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ACIS 4.0 shapes the future of design.

Commercial geometric-modeling kernels have radically changed the competitive landscape of the computer-aided-design, -manufacturing, and -engineering (CAD/CAM/CAE) market by accelerating the process by which software developers implement state-of-the-art features in their codes. The latest release of the ACIS kernel, from Spatial Technology in Boulder, Colo.(, is a case in point. In addition to streamlining software development, the ACIS 4.0 kernel - which generates accurate three-dimensional representations of parts and assemblies - offers significant benefits to end-users of personal-computer-based CAD programs such as CADKEY, from Baystate Technologies Inc. in Marlborough, Mass. (

ACIS 4.0 offers a plethora of new functions and improvements, including significant enhancements in modeling power and speed. Complex surface blending received a boost with a new end-capping algorithm, which significantly benefits users requiring the ability to extend surfaces in complex modeling situations. The addition of the new rolling-ball surface function offers better parameterization and makes surface evaluations faster, giving users quick feedback in modeling applications. The improved performance of ACIS blending is due to a software feature called evaluator caching, which increases surface-modeling speed from 2 to 10 times depending on the operation. The most impressive leap in performance, however, comes in the blending of spline geometry.

Surface sweeping along general 3-D curves is much more versatile, as curves are no longer required to be tangent contiguous. For advanced shape descriptions, CADKEY users can define any path and profile that may contain sharp intersections. Surface sweeping has also been modified to optimize surface evaluators for increased modeling speed.

The new automated alignment of curves in surface-lofting and skinning functions are particularly time-saving, as starting and ending curve positions will be switched to the same direction to create a manufacturable surface. Users will have greater control over generating surfaces that are smoother at the edges.

Improvements to ACIS 4.0's "silhouettes" feature provide greater reliability in hidden-line-removal operations and creating parting lines for molding applications. Baystate Technologies' development team is quite impressed with the increase in calculation speed, since the CADKEY user base requires the ability to produce 2-D engineering layouts, in addition to performing dynamic 3-D modeling.

The unique "Laws" surface feature, found only in the ACIS kernel, delivers quantum advances in solid and surface geometric modeling. CADKEY users can represent curves and surfaces using mathematical equations to create a higher level of complex shapes, such as springs and helical sweeps. A user could create a surface starting with a spherical curve and ending with an ellipsoid shape, a process similar to the way a sculptor manipulates a clay model.

The Laws space-warping capability enables users to apply mathematical equations to globally twist and bend any solid or surface body so that they can produce complex, organic shapes. This feature is particularly useful in sheet-metal applications, since it allows users to introduce a bend at any position in space. Laws can also be used to scale any surface non-uniformly.

New shelling features are particularly useful in product design and mold-making applications. CADKEY users will be able to select surfaces and instantly "thicken" them into solid bodies, eliminating several steps in the 3-D modeling process.

Of course, exciting features like these may escape engineers' notice if they're not rapidly delivered to market. ACIS's modular, object-oriented approach has had a major impact on the ability of Baystate Technologies' development team to quickly introduce powerful CAD innovations and effectively augment in-house development efforts. Because CADKEY is a free-form hybrid modeler incorporating two-dimensional drafting, three-dimensional wireframe, surface-modeling, and solid-modeling capabilities, as well as multiple data translators, Baystate Technologies' internal development staff must focus their efforts on introducing successive, multifaceted enhancements of the program. The open, object-oriented architecture of ACIS gives Baystate's development team the freedom to selectively incorporate new features that enhance existing CADKEY technology. Moreover, with ACIS 4.0, Baystate's development team can effectively maintain software libraries while optimizing the size of the core CADKEY product.

As a result of these features, ACIS 4.0 is helping the Baystate development team keep new software releases on schedule. The next major release - CADKEY 98 - will appear next September in record time, just five months after ACIS 4.0's launch in April 1998.

Robert W. Bean, P..E., is president and chief executive officer of Baystate Technologies, in Marlborough Mass., developers of CADKEY mechanical-design-automation software.
COPYRIGHT 1998 American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Author:Bean, Robert W.
Publication:Mechanical Engineering-CIME
Date:Jul 1, 1998
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