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 SalesForce.com 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).