Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Autodesk University - Better starts here

Under the title "Better starts here", the traditional annual conference "Autodesk University 2019" was held in Las Vegas, USA last week. This year's event attracted a record 12,000 participants from around the world, which is reportedly the maximum even for the giant Venetian Hotel. The very extent of the conference, hundreds of specialized seminars and various community meetings - even the planning, catering and navigation for such a large number of participants is certainly a demanding logistics operation.

The main topics of this year's AU 2019 conference were data interconnection, data as the basis of all processes, automation and ways to design and create better products, buildings or entertainment projects - faster, cheaper, with less material, less energy and less environmental impact. Continuous education is an essential condition for creating better projects - according to current studies, technical knowledge has a half-life of only 4.5 years.

The trend of automation can be seen best in the generative design technology (GD). Already in 2015, Airbus saved 45% of the weight of the cabin partition thanks to this technology. Now it uses GD for a much more important part of the aircraft - the wing design. Or for optimizing the layout of its new assembly hall in Hamburg. Generative design tools in Autodesk Fusion 360 have also helped to lighten the iconic VW Bus in its electric remake version. The same building technology helps to design the layouts of buildings or development projects - see Project Refinery and the existing visual tool Dynamo.

Especially in the construction sector there is another trend to save costs and, especially (also in the USA) the increasingly scarce workforce of construction workers - the use of manufacturing processes. An example is Skystone and its construction (production?) of the highest modular hotel for the Marriott hotel chain. Thanks to the factory production of complete hotel room modules (including equipment), the hotel construction in the confined space of New York Street has been simplified to a simple assembly, free of dust and noise, with a minimum number of workers and lower costs. Will the future construction sites be transformed into Lego-like production plants?

Autodesk announced its partnership with Virgin Hyperloop One, the company developing a new type of vehicle with a promise of cruising speeds of over 1000 km/h. The development of this vehicle and its infrastructure requires cooperative design and BIM construction tools.

New capabilities are offered by the Autodesk Forge, developer platform, including its ability to programmatically (Forge API) control a virtual AutoCAD, Inventor, Revit, or 3ds Max in the cloud. This makes design and configuration automation even easier and more affordable.

But at the conference, you may come across other attractions - for example, quite surprisingly, you can find here a booth for live dogs (to pet), but you can also find artificial ones...

For example, this is how the Boston Dynamics scanning "dog" obeyed at the Autodesk Blogger Party:

An important part of the Autodesk University is collecting suggestions from participants - users of Autodesk products. We are glad that we were able to convey also some input from Czech users.

Recording of the opening keynote of the AU 2019


One of the first news announced at the AU 2019 is collaboration of Autodesk with ANSYS and direct integration of Autodesk Fusion 360 models into the ANSYS Mechanical simulation tool, and thus the extension of FEA methods in Fusion 360.

Fusion 360 is also involved in another exciting news - the offer to try the generative design for free - till the end of the year. Use the Fusion 360 Trial version, the free Personal or Startup version, or your Product Design & Manufacturing Collection license to experience "Generative Design" yourself. See Free Generative Design.

Fast development of Fusion 360 does not stop - it will soon include complete electronics design features, including PCBs, internal lattice grid creation for 3D printing, a number of new CAM control functions for CNC machines, improved generative design, substantially improved 3D mesh model conversion to solid models, pricing estimator by the aPriori module and other (see about the time 44:00 in the keynote below).

But Autodesk Inventor is not left behind either. After the new version 2020.2 we are awaiting other announced interesting new features of this application - e.g. the dark environment, pallete optimization, etc. For the first time, Autodesk shows a public "roadmap" of further development of this application, which has celebrated 20 years of development - see the public roadmap.

Also Autodesk Vault PDM users will soon see exciting new features, including the shape-duplicates search function.

Recording of the manufacturing keynote


Interconnection, common, shared data between professions and throughout the full lifetime of the building - this is the foundation of news in construction and AEC.

The main innovation introduced here is the Autodesk Construction Cloud™ - a common data platform combining software tools, the network of designers and builders, collaboration tools, and advanced data analysis tools. The Construction Cloud is based on the BIM 360 CDE platform, PlanGrid, Assemble, BuildingConnected and other tools for design (BIM, team cooperation), planning (coordination, bidding), construction (administration, handover, quality) and operation (asset management) of buildings. More at construction.autodesk.com.

During the AU 2019, Autodesk has introduced an update to the most popular BIM application - Autodesk Revit 2020.2.

Many interesting examples of BIM design automation were built on Refinery, a tool for generative design in construction projects.

Unity company introduced Reflect, Revit's add-on for easy creation of virtual and augmented reality - AR and VR from BIM projects in Autodesk Revit.

Two years before the devastating fire, Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral was accidentally scanned using Autodesk ReCap into a detailed 3D point cloud. Today it is a key source of data for the BIM model creation and reconstruction of this historic building.

Recording of the AEC keynote

AU Exhibition

An interesting part of each AU is the accompanying exhibition where partners and sponsors of the conference present their complementary products. Here are some of the interesting exhibits.

This "little 3D printer" prints objects made of durable and solid concrete. Maybe urban furniture or a house.

Do you use any Autodesk design software? This model of a light construction and the two models of imaginary devices you may have seen somewhere...

At the exhibition you could see a complete Fusion 360-based production line - from milling machines and lathes to various 3D printing methods from Fusion 360 models.

You could also see the electric VW Bus enhanced with Generative Design components.

Virgin Hyperloop One exhibited a prototype "pad" - a vehicle for Hyperloop.

The Boston Dynamics "dog" has a practical use for 3D scanning of hard-to-reach building spaces.

The mobile, in this case rather "mobile" AutoCAD:


From behind-the-scenes information and discussions with Autodesk employees. Much is spent on Learning - both in terms of linking to a CAD product (AI-driven contextual assistance) and in user profiles (lifelong learning, from student life to professional phases of user's career, linking to colleagues).

The recent unpopular shutdown of technical support for older Autodesk versions (while quite common in the industry, similar to mobile phones, Apple, Microsoft) allowed Autodesk to shut down as much as 8 old, difficult to maintain, legacy systems.

The AU closing party (co-sponsored by conference partners: HP, DELL, Lenovo, ANSYS, Unity, nVidia, AWS) took place in big style - a closed Las Vegas street including all bars, pubs, stages and the High Roller wheel - reserved just for AU participants.

Personal note:
- When you go to AU "in a desert", you usually do not expect to pack your umbrella.
- Even in virtual reality you can have a beer.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Hard life of an Apple developer

For about 13 years we have been running and extending our free conversion utility Units Converter (converter of physical units, see the section Converters on the CADforum.cz portal) with more than 750 different measurement units, including historical and international units (asian, south-american, roman, greek, austro-hungarian), including conversion of roman numbers, etc.

It is certainly no programmer's miracle, rather a day-to-day effort collecting various interesting units of measure, but when you quickly need to transfer pressure in pounds per square inch to something normal, or to find out what is the mass of a grain of salt, or how many pints have you drunk last night, this converter may be useful for you.

We offer the same converters also as an add-on application (palette) for AutoCAD (see Autodesk Apps, over 5000 downloads), as an add-on for Inventor (part of X-Tools), for Fusion 360 (part of F-Tools), and since the last year also as a mobile application for Android devices - see their appstore Google Play. One of the goals was to maintain the same, compatible appearance on all these platforms. Porting the original web application to each platform was very easy in most these cases.

About a month ago, we decided - based on a couple of customer requests - to launch this simple app also for the minor mobile platform, Apple iOS.

After the actual development, or rather modification of the app for iOS and its testing, came the moment of the actual publishing of the app to the Apple App Store (iTunes). Apple's entire infrastructure of application definition, upload, and verification is terribly complicated and confusing - especially when compared to the competing Google Play. In addition, not only the development but also the full administration of their apps must be performed on a Mac (Google is tolerant and you can use any device for this).

Being a novice to this development platform, we were expecting some technical hitches - digital signatures, iOS version compatibility and such things. But what was our surprise when Apple has completely rejected our app as "Design Spam".

After several rounds of pointless e-mail discussions, we asked for a telephone consultation. But talking to Apple's own certain Ms. Eweline was rather rough. Right at the first contact with a paying customer, this lady appeared very arrogant claiming that the application violates their rules, is not unique and that she rejects it, while hinting we have copied it somewhere.

Despite repeated inquiries, however, she was unable to say which specific rule we have violated, she just repeated vague "snowflake" wording about great user experience, ensuring security (security? of a converter with no permissions?) of AppStore visitors, about usefullness (for Eweline?), about safe and enjoyable experience, entertainment (entertainment?) value of this conversion tool, about lack of uniqueness (that thay already have other converters on their AppStore, sic! don't say), including a fascinating recommendation of "giving the app different content and different features" (like shooting Klingons while Lady Gaga singing?). I would understand any specific rules and requirements (their house, their rules) for colors, fonts, logos, compatibility, etc., we already know similar requirements from Autodesk Apps, but not that some Ewelina pulls ad-hoc rules out of the air.

The essence of their complaints is best expressed by the quote - we don't have any specific rules, but you have violated those rules and until you correct the violation, we will not approve your application - a pure Catch-XXII case:

„We understand that there are no hard and fast rules to define useful or entertaining, but Apple and Apple customers expect apps to provide a really great user experience.“

We do not intend to re-create this freeware application just because of some strange (non)rules for the Apple App Store, disrupting its compatibility with the other supported platforms. We will also write off our developer account fee, as Apple does not refund money when the app is rejected. We are sorry to thousands of users of our Units Converter, but you will not find this application on your iOS.

PS: A detail illustrating this company's business conduct - they wanted to know when to call when we asked for a phone consultation. In eager anticipation of an important phone call from the very Apple, I proposed a very benevolent availability schedule in my Monday message: call me anytime between 8:00-11:30 or between 12:00-15:00 local time (GMT+2, Prague). They replied: OK, we will call within 3 business days. They called on Friday at 11:43...

A strange and weird world of Apple, I do not recommend to dare to go into it for anyone with technical mindset and thinking.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Comparing performance of SHX and TTF text fonts

There is no longer a recommendation for using the simplest SHX font to quickly display texts in AutoCAD DWG drawings - i.e. the Txt.shx font. With the help of our new freeware utility CMDtimer - see the tip - we have compared performance of regeneration of a drawing containing an extensive text array containing a total of about 210,000 words.

This comparison has brought quite surprising results - with the super simple font Txt.shx, it took about 0.7 sec to regenerate this test drawing, while with the TrueType font Arial.ttf it took a mere 0.5 sec. This value has not changed even when we tried to "disturb" the TrueType fonts by setting a nonstandard font width factor/oblique angle. SHX fonts contain significantly fewer vectors, but they are displayed directly by AutoCAD, whereas TrueType fonts are displayed by the Windows graphical engine according to AutoCAD requirements.

Specific results will, of course, depend on the CPU speed, video card performance, screen resolution, zoom level, memory performance, probably also on the AutoCAD version, but victory of the TrueType TTF fonts will not be affected. So do trust the default Text Style settings in the AutoCAD DWT template - the preset TrueType font is not only nicer but also faster than older SHX fonts.

Specification of the test PC: HP Z240, i7-6700 3.4GHz, 32GB RAM, nVidia K620, Win10, AutoCAD 2019