Testing the eDrawings Virtual Reality Prototype with Google Cardboard

In the Partner Pavilion at SolidWorks World 2016, the mobile products team demonstrated a prototype of the eDrawings mobile app, with support for Virtual Reality via Google Cardboard.

Cardboard is an inexpensive, open source virtual reality viewer, meant to be used with apps on your phone. An alternative to expensive VR rigs like the Occulus, Cardboard uses the high-quality graphics, accelerometers, and processing power already in your pocket. Inexpensive Cardboard headsets are available available from many outlets, such as this one from Amazon.

The eDrawings team has worked quickly to integrate this technology into their product, and were able to demonstrate a functional prototype at SolidWorks World 2016. The prototype was hosted on an iPhone 6 Plus, but the team assured me that iOS and Android versions are being developed in parallel.

Viewing a model in eDrawings virtual reality allows you to add an extra layer of immersive realism to your design, using the movement of your head, rather than your finger, to manipulate the model.

Similar to other Cardboard apps, the VR function of eDrawings mobile generates two images of the object being viewed, with a slight offset to account for stereo vision, making the object appear three-dimensional. Convex lenses in the Cardboard headset resolve the two images into one, and make it appear farther than a few inches in front of your eyes. The accelerometers in the phone also track movement, so the object moves and rotates, changing your perspective as you move your head.

 

As a prototype, the new eDrawings VR mode I tested was certainly unpolished, but the basic functions – stereo imaging, head tracking, etc. – were implemented well. However, more functions will need to be added to make VR viable, rather than foregoing the goofy-looking box and simply using your finger.

If all goes well, the team hopes to release the VR feature update sometime this year (possibly alongside the release of SolidWorks 2017). Be sure to stop by the SolidWorks area in the center of the Partner Pavilion at SolidWorks World 2016, to try out the Cardboard prototype, along with a bunch of other great projects now under development.

The incomparable Michael Lord modeling the Cardboard headset

Google Cardboard Kit

SolidWorks 2014 What’s New – Chapter 11: eDrawings

The list of enhancements to eDrawings is about as short as it can get. There’s additional content available on the iPad app, and the ability to view SolidWorks 2014’s enhanced explode steps. Additionally, there’s an important step towards full Model-Based Definition.


Honorable Mentions

3DContentCentral on iPad

According to the What’s New document:

You can use eDrawings to view 3D ContentCentral on iPad. 3D ContentCentral is a free service for locating, configuring, downloading, and requesting 2D and 3D parts and assemblies… Start eDrawings on your iPad and click www.3dcontentcentral.com/.

I assume this feature is still forthcoming, because I haven’t seen it on my version of eDrawings yet.

Update: I’ve discovered that the What’s New document is (again) worded very poorly. What they mean to say is, 3DContentCentral is now available on the mobile Safari browser, and components can be opened in eDrawings directly from the mobile site. All standard eDrawings tools (section, measure, configure, etc.) are available to parts opened via 3DCC.

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Viewing Rotational Explode Steps

Now that rotational explode steps are available in Solidworks 2014, it only makes sense that the eDrawings viewer should be able to view them.

Winner

Viewing DimXpert Dimensions From SolidWorks Part Files

You can now view DimXpert dimensions from files are saved in SolidWorks 2014 or later. It’s a small enhancement, but what this means is that all geometric information is now available in the eDrawings format. This is the next big step necessary for making 2D drawings obsolete.

 


Check out the video below for even more eDrawings 2014 enhancements:

SolidWorks 2014 What’s New – Chapter 10: Drawings and Detailing

Hi All, sorry for the delay. I hope you’re all having a wonderful Holiday season – I know I am. This year, SolidWorks’ biggest gift to its community may be the enhancements made to drawings. There are dozens of great new enhancements this year, so if you want to learn about them all, check out the SolidWorks 2014 What’s New Document or the video below.


Honorable Mentions

Reattachable Balloons

If you’ve ever accidentally attached a stacked balloon to the wrong component, you know the only remedy was to recreate the entire stack. Not so anymore. Now you can simply right-click on the offending balloon, and select reattach. Now click any other component in that drawing view, and the balloon updates to reference it!

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Soft  Snaps for Angular Dimensions

This always used to bug me. When an angular dimension is placed next to a linear one, it would look weird if they weren’t aligned perfectly, but there was no way to do this. In 2014, however, the angular dimension snaps perfectly to the end of the linear dimension, forming a continuous line.

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Section Views of Surface Bodies

Previously, surfaces bodies could not be sectioned in drawings, and the surface bodies of mixed-body models did not appear at all. This limitation has been fixed in SolidWorks 2014.

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SolidWorks 2014

Force Notes Into UPPERCASE (With Exclusions)

This enhancement is a very close runner up, based simply on the amount of time I’ll save because of it. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve had to retype an entire note block because I forgot to turn on Caps Lock. Or, even worse, I’ve had to go through a convoluted EPDM workflow to change a custom property to uppercase.

In 2014, that’s a thing of the past. Now I can select any note block – even those on the sheet format layer – and check a box in the PropertyManager to force all the text to uppercase. Even custom properties from referenced documents are affected. 

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What’s more, SolidWorks added a global override so all new notes are uppercase, no matter what. You can, however, add exceptions to this rule. The most common exclusions – units of measure – are pre-populated by SolidWorks. You can find this override, and the exclusion list, under Document Properties >> Drafting Standard.

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Angular Running Dimensions

Angular running dimensions are a natural extension of Ordinate Dimensions. You start by defining a zero-degree dimension, and measure any number of angles from that dimension. The dimensions can run on one direction, up to 360 degrees, or bidirectionally, up to 180 each.  12-16-2013 12-02-13 PM

You’ll find most of the options available for Angular Running Dimensions (chain, jog, text position, etc.) to be similar to those of Ordinate Dimensions. Find angular running dimensions under the Smart Dimension command.

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Find Virtual Sharps

This enhancement can be very useful for dimensioning a variety of irregular shapes, finding overall sizes, and determining volume envelopes. To dimension to a virtual sharp, start by selecting a dimension tool. Then, right-click the edge or line you’re interested, and select Find Intersection. Click the intersecting entity, and the dimension is automatically snapped to the virtual sharp. Finish placing your dimension as normal, and you’re done.

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Fixed Shaded With Edges Bleed-Through Issue

By setting the quality of a Shaded With Edges drawing view to High Quality, thin-walled parts no longer show ghosted edges from the back side.

Center Marks and Callouts for Hole Wizard Slots

Continuing the pattern of slot enhancements, any slot created with the new Hole Wizard functionality can now have center marks and callouts automatically applied to them when inserted into a drawing. The same functionality is already available for holes.

Second Sheet Format

The Drawing Sheets document property lets you specify a default sheet format for when you add new sheets to drawing documents. This property lets you automatically have one sheet format for the first sheet and a separate sheet format for all additional sheets.
To specify a different sheet format for a new sheet, click Tools > Options > Document Properties > Drawing Sheets, select Use different sheet format, and browse to select a sheet format file (file ending in .slddrt).

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Improved Symbol Library

The Symbol Library selection window has been completely redone, and is ow easier to use. When inserting a symbol, the drop-down shows the last category of symbols used. To access additional symbols, click the More Symbols button to access the full library.

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Winner

Replace Model View

The Replace Model View command allows users to quickly change the file referenced in their drawing. This is most useful when creating drawings of nearly identical parts or assemblies. For example, let’s say you’ve just completed a drawing of a complex sheet metal part. But uh-oh! You were supposed to be working on the sheet metal assembly that included PEM nuts and hardware! Now, instead of doing the whole drawing over again, you can just replace the model view. And, because the assembly contains the part that you’ve already worked so hard dimensioning, all those dimensions, annotations, GD&T symbols, etc. aren’t lost.

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You can even replace a part with a part or an assembly with an assembly. However, if the replacement file is completely different, the dimensions will dangle, and must be reattached.


Check out this video from DS SolidWorks about all the new drawing functionality in 2014:

What’s Coming in SolidWorks 2014

This year’s “What’s New” skit was by far the best of the three I’ve seen in person. Jeremy Regnerus hosted a cheesy home shopping gift show, interviewing wannabe inventors selling such products as…

The SolidGrill 3000! A laptop that gets so hot, it grills burgers!

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ExactFlat At SolidWorks World 2013

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Since we last checked in with Steve McClendon and the ExactFlat team at their debut at SolidWorks World 2012, their platform has been strengthened, and their integration with SolidWorks is more rock-solid than ever.  ExactFlat Design Studio is an add-in to SolidWorks that provides design tools for sewn products – anything from car seats to backpacks. I personally have no experience with this product market, but in the brief demo I received at SolidWorks World 2013 from Marketing Director Matt Smith, it was easy to understand every feature of the program.

Design can take place in either a 2D or 3D environment. The former is best for those who are used to current sewn product design tools, and the latter is for those with a strong SolidWorks background. The design style can be switched at any time, and all changes are parametrically linked. For example, a designer could model a car seat in SolidWorks, translate the surfaces of the model to 2D shapes, apply a force to the model to see how the shapes deform, add seam and hem material, and nest the shapes into a large cutting pattern, ready to feed into a cutting machine. In 2D mode, the software always remembers which edges will be sewn together, so a change made to one shape automatically updates its complimentary shapes, and the 3D model.

There are also special, automatic custom properties associated with each edge, including edge name, seam type, and a property not found anywhere else in SolidWorks, edge length. When creating a drawing, ExactFlat automatically measures the lengths of even the most complex edges, something that SolidWorks’ own dimensioning tools haven’t been able to do yet.

In developing their product, the ExactFlat team worked directly with SolidWorks – and gained R&D Partner status – meaning that the integration of their add-in goes deeper than most. For example, ExactFlat offers macros, mouse gestures, and system options through the standard SolidWorks UI. And the collaboration doesn’t stop there. ExactFlat even sponsored one of the receptions at SWW13! That’s a sure sign that business is good.

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While ExactFlat is still technically in Beta, they hope to obtain SolidWorks gold partner status after their full product launch, schedulerd for March or April of this year. As the lauch approaches, excitement about the product grows. Steve told me that by the end of Day 1 of SolidWorks World 2013, they already had more interested customers than during the entirety of SolidWorks World 2012. That’s no surprise to me. I’ve known since their debut last year that ExactFlat’s enthusiastic team and the innovative new possibilities they bring to the CAD field would set them apart.

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SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual Teaser

SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual Teaser 1/21/13


Immediately following today’s general session – where we learned about the new, long-awaited CAD product known as SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual – Fielder Hiss, Bertrand Sicot, and the rest of the SolidWorks/DASSAULT executives hosted a press conference. During that conference, we got a few more details on the product, and it’s development up to this point. After the conference, however, I got a chance to spend 5 minutes using today’s newly announced product. But here’s the interesting part: the product I used was hosted on an iPad, not a PC, like we saw today at the General Session. I asked how it was possible that a product still in development could already be translated to mobile form. The answer surprised me: It wasn’t. At the core of what Gian Paolo Bassi is calling their 21st-century kernel is universal adaptability. SolidWorks MechCon, and presumably any future V6 app, can be used on any device – PC, Mac, iOS, Android, and web, to name a few – without a lengthy translation process. In the same way that Windows 8 is trying to standardize their user experience across PCs and Tablets, the V6 kernel is attempting to do the same for their conceptual CAD tool.But if the same tools are to be used in the same way across vastly different devices, they have to be simple but powerful. From my brief interaction, that seems to be the case. Simple tools that sketch basic shapes, create solid bodies, and modify existing geometry come together to grow a concept out of nothing. But remember, it’s not SolidWorks. The tools are different and will take some getting used to. They’re geared toward fast, simple modeling, not detailed design. There’s no way to input exact measurements, just whatever looks good. Remember, the tools are as powerful as they can be while still working on mobile devices.

The viewer side of the MechCon app.

Editing a model on an iPad. Not just viewing or animating, but actually editing. And those edits can be picked up on a pc or dropped directly into SolidWorks.

Notice the toolbar at the bottom of the app. Tools include erase, select, sketch entities (line, rectangle, arc, curve, circle), move, push, revolve, offset, smooth, paint and more.

SolidWorks Catches Mobile Fever! eDrawings Pro for iPad

This morning, DS Solidworks released its fourth new mobile app of the year. In the last 8 months, they’ve released n!Fuze, the wildly successful SolidWorks World 2012 app, and an entry-level version of eDrawings.  After that initial release of eDrawings, there was plenty of excitement, but also lots of room for improvement, and the community didn’t hold back.

“I have a feeling that the app will continue to grow over the next few months and years, as SolidWorks realizes that it’s users need more mobile functionality.”

“…lack of markup, measure, section, and other basic review tools.  SolidWorks needs to realize that the goal of any mobile app, however unattainable, is to replace a computer completely, and if some brave engineer is going to bring only his iPad to a design review halfway across the country, he’ll need more than rotate and explode. “

“Personally I would like to see more focus on the features that made eDrawings my de-facto tool for communication by adding markup and measure capabilities. There are a number of things that are missing from the iPad.”

Within 4 months, SolidWorks delivered. Today, eDrawings Pro for iPad was released, and has many of the features that the community has been asking for, including measure, markup, and section view. I could gripe about the fact that they’ve saved the best features for the more expensive version, but honestly it’s just good business.  

I was able to test the three major enhancements of eDrawings Pro:

Measure

To measure, you drag a cursor to the appropriate spot, and tap it to select a point, edge, or face. The mouse-like interface is useful for selecting small details of complex models, but not exactly intuitive on a multi-touch device. Luckily, the help section is easily accessable and explains everything well. Filtering is completely intuitive, since the filter toolbar appears whenever measuring. There even appears to be a distinct filter for holes, but it was consistently greyed out for me (even when viewing parts with holes). This is also the feature that caused the most crashes. Although the iTunes description promises increased speed and stability, my ancient iPad 1 crashed constantly.

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Markup

I was pleasantly surprised with the wide functionality of markup. It’s so much more than adding standard text, but even that part is well done. You can type text and enclose it in a box, ellipse, or cloud, and edit the text by double-tapping. You can add multiple leaders to a note, and the drag points of the leaders are a good distance from the arrowheads, so you can actually see where you’re dragging them. A nice little feature that could have easily been overlooked. What I’d like to see next is automatic text wrapping for long comments, based on the current field of view.

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You can also add markups using multi-touch. Using your finger, you can draw out your suggestions and revisions. However, this feature isn’t yet sensitive enough for writing out text, even with a stylus. It came out jagged, like it was only capturing input a few times a second. You can even choose your markup color using RGB values from the settings menu.

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The next markup tool is a dimension marker, which works in much the same way as the measure tool. However, there seems to be a couple big issues. Since markups have to be in one distinct view, you can’t rotate the model one you start this command. This makes it difficult to measure from the front to back of a part. Also, there is no filter toolbar for this command, even though it’s so similar to the measure tool.

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The next two markup tools are my favorites. eDrawings Pro allows you to insert pictures directly into the file you’re viewing, either from your photo library, or using the camera on late-model iPads. So if you find inspiration for your design while looking at funny cat pictures on your iPad you can just save it to your library and insert it into your model. Or, if you drew a napkin sketch during lunch (while also looking at lolcats), just take a picture with your iPad camera and put that in the model.

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Finally, you can delete any of your own markups by tapping the trashcan symbol, and then the markup.

Section View

Section view, while trapped on the three orthogonal axes, still has a moderate number of features. You can choose the section direction, show the cutting plane, and show or hide the endcap, and drag the section location using either a slider in the control panel, or the section plane in the graphics view (section plane must be shown for this). What it’s missing is a colored section cap, and the ability to adjust the angle of the plane.

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So there you have it, SolidWorks’ next big step in mobile computing. Does this downpour of mobile apps mean that something bigger is over the horizon? Only time will tell. Until then, if you want to get your hands on eDrawings Pro for iPad, it’s only $4.99 on the App Store for the next 90 30 days, before reaching its regular price of $9.99.

Google Nexus Q – Sexy Streaming Media Hub for Android Users, Made in the USA

 

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If I liked Android stuff (start your flame war below) I’d be all over this sleek new gadget.  Unveiled at a Google developer conference on Wednesday, the “social streaming media player” gets all its content directly from the cloud, or a wirelessly connected Android device.  The Q can be connected to nearly any kind of A/V device, using its built-in 25-watt amp and RCA connectors, plus HDMI, optical audio, and USB ports. If you don’t have any speakers available, not to worry. The Q comes with a built-in set.

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Volume, media selection, and group access are all controlled through your Android device. Anything that’s available through Google Play or YouTube can be streamed to the Q, with no limitations.  The Q even has a voice-recognition feature, allowing you to “Ask the Q” for help with life’s great mysteries. It’s no Siri, but it’s a cute little Easter egg.

 

Although all this technology is impressive, the most notable breakthrough surrounding the Nexus Q is its birthplace. Etched right on the bottom of every device are the words “Designed and Manufactured in the U.S.A.” When’s the last time you saw those words on a piece of high-end technology?

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Google is one of the first major companies to bring its manufacturing center out of China – where labor is cheap and regulations are non-existent – and back to the US, where it can make a difference to our economy.  The plant that manufactures the Q employs hundreds of people in Google’s hometown of Mountain View, CA.  That number may rise in the future.

 

Here’s a short Google video describing the Q’s functionality:

eDrawings for iPad: The Difference 3 Months Can Make

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As most of you probably already know, SolidWorks has finally released a mobile eDrawings Viewer. It came hot on the heels of the widely disappointing mobile n!Fuze app, and many would agree it’s been a long time coming. But those people would also agree that it’s better late than never.  It’s ironic, though, that SolidWorks’ tagline for this product is “You asked. We answered.”  We all hope that this is SolidWorks’ first foray into a true mobile CAD platform.

Get it on the App Store ($1.99)

I was actually lucky enough to get to alpha-test the app during a Product Dev session at SolidWorks World 2012. And believe me, a lot has changed. First, and most obviously, every other action made the thing crash, and from what I can tell, that doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore. (My copy seems to have trouble dealing with files larger than about 4 MB, but I think that says more about my iPad 1 than the app itself. Moving on.)  Secondly, the layout is completely different, and much cleaner. In the original version, several buttons performed the exact same command, and the labeling was much poorer.  Now each button has a unique function, and a symbol that follows either the SolidWorks or Apple standard.  One tweak that I especially like is the Home button. It used to return the model to an isometric view, but now returns it to whichever view the model was in when it was imported.  It also wasn’t possible to hide the upper bar (CommandManager?) and side window (Task Pane?), and the UI felt much more cramped. 

A problem that has plagued eDrawings since I can remember is still present: Edited appearances are not carried over (such as brushed aluminum with a color added in, as below) 

SolidWorks Original: 

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eDrawings for iPad:

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Finally, the most important change is the ability to import models into the app.  When I was testing the early version in January, it was hinted that the ONLY way to get models into the mobile viewer would be to go through n!Fuze. I stopped the testers right there and asked what they were smoking and where I could get some.  I would LOVE to be that far removed from reality for a day.  Thankfully, that’s not the case, as the app allows iOS to recognize SolidWorks, eDrawings, and AutoCAD files, and they can be opened from any app that hosts them, such as Mail, Dropbox, Evernote, etc. Even models embedded in Powerpoint can be opened.

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Overall, the app could prove to be very useful. The motion is smooth and the UI is easy to use – especially with the addition of a short help section – and  overall the app looks very professional. I have a feeling that the app will continue to grow over the next few months and years, as SolidWorks realizes that it’s users need more mobile functionality. A few consistent gripes among the rest of the SolidWorks community are the lack of markup, measure, section, and other basic review tools.  SolidWorks needs to realize that the goal of any mobile app, however unattainable, is to replace a computer completely, and if some brave engineer is going to bring only his iPad to a design review halfway across the country, he’ll need more than rotate and explode. 

Keep up the good work!

SolidWorks World 2012 – Wednesday General Session (According to Twitter)

The Wednesday General Session is always the most exciting. Everyone is waiting for the big reveals of the next release, and any other little piece of new information about their favorite products.

Ladies and gentlemen, once again, the NAObots…

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First up, Fielder Hiss takes the stage and welcomes everyone to the last General Session of 2012, and welcomes a representative of Platinum Partner, Dell.

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Next, Mark Schnieder revealed the Model Mania contest winners, and walked through the workflow.

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