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December 06, 2010
Autodesk University 2010 Report
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on AECcafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each AEC Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the AEC industry, AEC product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by AECCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

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Industry News
Autodesk University 2010 Report
By Susan Smith

Typically in recent years, Autodesk University's opening mainstage presentation has not been big on product announcements. In fact, there really were no product announcements at the event held in Las Vegas this past week, mainly promises of technologies to come.


Carl Bass, CEO, Autodesk

This year's event kicked off with CEO Carl Bass introducing some inspiring customer stories, most of which did not have much to do with AEC. Because they really signal the direction that Autodesk is going in terms of innovation and creativity, they are outlined briefly here:

Project H Design designed a “hipporoller” for those in developing countries to help them with their crops, however, the design team was so disconnected from the culture, geography and people of the region they served that the project was a “failure,” according to Emily Pilloton. Project H then targeted Bertie, NC, a rural community where they could develop projects for public education. They wrote and implemented Studio H, and teach design thinking in a shop class setting. Students earn 16 college credits over the course of the year.

Co-founder of Escape Dynamics Dimitri Tseliakhovich has been searching for a way to open space up for large scale exploration. He has designed a plane that is simple, small and cheap enough to be owned by small business or an individual. It is not in existence yet, but Escape Dynamics' vision is sure to get it into space. “Because we've been using inefficient technology to get to space, there is a physical limit on how efficient rockets can become,” said Tseliakhovich.

Because rocket launches depend upon fuel, the whole process by which launches are accomplished must be changed. Fuel is very heavy, “and you have to bring all of it with you for propulsion,” Tseliakhovich explained. With the Escape Dynamics' plane, “We are delivering energy in the form of a microwave beam, and we can then make the launch eagle eco-friendly, cheap and efficient fully externally powered space launch system.”

This system will open unlimited exploration in space, such as asteroid mining, according to Tseliakhovich, adding that asteroids have more platinum elements than have ever been mined in the history of humankind. “It will allow the sustainable, profitable and permanent colonization of space. There has never been a better time in history for a project like this.”

Small teams are now capable of designing things that were only designed by large governments and corporations. Because of digital prototyping, shortcutting hundreds of steps in traditional manufacturing processes, you can deploy your designs and put them into orbit, said Tseliakhovich.

Caltrans speaker Bart Ney showed public transportation projects that employed a new “transportation simulator” developed by Parsons Brinckerhoff, which can show differences between driving conditions, during night and day, and in different weather, for example, and can be applied across mobile platforms. The Transportation Simulator can be used during planning ,design construction, and can also incorporate audio and feedback tools. Anyone can drive it. (It was available for test drive on the Exhibit Floor)

Franz Von Holzhausen, chief designer at Tesla Motors, gave some very good reasons why we need to “go electric” with our automobiles:

The Tesla Roadster uses a lithium ion battery, and 90 percent of the charging of the battery takes place at home. The charged battery will actually replace a tank of gas.

The energy of one battery will take you 300 miles, and it takes one minute to swap out a battery and one minute to charge a battery. There is no gasoline used and no tailpipe emissions.

The car was designed to be able to withstand the same impacts that the front of the car would suffer in the rear of the car, and will be one of the safest cars on market.

Being able to make a prototype version of the upcoming TRON remake (the first version of the movie came out in 1982) has had some obvious advantages, according CEO of digital domain at Disney, Cliff Plummer. Usually the studio doesn't get to see the movie until six to nine months before it comes out, so they must wait until then to begin planning products around the movie debut. In this case, they could see a prototype far before the movie launch, and could then begin the creation of games and merchandising around the movie and its characters.

CTO and founder of Bespoke Innovations, Scott Summit spoke about the products his company creates for people with special needs. “We've been living in an age of mass production, we accept identical as a way of life - do we own anything that is unique and individual?” he asked. “We are also conditioned to accept a level of mediocrity.” Bespoke creates prosthetic products with the aim that one size fits one instead of one size fits all.

In the design process of the prosthetic, the user becomes an active participant in creating an environment in which individual and unique is the norm.

The modern prosthetic is not that different from aircraft landing gear, said Summit. Using 3D scanning, design and 3D printing, Summit said that you can take a person's body and put it into the design process and thereby turn mass production “on its head.” “The user is the first step in the process, anything that follows is designed for the individual.”

An example is a prosthetic made for Chad, a cancer survivor and soccer player. “We 3D scanned his left leg, his brain may be able to remap the newly created leg to its morphology,” said Summit. “We aren't about making something that is going to fool you into thinking you don't have a artificial leg. People engage him and tell him what a great leg he has.”

The design takes into account the wearer's own personality and his relationship with his motorcycle. “It's kind of hard to tell where the leg starts and motorcycle stops,” said Summit. Different prosthetics can be made for different occasions and uses. Summit describes the prosthetics as offering people a simple way of having the luxury of getting their body shape back, so they can feel the familiar shape of their body they have always known.

Infinite Computing

In his keynote, CTO Autodesk Jeff Kowalski said a toolset change may require a mindset change, and infinite computing, or cloud computing, is both a toolset change and a mindset change. It allows people to do things they may not have been able to contemplate before. Quoting Einstein, he said: “you can't solve a problem using the same mindset that created the problem.”

Infinite computing allows us to work from everywhere, said Kowalski. “We are never out of touch with our data.”

This direction actually became much clearer in a later conversation with Callan Carpenter, VP, global subscription and support, who said the biggest new feature of their subscription program is the new features to products offered by Software-as-a Service (SaaS). “We are augmenting the desktop with point functionality from the cloud,” said Carpenter.

An example of this type of product is Green Building Studio, which is only delivered as a cloud-based feature. The reason for this is that it contains terabytes of data and customers should be able to download it as they need it. AutoCAD WS is another such product. Other products that will benefit from this model are rendering and finite element analysis, as these are very complex.

For the past ten years, the only product Autodesk has delivered this way has been Buzzsaw. “Now we're offering daily access to greater functionality,” Carpenter said.

BIM and Vasari

New terminology populates the industry every year, and this year was no exception. Phil Bernstein, vice president, industry strategy and relations, AEC Solutions, introduced the idea of “building awareness.” He said that Revit has had an uneasy relationship with other design tools because they are more aware of shapes and Revit has an awareness of building information modeling.” In other words, Revit is aware that a wall is a wall, etc. and has an ability “to reason as a subfolder.”

Revit will also be able to contain conceptual energy analysis, with customers having the ability to take load level detail performance and analyze it. Autodesk has increased its own weather database to five million data points which will play a large part in its energy analysis capabilities.

A new product in Labs right now is Project Vasari, a cut down version of Revit built on Revit, that can be used for massing options at a strategic level to assess how a building might go on the site.

Prior to Vasari, massing analyses were not possible without building an entire Revit model. “We felt there was a gap in the marketplace around conceptual modeling overlaid with BIM,” said Bernstein. “Most conceptual modeling happens in Rhino and SketchUp. Google plays with it but none of these have building awareness. Vasari allows customers to strategize about building.”

Bernstein added that people don't buy copies of Revit to experiment, “it's a big emotional commitment and it's hard to make the value proposition to architects to even buy full blown Revit. We are looking to engage a generation of students with Vasari, so they can have more direct manipulation.”

There have been 80,000 downloads of Vasari so far. It is a free download with free energy analysis. Bernstein said people need lots of different ways to get to BIM, so perhaps there will be other avenues offered as well.

An area that has not really been addressed in BIM is operations & maintenance - 90% of the cost of the project occurs after the building is built. According to Bernstein, owners are starting to mandate BIM in anticipation of using it for operations and maintenance. The areas of facilities management, maintenance management, and energy performance can be addressed by BIM. Partnering with IBM Maximo, assets are linked to graphical through a product called Project Dasher that can capture complexity of the data and manage energy performance.

Building Entertainment Cities

A visit to Steelman Partners architectural firm in Las Vegas on Wednesday demonstrated a surprising versatility of product use. This company is conceptualizing and designing some of the most astonishing entertainment cities in countries all over the world. They have offices in Santa Monica, Vietnam and Macau, and will soon be opening an office in Europe. Obviously the company got their start designing millions of square feet of casino real estate in Las Vegas, but with the current slack economy in that city, they have been taking this expertise very successfully to the ends of the earth.

Steelman is predominantly an AutoCAD shop with heavy usage of 3ds Max for their Inviro Studios. Inviro has three arms: architectural visualization, IP creation and character stories, the most vital of those being architectural visualization and IP creation. They use Vray rendering engine for architectural, and mental ray for character animation and storytelling.

3D is used in every aspect of their conceptual design, schematic design and even construction documents, said Inviro president Keith Winters.

The company has a render farm run by their IT manager. They have the power of 200 computers in the render farm, which can be branched into other computers to achieve a 300-computer power. They test new software for a month or so before committing it to the workflow.

Revit to 3ds Max conversion is “not what we expected,” according to Jon Champelli, President of shop12 Lighting Design. They need to take Revit and use it as they do AutoCAD, then put it into 3ds Max. “If we could generate renderings in Revit it would be more efficient.”

Third Party Products

A merger between IMAGINiT Technologies, a division of Rand Worldwide and Avatech Solutions, sees the launch of their Scan to BIM software for the Autodesk Revit 2011 platform. Beau Turner, director, business development, said that the product is purpose built for 3D laser scanning service providers and architecture, engineering and construction firms. Their customers wanted to get the same improved workflow with 3D scanning that they could get with the AutoCAD and 3D scanning solution developed by Avatech, and Scan to BIM does just this: by allowing users to work with point clouds inside Revit.


Using Revit MEP and Scan to BIM, duct and piping can be generated from the point cloud.


The economy has played a large part in making 3D laser scanning a viable option for those customers who must renovate and reuse existing infrastructure, for which there are generally no plans or design files.

HP demonstrated in the Autodesk Best-in-Class Lounge their HP Z series workstations, as well as the new HP Designjet T2300 eMultifunction Printer (eMFP) with the HP ePrint & Share platform. Design teams can access, share and print large-format project files online and also access files on the cloud. The printer has a touch screen that allows users to make a decision whether to scan, print or copy.

Teaming up with Autodesk, HP offers the HP ePrint & Share plug-in for HP Designjet that allows users to access HP ePrint & Share right from the application and create print ready files while printing from AutoCAD or Revit.


Most of the pending Autodesk products mentioned here are on Autodesk Labs either for download or review.

Kevin Breslin, infrastructure solutions manager and Joe Hedrick, infrastructure solutions team manager for IMAGINiT, said that they have seen a resurgence of the adoption of Civil 3D in 2010 that had been suspended by the economy. Hedrick added that "we have been dragged into Civil by architects." Noteworthy is the fact that Civil 3D is built on Map 3D, and that BIM Review, developed by IMAGINiT, has been acquired by Autodesk.

Underneath it all, getting young people to embrace technology, particularly the drier topics such as utilities, is difficult without some sort of incentive, according to Geoff Zeiss, who has now moved into the AEC division from the now defunct GIS sector. The young gravitate towards graphics, animation, and forms of technology that they readily find on their phones. 3D visualization has become key to luring these potential technologists.

It is no wonder that Autodesk is using graphics as an entry point to some of the other industry sectors. Companies like Steelman Partners  start with visualization as a way to present the idea to the public, before putting their graphics inside the CAD or Revit program. Rendering coupled with the greater computing power of infinite computing will make these tasks less labor intensive, cheaper and more accessible to more people. A hurdle that really remains is, can we build software that can manifest what is envisioned in these elaborate visualizations? The taskmaster programs such as Revit are harder to access, and the new Vasari product is designed to make that transition to Revit easier, or perhaps deem it unnecessary.

The Design Computation Symposium, chaired by Dr. Robert Aish on Monday, focused on "digital craftsmanship," which Aish describes as the "logical progression from industrial craft," which derives from handcraft.  This type of technology is really about writing your own program and developing your own algorithm, to understand the intersection of material and process to "realize design intent."

This technology is designed to extend the creative range of the user into shapes and possibilities not able to be achieved by traditional design tools. These digital craft tools will be available in 2011 as part of AutoCAD. They will be designed to be accessible to a broad variety of users, not just to those doing abstract and innovative architectural projects.

Top News of the Week

Interoperability between GRAPHISOFT's ArchiCAD and Tekla Structures enables open BIM collaboration between AEC disciplines despite their geographical location.Throughout the construction project, the building information models of different disciplines need to be coordinated. GRAPHISOFT and Tekla have been working together for years to develop a smooth exchange of building information across the AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) disciplines by enabling open communication between their respective software systems. The companies continuously collaborate to introduce new features that allow Tekla Structures and ArchiCAD software users to communicate more efficiently and seamlessly between each other in order to improve the open BIM (Building Information Modeling) process.

BIM Family Toolkit on Autodesk Labs allows you to share parametric family information from Inventor to Revit. You then use this family information in Revit to create geometry whose attributes match what was imported from Inventor. In other words, what you create in Revit reflects what you created in Inventor. For example, the doors and windows in your Revit models match the doors and windows you have in Inventor. To get started, you download a zip file from Labs. This file has separate installers for both Inventor and Revit.


Autodesk, Inc. announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), has signed a multi-flex, enterprise license agreement for Autodesk products and Autodesk-related services and training. The contract value of the deal is $6 million over a three year period and includes access to the following Autodesk products: the Autodesk Revit family of products; AutoCAD Civil 3D software; and Autodesk Navisworks software products, among others.


Autodesk, Inc. announced that Ze Kun Chen, a fifth grade student in China, is the youngest person to be certified as an Autodesk 3ds Max Associate. Ze Kun, who is now 10 years old, completed his first 3ds Max software certification when he was just 9 years old. He completed the latest 3ds Max 2010 certification at Autodesk University China, held in Beijing from November 16-17, 2010.

Over 30,000 members of the Autodesk Feedback Community played a key role in the development and Beta testing of Autodesk's product lines, and Autodesk is issuing an open invitation for additional customers to join and participate in the testing and shaping of future products.

The American Institute of Architects, California Council (AIACC), recently installed Anne Laird-Blanton, AIA, as the incoming 2011 president. The AIACC is the nation's largest state architectural organization and represents more than 11,000 members. MasterGraphics has entered into a partnership with Alberta, Canada-based Digital School to offer new e-Training products for Autodesk software.

New Products

Trimble introduced today Trimble ConstructJob, an updated version of the Accubid Web-based project management solution for the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) trades. In addition to supporting Accubid mechanical and electrical estimating applications, the new Trimble ConstructJob now supports integration with the QuickPen AutoBid® Mechanical estimating application. The QuickPen integration enables contractors to sync estimated material and equipment needs to the ConstructJob solution, providing a fluid method for tracking what has been purchased to what was originally estimated.

­Bricsys ­ announced that six flagship GlobalCAD products are now released for Bricscad V11. Until now, GlobalCAD products were only available for AutoCAD.

Informative Graphics Corporation (IGC) announces release of its Brava! Enterprise 7 software for Microsoft SharePoint 2010.

Brava for SharePoint allows users to easily interact with documents anywhere, anytime using only their web browser. Brava adds key document-centric workflow actions including the ability to add stamps, create threaded discussions and other markups, publish documents to PDF or TIFF, and redact sensitive content and privacy information.

AutoDesSys is pleased to announce that bonzai3d 2.3 update has now been released. Bonzai3d version 2.3 includes a number of corrections, including improvements to Hidden Line rendering, Network Licensing, Smooth Modeling, and the Artlantis Export.

Apple announced that iOS 4.2, the latest version of the world's most advanced mobile operating system, is available for download for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. iOS 4.2 brings over 100 new features from iOS 4.0, 4.1 and 4.2 to iPad including Multitasking, Folders, Unified Inbox, Game Center, AirPlay and AirPrint.

RAND Worldwide announced that its courseware division, ASCENT - Center for Technical Knowledge, launched a new online eStore at www.ASCENTeStore.com. With this new online eStore solution, it is now possible for clients worldwide to purchase ASCENT's courseware and other offerings such as Instructor Tools, eCourseware and Knowledge Assessment Products.

Autodesk, Inc announced updates to AutoCAD WS, a free* web application that uses cloud computing to enable AutoCAD software users to view, edit and share their AutoCAD designs and DWG files through web browsers and mobile devices. The updated mobile application, which will soon to be available through the App Store, helps to significantly increase usability and functionality in AutoCAD WS by making designs accessible even when users are not connected to the Internet, and offers support for opening email attachments directly into AutoCAD WS.

Autodesk, Inc. announced that the Autodesk SketchBook Mobile app is now available for use on Android™ devices. Autodesk SketchBook Mobile is a professional-grade digital paint and drawing app that offers a full set of sketching tools.

FM:Systems announced that the transition of Autodesk FMDesktop customers to FM:Systems products has been a success, with more than 45 percent of Autodesk FMDesktop customers moving to the FM:Interact Workplace Management Suite. Earlier this year Autodesk selected FM:Systems as its preferred industry partner for facility management and announced the transition program for FMDesktop customers.

Enhancing its on-line tools, Schindler Elevator Corporation now provides customers with access to three-dimensional, real-time, dynamic Building Information Modeling (BIM) software on its website ( www.us.schindler.com). From this site, architects, specifiers, general contractors and others in the building design and construction industry in the U.S. and Canada can access links to create BIM 3-D models for the Schindler 9300® AE escalator and Schindler 330A™ elevator for low-rise buildings. In addition, 3-D models for the Schindler 7000® custom elevator for high-rise buildings can be produced with assistance from a company representative.

CadFaster announced the availability of CadFaster|Collaborate, a collaboration tool for the real-time annotation and co-viewing of 3D CAD models in the design process. Used in Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC), mechanical and plant design firms seeking to deliver unparalleled 3D collaboration experiences to their stakeholders, CadFaster|Collaborate enables distribution, annotations, and real-time co-viewing of 3D CAD models using online computing, even at the low bandwidth on notebooks and tablets.

Around the Web

AECCafe Today Blog


Ecobuild America conference 2010
Date: December 6 - 10, 2010
Place: Washington Convention Center
Washington, DC USA

So many specialized areas of knowledge are needed to create a better built world - one that is safe, healthy, and environmentally responsive. At Ecobuild, you’ll discover strategies to reduce environmental and energy impacts…throughout every phase of the facility lifecycle. You’ll also learn to improve workflow and communications by leveraging the latest technology. Get integrated, proven solutions encompassing:
Civil Community Program: Featuring Power GEOPAK
Date: December 7, 2010
Place: Jacksonville Marriott
4670 Salisbury Road, Jacksonville, FL USA

Civil Engineering is evolving. No longer are 3D models enough. Engineers must create intelligent, long-lasting modeling that serves the lifetime of the designed asset. This presentation highlights the evolution from models to information modeling for civil/transportation engineers using Bentley Civil products.

View Agenda here:
Introduction Seminar: Lean Construction Basics AND International Conference on Lean in the Public Sector
Date: December 8 - 10, 2010
Place: Fairfax, VA USA

Lean in the Public Sector is an-going initiative designed to increase delivered value and efficiency in public sector design and construction projects throughout the world. Its sponsors are the Lean Construction Institute and the University of California Berkeley's Project Production Systems Laboratory.
Bentley Civil Community Program: Featuring Power GEOPAK
Date: December 9, 2010
Place: Crowne Plaza Hotel Sawgrass Mills
13400 West Sunrise Blvd, Sunrise, FL USA

Civil Engineering is evolving. No longer are 3D models enough. Engineers must create intelligent, long-lasting modeling that serves the lifetime of the designed asset. This presentation highlights the evolution from models to information modeling for civil/transportation engineers using Bentley Civil products.

View agenda here:
LCI Introduction Seminar: Lean Construction Basics
Date: December 14, 2010
Place: The Mountaineers
Seattle, WA USA

This seminar will cover Lean Construction Basics by introducing key concepts, principles, and techniques to make sharp the difference between Lean Construction and current project delivery practices.
2011 International Builders' Show
Date: January 12 - 15, 2011
Place: Orlando, FL USA

You can find the full AECCafe event calendar here.

To read more news, click here.

-- Susan Smith, AECCafe.com Managing Editor.