Are you itching to do some real design work on your iPad? For all the hoopla over the tablet form factor being a replacement for laptops, I'm still not convinced it will ever be the go-to platform for complex parametric-based modeling. Yet, while there are surely signs that mobile apps seem destined to change the way engineers work, for now the primary focus is on visualization and collaboration.
IMSI/Design is the latest to dish up an app supposedly built from scratch for the iPad, meaning it should deliver more functionality than mere iPad display candy. TurboViewer, available in the App Store for free, lets users quickly view native 3D DWG files (both AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT), in addition to native 2D files. The app leverages the iPad's multi-touch navigation for panning, zooming, and orbiting functions. There's also an autosense capability to determine whether something is a 2D or 3D drawing or model, so the appropriate gesture navigation is automatically set.
IMSI/Design is differentiating its new app as being "built from the ground up for the iPad," and for its fast viewing capabilities. Both functions, it says, separate TurboViewer from other 2D and 3D viewers in the App Store.
So, what else is out there in the way of 2D/3D CAD apps? Autodesk made a big splash late last year with its AutoCAD WS collaboration and viewing tool. AutoCAD WS lets AutoCAD users view, edit, and share design and DWG files through a Web browser or a mobile device -- including the iPhone, iPad, and, just more recently, Android devices -- without requiring collaborators to have a full-blown version of the software. For 3D viewing, Autodesk offers Inventor Publisher Mobile Viewer, which supports the viewing of animated 3D assembly instructions on an iPhone or iPad created by Inventor Publisher.
Dassault Systemes also addresses 3D-model viewing with 3DVIA Mobile HD, a $4.99 app that lets users view the thousands of 3D models uploaded to 3DVIA.com. Robert McNeel & Associates offers iRhino 3D, a $3.99 app for viewing native Rhino 3DM files on your iPad or iPhone. Let's not forget newcomer CadFaster, which in February announced CadFaster/Collaborate, a real-time annotation and co-viewing tool for 3D CAD models for the iPad and iPhone that works with SolidWorks, among other design tool packages.
Most of the viewing apps serve the purpose of allowing collaborators to conduct design reviews from wherever they are, or to use the highly-visual capabilities of the iPad to show customers early designs in progress. While definitely useful in terms of boosting the productivity factor of engineers, these apps are hardly game-changers.