At the IntelliCAD World Meeting, Neil Peterson, the CTO of the Open Design Alliance (ODA) gave a presentation on the various components that his company has developed and is working on. Neil was the first programmer to be hired by the ODA. His presentation requires special mention because I believe people need to understand that the ODA is not just a “bunch of hackers” who reverse engineer the DWG file format and deliver pain to Autodesk. The ODA is far more than that.
Neil highlighted eight components in varying degrees of completeness that his organization is working on.
(1) DRX SDK: The DRX SDK is a framework to develop custom applications for DWGdirect hosted applications. There is a lot of confusion surrounding this. I will explain DWGdirect and DRX in a separate post later.
(2) ADTdirect: This is the ODA’s Architectural Engineering package. It supports DWG files created by Architectural Desktop version 3.0 through to Autodesk Architecture 2009. It offers full read/write access to all ADT custom objects such as walls, roofs, slabs, etc. You can also use it to create custom ADT objects from scratch. Normally, if you load a DWG file containing ADT custom objects in IntelliCAD it would show up as proxy graphics (basically bounding boxes). With ADTdirect these objects would appear just as they would in AutoCAD. Moreover, ADTdirect also offers full grip support for editing these custom objects. ADTdirect is being used in production by a number of ODA members.
(3) Facet Modeler: This is the ODA’s home grown light weight solid modeller which does not use the ACIS modelling kernel. You can create primitives like box, pyramid, etc. and do basic modelling operations like boolean operations, slicing, sectioning, etc. It stores the resultant solid data as Boundary Representations in the same way as how AutoCAD stored 3D solids.
(4) C3Ddirect: This is the ODA’s Civil Engineering package which depends on DWGdirect and ADTdirect. It supports DWG files created by Civil3D 2007 and 2008. Support for 2009 is in progress as well as other features such as support for grips, grading support (slope calculations), etc. They expect to have it ready in all respects in third quarter of 2009.
(5) DWGdirect.NET: This is a managed component which wraps most of DWGdirect functionality. This allows programmers to use languages like C#, VB.NET, etc. to access the underlying DWGdirect technology. I believe this is huge because this throws the doors wide open for a whole new set of programmers. The geometry and other supporting classes have already been implemented. But some database related stuff is yet to be worked out. The Beta release date will be announced by the end of this year.
(6) SpaModeler: This is a module which seamlessly integrates Spatial’s ACIS libraries (used by many solid modelers) into DWGdirect. However it requires a separate license from Spatial.
(7) DGNdirect: This is a library that offers read/write support for the Microstation DGN file format. Currently, the ODA offers read support for V7 and V8 and write support for V8. Apparently, even though Bentley is partnering with Autodesk, they have still not yet pulled out their DGN technology from the ODA.
(8) HOOPS Integration: One year ago the ODA has issued a press release announcing a partnership with Tech Soft 3D for integrating the HOOPS graphics engine into DGNdirect. Now they have integrated HOOPS into DWGdirect as well. So it is possible that IntelliCAD 7 may be running the same HOOPS graphics engine used by companies like Autodesk, SolidWorks, Dassault, PTC, SpaceClaim, Alibre, IronCAD. Although it is possible, I think it is unlikely since Redway3D is offering the ITC a far better deal for their graphics engine – 2,500 Euros annually per member without royalty and an option of getting the source code if anything were to happen to Redway3D, as opposed to Tech Soft 3D’s deal of a much higher annual fee coupled with royalty. I know the Tech Soft 3D numbers but would not like to disclose them here. Either way HOOPS integration into DWGdirect and DGNdirect opens possibilities for ODA’s members to develop high quality and robust CAD applications. But the DWGdirect HOOPS integration module will be available only in 2009.
It’s past midnight here at the Dubai airport. My flight back to India leaves in another four hours. I am using the Starbucks Coffee outlet to keep me awake and online.