BricsCAD V19's Best Three New Functions
bimQuickDraw command draws rectangles and L-shapes with height for conceptually designing buildings and room layouts.
When you start the command, you see this initial square. The blue square represents the floor area, the white outline is the walls. The wall thickness is fixed at 1/4" in imperial drawings and 5mm in metric ones.
As you move the cursor, the square elongates. You can enter exact distances in the dynamic distance fields.
When you click a point to indicate the opposite corner (and the size of the floor), walls appear; the height is fixed at 10' (imperial) and 3m (metric). The dimensions show you the distance from all four walls.
Draw more attached rooms inside and out by clicking a point inside or outside the walls.
To cut out a portion of a wall, click at the base of the wall. You did it right when a portion of the wall turns red.
London skyline from near my hotel
Alright, here we are waiting for the official start of Bricsys 2018 conference here in sunny London. We've already had a developer session, where we learned of some of the nuts and bolts about developing add-ons for BricsCAD.
The big news, of course, is that Hexagon of Sweden has bought Bricsys, making it part of its PPM devision that also houses Intergraph, famous for being one of the oldest CAD programs ever. To challenge the "A" company (Autodesk) is going to take more resources. By being acquired by Hexagon (which has a major presence in Huntsville Alabama through Intergraph), makes it easier to take on the American market,
CEO Erik de Keyser is on the stage saying "We are going to rock the industry. Again."
Attendees in The Brewery conference hall
He is reminiscing about the start of BricsCAD, which goes back to TriForma, which he sold to Bentley -- BIM before it was called BIM. And then they went to write BricsCAD, first based on IntelliCAD, and then rewritten independently of ITC. "Best decision we ever made" was buying the solid modeling from LEDAS.
Now hearing from Rick Allen, executive of Hexagon PPM, also president of CADWorx and Analysis Solutions. CADWorkx link is important, because all this began a few years ago when Intergraph ported CADWorx from AutoCAD to BricsCAD. In the slide below, the extra 180 employees come from Bricsys.
Why did Hexagon buy Bricsys?
They wanted customers to have a complete solutions. The most complex engineering problem today is the offshore platform, with issues like tight spaces and centers of gravity. Intergraph specializes in software that designs them, as well as oil processing plants, water treatment plants, and so on.
Intergraph/Hexagon is excited by the one-DWG platform provided by Bricsys, for CAD, BIM, and MCAD design in a single file format -- no translation. As opposed to Autodesk, who suffers from CAD (DWG), BIM (RVT), and MCAD (IPT), and the conversion headaches that result.
Bricsys ceo Erik de Keyser (see photo below) takes his inspiration from German architect Mies (full name Ludwig Mies van der Rohe):
So the aim these days is to simplify the use of BricsCAD, and yet represent the details with BricsCAD.
Bricsys ceo Erik de Keyser
User Group Meeting
The brief lunch is over, and now it is time for the inaugural BricsCAD user group meeting. First question on the boar, "Should there be a BricsCAD User Group?" Led by Steve Johnson, who says Bricsys asked him to tackle this.
User group leader Steve Johnson
Should there be a BricsCAD user group? Yes, we'll give it a try.
What should its goals be? Have Bricsys promote it; membership is free; hope Bricsys might fund direct expenses; exchange information about pain points
What should it do? Maybe discounts for members, reduced ticket prices for the annual conference, wish list, access to beta, exclusive training info, meet with developers; existing forum does a good job, so maybe a member-only section
Should it be primarily online? Meet once a year at the annual Bricsys conference, but then meet virtually
How independent should it be? Maintaining the independence of the user group is important to attendees.
Steven Johnson offers to lead the group initially, with a few others helping. The problem being we don't know what BricsCAD might be called in the future under Hexagon (Intergraph was renamed Hexagon PPM).
Building Information Modeling
VP of communications Don Strimbu is asking, Who thinks BIM is awesome? Who thinks BIM is too hard?
Four top BIM myths
Now we are getting a demo of what's new in BIM for BricsCAD V19. The BIM module has a new UI that borrows from the free Sketch program, such as a toolbar-like ribbon and video-based help in a panel.
New user interface for BricsCAD BIM V19
BIMify is already two years old, the "AI" command that turns CAD elements into BIM elements. It recognizes beam, columns, components, rooms, internal and external walls, and so on.
Compositions is the most among the most BIM part of BIM, where the details of walls and floors/roofs are defined. A typical residential wall is gyproc on the interior, then 2x4" framing, insulation, plastic vapour barrier, exterior wall of plaster or brick or wood -- and the software needs to know which walls are exterior and which are interior. BricsCAD handles this.
Using BIMify to convert a generic 3D model into a BIM model
BIM V19 now imports @AutodeskRevit RFA family (component) files for use in architectural designs. This means that BricsCAD can now make use of the huge catalogs of Revit parts on third-party sites. Parameters and constraints associated with the RFA are imported. But when the RFA file lacks parameters, then BricsCAD can add them with a single click inside the new Block Editor environment.
Revit door component inserted in BricsCAD BIM model
BricsCAD BIM V19 improves drawing generation (design documentation) with
Hearing how to design a skyscraper with BricsCAD:
Draw the basic shape with 3D solids, then use the new multi-slicing command to create the floors. Shell the model to create walls and ceilings, and then BIMify to identify them. Add glazing. New grid is either rectangular or radial; any curve can be the grid axis, then use standard tools to modify the grid's look.
The new Propagate command quickly adds elements to a drawing, such as columns in a room.
New Curtain Wall tool adds curtain walls, after you specify the material (such as glass), repeating patterns, and thickness.
Twisted skyscraper with curtain walls
BricsCAD BIM V19 imports TIN files to display the terrain, and has site modeling tools for flattening areas for buildings and roads. Use the outline of the building's base to define the cut/fill volume. When volumes are removed, BricsCAD reports the volume.
The afternoon break is over, and now we hear about CDE -- common data environment -- which Bricsys deploys through 24/7, the new name for their online file sharing site that used to be known as Chapoo. 24/7 also handles project planning, editable work flows, multi-file viewing, and so on with unlimited users, each with different access rights. Cost is $200 per month but will be free for subscribers as of V19.
The example given is a 2.5-mile-long tunnel under Brussels being updated over a period of years.
Managing data with 24/7
For the future, notifications from BricsCAD, BIM collaboration format, and VR in 24/7.
And that's it for today!
[Disclosure: Bricsys paid part of my airfare, my hotel stay, and some meals]
Acronym alert! SPDM is short for "simulation process and data management"
Aras recently acquired Comet, software that automates the many steps of running simulations, such as meshing the 3D model, running a variety of simulation scenarios, and then generating reports.
Often in simulation demos given by CAD/CAE vendors are simplified to solve just one problem. In real world, however, simulation has to solve more than one problem. For instance, shown below is a simple model with four design objectives.
Aras says that Comet would handle the four simulation tasks in a single run. The Comet workspace is shown below. The large area shows the simulation process tree that is automated. Goals reached/not-reached are shown in green/red.
Simulation templates are created by experts in each of their fields, such as meshing and ANSYS. Once the simulation variables are set up, Comet runs the simulation and adjust the CAD model, as shown by th list of tasks (below) that the software performs. ARAS says this takes 14 minutes to run: Comet runs the entire simulation with no user involvement, until the end.
"If it doesn't appear in a PowerPoint, the simulation didn't happen," joked the presenter Tim Keer, Director of Customer Solutions (now with Aras, formerly with Comet) at the Aras "Future of Simulation" seminar.
Comet normally runs on the desktop, but a version is available from Aras runs in a Web browser, which is suitable for non-expert users who don't need to set up the simulation: just enter data and wait for the results. The browser version also hides proprietary rules from the user and customers.
Aras says they do no favor any other vendor, so Comet works with any MCAD system and simulation software.
Q: Does Comet come with any simulation tools?
A: None, because it works with what you have, except we provide ANSA meshing.
Q: How does Comet work with CAD and simulation software?
A: To link with other software, adapters have to be written that read-run-write the data with Comet.
Q: When will Comet work with Aras Innovator?
A: There is no target date, but fairly soon.
Q: Can I access Comet now?
A: Aras Comet SPDM will be available pretty soon. It will be for subscribers only.
Q: What does the acquisition mean for Comet customers?
A: We will honor existing contracts.
A reader writes:
Here's something which has always bothered me. How can we say that IFC [industry foundation classes] is a BIM [building information modeling] exchange format? When I create walls in one BIM app, export them to IFC and then import the IFC into another BIM app, they aren't native wall objects and don't operate as them. If it really is an exchange format -- besides mere object shapes -- shouldn't this be possible? What am I missing?
IFC is a kludge.
It was first designed by Autodesk to solve the problem they created with AutoCAD Release 13's new DWG format that allowed it to store any kind of data -- and the new ARX programming interface that allowed AutoCAD to create any kind of object. These actions in 1995 future-proofed the format, but also lead to unintended consequences.
The problem became how to display that "any kind of content" which AutoCAD did not understand, such as custom objects created by AutoCAD Architectural and Mechanical.
Autodesk came up with three solutions:
The plug-ins became unwieldy as the versions multiplied. Autodesk spun off the IFC format to a committee to deal with. The proxy objects are still supported.
For the first many years, the IFC committee worked on exchanging data between programs, such as from ADT to a thermal analysis software, and then into another CAD program. But just data.
When Revit popularized the concept of BIM (2000 and following), IFC was seen as ideal as exporting the building data (information) it stored in its models.
With successive updates to IFC by buildingSmart, the format began to handle graphical data, such as walls and windows. IFC is up to version 4 now. IFC slid into becoming the BIM translation format by default.
So, you are right to be frustrated about the quality of translation, as it was never meant to do that. The problems you encounter are due to every BIM vendor defining their parameterized objects differently.
The good news is that the Open Design Alliance has begun attacking the problem of IFCs, writing an API [application programming interface] for that, along with the API for Revit files. The other good news is that other BIM vendors want this to happen, as well.
The reader responds:
Thanks for the info. I've been seeing US Government contracts written with Revit file format requirements. They state you can use any software you wish, but I don't know of any (yet) which can fulfill this requirement. Also engineers really love having all of the "I" in BIM available to them, so we're kind of stuck when you want to work with these firms.
Now on the desktop
Frustum is one of a new spate of CAD companies that are deploying the latest mathematics and computing technology to leap ahead of established players and find themselves a niche. In the case of Frustum, their Generate software generates optimal 3D shapes; until now, it has run only in Web browsers.
The company this week held a Webinar to introduce the desktop version of Generate (for Windows only). I listened in and grabbed some screenshots.
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The Generate software determines the best design of a part based on input, such as stresses and connection points. What's new in the desktop Windows version is interactive modeling, and it is more secure than the cloud.
Frustum claims that Generate creates designs that are actually manufacturable, unlike others.
It has options for optimizing the shape for milling, 3D printing, and casting. These affect the shape in different ways. For instance, designed for casting means the shape must be able to be pulled out of a mold, while optimized for 3D printing means it should have a flat bottom.
Here is the user interface of Generate for Windows.
Generate for Windows can run on a laptop, as was done for the Webinar. But it will run faster on a multi-core desktop computer with a GPU. Only nVdidia graphics boards are supported. Real-time FEA (finite element analysis) does not mandate a GPU. GPU is optionally enabled if the machine has an NVIDIA graphics card.
A future release will add lattice design to Generate for Windows.
Output from Generate is an STL file. A future version might output a b-rep for input to CAD, but it is not a simple problem to solve.
Demo version cannot be simply downloaded from Frustum's Web site. You have to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a trial version.
Buyin' 'em up
Cambashi is a CAD market analysis firm out of England, and this week it held a Webinar intriguingly named "Assessing Investment Opportunities in the CAE market." (The company also provides consulting and training.) I listened in to hear what they had to say.
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One of the first stats blew me away: There are 470 non-EDA companies providing 2D and 3D CAE and physics simulation software. The biggest names are listed below.
As the Cambashi Webinar was about the opportunities in acquiring a CAE firm, one obvious purchaser that jumped out at me is Bricsys, which could use analysis to compliment its advanced design capabilities.
Here is a slide on investment scenarios:
Cambashi maintains a dashboard that tracks many CAE companies, which presumably would help you decide which CAE vendor to acquire, based on criteria like these:
Well, that, and the cost of acquiring the software company.
MagicLeap is a secretive company that amassed a crazy amount of money over several years -- $2.5 billion in investor's money -- before finally getting around to showing its product a few months ago. This week, it held its first conference for third-party developers.
This was an important event: what can it show for a couple of billion bucks? Two CAD vendors made brief presentation towards the end of the three hours, Trimble for SketchUp and Onshape.
Here are the notes I took during the first three hours of the Webcast, which you can view at https://www.magicleap.com/LEAPcon
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Fascinating spin from MagicLeap's first developer conference. Company execs claiming media like radio and tv (which brought people together) actually were social failures, but VR goggles (which by their very nature are isolating) are inclusive.
Despite the "We Are the [liberal progressive] World" vibe from the MagicLeap developer conference, all the [video] demos show lonely people stabbing their arms in their empty-of-other-humans rooms.
New open-source-based LuminOS from MagicLeap to offers fastest meshing available.
Software roadmap from MagicLeap, looking like development will continue into 2019.
Company, which pocked $2.5 billion in funding, is offering $200,000 for bug bounties.
It's VRML time all over again. MagicLeap wants to create spatial (ie, 3D) Web experiences through their own new browser, Helio and declarative HTML library, Prismatic. Spatial Web to solve on-line shopping problems.
Apparently the primary purpose of MagicLeap is viewing whales. Whales feature prominently in the company's marketing images.
Coming this fall, avatars for picking tv dinners.
"MagicLeap has its own editorial point of view, and putting [MagicLeap] Studios name on content helps us reflect what the company believes in. These are the stories WE want to tell." Content created by Create software, to be delivered next year.
Science fiction author Neal Stephenson of Goat Labs showing the PHILTR, which was pilfered from ComicCon. He says it works with MagicLeap but doesn't say how.
2.5 hours into watching the MagicLeap developer conference and I still figure VR will be as successful in homes as 3D TVs.
Slide shows percentage of kinds of apps being made for Magicleap. Is CAD part of the Productivity type?
Home shopping is back at MagicLeap, which has 10 million shopping items. Pull items from their 3D Web browser into your space.
First mention of CAD is SketchUp from Trimble. Trimble is talking about mixed reality made of hardware and software to capture the physical environment and manage engineering projects. SketchUp has 30 million users and its Warehouse is probably the largest 3D library.
"We are not telling stories, we are not playing games."
Prototype SketchUp software brings models from 3D Warehouse into MagicLeap. https://www.roadtovr.com/magic-leap-reveals-16-ar-experiences-at-leap-con-2018/
Onshape is now on. "I believe we will see CAD move to a new generation, on a new platform: Mixed reality and 3D CAD."
The new Onshape 3D CAD app for @MagicLeap is announced and shown in a video. Use markup tool, and then see the changes in real-time. "This is live editing of CAD."
Although not made explicit, the MCAD editing is done with the Onshape app running in a Web browser or on a tablet -- not by the MagicLeap interface. The 3D view is updated after the editing change is made.
VPN to the rescue
When I want to send email from outside of Canada, the outgoing email is filed to Outgoing, the purgatory mailbox. It is never sent. The problem occurs whether I want to send email from my Android phone or my Windows laptop, using a desktop client like Eudora or eM Client, or mobile app, like AquaMail. Who blocks the email, and why, I don't know.
I asked my ISP's tech support. They had no clue, suggesting that I instead use their Webmail client, which is only slightly worse than Gmail's Web client. (The Webmail client is, admittedly, effective in overcoming geographic boundaries, but awkward to use.)
Fool 'em with VPNs
The solution is to use a VPN, a virtual private network, which fools everybody on the Internet and all software on your computer that you are in a different country. There are numerous VPNs that provide a basic service for free. I use TunnelBear, which offers 500MB a month of data transfer at no cost; paying for TunnelBear gets me unlimited data and use on up to five computers at once. (I use it at home on all our computers as a extra layer of protection.)
So, download and install a VPN like TunnelBear (https://www.tunnelbear.com/download), and then specify your home country, the one where your ISP is located. In my case, Canada. Problem solved.
If you have emails stuck in the Outgoing box, then you'll need to resend them. In some cases, the email client is smart enough to send them once it senses that you are "back in Canada." In other cases, you need to manually resend them, which might involve moving them to the Inbox, forwarding them as an original, or some other tactic.
I use TunnelBear to watch videos, such as live news events, that are geographically locked. Some jurisdictions, however, like China, and some software giants, like Netflix, block VPNs. So, there is an alternative.
The Alternative to VPNs
There is an alternative solution, involving a "visual" VPN like TeamViewer (https://www.teamviewer.com/en/download/windows). It displays on your local screen (laptop or Android device) what is displayed on the distant computer to which you connect. I primarily use this software to support the computers used by elderly relatives. It lets me see what is happening on their computer screens, operate the software, and even reboot their computers.
When I am abroad, I use TeamViewer to access my desktop computer back home. I've used it sometimes to transfer files that I forgot to take along, but mostly I use it to access my Eudora email client running on my primary desktop computer. I go through the incoming emails, answering them, and filing them into mailboxes.
It is possible to watch geographically-locked and VPN-blocked video with TeamViewer, but the frame rate is slow. It works, because as far as Netflix is concerned, the video is being watched on a geographically-correct computer. I don't know if TeamViewer is effective at evading the Great Red Firewall imposed by China.
Real-time spell checker
Gabriela Borges (financial analyst): On Discovery Live [real-time FEA from ANSYS], I’m curious on the feedback that you've gotten since the announcement, and your understanding of the composition of PTCs CAD base, do you have a sense for what percentage or what types of customers within the CAD base would be interested in buying through the Discovery Life partnership?
Jim Heppelmann (PTC ceo): To simplify things for the benefit of everybody, think of Discovery Life being like a spell checker in a word processing document. You used to write a lot of text and then you’d stop writing and you would spell check and you’ll find all the mistakes. You’ll fix them all and then go back to writing more new text.
And now like in Microsoft Word that spell check is running all the time and as you're typing or misspelling a word, it's already showing you that doesn't look like a word to me and if you make a capitalization mistake its correcting itself.
So now take that kind of metaphor if you will and bring it over to CAD. We used to design, design, design, stop designing and go simulate find a whole bunch of problems, try to fix them all and then go back to designing.
Now as you design Discovery Live is watching over your shoulder and, with literally every change you make, it tells you what are the implications of that change.
But I want to say is who wouldn't want a spell checker in Microsoft Word. Anybody on the phone call here that have no use for a spell checker?
So I think that everybody wants it, every single user and probably especially the ones that are creating geometry would benefit from this capability. Now we would have to figure out its kind of amazing thing and we don't know how fast and how far the penetration will go, but I will tell you, we should end up with a very high penetration of this technology into our CAD base. I would be surprised if that didn’t happen.
by Oleg Zykov
One of the most important events for me at the annual COFES (Congress on the future of engineering software) conference is Tech Suites. This is a series of briefings that are held by vendors who sponsor the congress. I find them exciting to attend as I get to hear what vendors are saying about their latest innovations directly to competitors and industry analysts, rather than only to potential customers.
The result is an open, dynamic discussion that delves deeply into underlying issues that don't usually come to the surface during typical sales events. This year at COFES 2018 I felt that the Tech Suites headliners were two -- Onshape, and Solidworks with xDesign – plus one more, the surprise change at the top of Spatial.
Onshape vs xDesign
It seems to me that many agree that Jon Hirschtick, a co-founder of Onshape, is one of the most charismatic figures in the modern CAD world. The packed audience of Onshape’s Tech Suite was proof of this. But this is not the only reason why I think OnShape has won over Solidworks xDesign.
Today, the Onshape brand has a lot to boast about. It is a full-scale MCAD system, a top-notch "no files - no problems" policy with a single cloud database, thousands of users, its own app store with 51 partner applications, and tons of other reasons to transfer over from other MCAD systems. After creating and dominating the desktop MCAD market with Solidworks, Hirschtick created and dominated a whole new segment in the MCAD market as other major players are rushing to develop their cloud solutions as well. This is somewhat reminiscent of Tesla, isn't it?
So then what does that make Solidworks xDesign? It is, in fact, a timid attempt to enter the emerging cloud CAD systems market with a raw product that doesn't support even a fraction of Solidworks’ features; how many years will it take to fix this?
Its questionable positioning among other Dassault products isn't helping either:
Even if we try for a second to imagine why someone might get fed up with a best-in-class product for whatever reason, why wouldn't they just switch over to Onshape based on the same Parasolid kernel? (xDesign is based on CGM, which means there are bound to be issues converting old templates.)
So if xDesign is intended to attract new users, things are even worse than I thought, because at COFES I could not find one argument in favor of xDesign. And it's not just me, either! Most people talking about this informally share this opinion.
Spatial vs C3D Labs
Now that we've mentioned software components, let's switch gears. I suppose the biggest surprise during COFES (at least, for me) was the news that Linda Lokay is stepping down as general manager of Spatial. Linda is a prominent figure in the global CAD market, confirmed by receiving the Leadership Award at this year's COFES.
We may never know why she made the decision, but it's not hard to see a growing problem if you talk with Spatial solution users. The company's portfolio offers two geometric modeling kernels. The first of them is ACIS, written by Spatial, with a huge user database. The other is CGM, which is developed by Dassault, and was assigned by its parent company to Spatial to market it. We can't count for certain the number of CGM users, but I suspect there aren’t very many.
What is Spatial's strategy? If the company were independent, there would be no alternative to ACIS: hundreds of customers would bring in good revenue, and the main focus would be on them and developing the product to increase royalties.
But, what if we look at this issue from Dassault's perspective? This French company does not use ACIS, and so revenues from ACIS sales are likely lower than its own platform sales. (End-user products are always more profitable than components.) Plus it has CGM, which a great product, and its development is of crucial importance for Dassault's core business. Transitioning ACIS users to CGM will have a synergetic effect on kernel development and the development of the 3Dexperience platform ecosystem. The only question is: why would ACIS users need this?
Irrespective of future developments, uncertainty about Spatial may play into the hands of its competitors, primarily Siemens PLM and its Parasolid kernel. Apparently, Parasolid is already putting competitive pressure on ACIS, as now most often new influential CAD market players choose Parasolid. For example, OnShape and the even more innovative Sharp3D.
The C3D Labs team might also try to take advantage of this situation. For example, we entered the formerly exclusively ACIS domain as a second 3D kernel for Open Design Alliance's Teigha platform. NanoCAD Plus 10, which will be released very soon, will use our C3D kernel on an equal basis with ACIS in its 3D modeling component.
Oleg Zykov is CEO of C3D Labs.
"Disclaimer: As the CEO of С3D Labs, which specializes in the development of toolkits for the software engineering industry, everything written above is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the company. My opinion cannot be considered fully objective and impartial due to my primary activities."
This article was first posted at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/three-takeaways-from-cofes-2018-oleg-zykov/ and is reprinted with permission.
A reader asks,
At COFES [conference], a guy from McKinsey asked me, "Why would blockchain would have material value over a typical distributed database?" Blockchain is most valuable where the transactions are between parties where there is limited trust and where maintaining a potentially public ledger is beneficial.
To what extent is that the case in CAD design? What exactly would you put in the blockchain?
-- J. P.
There is an issue in CAD revolving around IP [intellectual property] protection. Right now, the solution provided by CAD vendors is a form of design simplification. This function strips out details that a sub-contractor or manufacturer does not need to see.
For example, when a sub-contractor is providing a part that connects to a car engine, the engine designer might strip out the details of the engine's internals, leaving only the connection points for the part -- be it electrical, hydraulic, or mechanical.
The drawback is that this process of simplifying the model takes an extra step, as well as deciding which elements to remove.
(An even worse method of IP protection is to send uneditable PDF files. However, CAD programs today increasingly import vector elements of PDF files for editing.)
If CAD vendors were to use blockchains instead, users could track the individual parts of a model throughout the sub-contracting and manufacturing steps. In theory, if someone were to steal the IP, it could be traced -- in theory. Whether this would work in practice, I do not know -- just as "uneditable" PDF files don't work in practice.
I have worked on a couple of legal cases as an expert consultant where DWG files were alleged to be stolen. Inside DWG files are a few properties that could help prove theft -- but not to the CAD-untrained eyes of lawyers. Integrating blockchain inside DWG and other CAD files would be proof sufficient for a court of law.
This would apply to both MCAD (manufacturing) and AEC (construction of buildings).
(For update, see end of this posting.)
When I last wrote about the Aurga remote camera controller (see https://www.worldcadaccess.com/blog/2018/06/aurga-remote-camera-controller.html) , it wasn't working. It would not connect to the camera. Aurga tech support promised me that a software update coming soon would fix the problem.
(Aurga is a remote controller that sits in the DLSR's hotshoe, connected to the camera with a USB cable. See figure 1. Their app runs on an Android or iOS device, with which you control the camera remotely via a local WiFi connection.)
The software update turned out to be for the Android app. (I had thought it would be a firmware update to the controller unit.) With the update, the app now connects to the controller, showing me information about the camera, in my case a Nikon D3100. The primary purpose of the app is to control the camera, such as changing settings (shutter speed, aperture, photographic modes) and taking pictures, such as in timelapse and multiple-image modes.
With the app working, I found that several remote functions don't work with the D3100, including the all-important live view. (See figure 2.) Live view is where the app shows on the Android screen what the camera lens is seeing. This one flaw dooms the Aurga. If you can't see remotely what the camera is seeing, then there is no point to the Aurga.
Not only would live view show the image being captures, but also the settings that affect it, such as how bright or dim the image is. There isn't even a non-live live view, such as a one-time static image updated, say, through a refresh mechanism.
A few other Aurga controls also do not work with the D3100.
The Aurga Web site does not list which functions work with which cameras, and so if you purchase a unit, you are gambling it will work as advertised. Unhappily, the site implies that all functions work with all cameras. (See figure 3.) The only hint of a problem is in the corporate blog, in which Aurga staff indicate that they are getting more functions to work on Sony DSLR cameras -- meaning not all functions work with Sonys, either.
I suspect the problem lies in which functions the camera manufacturer makes available via the USB connector, and so Aurga programmers have no control over which functions can be controlled by their app. This problem does not, however, absolve the company of failing to warn consumers of reduced functionality.
Aurga is not the only remote camera controllers on the market.
Update from Aurga
24 June 2018
Thanks for your detailed reviews. About the live view features. We are making a list for the functions like:1. Live View2. Change Mode3. Auto Focus4. Manual Focus5. Change Focus Area6. Bulb7. HDR8. Shooting9. Timelapse10. Focus Stacking (Base on Live view and manual focus)11. Video12. View Live ViewThe list is not finished yet. We are still confirming some models. For some old cameras like Nikon D80, D3000, D3100. They doesn’t support live view natively (on camera LED), Aurga doesn’t support too. Anyway, that is true we have to make the feature more completed on website.
On Twitter, DEVELOP3D co-founder Al Dean explains why it is a mistake for Autodesk to limit running its generative design software on a cloud service:
So here’s the thing with this. Autodesk’s Generative Design tools run in the cloud, its rationalization being that it needs parallel computation and it needs collaboration.
The issue is that this is going to restrict experimentation -- experimentation that’s vital in both an industrial and an educational context. (It’s unlikely to be made available in Fusion Educational licenses.)
There’s also the fact that Autodesk say they need to recoup the costs of that computation. That’s entirely their decision.
Autodesk’s Generative Design tools run on GPUs, specifically CUDA. GPUs are cheap. Folks could stack out a machine and do the computation on their own hardware -- as they do now for rendering and viz[ulization].
My personal belief is that it’s a huge error on Autodesk’s part, and one that I doubt they’ll correct any time soon. </rant>
As a reference point, all other CAD vendors to offer generative design do so via desktop software, proving that no cloud is needed. Generative design from Autodesk is available through Fusion 360 Ultimate. https://www.autodesk.com/products/fusion-360/compare#generative-design
For Canon, Nikon, and Sony DSLRs
I tend to ignore pleas from Kickstarter, but over the years two pleas did catch my fancy. One was the latest release from the makers of Myst, even though the new game took something like two years to deliver.
The other was more recent, a remote camera controller for DSLR [digital single lens reflex] cameras. It promised a host of functions, which you set from your smartphone, which then passes the commands to the camera through an attached controller. It was only $99 for an early supporter, so why not!
Unlike some other hardware startups on Kickstarter, this one actually shipped and arrived last week. It didn't work, but a firmware update is due soon, so we'll see.
What The Aurga Consists Of
It comes in four parts. (Very little of this explained on the company's Web site, so this can act as a user manual for you.)
Yellow (Battery): This largish black plastic part is basically the battery. It has a microUSB port in the side for charging, a red button on the back for turning it on and off, and four LEDS that report the battery level.
Underneath it has a hot shoe attachment for mounting on the camera's hot shoe, and on top a USB-A port for plugging in the controller.
Red (Controller): The main part is the controller, in silver and black. It plugs into the battery's USB-A port. It has a WiFi antenna for connecting with your smartphone, as well as the electronics for special effects.
On the side, there is a microSD slot for memory cards up to 256GB, and at the front a second USB-A port for connecting the USB cable. Photos can be stored on the camera, as usual, or on the memory card.
It actually has two LEDs that light up, one next to the WiFi logo, a second next to the globe logo. Aurga provides no explanation for the Globe LED; I wonder if it is meant for connecting to the Internet, so that the camera can be operated really remotely?
The controller can be used a card reader. If the photos end up on the microSD card, you can plug the controller into your computer's USB port and copy the photos over.
Green (USB Connection): The USB cable is for controlling the camera. One end connects to the controller, the other end to the camera's USB port.
This cable is included, but it was the wrong kind for me: Aurga supplied a microUSB cable, but my DSLR uses the older miniUSB connector.
The 4th part is the app running on your smartphone, as described later.
How It Works
In summary, you use the smartphone to tell the camera what to do:
I suppose you could use any 5v power source with a USB-A connector, should the included device run low. In fact, the Aurga does not even need to be mounted on the camera; it only needs to be connected to the camera by a USB cable.
Here is the process to set it up:
What It Does
The kinds of functions the controller can handle depend on the camera model. For instance, my Nikon D3100 apparently does not support live view in the smartphone, something the Aurga Web site does not state. (I say "apparently" because I haven't got the system working; I learned this from Aurga tech support.)
Here is what Aurga is supposed to do:
Much to my disappointment, Aurga isn't working for me. The smartphone is not making the connection with the camera, even after I tried the Aurga app with on different smartphone models with four different releases of Android.
I am working with tech support, and I will update this blog if the device does work.
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BTW, this is not the first remote assistant. Shutterbug describes Arsenal at https://www.shutterbug.com/content/arsenal-new-“intelligent-camera-assistant-promises-help-you-take-perfect-photo.
Now with international standards
While CAD software from USA and Europe gets a lot of free publicity from industry magazines, software from other parts of the world tends to be ignored -- Asia, Russia, Africa, and so on. There is, for instance, a thriving CAD software industry in Japan, but we don't know about it, because the user interfaces are Japanese and it is written to Japanese standards.
Software firms in Russia suffer the Japan problem: UIs written in Russian, and CAD written to Russian standards. Some firms are breaking out of the mold, such as C3D Labs (geometric kernels), LEDAS Group (consulting), and NanoSoft (CAD software).
Nanosoft last week released nanoCAD Mechanica 8.5 CAD software for preparing mechanical documentation but with a twist. It's available in English and it includes some international standards, including ISO and DIN. It comes with
More information from https://nanocad.com/products/mechanica/
People-free but in a bad way
As I tried to stay out of the 108F-degree heat of Phoenix earlier this week, I figured out why companies like Uber were testing driverless cars in this part of the world. The Phoenix region offers:
A pure driving environment unencumbered by the problems of the real world.
Take a look at the photo I took from the LRT transit stop in downtown Phoenix, at 1:30pm on a Tuesday afternoon, and notice what is missing. People.
The lack of pedestrians is a benefit to early driver-less car testing, as pedestrians are irrational, in particular by jay-walking, ignoring traffic signals, suddenly reversing their route, and wearing disguises like packages, shopping carts, and large flapping articles of clothing.
The lack of pedestrians is a drawback, as the software doesn't get to learn about them.
During the Siemens PLM Connection Americas 2018 conference, one of the keynote speeches was about a chip from newly-acquired Mentor that handles Level 5 automatic driving (fully independent of humans) but can be throttled back to Levels 4 and 3 (more human intervention needed). In particular, we saw how the system identifies pedestrians. This was supposed to be happy news from the keynote stage, and so the recent killing of a pedestrian by an Uber-operated autonomous Volvo wasn't mentioned.
By coincidence, Roopinder Tara yesterday summarized the details of the death, as determined by the US's National Transportation Safety Board. Read the article at https://www.engineering.com/Hardware/ArticleID/17054/Ubers-Self-Driving-Car-Had-6-Seconds-to-Respond-Before-Fatal-Crash-But-Got-Confused-Did-Nothing.aspx, although the headline says it all:
Uber’s Self-Driving Car Had 6 Seconds to Respond Before Fatal Crash, But Got Confused, Did Nothing
In brief, the Uber software could be set to Smooth (ignore objects in order to brake and swerve less) or Safe (avoid or stop for things that might not be a problem.) In this case, it was set to Smooth, and so ignored the bicycle-camouflaged jaywalker.
Software that performs semi- and fully-autonomous driving has been killing drivers as well, and most often by Tesla cars whose ceo has been championing the fight against AI that could kill us all.
It was in late 2014 when I received a press release regarding a new 3D printer aimed at children but being funded through Kickstarter. Aiming 3D printers at children had so far failed in the marketplace, as had the marketing war cry, "A 3D printer in every child's bedroom!"
Why target children? The less obvious answer is that the 3D printer can be less sophisticated (ie, cheaper to make), along with the more obvious hope that by snaring them young, the vendor gains a customer for life -- alway a dubious proposition.
I hung onto the press release, because I wanted to see if it would fail. It did, despite a flurry of positive press around the November 2014 announcement.
The company Web site today
Here is the press release in its entirety. I've left out the identifying names. (Emphasis mine.)
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THE 3D PRINTER BRINGS TOMORROW'S TECHNOLOGY INTO TODAY'S HOME
Family-friendly, Child-safe, Proven Technology at an Affordable Price!
3D printing, in the form of the revolutionary 3D Printer, is finally ready for prime time – not to mention play time and study time! Designed BY families FOR families, the 3D Printer aims to make an exciting new technology as commonplace and worry-free as a microwave oven. While not quite “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot”, the D Printer just might be the closest thing on Earth to home-based Star Trek tech.
Currently featured in a high-profile Kickstarter campaign, the 3D Printer is the first such featured device to offer a one-year warranty, FREE lifetime online education, and a family-friendly, child-safe design.
Though 3D printing technology has proven its worth time and time again in recent years, the majority of applications have been in industrial and commercial settings. The 3D Printer is the logical next step in the evolution of 3D printing, seamlessly incorporating this advanced technology into our daily lives by ensuring it's safe, simple to use, and affordable.
To that end, the R&D team behind the 3D Printer made safety a priority in all aspects of the design, beginning with the elegantly rounded, Polycarbonate-ABS injection molded case. There are no confusing and superfluous buttons or screens, no sharp edges or fiddly clamps, no hot plates or wayward lasers to burn tiny hands or damage inquisitive eyes. Instead, a large window illuminated by a cool-running white LED bulb showcases each and every 3D-printed creation as it comes into being, layer by paper-thin layer.
“Sure there are competitive products with flashy laser cutter attachments,” explains one of the Co-Founders behind the 3D Printer, “but as a parent do you really want that in your home? I don't know how many times my son has reached in for a part while it's printing. If that was a laser cutter he would not have a hand!”
The 3D Printer isn't just user-safe, it's environmentally-friendly too. The 3D printing process employs biodegradable print material derived from renewable resources such as corn starch and sugarcane. This material does NOT give off foul-smelling, toxic fumes when the printer is used, making it ideal for home or classroom use. Available in a rainbow of colors at a surprisingly low price, the material comes in the form of thin flexible filaments wound on spools for ease of storage.
The family-oriented team behind the 3D Printer strongly believes in the value of their “baby”; the fact they're offering a one-year warranty with every 3D Printer (no other price-competitive product on Kickstarter or otherwise offers this) means they're in this for the long haul.
The result of the Kickstarter campaign at the end of 2014
In addition, when you purchase a 3D Printer you also gain access to FREE on-line education for life. “We have learned so much along the way through this journey and want other families and kids to benefit,” states a Co-Founder of the company. “What we found frustrating, however, was that we could not find a good on-line educational resource that teaches how to use 3D printers, where to find and/or design images, and so on. Our goal is to create an on-line educational community of learning with training modules, instructional videos, projects for family, friends, kids, and school teachers.” You can't put a price on that kind of knowledge!
Both co-founders share the vision of bringing a learning package centered on the 3D printer into the classroom. It is their hope that teachers will take advantage of this amazing technology to further their learning experience in order to reach the diverse endpoints required in the Board of Education curriculum. For example, a learning module of the grade 4 science curriculum could be developed that exploits the capacities of the 3d printer, allowing students to actually make their own gears and pulleys. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, well then a working model is worth a million!” he explains. “There are many aspects of the curriculum where the 3D Printer could be used to further the learning process from biology to geometry and so much more,” according to him, “and if we are successfully funded in Kickstarter these are the types of things we would do.”
The 3D Printer lists for $799.99 at the company website but in concert with the Kickstarter campaign running until the end of 2014, purchasers can take advantage of a host of special, value-added discounts: the Early Bird at $649, the Kickstarter Special at $699, and the value-infused Kickstarter Bundle that features a trio of 3D Printers plus three spools of printing filament for just $1,999!
For more information on the revolutionary, groundbreaking, family-friendly 3D Printer, please visit the home page and the Kickstarter campaign page .
ABOUT 3D Printer
3D Printer was co-founded by several families inspired by the wealth of opportunities offered by the amazing new world of 3D printing. We believe an affordable, easy to use, and child-safe 3D printer such as 3D Printer should be available to ALL families and should be a vital component of every home and classroom. Our founders have successfully launched new products in Canada and have expertise in product development and fulfilment while our team includes skilled engineers who have spent many years designing and making 3D printers and software.
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The company Web site is down, but its Twitter account is still active, with the last tweet on April 2015. The jurisdictional government reports that the corporation is still "Active" but has "Dissolution Pending" due to "Non-compliance," which I probably is due to failing to file annual reports and so on.
Maybe not so many
In past conference calls, Autodesk liked to trot out the number of pirate users -- 12 million! -- as a sign of the huge upside to forcing its customers onto subscriptions. After all, 12 million as a number is a lot bigger than 2 million -- which is the actual number of customers on permanent licenses that have so far refused to switch. And who knows how accurate the 12 million number is, given Autodesk ceo Andrew Anagnost's statement, "Pirates don’t declare themselves at the door."
The implication was that Autodesk would have within a few years (perhaps as soon as 2020) another 14 million customers paying it a couple of thousand dollars a year. Do the math, and you would have a $28 billion-dollar-a-year company, about 14x larger revenues than today. Not so.
In last week's conference call, Autodesk moderated its earlier claim. Here's what Mr Anagnost says now about converting pirates to his vision:
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I sometimes feel like everybody expects like some quarter I’m going to declare 50,000 net subscriber adds for piracy in the score. You might be waiting a long time to hear that declaration.
This move (with regard to how we address non-paying users in our market) is an ongoing process, basically keeping the run-rate at a relatively nice clip, quarter after quarter after quarter -- well beyond even the FY 2020 goal [when all maintenance subscribers are supposed to be on the new subscription plan]. That’s what some of the companies that have engaged in this, like Adobe and Microsoft, have seen: [converting pirates] has been an ongoing return to the business.
So we have done some new things this quarter:
But there’s no headline around how piracy gets added into our business. It’s going to be one of these thing that actually maintains the business as we move forward.
And like I said many times before, pirates don’t declare themselves at the door.
Autodesk ceo Andrew Anagnost describes where he hopes the company will arrive in five years, BIM-wise.
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Our cloud products have become an integral selling point for our EBA [enterprise] customers and usage within our EBA customer base has really taken off. For example, in Q1 [Feb-Apr, 2018], just over half of the monthly active users for BIM 360 were in EBA accounts. This really validates our relevancy at the top of the general contractor market, which is where we focused initially.
From High-end to Mid-market
That success is a strong foundation to build on and we’re now leveraging it in the mid-market contractors.
For example, Miron Construction, an U.S.-based construction company, is deploying some of the most advanced technology available in the construction industry. They use the new BIM 360 project delivery platform to process a change to their building project that [used to add] up to 70 design documents and the potential to add almost $1 million in project costs.
The 70 documents needed review by everyone in the project, which would have taken hundreds of hours to resolve to manual processes with their old digital document management software. But Miron resolve the issue in just a fraction of that time with BIM 360. The project manager also found several additional issues, which never would have been caught with their old document management tool. Now that’s real value delivered on real projects.
The Five-year Plan
...we expect in five years, Autodesk will have moved the building information model across the entire construction process from start to finish.
BIM will become the record of everything it is happening from design to pre-fabrication, to on-site assembly into the final handover of the building to its owner. BIM will become the single source of truth across the full spectrum of design and make processes.
...we intend to go deep on the entire process, just like what’s happened in manufacturing where the model has become the record of the entire process. That’s what’s going to happen in the construction space as well. So we intend to touch every piece of that process.
We’ll do some of that organically with internal development; we’ll do some of that inorganically. But we intend to touch just about every part of that process. We’ll probably stay clear of the ERP [enterprise resource planning] side of the business. But every other part of it -- from pre-construction all the way to field operations -- we’re going to be involved.
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