3D software took center stage at Cyon Research's Congress on the Future of Engineering Software (COFES), April 20-23 in Scottsdale, AZ.
Demonstrations of the tool's latest capabilities and several analyst updates on the status of hardware, such as displays and display drivers that directly impact 3D, indicate accelerated acceptance for the use of 3D.
CubicEye's relaunched 3D platform for online Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) incorporates both 2D surfaces and a 3D space. Users can edit in either the 2D or 3D layout and the CubicEye platform transfers the information to other views. Based on single or multiple cubes, navigation and interaction capability is easily performed on the surfaces of the 3D cube or the 2D walls that surround the cube. The software provides an easy way to develop and visualize architectural structures, brochures and even virtual environments for games.
Dassault Systemes representatives, in partnership with IBM, discussed several of their 3D tools for PLM, including CATIA for digital product definition and simulation. To fulfill its vision of "3D for All," a free 3D XML download is available from Dassault's website. Designed specifically for 3D data, 3D XML allows developers to create documents by using a language based on XML (eXtensible Mark-up Language), a specification developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Adobe's Ken Anderson brought out aspects of Adobe's 3D desktop and server approach to manufacturing workflow. The software provides the ability to provide notes and readily identify critical portions of a design for project documentation and view the entire assembly and subassemblies. Acrobat 3D has allow/disallow security protection for documents. This is important to document for certification and to protect intellectual property. With the global acceptance of Adobe Acrobat, this advanced software moves 3D documentation into a different dimension.
Perhaps the most impressive 3D demonstration was by Infinite Z and it falls into the future category since it is not scheduled to be available until 2007. Based on the demo, the software is worth waiting for. The user-interactive 3D demo showed several possible uses including a medical application where the doctor could focus on a specific location and rotate the file to see exactly what kind of damage exists at a broken bone including the debris that needs to be removed. The software has handheld tools such as a magnifying glass, scalpel or screwdriver to manipulate the images in 3D stereoscopic and holographic views (using polarized glasses).
For anyone who doubts the viability and direction that 3D software-to-product technology is going, Terry Wohlers' discussion and examples provided a striking demonstration of existing capability in plastic, as well as metals. For nylon materials, Wohlers notes that today companies have a choice in how they proceed.
"Anything you can model on a computer can be built," claims Wohlers. For example, Z Corp has the rapid prototype capability to manufacturer production-quality large plastic parts directly from digital data. These design options portend significant changes in the future. "It opens up all sorts of design freedoms," says Wohlers.