Let’s critique AutoCAD’s parametric constraints

One of the big-ticket features of AutoCAD 2010 was parametric constraints. This was old hat for many applications, even some based on AutoCAD like Mechanical Desktop. Parametrics and constraints already existed in vanilla AutoCAD in the guise of dynamic blocks, but this was the first time ordinary AutoCAD allowed ordinary AutoCAD objects to be constrained and linked to parametric dimensions. Contraints mean that you can draw some objects and tell them that they are only allowed to behave in certain ways. For example, two lines have to remain parallel to each other. Parametrics mean that objects can be tied to special dimensions such that the dimensions drive the objects, not the other way round. How good a job has Autodesk done with creating and improving this feature in AutoCAD? Has Autodesk done its usual trick of releasing a half-baked feature and then ignoring it to death? In one vital respect, the answer is a resounding yes. AutoCAD’s parametric constraints can only be applied to 2D objects. Draw a shape using a polyline, apply constraints and parameters, and adjust them to make things work properly and appear correctly. Now extrude the polyline to convert it to a 3D solid. Your carefully applied constraints and dimensions are instantly exterminated. This was a huge and obvious hole in the feature when it was introduced, but on the fourth iteration of this feature in AutoCAD 2013, that gaping hole remains resolutely unfilled. I guess Autodesk is keeping AutoCAD’s parametrics in this flattened state in order to protect Inventor from internal competition. This 3D failing is very obvious, but I’m interested in more subtle aspects than that. As my experience with parametrics in other applications is limited, I’d like to encourage you to provide us all with the benefit of your knowledge. How does the AutoCAD 2013 implementation compare…

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3DConnexion device support in AutoCAD

Do you have a 3DConnexion device (3D ‘mouse’) and use it in AutoCAD or AutoCAD-based products? What do you think of the way it works in the most recent releases of AutoCAD? From AutoCAD 2011 on, Autodesk provided built-in support for these devices. Has that made things better or worse than in earlier releases? If you’re having problems, exactly what are they and how does it affect your ability to work with AutoCAD in 3D? Is the 2012 support any better than 2011? How does AutoCAD’s support for these devices compare with that of other products?

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Siemens 0, Autodesk (April) 1

Personally, I find most April fool jokes to be pretty lame. I considered doing one myself, and had what I thought was a pretty convincing idea, but finally decided against it. Maybe next year. This year, there was one definite exception to the lameness rule. It was well set up, clever and funny. Siemens killed it. Or, to be more accurate, they foolishly attempted to kill it. Fortunately, the Twitter CADville app is still alive and even now being tended by somebody with a fine sense of humour, as you can see from tweets like this: Sometimes you will see duplicate messages. That can happen after downtime. You want better, write your own CADville #cadville. Sometimes, the cloud is a big server farm. Othertimes, is a crappy laptop that needs to go to the programmer’s girlfriends house. Back in 1h Once Siemens pulled Mark Burhop’s corporate blog post, in an attempt to protect Mark, Deelip removed his own related post (edit: now restored). But the very idea that you can hide stuff like this once it has been blogged about is plainly ludicrous. Returning wine to a shattered bottle would be much easier. Ralph describes the CADville story here, you can also see it on Twitpic here, and the original FAQ has been reposted here. Now I’m posting about it on a blog that gets about 90,000 page reads a month. I expect there will be a fair bit of comment buzzing around the CAD community for a while, none of which will reflect well on Siemens. If this gag had been left to run, I would have either not heard about it at all, or would have noticed it as a funny little episode that showed how cool it was that Siemens doesn’t fit the ‘humourless German’ stereotype. The…

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Carl Bass on TV

Autodesk big cheese Carl Bass gets a friendly interview on NBC’s Press:Here (amusing name, “press colon here”). It’s kind of funny seeing CAD described by non-CAD people (the presenters, not Carl). Among other things, he discusses being fired by Carol Bartz, Autodesk’s role in Avatar, the benefits of piracy, iPhones, 3D printing, open source and Autodesk being green. I’ve embedded the two Bassy bits here for convenience; these embeds will display ads that are not under my control. Edit: I’ve removed the embedded clips as they were slowing down this whole site for some users and even disabling some features. If you want to view the interview, please go to Press:Here and look at Episode 46 Autodesk Part 1 and Episode 46 Autodesk Part 2.

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Open Letter to James Cameron

James, you don’t know me, but I see you have been getting involved in CAD events lately, which is my area of interest. Autodesk University 2009 attendees got a sneak preview of Avatar and you were a key speaker at Solidworks World 2010. I absolutely loved Avatar. It’s the only film I’ve ever seen where I immediately wanted to watch it again. Yes, it’s possible to poke holes in the plot, but that applies to 99% of films and anyway, this film isn’t about the plot, is it? It’s about the breathtaking visuals. I was dreaming about Pandora for days afterwards; good job. I grew up in the 70s with the music of Yes and the artwork of Roger Dean. That the visuals of Pandora are based on Roger’s artwork is undeniable, and the film benefits immeasurably from the floating mountains, spectacular arches, dragons and even skin patterns that are so obviously lifted from Roger’s work. Why then, when I stayed to watch the credits at the end of the film, did I not see Roger Dean credited? I understand that Roger has received no monetary credit for his contributions, either. James, you know the right thing to do. Please do it. Otherwise, instead of thinking of you as the guy behind the most visually impressive film ever, I’ll think of you as the jerk who ripped off Roger Dean. Over to you.

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Guillermo Melantoni’s 3D blog

What a Mesh is another new Autodesk blog, this time from Autodesk 3D guru Guillermo Melantoni. You may remember Guillermo mentioning his forthcoming blog in my A gaggle of geeks video, and now it has arrived. You can also see Guillermo in action in several videos about AutoCAD 2010’s new 3D mesh capabilities on AutoCAD Exchange. Guillermo is very, very smart, he expertly uses the products he develops (the building on the AutoCAD 2010 packaging was done by him), and it’s great to see him interacting with users in this way.

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