $4,995 (USD), international pricing may vary
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
AutoCAD and 2D just keep marching on . . . but let’s keep this to the mechanical design side of the equation.
AutoCAD Mechanical is a version of AutoCAD software specifically developed for 2D manufacturing design applications. In other words, it contains all the functionality of AutoCAD plus a comprehensive set of features developed specifically for the mechanical design process. AutoCAD Mechanical automates many common tasks, such as generating mechanical components (springs, shafts, cams, and belts and chains), dimensioning, and creating bills of materials. It supports international drafting standards and provides a library of more than 700,000 standard parts.
So what’s the big deal about designing in 2D with AutoCAD Mechanical? Afterall, it’s 2008 and by now practically everybody who designs mechanical things for a living has made the switch to 3D because 2D is dead, right? I would say not, for a couple of reasons. First, many users of 2D CAD products are comfortable staying with 2D, and 2D suits their needs just fine. Second, some types of mechanical design, such as machines, (arguably) just don’t necessarily need a 3D tool, so why switch? With the release of AutoCAD Mechanical 2009, Autodesk continues to pump life into its specialized 2D mechanical design and drafting package.
Again, AutoCAD Mechanical is a specialized 2D application that sits on top of and is tightly integrated with AutoCAD. Look at the interface and you can tell immediately that they’re obviously related, but also different, because Mechanical has toolbars and palettes intended specifically for mechanical design, such as standard parts libraries, mechanical line objects, and simple FEA (finite-element analysis) calculations for 2D objects. For a 2D mechanical design package that retails for just a few hundred dollars more than plain AutoCAD, I feel it’s definitely worth the extra money for an application that has been optimized for 2D mechanical design and drafting. You can also
get AutoCAD Mechanical 2009 as part of the Autodesk Inventor Series 2009 that also includes a copy of it as part of the package.
By the way, if data migration is an issue, you can install and run the previous version of AutoCAD Mechanical side by side with this version.
Although Autodesk seems to be downplaying it this time around, I think one of the single most significant features in AutoCAD Mechanical actually began with the 2004 release, something the company called mechanical structure. It’s used for organizing geometry into components for easy reuse. It displays such components in a tree-like format in a graphical browser similar to those found in Inventor and other 3D modeling products. If you’re a long-time AutoCAD 2D user, initially, you may find the concept of mechanical structure somewhat complicated, but once you get the hang of it, I think you will see it as a powerful aspect of AutoCAD Mechanical. Mechanical structure lets you
organize mechanical design and drawing data in a way that blocks, groups, and layers never could (but these can still be used in conjunction with mechanical structure).
Before using mechanical structure, you have to select the design mode, top-down or bottom-up, that best suits the way you work. Although either method gives you the same end result, the way you reach the result are exactly opposite. A top-down approach begins with a top-level component, usually a part or assembly, and ends with the elemental geometry as displayed in the browser. A bottom-up approach begins with elemental geometry and end with the top-level component. Most users will probably prefer the top-down approach, because they can select and work with an entire component rather than its elemental geometry.
You can also set filters to hide views and features in the browser, but all geometry can be selected and edited at any time. You can reorder components and organize them into different subassemblies and views, and the BOM (bill of materials) database ensures that each separate view isn't counted in the BOM. If you copy a structured element, the copy is created from the stored definition, and each component view instance can have independent view locations. The browser also keeps track of multiple instances of components, so a change to one is automatically reflected in all instances in an assembly.
Overall, mechanical structure is the major feature that sets AutoCAD Mechanical apart from regular AutoCAD for mechanical design. Although you’re in a 2D design environment with AutoCAD Mechanical, the mechanical browser and the way components, views, etc. are arranged are also subtle introductions to the way its 3D sibling, Inventor, works and may help ease the transition to 3D. How long before you’ll face this transition? As it has for the past several years, Autodesk says it is still committed to AutoCAD Mechanical development and support for the foreseeable future, and will ship it concurrently with future releases of AutoCAD, and as part of the Autodesk Inventor Series.
If you’ve been using either AutoCAD or AutoCAD Mechanical for your mechanical design work, and are happy with the inherent advantages and limitations of working in 2D, AutoCAD Mechanical 2009 is worth serious consideration as an upgrade or replacement.
So, is 2D for mechanical design dead? From the looks of things, I would say, “Not exactly.”
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.
SolidWorks has acquired U.K.-based Priware Ltd., developer of CircuitWorks, which bridges the gap between electronic CAD and mechanical CAD software. The acquisition provides a platform for integrating electronic and mechanical designs. According to BCC Research, the electronics industry will reach $3 trillion by 2012. CircuitWorks enables engineers to accelerate and simplify electronic product design by integrating ECAD files into their 3D models and 2D drawings. CircuitWorks allows engineers to ensure electronic components such as printed circuit boards will fit and work correctly in their products - all within the SolidWorks software design window. SolidWorks and CircuitWorks
together let engineers design PCBs to fit inside ever more stylized product frames. For example, a mechanical engineer can use CircuitWorks to include a PCB design in the SolidWorks solid model of a new electronic device to help ensure the PCB is not too close to any metal contacts. SolidWorks Routing allows the engineer to create the wire harness to connect to the PCB. The engineer would also be able to gauge how the PCB will stay in place using COSMOSWorks design validation software, and check heat flow using COSMOSFloWorks thermal dynamics analysis software.
Jon Peddie Research has released its CAD report for 2008 to 2012. The CAD industry has been undergoing a remarkable renaissance over the last five years as a result of several factors. Among those factors are hardware advances that put 64-bit, multi-core computers into the mainstream. In addition, there is broadening acceptance of 3D techniques. And finally, the marriage of CAD visualization with information management helps redefine the CAD industry and extend its relevance throughout the enterprise. In an industry known for a conservative rate of change, there is a significant shift taking place as smaller businesses are investing in new technologies to improve their processes and
efficiency. According to JPR's research, CAD software vendors saw combined revenues of $5,234.95 million in 2007. The CAD software market increased 20% in 2007 compared to 2006 when revenues were $4,362.45 million. The trend will continue through 2008 in spite of challenges in the U.S. economy that could ripple through worldwide economies. Strong growth continues in the emerging economies that will than offset contractions in the west. In 2008, the CAD market is expected to grow to $6,024.55 million, an increase of 15%. This is slightly down from an earlier prediction of 18%. However, the CAD industry is growing and will continue to grow through 2012 with a CAGR of 11%. In 2007 the
worldwide installed base of CAD users reached 5.31 million, a 20% increase over 2006 when the number of CAD users was 4.42 million. In 2007 the majority of CAD users, 63% were still working in 2D, and 37% working in 3D. However revenues for 3D CAD programs are higher. In all revenues for 3D CAD accounted for 53% of the market and 2D CAD accounted for 47% of the market. This highlights a shift as comparatively fewer users account for a larger share of the revenue. This trend will continue. 2D CAD programs are less expensive than 3D programs and have been seeing the slow encroachment of 2D CAD programs offered for free by companies hoping to woo 2D users to their 3D products. The trend to 3D
will continue but it's important to note that not all of the 2D CAD users are going to make the transition to 3D. In many cases, the transition means a change of job description.
At the New York International Auto Show, the X PRIZE Foundation and Progressive jointly announced the company's Title Sponsorship of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE competition and its funding of the $10 million prize purse. The newly renamed Progressive Automotive X PRIZE is an international competition designed to inspire a new generation of viable, super fuel-efficient vehicles. The independent and technology-neutral competition is open to teams from around the world that can design, build, and bring to market 100 MPGe (miles per gallon
energy equivalent), and that meet market needs for price, size, capability, safety and performance. To date, more than 60 teams from nine countries have signed a Letter of Intent to compete for a share of the prize purse and global publicity. The X PRIZE Foundation, best known for the successful $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for private suborbital spaceflight, is an educational nonprofit whose mission is to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity by holding $10 million dollar (or larger) competitions to solve some of the world's greatest challenges. The window for applications will be open until mid 2008, when a thorough qualification process will assess safety, cost,
features and business plans to ensure that only production-capable, consumer-friendly cars compete. Those that qualify will race their vehicles in rigorous cross-country stage races in 2009 and 2010 that combine speed, distance, urban driving, and overall performance. The winners will be the vehicles that exceed 100 MPGe, meet strict emissions standards and finish in the fastest time.
LMS International introduced LMS Imagine.Lab OPTIMUS. With the integration of OPTIMUS, LMS Imagine.Lab AMESim gains new capabilities to capture and automate 1D simulation processes that facilitate a quick assessment of a multitude of design options. The new optimization module also enables design and engineering teams to automatically select the optimal design, taking into account multiple performance targets and six-sigma criteria. LMS Imagine.Lab AMESim offers a complete 1D simulation platform to model and analyze multi-domain, intelligent systems and to predict their multi-disciplinary performance. LMS Imagine.Lab OPTIMUS was developed in collaboration with Noesis Solution, a
subsidiary of LMS. Through the interactive interface in LMS Imagine.Lab OPTIMUS, users can capture the different steps and parameter settings of their simulation process. Once captured, non-expert users can apply the complete process without having to worry about “what to do when”. This allows a quick rerun of the process to explore multiple design alternatives, translating into higher productivity. LMS Imagine.Lab OPTIMUS automatically explores a multitude of design alternatives using design of experiment and response surface modeling techniques. The full set of local, global and multi-objective optimization methods from Noesis OPTIMUS allow users to identify the optimal
design for multiple performance aspects. This avoids tedious trial and error loops while balancing optimal performance with strict quality requirements and six-sigma criteria. Dedicated methodologies for robustness and reliability engineering make sure that the optimization loop takes into account the inherent variability of the LMS Imagine.Lab.
VX Corp. announced Intelligent Machining Automation that helps eliminate machine shop bottlenecks by speeding up machine tool programming productivity. The task of machining a block of steel into a highly finished part, whether it’s a mold core/cavity, electrode or discrete part, is a multi-faceted undertaking involving many different tool paths. Collectively, these tool paths define a comprehensive approach from the initial roughing phase to the final finishing phase. Some of the decisions that go into the overall approach are tool paths to use for different areas, types of tool paths for roughing and finishing operations, cutters used for each tool path, feed rates, step-over
widths, depth of cuts and much more. While many of these decisions can be automated, each machine shop has its own unique approach and rules for machining. Defining the machining for a part tailored to a machine shop’s specific needs can span multiple days causing bottlenecks and restricting the number of new jobs a shop can accept. One of the main obstacles is that often there are only a few machinists who have the knowledge and experience to properly set-up the machining for any particular shop. Solving this problem is where VX’s Intelligent Machining Automation value is realized. With VX, users establish their own rules for machining a part, and once the tool paths are
developed and saved for a part, VX can use these tool paths and rules as a knowledge base for intelligently automating development of machining for a vast array of other parts. This greatly reduces the time required for programming new parts. In essence, VX captures and uses the knowledge and logic of an experienced machinist for automatically generating machining processes.
Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of
and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at
Email Contact or 408.850.9230.
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- October 09, 2008
Reviewed by 'Richard Williams'
As usual a fine review by a fine reviewer. Your reviews are such that even someone like me can understand them clearly. Thanks Pal.