Not only is the design world changing fast for software developers, but mechanical and hardware design is still seeing impressive innovations as the platform zSpace demonstrates. The zSpace holographic design system connects to a Windows desktop to give CAD models a virtual third dimension. The system is composed of a 24-inch HD LCD stereoscopic display with two tracking sensors that monitor the movement of a laser stylus that is marked with infrared LEDs. With special glasses, developers can see their designs pop out of the screen in full color in HD and manipulate them, in space, using the stylus.
zSpace can be used to create 3D designs with Autodesk Maya or students can use it to study models of biological organism and endless other possibilities. The stylus has three buttons that can facilitate the design process and manipulation of the model. An SDK is also available.
These more intuitive and ergonomic control interfaces are just part of a movement that will lead to the next phase in the development of CAD. Despite the impressive and sophisticated control interfaces available in the commercial market, users must still rely on top-of-the-line processors to use and learn high-end CAD packages. There are now programs that allow you to access, edit, and transfer designs using computer systems that are not conventionally used for CAD: smartphones and tablets.
AutoCAD WS offers applications for iOS, OSX, and Android that allow the user to open DWG and DXF files on their handheld devices. Files can be edited or made using simple drawing functions, snap functions, and adding text. Models can be viewed under different modes and they can be shared with collaborators via the cloud. The service can also be accessed via IE, Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, or on any desktop or laptop.
Even more impressive than doing computer-aided design on handhelds is doing the designing straight through the cloud, sparing your computers processor from too much heavy lifting. Autodesk Fusion 360 will offer this service when it is available later this year. Designs and models will be shared, opened, and edited using processors in servers -- in other words -- the cloud.
These systems continue to be simplified in order to accommodate for wider user audiences. A system like Autodesk Fusion 360 will make CAD accessible like never before because users can become members to the service, paying only monthly fees, instead of a hefty one-time price.
Apart from a simplified tool set, and advanced modeling techniques like organic modeling using T-splines, users can communicate with each other in a community hub to brainstorm, troubleshoot, and learn from fellow developers and designers. The Autodesk Fusion 360 is an app that is downloaded but communicates CAD processes to a server in the cloud. The app, which is nearing the end of Beta testing, runs on Mac and Windows and is around 200 MB. It should be available sometime this year. If the cloud catches on, there is no telling how it will lead to the next CAD revolution.