SpaceClaim Listens

In my last post I mentioned how my PolyFace Mesh related service request was ignored by Autodesk. In a stark contract, this post is about a company called SpaceClaim that does listen to what people are saying about their software. My only hope is that they continue to listen even after they have a large and probably unmanageable customer base like Autodesk does.

On 14th October 2008, I wrote a piece for upFront.eZine regarding OpenRP and how it solves problems related to the STL file format. In it I wrote:

“To store the geometric data of an assembly (many parts), the STL file would need many ‘solid’/’endsolid’ blocks — which is not allowed by the STL format. Some CAD vendors, notably SpaceClaim, threw the STL standard to the wind by generating ASCII STL files with many ‘solid’/’endsolid’ blocks, one for each solid part in an assembly. You may think this is a good change, but I find it careless.”

And I went ahead to explain why. That same day, Kevin Leblanc, Manager of Technical Services at SpaceClaim, contacted me to clarify things. I explained to him why I wrote what I wrote and he promised to fix the problem in the next release or service pack. And that is precisely what he did. I am extremely pleased to report that SpaceClaim 2009 now outputs STL files correctly. In fact, they have gone ahead and given the user the flexibility to output STL files per design, component or body, which I believe is excellent.

My world happens to revolve around CAD data exchange. 155 out of our 174 products are file import or export plug-ins for CAD systems. CAD users all over the world contact us every day with problems related to some file format or another. What pisses me off the most is when I see irresponsible software developers output CAD files with blatant disregard to the file format specification.

A typical example is the IGES file format, which is supposed to be a standard neutral file format, specially designed to ease the transfer of data from one CAD system to another. Over the years CAD vendors have abused the IGES file format by making variants of it to suit their specific needs, thereby defeating the very purpose of a neutral file standard. One look at the Rhinoceros IGES export options dialog box gives you an idea of the magnitude of the problem.

There are 60 types of “standard” IGES files. I don’t think I need to say more.