Archive for May, 2006

Notes on the April 2006 Meeting

25 May 2006

AutoCAD 2007

Steve Hunter – Onset Design 

This seems to be becoming a regular occurence: every April we see a new version of AutoCAD and, with it a stellar performance from Steve Hunter to introduce it to us. Steve will be known to most of us as the proprietor of Onset Systems, specialists in CAD customisation and document management solutions.

Steve started by introducing himself to us and some of the fun things that his company have been involved in. He's a Registered Autodesk Developer, working with large corporate customers such as energy utilities.

Being a Registered Autodesk Developer, Steve has access to all the latest Autodesk software, including, of course, AutoCAD. As you probably know, AutoCAD 2007 is a major release, coming in the now established twelve month product upgrade release cycle.

Steve introduced us to some of the major new features in AutoCAD 2007. I won't attempt to cover them all in detail: by now you will probably have come across many of them. If you haven't, there are plenty of sites on the net (such as which cover them in detail. Here's a quick summary (in no particular order)

Dashboard. This is a major new interface element introduced in Acad2007. Effectively, it's a tool palette with some 140 commands. These cover a broad range of activities, especially regarding drawing and 3D work.

One criticism of the Dashboard is that it's not very customisable. In fact it's not customisable at all! You cannot alter its content. The ability to customise the Dashboard will surely feature high on future wishlists.

Although workspaces were introduced in AutoCAD 2006, they are now promoted to a toolbar of their own. They've introduced a new workspace called 3D Modelling with new toolbars for materials etc.

One of the more interesting ideas is the "Dynamic UCS" – something like a temporary workplane that changes as you move from surface to surface.

There are some new template files – one of these is called acadiso3D.dwt. As you can guess, this is one used for drawing in 3D. Steve started a new drawing using this template. He placed a few rudimentary solids in space. So far, so good, but not a lot different to 3D in previous releases. Then he selected one of the solids. Now, there are grips at the usual places, but they allow you to stretch the solid by moving the grips. This is the major "wow" factor of this release.

Previous AutoCAD's provided a couple of ways to visualise your 3D models. These included representations like wireframe, hidden lines and shaded views. Now we can go far beyond these simple views by using "visual styles". There are a bunch of visual styles provided, such as conceptual and realistic.

New objects are now possible such as helix (ideal for screw threads, springs and even spiral stairs).

Palettes such as Design Centre and Properties can be parked and fly out only as needed. This will be a boon to those of use with small screens.

Sweeps give your objects "body." For example, a spiral spring is given thickness.

New PressPull command. Click and drag solid modelling.

New Pyramid object. Start with a polygon and stretch up to give a solid pyramid.

3D Move is a nifty new command. Use direct distance entry while constraining movement in one plane. Think of this as using polar in 2D, except this is in 3D.

Polysolid is another new object. It's like extruding and sweeping and object along a path. The swept surface is determined by the object being swept: e.g. arc along a curve.

With this release, there's clearly a new emphasis on 3D and the requirements for graphics performance. There's a new "tuning dialog," invoked by the 3DConfig command. When you run this, it tells you what features are or are not recommended.

You can easily place a camera in your model and get an instant preview of the camera's view. From this, you can set up lights and then do a render.

Other features:

CUI corrections – command drag to tool palettes, double click configuration

Pdf export function. This appears as a print driver

DWF underlay – the new DWF attach command attaches a DWF file. Something like attaqching an xref or image. You can use osnaps to snap to the DWF geometry. Also has clip, image adjust and fade.

Layer Express Tools have now been integrated into the program as core AutoCAD commands.

Network Licence manager can handle mixed versions of licences. There's a new increment function to dish out the lowest cost option

News for the Pews

Mark Miller

After the evenings mega presentation from Steve Hunter, it was getting rather late so Mark quickly gave us his insights into the world of gadgets, not just strictly AutoCAD related, but from the wider computing scene. He managed to find a whole lot of gear that is of interest to AutoCAD users. I won't try to list every one of them here but some of the hightlights were:

Pocket size projectors coming, using OLED technology

There are no more plasma screens being manufactured – every plasma now on sale is old stock. big screens are all going LCD.

New Nikon 10 megapixel camera

Wireless networking components.