Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas presents - utilities by CAD Studio

For the nineth time, like all the years before, CAD Studio gives out a couple of free useful CAD tools as Christmas presents for all CAD users. As a part of this tradition, this year's Christmas-tree utilities are the following:

  • GeoRefImg - automatic positioning, scaling and rotating of georeferenced raster images in AutoCAD, including export of World files - you can work with aerials in plain AutoCAD
  • Floor legend for Revit generates automatic legends for floor structures (see the video)
  • Lay2Dwg exports drawing layers to individual DWG files (one DWG per layer), now with drawing name prefix
  • AttApp adds a given number (numeric-wise) or prefix/suffix (string-wise) to the selected block attributes in AutoCAD
  • DynFrame frames selected AutoCAD texts by a dynamic frame (by chynging them to MLeaders) - the frame will follow future editing of the texts
  • CreateInterference - a VBA macro that creates a true collision solid of any 3D interference of parts in an Inventor assembly
  • Csv2Table imports CSV files (Excel) directly to AutoCAD tables (creates tables from comma-delimited files)
  • SlopeTick draws batter lines on AutoCAD polylines (slope hatch)
  • Sol2Mesh and Sol2Faces convert AutoCAD 3D solids to 3D meshes (surfaces) or to individual 3D faces
  • TwittControl makes use of the ACADtweet tool to remotely control AutoCAD over Twitter (see the video)
  • TRANS - translation of drawing texts in AutoCAD - you can use the manual or automatic (Bing) translation even in the trial version of this tool
All these new applications (plus many others) can be downloaded from our web sites and

Monday, December 5, 2011

Make your AutoCAD listen to commands sent via Twitter

Well, I admit there is only a limited practical use for such scenarios but this can be used as a proof of concept or as an inspiration for similar applications.

Our ACADtweet add-on tool is a general-use Twitter interface for AutoCAD. Built upon this interface, TwittControl is an AutoCAD LISP utility that listens on a specified Twitter feed and performs all commands submitted on this feed as specifically formatted tweets. So you can tweet your AutoCAD e.g. "_CIRCLE 0,0 100;" to draw a circle at the origin point. See more samples in the @ACcontrol1 feed.

Both ACADtweet and TwittControl are free tools (downloadable from so you can test it in your drawing environment. Load both tools and start the TwittControl command. AutoCAD enters an infinite "listen" loop waiting for any tweets on the specified Twitter channel.

See more information in the tip Control your AutoCAD remotely and in the sample video:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unique stage system handles even a hippo standing on one leg

One of the CAD Studio's customers - Bosch Rexroth - uses Autodesk Inventor and Vault software for new business opportunities in new markets.

The Systems & Engineering division of Bosch Rexroth, responsible for theatre stage systems business, has recently completed projects for theatres in Martin, Slovakia, and Krakow, Poland, together with an extensive implementation of a stage system for the state circus in Minsk, Belarus – all with the help of Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Vault data management software.

As part of the Minsk project, Bosch Rexroth engineers designed and installed a system that can change arena floors automatically and within a few minutes. For example, the arena floor can be changed from a stage for animals to synthetic ice to a dancing surface with lights. This complex system is built on a “jukebox” container, where individual floors are positioned above each other and slide in and out with the help of a hydraulic engine supported by four hydraulic cylinders. The container, including 70,000 individual parts, is automatically controlled from the central panel at the touch of a button.

“Autodesk Inventor is an outstanding tool enabling us to design directly in a 3D environment,” said Petr Suchomel, stage technology designer in the Systems & Engineering division, Bosch Rexroth Czech Republic. “Visualized and animated output from Inventor software, based on the real environment of the circus building and presumed load, played a key role in enabling us to convince our customer that the proposed solution was the best possible option. Thanks to the realistically created digital prototype, we hardly had to amend anything in the model before the construction was finished. This eliminated additional costs associated with potential reworks.”

Digital Prototyping with Autodesk Inventor

Bosch Rexroth designers faced several major challenges during the design process on the Minsk project. First, they had to take into account the weight of several large animals (elephants, hippopotamuses, etc. - even the point-load when they pose standing on one leg), as well as the fact that space under the arena is limited. Next, constructors needed to achieve positional accuracy on the stage to within 1 millimetre. The system design was developed entirely in Autodesk Inventor, used mainly for calculations of the system disposition and analysis and simulation of how individual floors bend according to different loads. Lifts of the movable system were also simulated in connection with associated motions – for example, to slide in just one floor into the container, 27 individual motions of electric and hydraulic drivers, each carried out with perfect timing, were required.

Additionally, as external engineers joined the project, they were brought up to speed on design progress through Autodesk Vault. Thanks to this arrangement, the chief designer was able to inspect the construction personally on site and compare progress with a complete 3D model stored on his notebook. He was assured that he had the current design version and could enter potential amendments found on-site back to the digital model.

“This was the first project on which we intensively used Autodesk Vault, and the tool proved to be really helpful. The difference in terms of team collaboration compared to projects conducted without Vault is huge, especially during the final project phases,” said Suchomel.

With this reference, Bosch Rexroth is now focusing on delivering the system to Russia, which has long had tradition of “stone” circuses. Additionally, with the experience and knowhow gained in the Martin and Krakow theatre projects, Bosch Rexroth wants to expand to the theatre stage technology markets – having created a study for a projected new theatre in Pilsen, Czech Republic, that is to include the world’s most innovative technologies.

Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Vault were provided and implemented in Bosch Rexroth by CAD Studio, an Autodesk channel partner for the Czech Republic.

See also Bosch Rexroth reference customer (in Czech).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Autodesk 123D Catch and other free 3D tools

The popular tool for conversion of photos to a realistic 3D model - Autodesk Photofly (Photo Scene Editor) - is now part of the "DIY" or "maker" family of applications "Autodesk 123D", under the new name - Autodesk 123D Catch. The 123D family now contains four tools: the original "modeling" tool - Autodesk 123D, a new Mac application that converts the 3D model to 2D "slices" to assemble - Autodesk 123D Make, a mobile "sculpting" tool Autodesk 123D Sculpt and now also the well-known tool for "photographic modeling" - Autodesk 123D Catch.

With 123D Catch, you can photograph any object, take a series of photos of this object from all directions, use automatic web-cloud tools to convert the photos to a 3D model, modify it in the program 123D and then have it manufactured. We have already tested 123D Catch (Photofly) on various types of models. Read about our experience and tips for successful conversion of photos to 3D objects on this blog and on our 123D Catch page.

Fo more information about this set of free Autodesk 3D tools for hobbyists and makers, visit Autodesk 123D.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cloud - the question of trust

One of the hot topics on our recent conference "CADforum 2011 - digital prototyping", both in the roundtable discussion and in personal meetings, was the "Cloud", that is, specifically Autodesk Cloud - web-based applications by Autodesk. The discussions revealed that the success or failure of the cloud (incl. cloud in the CAD area) is mainly a question of trust, a perception of its reliability and safety for professional users.

Part of the potential cloud users completely rejects it - quoting: "it is a return back into the history of mainframe computers", "first couple of black-outs and no one will believe the cloud anymore" (this reminds to some bloggers saying that "the cloud is dead"). Part of the future users admits on the other hand that this concept already works in other, "personal" areas (Google Mail, Facebook, YouTube) and could work the same way in CAD. In any case it is evident that the key to acceptance of the cloud are not the technical limitations (band capacity is rather an uninteresting matter of time), but just the credibility and reliability of its daily operation.

For skeptics, let's take a hypothetical example/question: Do you think that any well-established company would entrust to the cloud all its data critical to its core business operations? Its valuable data containing corporate know-how and the major source of its future income? The data that if would be lost, erased, or even if it would fell into the hands of competitors, would mean huge losses and significantly jeopardize the continued operation of that company? The data, which are needed every day, quickly, and data that is updated very often?

No, I'm not talking about any manufacturing or construction company and CAD data. We are talking about CRM data, business data about hot leads, business negotiations and procurement, including contacts and meeting notes. And the question is far from hypothetical. Such cloud service already exists and it is here for many years. The hosted CRM application exists since 1999 (when the web services were not yet called "cloud"), it is very successful and it is relied on by such companies as Cisco, Dell, Hitachi, KONE, Motorola, O2, Toyota, and also Intergraph and Autodesk. I hear them laughing when they read about the cloud being dead...

Another often overlooked argument speaking in favour of the cloud is the fact that according to statistics, the most common cause of theft or abuse of corporate data are own employees, or attacks from the internal network. So the seemingly "credible" internal network and the security of "own servers" may be not that safe harbour.

Autodesk cloud services are on the rise. It is not only the recently launched Autodesk Cloud for subscribers of CAD applications, but also other popular Autodesk web-cloud applications like PhotoFly (photo -> 3D model) or Homestyler (interior design). And other significant cloud applications will be announced at the upcoming Autodesk University (see everything changes).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Project Geppetto - very alive pinocchios in 3ds Max

An interesting technology for 3ds Max was introduced on the Autodesk Labs website. Project Geppetto (after the carver who created the Pinocchio) is a generator of highly realistic walking characters and crowd scenes for animations in 3ds Max.

The definition of pedestrian positions, movement restrictions and the crowd can be done with simple geometric shapes. The application then automatically generates pseudo-random movements of the crowd, walking, idling, hanging about, gestures during talking, phone calling, interaction or reaction to movement of other pedestrians and passers-by and other typical movements of crowd characters. Geppetto contains pre-set animations for typical scenarios - walking on sidewalks, in the corridors, halls or on plazzas.

Autodesk plans to connect Geppetto with his recently acquired application Evolver (for avatars) to generate crowds that can be easily personalized with typical regional (or even very specific) personal features.

Your architectural presentations, visualizations and animations from 3ds Max can be easily enhanced in Project Geppetto with very realistic characters behaving like real live crowds.

The application is designed for 3ds Max 2012 and 3ds Max Design 2012 (even those from Autodesk Design Suites). Project Geppetto can be downloaded as a free "technology preview" (expires July 2012) from Autodesk Labs.

Friday, September 2, 2011

AutoCAD 2012 Language Packs for Design Suites

Users of Autodesk Design Suites in non-English speaking countries can now localize the AutoCAD part of their suites.

While AutoCAD is available in 14 different languages (localizations), the Autodesk Design Suite packages have only limited set of localizations (at least in the version 2012). The users of the English versions of Autodesk Design Suites 2012 can now add their native language to at least one component of their Suite - AutoCAD.

Autodesk has silently (as of Sep 2nd) released a set of downloadable "Language Packs" that can be applied to Autodesk Design Suite 2012 and Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite 2012. These add-on language packs will localize the plain AutoCAD version (part of the Design Suite) to a selected language. You can choose among English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Czech, German, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, and Russian.

Language Packs are downloadable for the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of AutoCAD (resp. Design Suite). It is interesting that each language pack has a quite different size (250MB to 550MB). Besides the language pack it is neccessary to update the Content Explorer indexing service. Its language must match the AutoCAD language.

You can download the Language Packs at the AutoCAD support page.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Does it have a command line? It must be AutoCAD!

A couple of days ago, Autodesk has released a new AutoCAD WS for Mac and updated its mobile versions for iOS and Android. Today, they have released also an updated version of AutoCAD WS for web browsers, i.e. on the former platform of this free "online" AutoCAD.

Similarly to the previous versions - you don't have to buy or install anything - just run AutoCAD WS using your web browser on Then you can weork with DWG drawings, uploaded either manually or synchronized automatically through the "online" ribbon in AutoCAD 2012.

The latest version of AutoCAD WS introduces the command line. This makes it - at least psychologically - a true AutoCAD. We are considering adding the flag "supported in WS" to our AutoCAD commands database, but given the pace of development of the WS-version, the database maintenance would be a Sisyphean task. AutoCAD WS can be also still controlled without the command line, through the toolbar icons. The list of supported editing and drawing commands in AutoCAD WS was enhanced by hatching, inserting of raster images (similarly to drawing and xrefs you have to upload the first), setting the background color, extending the number of selectable objects to 200, and dimension editing.

AutoCAD WS becomes more and more the top choice for viewing, markup, co-editing, measuring and publishing of 2D DWG drawings on any computer.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Three new AutoCADs for Mac - and AutoCAD WS 1.3

Like three magic nuts in fairy-tales, Autodesk brings three magic apples to its AutoCAD family of products.

In a massively promoted "DESIGN816" event Autodesk has today announced three new AutoCAD versions for Mac - from a full desktop version to a free lightweight WS version.

Besides the new version of an existing AutoCAD/Mac - AutoCAD 2012 for Mac - there are two brand new Mac applications - AutoCAD LT 2012 for Mac and a native desktop version of AutoCAD WS for Mac.

AutoCAD 2012 for Mac (developed for Mac OS X Lion) offers most of the new features of its Windows brother, and also removes some restrictions on the previous Mac version. It uses 100% compatible DWG files, supports the new dynamic 2D and 3D array, multifunction grips, layer groups, in-place xref editing, you can use batch publishing, plot styles, overkill cleanups. A mixed network licensing is also a new feature of version 2012 - you can use your existing AutoCAD 2012 Windows license also for the Mac. Some AutoCAD features, however, are still limited to the Windows version. Over 5.000 beta testers have tested this release. AutoCAD 2012 for Mac will be available on Mac AppStore on Aug 19th.

AutoCAD LT 2012 for Mac was the #1 wish of the existing AutoCAD users on the Apple platform - this cheaper and easier to install version of AutoCAD is now available. Currently, it can only be purchased online via Apple AppStore in the U.S. and Canada, but it will be available worldwide.

AutoCAD WS for Mac is a free version of a native CAD software for Mac OS X. AutoCAD WS was previously available as a version for mobile iOS devices, for web browsers and for Android. It was already downloaded by more than 2.7 million users. This new desktop version for MacOS allows viewing, printing, publishing (PDF + DWF), editing and online collaboration on 2D DWG drawings. You can co-edit CAD drawings on different types of devices, anywhere you need it. Will be available from August 18th.

In a partially related announcement, Autodesk has released an updated version of AutoCAD WS Mobile and AutoCAD WS Web:

New for AutoCAD WS Mobile 1.3
  • Units Typing – Numeric Entry: Draw and edit by entering exact units and measurements
  • File Management: Rename, duplicate, and delete files from your mobile device
  • Area measurement: Calculates the area and perimeter of the area you select.
  • Layer management: Toggle layers on/off or toggle layer visibility
  • AutoCAD WS is also compatible with iOS 3.1 and higher so that you can run the AutoCAD WS mobile app from an original iPhone 2G.
New in AutoCAD WS Web
  • Command line (!)
  • Hatch editor
  • Multi selection (200 items)

Friday, August 12, 2011

AutoCAD fan? Something new is coming 8.16.

DESIGN 16.8.

Autodesk will present an interesting announcement on Aug 16th 17:00 GMT. If you are an AutoCAD fan, don't miss it. You can watch the "DESIGN816" event live via LiveStream:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

When Autodesk goes shopping

Like all big IT corporations, also Autodesk acquires new technologies not only through its own research and development but also through acquisition of technologies or whole companies from all over the world. These acquisition activities by Autodesk are especially intensive in the last 10 years, which is related to the increasing size of the company and especially to the increasing portfolio of products and manifold of technologies used in them.

Due to the growing Autodesk engagement in the consumer software area (mobile and cloud applications, maker and photo-processing software), more acquisitions in this area can be expected. The latest example is the acquisition of the swedish company Pixlr, producer of cloud applications for editing and sharing of pictures.

Let us recall other Autodesk acquisitions in the recent history and how these bought technologies are used today:
  • June 1997, US-based Softdesk - AEC applications, now parts in AutoCAD Architecture, MEP
  • May 1998, German Genius CAD Software GmbH - 2D mechanical application, now in AutoCAD Mechanical
  • March 1999, Canadian Discreet Logic Inc. - especially 3ds Max and other multimedia products
  • April 1999, Canadian VISION* Solutions - FM/GIS technologies, partly in Autodesk Utility Design
  • January 2001, US-based Gentry Systems - solutions for electric utilities, again for Autodesk Utility Design
  • September 2001, US-based Buzzsaw - still a product - web-hosted project management (also part of Vault Collaboration AEC)
  • February 2002, US-based Revit Technology Corporation - important acquisition of a parametric CAD/BIM solution, now the product line Autodesk Revit, Vasari
  • August 2002, US-based CAiCE Software Corporation - transportation applications, partly in AutoCAD Civil 3D
  • December 2002, US-based truEInnovations, Inc with the trueVault product - the base of today's product line Autodesk Vault (PLM)
  • March 2003, US-based Linius Technologies, Inc. and VIA Development Corporation - core technologies
  • Fabruary 2004, Czech MechSoft a.s. - developer of Mechsoft Profi, now included in the Autodesk Inventor product line
  • May 2004, US-based Unreal Pictures - developer of character studio, now included in Autodesk 3ds Max
  • March 2005, German COMPASS systems GmbH - developer of document management solutions, now in Vault Professional
  • June 2005, Swiss C-Plan - developer of the GIS solution Topobase (AutoCAD+Oracle), now Autodesk Topobase, resp. Map Infrastructure Server and AutoCAD Map Enterprise
  • August 2005, French Solid Dynamics - developer of applications for dynamic simulation, now part of Inventor Professional
  • October 2005, US-based Engineering Intent Corporation - developer of engineer-to-order applications, now Autodesk Intent, resp. Inventor ETO
  • January 2006, Canadian Alias - broad portfolio of technologies for automotive and visualizations, partly still as individual Autodesk products (Maya, SketchBook, Alias Design), technologies used also in Inventor and Autodesk multimedia applications
  • August 2007, New-zealand Skymatter Inc. - developer of the Mudbox application (still exists)
  • August 2007, UK-based NavisWorks - important technology for project coordination and simulation, now the product line Autodesk Navisworks
  • August 2007, Swedish Opticore AB - visualization in automotive industry, now in Autodesk Showcase
  • August 2007, US-based PlassoTech - developer of CAE applications, now in Autodesk Inventor
  • November 2007, French Robobat - developer of construction and building analysis software, now Autodesk Robobat
  • February 2008, US-based Karmel Software - HVAC software developer, now in Revit MEP
  • February 2008, US-based Green Building Studio - web application of the same name, energy-analysis tool, still active as a subscription benefit; gbXML tools (co-developed by CAD Studio)
  • May 2008, US-based Moldflow Corporation - mold-injection simulation, now the product line Autodesk Moldflow
  • May 2008, French Kynogon SA - developer of middleware solution Kynapse for computer games, still available
  • May 2008, French REALVIZ S.A. - developer of applications for photo-based modeling and stitching, now in Autodesk Photofly
  • June 2008, US-based Square One Research - the Ecotect software for "green" building analysis, now Autodesk Ecotect
  • October 2008, Canadian Avid Softimage, Co. - developer of the 3D animation software Softimage (formerly Softimage|XSI), now Autodesk Softimage
  • October 2008, German 3D Geo GmbH - developer of urban modeling software, now Autodesk LandXplorer and Project Galileo
  • December 2008, US-based ALGOR, Inc. - important developer of CAE technologies, now as the product line Autodesk Simulation
  • December 2008, US-based BIMWorld - BIM content vendor, now in Autodesk Seek
  • December 2008, Canadian Logimetrix, Inc. with the application iLogic - now part of Autodesk Inventor
  • December 2009, Israeli VisualTAO (PlanPlatform) - developer of a cloud application for online editing of DWG files - now as AutoCAD WS and AutoCAD WS mobile
  • February 2011, US-based Blue Ridge Numerics, Inc. - developer of the fluid-dynamics CAE application CFdesign, now as Autodesk Simulation CFD
  • July 2011, Swedish Pixlr - developer of cloud applications for online picture-editing
CAD Studio's overview of Autodesk products can be found on the page CAD Studio - Autodesk

Friday, July 1, 2011

Make 3D, Show 3D

Two recent Autodesk applications help creating 3D objects and displaying them interactively in 3D - also on mobile devices. Both are free.

The first one is Autodesk Project Photofly - described earlier on this blog. Photofly magically converts a series of photos to a 3D model. Autodesk names the Photofly project an "early beta" but it works pretty well for an early beta.

Great tips for using Photofly are summarized on the Shaan Hurley's blog.

We have perfomed additional tests and here are some tips: avoid glossy surfaces, don't use flash, do not combine multiple camera types, try to avoid zooming, fix the focal length if you shoot the scene with a camcorder, walk around with the camera - do not rotate the model.
Avoid running the Photofly's Photo Scene Editor in Windows Vista (frequent failures, missing features).

You can see some good and bad examples from our tests (the 3D results) on the Photofly tests page.

A nice tip from Scott Sheppard allows to share your 3D scenes using just a single, supersmall 3DP file. You can try it on our 4kB small Pejsek.3dp file (doggie). Just download the file, run the Photo Scene Editor and open this 3DP file as an "Existing scene". Choose "Download" to get the missing source images and the missing mesh (3D scene) from the cloud.

One of the publishing option in Photofly - IPM - takes us to the second new application by Autodesk. With the longest name among Autodesk tools, for the smallest devices, it is the Autodesk Inventor Publisher Mobile Viewer for Android (aka "IPM Viewer"). For some time, IPM Viewer was already available for Apple iPad and iPhone. Now it comes also for Android-based devices - tablets and mobile phones. It can be downloaded from the Apple and Android Markets.

You can use your mobile phone to open a IPM file and surprisingly smoothly rotate and pinch-zoom it in 3D. Don't be surprised that there is no Open command - any IPM file you get in your e-mail or via Drop-box will be opened in the IPM Viewer automatically.

IPM is a combined 3D format which includes the 3D geometry, textures, animations and textual notes. It can be published from Inventor Publisher, a digital prototyping tool for making electronic assembly instructions and service manuals.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Autodesk Mudbox - where CAD is not enough

One of the less known components of the new Autodesk Design Suites is the modeling application Autodesk Mudbox.

Despite its "dirty" name it is a useful tool - it can help to model 3D shapes that would be impossible or very difficult to model in standard CAD applications.

Autodesk Mudbox is a kind of "digital clay". Its tool set contains functions for sculpting, "kneading" and interactive shaping, smooth adding and removing "clay" (3D mass), applying 3D textures and 3D painting. These sculptor operations can be performed with mouse or from a pressure-sensitive digitizer tablet.

A practical example of CAD functions in Mudbox is modeling from textures (2D images) - typically for engraving. The shade of each pixel defines the offset (height/depth) of the respective point on a 3D model.

First you have to create an adequate fine initial model (e.g. a flat surface). Then you can use the function Maps > Sculpt using Map to apply a texture with a proper offset Multiplier factor (a negative multiplier toggles the extrusion direction). The resulting model can be then transferred using the FBX format as a 3D object e.g. to AutoCAD, 3ds Max or Maya.

The process is illustrated in the video on CAD Studio's YouTube channel:

Autodesk Neon renders your Revit projects

The web-cloud rendering service Autodesk Project Neon now supports not only DWG scenes from AutoCAD but also Revit projects.

Project Neon comes from Autodesk Labs and it was launched about 1 year ago.

Revit projects cannot be uploaded directly as RVT files but you need to install a Revit 2012 plugin which converts your scenes to an intermediate format SPD. The rendering process is then similar to that of DWG. After you login to you can choose the scene, camera, the requested resolution (up to 2000px), the rendering quality and the output format of the resulting picture. You can wait for the rendering "online", or you can set Neon to send you a notification e-mail with a link to pick up your picture (JPG, PNG or TIFF).

Neon rendering is about 160x faster than on a standard workstation. We have performed some tests comparing the quality and performance of the standard (local) rendering and Neon cloud-rendering:

The performance gains are most obvious in the best rendering quality. Local rendering was performed on a computer with Intel Core i7 2.8 GHz, 64-bit OS.

Option Draft, resolution 1000px
Neon: 24 sec
Revit: 37 sec

Option High, resolution 1000px
Neon: 5:42 min
Revit: 12:46 min

Option Best, resolution 2000px
Neon: 32 min
Revit: 3 hrs 40 min

Monday, June 13, 2011

Get your AutoCAD add-on through Autodesk Apps

Autodesk has just launched a new online tool providing access to many add-on applications directly from AutoCAD 2012 - Autodesk Apps - an Autodesk Exchange store (a kind of "Autodesk Market" similar to Android Market or Apple iTunes).

CAD Studio was one of several companies - developers from around the world who have participated on testing of this new "Marketplace" for AutoCAD users. So today you can find also several popular CAD Studio's freeware and shareware applications on the Apps store. The Apps tab is available in the English language interface of the Exchange window - see the AutoCAD command EXCHANGE (in any language version of AutoCAD 2012).

Through the new tab "Apps" in the standard "Autodesk Exchange" window in AutoCAD 2012, users can download (or buy) and automatically install more than 100 add-on applications and block libraries. All the Apps tools were pre-tested by Autodesk and confirmed as safe to use. Another advantage is that you do not have to worry about installing and launching the individual tools - the applications from the Apps store are installed automatically and they integrate themselves into the AutoCAD menu structure (CUI ribbon). Most applications were developed by members of the Autodesk Developer Network (ADN).

Add-on applications available on the Apps tab in Autodesk Exchange can be either freeware, or trial software, or may be commercial applications that can be purchased directly through PayPal.

“We use GeoRefImg and other plug-in modules by CAD Studio every day. These small add-ons save time when completing projects in AutoCAD Architecture and, above all; we value the ability of CAD Studio to tailor these add-ons to continuously suit our needs.”
Rostislav Říha, CEO
Czech Republic
All the CAD Studio's software available online on the Autodesk Apps tab can be also downloaded separately (even for older versions of AutoCAD) from the CAD Studio Download page.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Can your AutoCAD talk?

Yes it can. Any Windows version of AutoCAD can access the system "voice" API and send output through this "speech" interface. With surprisingly little programming (in VisualLISP, VBA, or .NET) you can "tell" various important messages to your AutoCAD operators.

This can be used not only for obvious office pranks but also for much more serious applications and productivity add-ons. You just get another communication channel to the user. So you can give him/her important system notifications, advices and warnings.

Our SPEAK Lisp utility contains some examples of the speech output functions and voice-reactors. E.g. warning on an attempt to draw on a locked layer, "narrated" layer list, etc. The Speak.vlx add-on utility can be downloaded for free from and its source code is available upon request. You can extend it to fit your needs. Here are the examples on video:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Online service for converting STL files to AutoCAD and Inventor

In October 2010, we have started a free online service - STL2DWG - for web-based conversion of 3D stereolithography files (.STL) back into CAD applications. It would be sexy to call this a "web-cloud service" but it currently runs on our own physical CAD Forum internet server, so there are really no scaleability, elasticity or other cloud-related attributes involved. Despite this boring "no-cloud" nature, this online tool got rather popular among CAD users and has successfully converted already more than 3.000 STL models uploaded by CAD Forum users.

Neither AutoCAD, nor Inventor and Revit can import STL files natively. These CAD applications can only export STL files as a part of their "3D printing" functionality. So when you need to use (re-import, re-engineer) an existing .STL file for viewing, measuring or reconstructing of 3D geometry, you can use this online service available on the portal.

How does it work? Just upload your textual or binary STL file from any source and this web tool generates and returns a SCR (script) file for AutoCAD (to save it to DWG), or a DXF file compatible with virtually any 3D CAD application.

To load the resulting DXF file into AutoCAD, you can just use Open after you click on the result of the online conversion. To load the 3D DXF file into Inventor, download the file and use the Inventor import wizard (Open) and check its options "3D solids", "Use default file names" and "New part, Wires to 3D sketch". In Revit, you can load the DXF file with the ribbon function Insert > Import > Import CAD.

You can try this online tool at STL2DWG

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Autodesk mobile GIS on Apple iPad

Autodesk Infrastructure Map Server (the software formerly known as Topobase web) is not limited to access only from "thick" clients (AutoCAD Map Enterprise) and web browsers on desktop computers. Most of its key GIS functions can be provided also online, for terrain workers, through the mobile GIS client. This lightweight client is currently optimized mainly for Apple iPads.

The usage of this interesting mobile GIS technology is illustrated on our YouTube channel - first with the Autodesk sample data:

and then the real-world data from our existing water and wastewater GIS application in Aquaserve - here is also used the geolocation functionality in the mobile client, detecting the current location of the device/user:

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Autodesk Photofly creates 3D models from photos

The just released Autodesk Photofly 2.0 is a new cloud application with great potential - not only for CAD. It takes a series of photos and automatically generates a 3D model from these photos. Although the Photofly version 1.x is already available for about a year, only since the new version 2.0 it has features that make it easy to use and generates directly usable CAD models.

The first step of the process - preparing the photographed scene in the "Autodesk Scene Photo Editor" - is very easy to use. Simply select a folder containing all the photographs shooted "around" the scene and the application automatically prepares the images and send them over the Internet to the Autodesk cloud server. The photos will be analyzed there, and a 3D mesh model is generated with the given accuracy (fineness of the mesh). The model has also textures - derived from the photos - applied on the mesh. The result is a visually realistic 3D model of a building, statue, face, art object, a room interior or a product. Because the model generation process may take from minutes to tens of minutes, you can temporarily leave the application and wait for a notification e-mail.

For the photo shooting of a scene there are a few simple rules. They are summarized in this instructional video:

To verify the simplicity and practical use of the application, we had a schoolchild photographed (with a standard Canon compact camera) the famous Samson fountain on the main square in the oldtown of České Budějovice:

Photofly shooting

The resulting 120 photo files (JPG, 4320x3240 resolution) were sent using the scene editor to the Photofly cloud server and within about 10 minutes, the 3D model appeared in the editor. The quality of the model was not 100%, but the results were still interesting. All photographs were recognized and "stitched" automatically. For the first attempt with Photofly we have maybe taken a too much complicated model, and in addition the photo-shooting was complicated due to a number of tourist around the fountain, due to the splashing fountain water and the inability to photograph the fountain from above. Photofly tries to recognize marks and edges in the scene and stitches the individual photos into a 3D form. The missing segments or unidentified common marks (on pictures from multiple directions) appear as "holes" in the 3D model. For the fountain it was mainly a problem of the view "from above". But the missing leg on one of the Atlases is the reality ...

Here is the scene of Samson in the environment of the Scene Photo Editor:

The resulting 3D model can be stored to the OBJ format (3D mesh, e.g. for 3ds Max or 123D), IPM (Mobile 3D viewer), LAS (point cloud), RZI, or DWG (only control objects).

We have tested many other models - e.g. a car, fire extinguisher, Merkur toy set, amphora or a wooden doggie toy. Some models were processed fast and smoothly, some models had problems with the 3D recognition (shiny surfaces, holes in the toy set).

It is also possible to create and publish an animation (fly-by). Here are some export files of this model and of other tested scenes/models. The Samson model looks like this in the mobile browser on Apple iPad:

Autodesk Photofly can be downloaded and used for free (a technology preview). It is available on Autodesk Labs.

Update: The application is now called Autodesk 123D Catch and Autodesk ReCap Photo.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Autodesk 123D as a free 3D CAD converter

Autodesk has released a new software for do-it-yourself users and makers, "123D" (one-two-three-dee). It is a great tool to design 3D models and have them physically manufactured in many interesting ways. Not only through 3D printing.

123D is based on Autodesk Inventor Fusion and uses a similar user interface. Its native file format .123d is in fact just a 3D DWG format. One of the important functionality of 123D is its rather broad support of 3D CAD formats. With the help of this feature you can use 123D as a free CAD converter.

Autodesk 123D can read (import) files in the following formats: .123D, .DWG (3D), .STEP/.STP, .OBJ, .SKP (SketchUp), .123C. The imported 3D model can be then exported (written, converted) to one of the following formats: .SAT, .STL, .STEP/.STP, .DWG, .123D. These CAD conversions work quite reliably with an exception of .SKP - many .skp files I have tried failed with an abort of the 123D application. But 123D is still in beta so we can expect improvement in this area. So if you need a standalone converter of common CAD formats, you can use Autodesk 123D.

Download your free copy of Autodesk 123D at

Thursday, April 21, 2011

AutoCAD WS Mobile for Android - finally an AutoCAD for Linux

Autodesk has released a free mobile version of AutoCAD - AutoCAD WS Mobile for Android. All users with mobile phones and tablets equipped with the Google Android operating system can now view and edit DWG files on their "pocket" devices, smartphones and tablets.

AutoCAD WS for Android is - similarly to the existing iOS version for Apple iPhone and iPad - a client application communicating with the Autodesk's internet "cloud" server - AutoCAD WS. But you don't need to be online for editing and reviewing operations on a DWG drawing. AutoCAD WS Mobile works also in a off-line mode. And because Android is based on Linux, AutoCAD WS for Android is actually the long worshipped version of AutoCAD for Linux!

The communication with AutoCAD WS (updating DWG files, history, publishing) is included in the new AutoCAD 2012 family, including the LT version.

AutoCAD WS for Android (5.25MB) can be downloaded from the Android Market (ideally directly from your Android device).

Monday, April 4, 2011

Updated cloud renderer service - Project Neon

Autodesk Project Neon - the best CAD-related cloud application and a typical example what server clouds can bring to general CAD users - has been updated this Friday. Project Neon takes your 3D scene stored in an uploaded DWG file, puts the cloud servers in hard work and creates photorealistic renderings (raster images) of the views you specify. So the "cloud" simply does the work for you and you don't need the extra hardware performance usually needed for 3D renderings.

The updated version now offers faster renderings (up to 5x!), environment maps, texture filtering, support for larger models, support for sub-entity materials (this was important), more accurate UV mapping, support for proxy objects and 2.5D objects (wide lines).

Try yourself at

(via Labs Blog)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

AutoCAD Pranks - April Fools Jokes (updated)

Any CAD software often makes its own April fools jokes but if you insist on adding your own jokes to AutoCAD's own AI, here are some tips that will please your colleagues for sure.

You can e.g. let AutoCAD display a seriously looking "system" message on any opened drawing:

For this, you just need to create a text file ACADDOC.LSP in the AutoCAD folder with the following content:
(alert (strcat "AutoCAD detected a severe license violation for the user \"" (getvar "LOGINNAME") "\"!\n\nInformation about the license and your computer were sent to Autodesk and BSA.\n\nThe unauthorized license will be now terminated and wiped-out from disk."))
(command "_close")

A very rich range of options appropriate for today is offered by the mechanism of undefining and redefining of AutoCAD commands. E.g. by entering UNDEFINE LINE you can unlearn AutoCAD drawing lines - will be surely appreciated by any colleague. Again, you can use the automatic mechanism of ACADDOC.LSP - content:
(command "_UNDEFINE" "_LINE").
You can even spice this up by defining a new, custom command "LINE", which might then draw e.g. circles:
(defun C:LINE ()
(command "_CIRCLE")

An effective trick is also defining some "normal" key, like "A", as a hotkey - keyboard shortcut (see CUI). Any attempt to type "A" in AutoCAD command line will then run the command or perform an empty action - e.g. *Cancel*.

Colleagues with unbearably large monitors can be relieved by showing all the necessary tools at once: -TOOLBAR ALL Show

If your collegue has a PC equipped with speakers, you can surprise him or her by a rock song launched automatically from a podcast or a music clip on Youtube. You can start any web page (or document) using the command (again in ACADDOC.LSP) - e.g.:
(command "_BROWSER" "")

It is interesting that some popular AutoCAD April jokes are no longer working in newer versions of AutoCAD - Autodesk checks or limits the settings now - you can e.g. no longer set an extra large PICKBOX or set the cursor color to the background color (a very pleasant combination visually).

Update: My friend Jan from Germany reminded me about our older "talking" LISP utility "SPEAK". With it you can surprise your collegues with the Space Odyssey classic:
(load "SPEAK.VLX")
SAY Do you want to run AutoCAD? I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
(sp_talk "Gotcha!")

PS: good advice - stay close after you deploy such jokes - to be able to revert them to normal as your employer may have different opinion on the CAD activities you perform...

Have a nice April 1st and ... don't get caught!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Autodesk 2011 Show Reel Video

Like every year, Autodesk again picks some of the best work of its customers and presents it in a company "Show Reel". Autodesk products were used in all presentations - from the design tools for digital prototyping, over the archictural and engineering BIM applications, over piping to the 3D visualizations of GIS data and animation tools for TV commercials.

See the video "Autodesk 2011 Show Reel" (HD recommended):

Starring (in order of appearance):
3ds Max, Inventor, Fusion, Maya, Revit, Galileo, AutoCAD Plant 3D, AutoCAD Civil 3D, Showcase, Inventor Publisher, Sketchbook, etc.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Google Docs understands CAD formats

The online viewer associated with the Google Docs storage now understands 12 new file formats. The Google Docs Viewer is traditionally used to display e-mail attachments for Google Mail accounts. But you can use it to display any office and image files in the most common formats (DOC, XLS, PDF, PPT, RTF....) - without any desktop viewer, just in your web browser.

Now you can do the same with AutoCAD drawings, alas only in the DXF format (not DWG yet). Besides DXF, these new fomats are now supported:
  • Microsoft Excel (XLS/XLSX)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint 2007/2010 (PPTX)
  • Apple Pages (PAGES)
  • Adobe Illustrator (AI)
  • Adobe Photoshop (PSD)
  • Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)
  • PostScript (EPS and PS)
  • TrueType font (TTF)
  • XML Paper Specification (XPS)
See our example - the DXF version of the Budweiser.dwg compatibility benchmark drawings. As you can see in the benchmark, not all object types are interpreted properly, but the viewer works well for standard entities. Display Budweiser.dxf in Google Docs Viewer.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New CAD Studio blog in Czech

Thousands of users of Autodesk's software already use some of our community web services as their source of technical information. CAD Studio runs quite a number of such web resources - most of them are primarly targeted to Czech and Slovak users (see an overview) - the CAD Forum portal (also in EN+DE), CAD wiki, Helpdesk, YouTube CAD videos, Facebook and Twitter channel, etc.

Since summer 2008 we contribute to the popular Civil 3D blog, focused on terrain modeling, road design and utilities. For those designers who work more above ground and handle "walls" we now start a new technical blog "Na zdi" (on the wall) -

Na zdi

This new blog contains tips and comments to the Autodesk CAD/BIM building software technology. The main tool for this area is Autodesk Revit Architecture. It offers functions for conceptual design, 3D modeling, schedules, creating drawing sheets, visualizations and publishing of projects. Revit also contains tools for design of carbon-neutral buildings.

Despite that the new blog and most of the other above mentioned web services are in Czech, you can use Google Translate to convert them to English or other language automatically.