Live on the desktop
The Open Design Alliance held its annual conference this year online again, and during it attendees asked questions, which I reproduce here. You can watch the replay of the event at youtube.com/watch?v=6P93f4IVZJA&t=3266s. A few days later, I interviewed ODA president Neil Peterson. Here are the two Q&As.
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Q: Will we be able to join [two or more] IFC [industry foundation classes] models in order to have a [single] federated IFC model?
A: Federated models are planned for later this year.
Q: Does the Scan-To-BIM roadmap includes the generation of cloud points using photogrammetry?
A: Not for now. Point clouds is the first step we start with. Point cloud generation is a separate task.
Q: Can I get the coordinates of the cloud with the DWG Trace feature?
A: We do not have this in our near future plans, but in general we plan to implement this feature, as it should be very useful enhancement for our members.
Q: When will the BimRV .net SDK for Visual Studio 2022 be available?
A: For our existing members, we can prepare the archive by request. Please write me [email protected] for more details.
Neil Peterson Interview
Ralph Grabowski: The ODA is talking about providing 100 years of support for some formats, such as DWG and PDF. When did the 100 years start, and when do they end?
Neil Peterson: It is an intention, not a fixed 100-year period. The goal is to keep the organization going for 100 to 200 years. We can only be shut down if members decide it; we cannot be acquired; we cannot be shut down by consolidation. We are safer long-term for customers.
The funds we collect [from members] are not sent off for unrelated purposes, 85% goes back into development.
Grabowski: So you could say your R&D is 85%.
Peterson: That’s right.
Grabowski: Have any CAD vendors taken up your offer to maintain their proprietary formats for a hundred years?
Peterson: Vendors are primarily interested in interoperability with competitors, not the longevity of their own formats.
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Grabowski: Tell me about the new SIG [special interest group] that’s writing translators for proprietary mechanical CAD formats like Solidworks and Inventor.
Peterson: We are getting interest in it, and plan to start next year.
Grabowski: You would be competing with for-profit MCAD translation firms.
Peterson: Our members are not happy with them, as licensing is opaque and expensive. The company writing them might get bought out and shut down. We would provide more security as members can get the source code from us.
Grabowski: Are you working with any data translation companies on this project?
Peterson: We are not working with translation companies. We tried to, but none would agree to the ODA’s terms.
Grabowski: This seems like a tough job, as proprietary MCAD formats seem to me to be very complex.
Peterson: It might take a few years to get up and running, but the project is not as complicated as DWG. We are looking only to read and visualize data and objects, not looking to write. Members can write to an open format like STEP [standard for the exchange of product data].
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Grabowski: You also announced a new constraints engine for DWG.
Peterson: We integrated it into our DWG API [applications programming interface].
Grabowski: Who wrote it?
Peterson: We wrote it. It is currently in beta. It will be added to Revit for entity creation, and become a stand-alone library next year.
Grabowski: One of the problems with advanced functions developed by non-Autodesk companies for DWG is that most times the functions don’t work when opened in AutoCAD. Is the new constraints engine compatible with AutoCAD?
Peterson: Yes. Just like our updated drawing generation is compatible with AutoCAD; Autodesk stores Inventor data in the DWG file, and we had to replicate that.
Grabowski: I think that Autodesk’s patent on dynamic blocks expires this year or so. A built-in constraints engine means ODA could offer dynamic blocks.
Peterson: I prefer not to talk about it.
Grabowski: There was some controversy over Autodesk joining the ODA.
Peterson: Autodesk has access to our IFC libraries and other open formats, including STEP.
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Grabowski: Speaking of STEP, what is happening there?
Peterson: Our support for it has the potential to broaden our member base. We released the STEP SDK [software development kit], we are working on an open STEP library, and will release an open STEP viewer in December for free that includes validation of STEP models. There is no comparable tool.
Our IFC viewer is popular, and works as marketing for ODA, as we does not have a large budget for that. Thirty percent of our [1,200] members use IFC. We are working on point cloud visualization in Web browsers, and plan to have one viewer for all supported file formats, including point clouds.
Grabowski: Scan-to-BIM is also a new project.
Peterson: We are still at an early stage. We started in January, and can convert point clouds to surfaces so far.
Grabowski: Are you using technology from other companies, such as ODA members who have already been working on it?
Peterson: We are doing it on our own, starting from scratch. We have eleven companies funding the work. With the Revit work, we started with five, we’re now up to 85 in the SIG.