View, markup, and collaborate on hundreds of file formats

March 9, 2006
It's not unusual for design data to come from a multitude of disparate customer, colleague, and supplier file formats.

— Leslie Gordon

AutoVue's Compare tool examines two SolidWorks assemblies and color-codes results. Blue components are unchanged, green ones were added, and red ones were removed.

Users can precisely measure a part or assembly and include the measurement as a markup entity. Measurements are anchored to points on any part or assembly and rotate along with the model.

The Explode tool lets users easily create illustrations for assembly and maintenance manuals.

Purchasing the many authoring programs just to work with different file formats is out of the question. So users unable to open files must resort to calling their IT help desks. This wasted time can kill projects and lose sales.

To solve the multi-format problem, Cimmetry's AutoVue software suite provides viewing, markup, and collaboration functions in the same graphical interface. Desktop and Client-Server editions are available. The latter editions work completely on the server so users require only a browser such as Internet Explorer, and a brief Java download.

The AutoVue product suite comprises several products. The basic program is AutoVue, which lets you open and view hundreds of 2D CAD, text document, and graphic file-formats. A professional version lets users also markup, redline, and annotate such files. The AutoVue Solid-Model solution includes these features and also displays 3D part and assembly models from applications including SolidWorks, Inventor, Pro/E, UG, and Catia. And the program handles electronic design automation (EDA) files including PCB/IC layouts and schematics. It lets users rotate and "explode" assemblies and design digital mockups (DMUs), which can contain both 2D electronic and 3D CAD files. In addition, the AutoVue SolidModel Professional solution lets users markup such files. This review focuses on AutoVue SolidModel Pro V19 (AVSMP V19).

AVSMP V19 works out-of-the box, either stand-alone or with one of several PLM systems including Agile, Matrix, and Wind-chill. The arrangement works like this: the user opens a file in the PLM system, makes an annotation, and saves the file. The annotation markup links to the original document and is also saved back into the PLM. By adding markup layers, AutoVue keeps the native data intact.

The AutoVue interface looks much the same whether loaded with an AutoCAD or a Unigraphics file. This shortens the learning curve. For 2D CAD work, designers can use the Compare tool in AVSMP V19 to compare file revisions. Markup tools for 2D CAD and text documents include the Cloud, for highlighting an area with a multilobed shape. When it's necessary to add comments to a drawing or document, users can make use of the Note tool, which opens a simple text editor for entering large amounts of verbiage.

The Compare tool also works on 3D formats. For example, it compares parts or whole assemblies and color codes differences by showing areas unchanged or components added, removed, or moved. AVSMP V19 also takes precise measurements. This comes in handy for predicting real-world manufacturability without the expense and time of physical prototypes. The measurement capabilities are also helpful in figuring costs. For example, suppose a train engine is to be painted with expensive copper paint. Merely select the engine surfaces in the model, and the software displays the total square inches.

Measurement tools for 3D also include Angle, which measures the angle between vertices and adds that information to the markup file, and Distance, which does the same for the space between two vertical faces.

A 3D Explode feature lets users drag a slide bar to "explode" an entire assembly or subassembly, taking it apart level by level. This feature is useful in creating illustrations for assembly and maintenance manuals. And 3D Entity Search lets users quickly zero-in on a part in large assemblies by performing searches based on native-file attributes.

The DMU feature lets users combine file formats from different electronic and mechanical engineering domains to create virtual assemblies. This is useful in such tasks as fitting a circuit board into a certain model phone casing. An electronics engineer on the West coast may have designed the circuit board, while a mechanical engineer in Quebec did the phone casing. They would store their files in the company's central document-management system.

The project manager can then import the electronics file and AutoVue maintains references between the electronics and the MCAD file. He selects a portion of the phone casing and circuit board, sets a minimum clearance distance, and clicks "compute." The software highlights any interfering parts.

The manager, or host, can initiate a collaboration session to iron out such design quirks. He would send e-mails with URLs inviting recipients to a session. A Users tab lists attendees as they sign in along with their layer color and security status. Users can add markups in real time, while a markup tree keeps track of changes individuals make. This results in a full audit trail of all markups added, the chat that went on, and the files that were used in the real-time session.

Lastly, users can extend the underlying application programming interfaces (APIs) to, for example, create an online portal for employees to batch-print drawings from any combination of file formats.

AutoVue SolidModel Pro V19 comes from Cimmetry Systems Corp., 6700 Cote de Liesse, Suite 206, St. Laurent, Que., Canada, (514) 735-3219,

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