We've seen MCAD vendors reinvent 3D software several times since the dawn of CAD. Most famous of all was the unleashing of Pro/Engineer and its history-based parametrically-driven design environment, which forever changed the way MCAD was done. Other significant paradigm shifts came from SpaceClaim's anti-Pro/E direct modeling and Autodesk's Fusion of desktop and server-based calculations.
What happens when you give Russian programmers a blank slate, asking them to yet again reinvent 3D CAD? Well, not a fully blank slate; even Pro/E's approach -- also developed by Russian programmers -- was based on earlier work in parametrics from England. So let's put it another way: what happens when you ask them to write algorithms for an ideal 3D CAD approach.
The mathematicians who work at Siberian consulting firm LEDAS had been working on parts of Catia and other software from Dassault Systemes. This gave them the space to think about how 3D CAD ought to work. To anyone who would listen (and frankly there were not many), they evangelized this trinitarian system:
- Direct modeling and editing -- handles any kind of model, native or imported
- 3D constraints and parametrics -- controls elemental relationships, and provides configurations
- Design history -- remembers how the designer arrived at his creation, without the curse of the history tree
When LEDAS implemented their philosophy as software, it found modest success as an add-on to Rhino and SketchUp. What they needed was a savior to believe in them.
Bricsys Tech Russia
Big companies expend their energy catering to shareholder opinions. Small companies have no such worry, and so get to energize their passions. I wrote last week about the passion of Robert Graebert to expand his brilliant OS/hardware-independent CAD system onto everything through OEMing -- but limited in areas related to 3D due to an arrangement with major licensee Dassault Systemes.
Enter Bricsys, a company that in one form or another has been around since 1999. Four years ago, they aqui-hired staff and intellectual property from LEDAS, forming Bricys Tech Russia. CEO Erik de Keyser gave programmers this instruction: Make BricsCAD the leading 3D CAD program by 2020. Notice I didn't write "MCAD"; Bricsys wants to dominate in both BIM and MCAD through that triad developed earlier by LEDAS. (Bricsys is, for now, ignoring mobileCAD and cloudCAD, but are on simultaneous release schedules for the Windows and Mac versions of BricsCAD, with Linux also available.)
So, what can a relatively tiny company in Belgium bring to the table that should make the Solidworks and Revits of the world bother noticing? A break from the rigors of history-based modeling (not a new idea) based on the DWG file format exclusively (also not new). It's the combination of the two that makes Bricsys' future possible.
CAD systems that bring something new to the table -- think of ones like SpaceClaim and Onshape -- are housed on the foundation of new, incompatible file formats so that they can make a complete break from the limitations of the past. By contrast, BricsCAD sits on the universal CAD format, DWG, and then uses an optional add-on to translate parts and assemblies to and from major MCAD formats:
- Import and export STEP, IGES, VDA-FS, Catia V4 and V5
- Import Parasolid, IAM and IPT (Inventor), PAR and PSM (Solid Edge), PRT (NX), ASM and PRT (Creo and Pro/E), SLDASM and SLDPRT (Solidworks)
- Export 3D PDF
BMW Welt, Munich, hosting last month's Bricsys International Conference 2015
(All photos by Ralph Grabowski)
One fact that makes us sit up and notice Bricsys is that it spends 43% of its revenues on research and development. (See figure 2.) Other CAD vendors spend 25% or less.
The result of this spending is that BricsCAD V16 offers users these functions:
- Command, file, and API compatibility with AutoCAD
- Wireframe, surface, and solid modeling
- Direct and deformable modeling and editing
- Assemblies, including import of assembly structures from other MCAD systems
- Drawing view extractions from 3D models
- 2D and 3D constraints and parameters
- BIM modeling with IFC import and export
- Sheet metal design with CNC export (an optional add-on)
- (See http://bricsys.com/common/releasenotes.jsp for the full list)
- 1,200 members of a no-charge third-party developer network
Building on a single platform means Bricsys need only write functions once for multiple disciplines, something that an Autodesk cannot do for a Revit or an Inventor. For instance, constraints and drawing views are equally valid for BIM and MCAD designs.
All at a cost that makes a year's worth of $100 monthly rentals look overpriced:
- BricsCAD Platinum is $990
- Communicator translation add-on is $610
Not that this effort is isolated to inside of Bricsys. The company is said to be the most active participant in the Open Design Alliance, meaning some of the stuff they come up with is being distributed more widely among the 1,260 members of the ODA. (See figure 3.) In one area, expect an earthquake of an announcement in a year's time.
Russian programmers, given a challenge, like exceeding it.
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