Spatial Releases New 3D Software Components
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Spatial Releases New 3D Software Components

Spatial Corp., a provider of 3D software components, announced the availability of the R17 release of its entire component portfolio, which includes the pervasive 3D ACIS Modeler and its extensions, and the industry-leading 3D InterOp CAD translators.

As with each Spatial release, the enhancements in R17 are driven strictly by customer feedback and Spatial's industry research. Years ago, Spatial made a commitment to be a component company with no end-user products, so that, unlike other component providers, it doesn't have to split its loyalties and product development priorities between internal requirements and those of its external customers.

"Spatial always looks over the horizon to see how we can better fulfill the requirements and expectations of traditional customers as well as breakaway technologies," said Keith Mountain, CEO of Spatial. "Our ongoing dedication to our partners' success, demonstrated both in the quality and functionality of our products and the attentive care of our services and sales team, is providing the foundation for our customer's innovation and our business growth."

The following enhancements are included in the R17 release:


Assembly Modeling

ACIS now supports Assembly Modeling as well as Part Modeling. A complex feature that is usually developed by ISVs, the inclusion of Assembly Modeling in ACIS substantially reduces time-to-market and saves programming resources.

Reduced Memory Consumption
Improvements to ACIS' internal data storage reduces memory usage in run time up to 30%. The resulting additional memory capacity enables applications to run larger part models.

Memory Minimization
Developers can use this feature to selectively page ACIS data, effectively expanding the addressable virtual memory.

Three Entity Blend

New blend type added which creates a variable-radius fillet surface that is tangent to three faces.

Capping and Mitering
Greater capability to create blends with larger radiuses thanks to improved capping and mitering algorithms.

Tolerant Modeling
Intersector and Boolean enhancements significantly improve how ACIS can operate with imported and approximated geometry and optimize it to be tolerant. This allows the application to increase its efficiency by feeding more information to the modeler.

Local Operations
Non-Manifold Stitching

A new stitching interface has been optimized for tool and die creation workflows.

By enhancing the point-in-face test algorithm ACIS enables CMM/Metrology applications to speed evaluation of inspection data, on the order of a 10% to 50x increase.

Windows VISTA Support
R17 introduces the support for ACIS on Microsoft® Windows VistaTM operating system.


New 64-bit translators for Windows IGES Assembly Support
The IGES translator now supports translation of assembly and product structure into and out of IGES.

Connect SDK Translators

R17 introduces the capability to translate to and from proprietary CAD systems using InterOp Plug-in architecture. This InterOp Plug-in architecture will allow customers to expand the capabilities of InterOp beyond the CAD file formats currently supported by InterOp.

Windows VISTA Support

R17 introduces the support for InterOp on Microsoft Windows Vista operating system.

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

While I’m fairly sure that most of our readers already know this, the ACIS Modeler is a 3D modeling kernel (or engine, if you will) developed and marketed by Spatial Corp. (formerly Spatial Technology), and is a software component set with an interesting history. As it has been since the beginning, ACIS is used by many software developers serving a wide variety of technical markets, such as CAD, CAM, CAE, AEC, and 3D animation. In a nutshell, ACIS is the technology that provides the underlying functionality for creating, manipulating, and visualizing 3D models.

ACIS is based on an object-oriented C++ architecture that enables its 3D modeling capabilities. ACIS is used to construct applications with hybrid modeling features, since it integrates wireframe model, surface, and solid modeling functionality with a comprehensive set of geometric operations.

As a geometric kernel, ACIS, along with its main competitor, Parasolid (owned by UGS), are considered second-generation systems, coming after the first geometric engine – the Romulus b-rep solid modeler. It was first released in 1982 by Ian Braid and Charles Lang from a company called Shape Data. Romulus incorporated the CAM-I AIS (Computer Aided Manufacturers International's Application Interface Specification) and was the only solid modeler (other than its successors Parasolid and ACIS) to offer a third-party standard API for high-level integration into CAD software developed by other parties.

In 1985 Lang and Braid formed Three-Space Ltd. which had been hired by Dick Sowar's Spatial Technology to develop the ACIS solid modeling kernel for Spatial Technology's Strata CAM software. The first version of ACIS was released in 1989 and was licensed by HP for its ME CAD software.

In the industry there are several stories about what the word “ACIS” actually stands for, if anything, or whether it is even an acronym at all. Over the years I’ve found that the most widely accepted explanation is that ACIS stands for Alan, Charles, Ian's System (Alan Grayer, Charles Lang, and Ian Braid); or Alan, Charles, Ian, and Spatial. In any event, ACIS stuck and is still the moniker today, whatever it means.

In the beginning, ACIS prided itself on the fact that its file format was open and could be explored inside and out. That all changed, however in 2000, when Spatial was acquired by Dassault Systemes – the ACIS file format changed and since then is no longer openly published.

By definition, ACIS is a software component — a collection of software functions that serve a specific purpose. A component serves as a constituent part of a bigger software system or product of one or more software components that are assembled together and sold as a package. Components are also versatile because they can be added, subtracted, and arranged in different combinations for creating different products.

The ACIS product line is designed such that it allows an application to use only the components it requires to perform given functions. In some cases, more than one component is available for a given purpose, so application developers can choose and use the components that best meet their needs.

ACIS core functionality can be broken out into three main categories: The ACIS modeler has some extensions that include an interactive sculpting tool for shaping 3D models, and a defeaturing tool that automatically identifies and removes small features that CAE analysts typically want to eliminate from a 3D model prior to meshing. Also, the 3D ACIS PHL V5 is a hidden line removal (HLR) tool based on CATIA V5 technology. Hidden line removal is an important aspect of creating accurate 2D representations from 3D models.

ACIS saves modeling information to external files which have an open format allowing external applications, even those not based on ACIS, access to the ACIS geometric model. ACIS supports two kinds of save files, Standard ACIS Text (SAT), and Standard ACIS Binary (SAB). The two formats store identical information, and SAT files are ASCII text files that may be viewed with a simple text editor.

Even though it seems like more and more MCAD companies are creating and maintaining their own geometric modeling kernels, Spatial continues to attract new customers for its 3D technologies. As testimony to this, recently, Spatial announced newcomer SpaceClaim Corp.'s inclusion of Spatial 3D components in its SpaceClaim Professional 2007 product. SpaceClaim says it made its decision after thorough testing and product evaluations of the other commercially available geometric modeling products.

I have to say that the choice of geometric kernel was a bit more than pure chance or coincidence. Mike Payne who is the current CEO at SpaceClaim was formerly the head man at Spatial. That little tidbit, however, does not diminish the significance of a major new customer for Spatial and the technology that SpaceClaim received.

SpaceClaim is using several pieces of Spatial's product portfolio, including: With the advent of R17 of Spatial’s software components, and the fact that it continues to attract new customers bodes well for the company, its technologies, as well as its customers, and ultimately, MCAD end users.

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.

ICEM Shape Design R17 Released
ICEM Ltd. announced that ICEM Shape Design (ISD) R17 is shipping worldwide. ISD R17 provides a range of tools for the creation, validation, and modification of any type of surface, from freeform surfaces to complex mechanical shapes. Developed by ICEM on the Dassault Systèmes CAA V5 software architecture it integrates seamlessly with CATIA V5 and other CAAV5-based PLM environments. ISD R17 is available as a “collaborative” installation where access is available to all licensed CATIA V5 products or standalone where no CATIA V5 software is required. ISD R17 delivers new functionality in geometry creation, modification and quality analysis in addition to enhancements ensuring high quality and advanced surfacing options.

Electric Car Maker Turns to Solidworks
Green cars are tame cars, right? Well, the Tango – an all-electric two-seater sprints from 0-60 in four seconds - debunks that myth. Now being redesigned and refined in SolidWorks, the Tango travels two abreast in a lane, and, at 39 inches wide, can park four to a space. Commuter Cars of Spokane, Wash., outsourced the initial Tango design to an engineering firm that used a hodgepodge of CAD software and handed over a set of files that, while well-engineered, were a disorganized mess, according to President Rick Woodbury. Woodbury and his mechanical engineer used SolidWorks to converge scattered part files in smoothly operating assemblies and to optimize Tango systems like the high-performance suspension, NASCAR-grade roll cage, and stabilizing ballast. Commuter Cars manufactures Tangos to order for $108,000 to $148,000 depending on battery options and plans to ramp up volume-production as soon as the required funding is available.

Noran Engineering and UGS Expand CAE Relationship
Noran Engineering, Inc. (NEi) announced that it is expanding its business relationship with UGS Corp. NEi's status will change from OEM Supplier to full UGS Channel Partner. The change means NEi will market, sell, distribute, support, and service UGS' portfolio of engineering software used for computer-aided analysis and simulation, for example, Femap from the UGS Velocity Series and NX Nastran software. NEi previously distributed Femap though an OEM agreement under the brand name NEiModeler. The announcement further solidifies the long standing distribution arrangement between the two companies and sets the stage for new initiatives on collaborative efforts to further develop and promote Femap as a pre- and post-processing tool in the FEA market.

Defense Manufacturer Selects IFS Applications for PLM
IFS has received an order for IFS Applications from Saab Microwave Systems for the delivery of business applications for PLM. The applications will be used to create a foundation for developing a more agile and efficient integrated flow of processes to manage product development, manufacturing, and after sales. The order also includes components for product data management and document management. The vision is to develop a common product model for organizing product data whereby the users take responsibility for and maintain the information they produce, from concept to after sales. The product model integrates data and information from processes such as software, electronic and mechanical engineering, as well as purchasing, manufacturing, and quality control, which means that different user categories can share product information in a controlled manner. IFS Applications will replace several of Saab Microwave Systems' existing solutions for a common product model and will go live in September 2007.

Honda Racing to Develop 2008 F1 Car With Help From IBM

IBM announced that the Honda Racing F1 Team will develop and manufacture its 2008 Formula One car with the help of IBM software and services based on Dassault Systèmes' CATIA and ENOVIA VPLM, with infrastructure support from IBM Product Lifecycle Management solutions, including WebSphere Application Server and IBM Rational Rose Data Modeler. Over the last year, a team of IBM project management and technical services specialists worked together with the Honda Racing F1 team to assess and evaluate the company's requirements before implementing the solution. The solution also includes Geometric Solutions' xPDM gateway to integrate ENOVIA VPLM with legacy Teamcenter PDM environments, in the process enabling the Honda Racing F1 Team to rapidly replace their existing systems with minimal disruption to their business processes.

Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at Email Contact or 719.539.8549.

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