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Technical Content

The approach to modeling of AutoCAD Designer would allow several simultaneous points of view to exist. The highest level would be of a consistent solids modeler. This solids modeler would be capable of allowing the user to work with solids, surfaces, and/or wireframe without having to drop the solids modeling context.

In addition to the ``exact'' solids modeler, we would offer the user a conceptual modeling tool, one to be used for ``what if'' exercises. Offering a facetted representation, this modeler will offer almost instantaneous booleans, and virtually real-time hidden-line removal. This would be especially useful for the conceptual modeling stage where exact designs are not the primary focus. By tracking the design, the system will allow an automatic recreation of the model within ACIS, and allow the designer to polish and refine the model for further modeling/design/analysis work. This facetted modeler is now available and owned by Autodesk.

A 2D Region Modeler (``2D Solids'') would be available, allowing the user to define closed planar areas by solids modeling operations (join, difference, etc.). Full support for all wireframe geometry as bounding entities would be supported, including circles, ellipses, and splines. This will provide a more complete representation of objects in 2-D, permitting automated computation of geometrical characteristic such as area, perimeter, centroids and moments.

A translator which would automatically create complete solids models from multiple-view 2D drawings will be available. This would form an important link between the almost uncountable number of existing 2D drawings, and the world of high-end design. This product exists, but would have to be acquired.

A complete surface modeling system would be available, independently of the solids modeling system for those who were more ``traditional'' in their approach. Tools which allowed 3D-party access to this modeler could support modern machining applications which would compete favorably with those offered by the turnkey vendors.

An automatic mesher for closed 2D regions would be part of the modeling environment. This would allow for refinement of the mesh, application of loads, definition of constraints, and display of loaded results. In addition to an automatic data interface to popular high-end analysis packages, the system would provide a fast analyzer so that most of the analysis could be done without leaving AutoCAD Designer, thus completely closing the analysis loop. In addition, it will provide a sophisticated basis for 3d-party developers to build more advanced FEM support. The beginnings of this product now exist, although significant development would be required to turn this into a finished product.

A complete 2D variational design interface would be provided, allowing the user to specify designs by variable dimensions and/or constraints. This would allow the user great freedom in his/her ability to create families of parts, to quickly vary designs and see the results, and to create and animate designs for articulated mechanisms. Work on this product is proceeding.

A ``poor-man's'' parametric design system would be offered which allows the user to define a part parametrically by specifying dimensions symbolically, and attaching values to these dimension at insertion time. The process, which exists and is impressively simple yet surprisingly powerful, automatically generates an AutoLisp program which defines the geometry in terms of these variables. The system can prompt for the values of the variables, or accept default values from a file, creating a block for insertion into the drawing. This capability, with the name ``GLISP'' (for Generated AutoLisp), is soon to be marketed by our subsidiary in the United Kingdom.

The graphics pipeline of the AutoCAD Designer would support the widest range of display devices, including those capable of maintaining a complete copy of the 3D model internally. This would allow it to take direct advantage dynamic graphics, and internal rendering engines which are becoming increasingly more powerful, and increasingly less expensive.

While the lure of technology is sometimes difficult to resist, resist it we must. AutoCAD became successful through a dedication to providing useful and high-quality products, not by solving the industry's most difficult problems. In the same way, AutoCAD Designer must not be positioned to contain 100% of the capability of competing products. To attempt to do so would put us on the road of diminishing returns. The most technically ``challenging'' problems require far, far more resources to solve than the revenue one gains in return for it.

By being consistent with the AutoCAD philosophy, which has helped grow one of the industry's most successful companies, we will similarly be in a position to capture a majority of users in the Mechanical Design Automation market. Again, offering well-written, useful products, and providing capability which the user appreciates, succeeds far better than an avalanche of pure technology.

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Editor: John Walker