How SpaceClaim Did It Differently

SpaceClaim’s appearance on the MCAD scene triggered other MCAD vendors to offer dynamic push-pull direct modeling capabilities in their software. Since then we have heard other companies claim that they had been doing this all along. True, they have been offering direct modeling much before SpaceClaim, but what they did not offer (and some still don’t) is the dynamic push-pull user interface that make SpaceClaim so easy and intuitive to use.

One can argue about the merits of having such an interface. After all if you want to create a round, you most probably already know the exact radius of the round and will key it in anyways. But seeing the round dynamically take shape as you click-drag the mouse does give you a fantastic visual feedback of how the model will be deformed and helps you dynamically analyze what-if scenarios, among many other things. Personally, I believe that if the dynamic push-pull interface does not pose serious performance issues, having it is a million times better than not having it.

However, the purpose of this post is to highlight how this push-pull interface was born and who is the mother and the father. While browsing the Spatial web site I came across this extremely interesting case study on SpaceClaim. I highly recommend you read it, even though I am going to quote a couple of sections here.

Basically, the case study explains how SpaceClaim asked Spatial to bend in different ways and how Spatial obliged. Here is a section of the case study:

SpaceClaim envisioned enabling users to be able to pull on aspects of a model and have everything else adapt, on the fly, without predefined relationships or associations between geometry. “When we talked to Spatial developers what we’d hear constantly is that we were placing demands on the kernel to do things no one had ever asked it to do before.” says Frank DeSimone, SpaceClaim Senior Director of Research and Development, and the architect of the User Interaction Model for the software.

The case study further notes:

ACIS enabled SpaceClaim to provide unique capabilities. While most direct modelers can pick on a plane and move it around with its planar neighbors, SpaceClaim can take fairly complex surfaces and change them even if connections to neighboring surfaces are less than perfect.

From what I gather from this case study, SpaceClaim appears to be the father of their dynamic push-pull direct modeling technology and Spatial appears to be the mother. Which means that if another MCAD vendor whose solution is built upon ACIS (for example Kubotek) wishes to add push-pull direct modeling capabilities to their software, they need to spend some more “quality” time with Spatial and learn some new moves themselves. Spatial has already learned its moves while working with SpaceClaim. And I believe that this case study is a sign that Spatial is “available”.

Now I know that all the peverts reading this are getting all sorts of ideas, but basically this is business and this is how companies do it. Companies partner with other companies to improve their existing technologies so that they can offer the improved technologies to other companies.

Some time ago, Randall Newton suggested that “SpaceClaim got way more press than it deserved for its new ‘natural 3D design system’“. I strongly disagree. I think they deserved all the press that they got and more. Let me explain why. I am pretty sure that I am going to draw flak by saying what I am about to, but that never stopped me in the past.  To put it very crudely MCAD vendors only father their children. The mothers are the modeling kernel vendors. The reason why MCAD software look and feel different from each other is because they have different fathers. A MCAD software is basically a very complex Graphic User Interface (GUI) wrapped around a modeling kernel. The better the GUI, the better is the product.

I believe what SpaceClaim did was really commendable. Its founders had a vision of an easy to use MCAD software and challenged the kernel developers to do things differently. Spatial took up the challenge and delivered. There is a word for that. Its called innovation and it needs to be appreciated.

SpaceClaim may have got some recognition for its innovation. However, I am not sure Spatial ever got any. For whatever its worth, I dedicate this post to Spatial and its brilliant programmers that helped make SpaceClaim happen.