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Autodesk launches major upgrade in AutoCAD Release 12.

Last month, Autodesk Inc. (Sausalito, Calif.) announced AutoCAD Release 12, which the company called a major revision of the computer-aided design system. In addition to improved drawing capabilities and a new graphical user interface, Release 12 has extensions into relational data base management systems and a wider range of output options. AutoCAD Release 12 will initially be available on IBM-compatible PCs and Sun Sparcstations.

The most significant addition to Release 12 is the AutoCAD SQL Extension (ASE). The ASE gives AutoCAD users the ability to store and retrieve nongraphical data in commercially available relational data base management systems (RDBMS) under SQL. Data base management systems supported include dBase, Paradox, Informix, and Oracle. The extension consists of a programming interface, which enables developers to use RDBMS in AutoCAD applications, and a user command set, which provides user access to RDBMS functions. ASE is designed to link nongraphical information from schedules, bills of materials, asset tracking, and cataloging to AutoCAD entities in order to make this information more accessible to engineers.

One of the more visible areas of improvement in Release 12 is the acceleration of AutoCAD graphics. The latest version has 32-bit graphics capability, which largely eliminates screen regeneration during zoom and pan operations. Users can zoom in a range of 132,000 to 1 as opposed to 50 to 1 for Release 11. The speed of hidden-line removal has been increased through the use of virtual memory. In addition, new search algorithms have been added to improve the response time of entity selection, object snapping, and entity display.

These graphical improvements are accessible in Release 12 through a variety of graphical user interfaces. Autodesk has developed its Proteus presentation system, which displays AutoCAD in whichever graphical or windowing environment the user prefers. Most major AutoCAD commands are now accessed through dialog boxes. The boxes can be programmed by the user through AutoLisp and Autodesk's ADS languages. Cascading menus have also been added.

In the area of drawing functions, Release 12 has a region modeler that permits users to create geometry using areas and holes in addition to lines and arcs. To add or subtract from regions, users can employ Boolean operations similar to those available in Autodesk's Advanced Modeling Extension (AME). The region modeler can analyze a region for area, perimeter, and inertial properties. Regions can be converted into 3-D solids through extrusion or rotation.

The AutoCAD RENDER function creates rendered images of 3-D models and objects using existing HIDE and SHADE functions, replacing the AutoShade program. Renderman is still available under Release 12, however. RENDER works through a dialog box interface, providing AutoCAD viewing commands to direct camera positions, dynamic light source modification, and a variety of finish options. Renderings can be either 256 colors or full 24-bit true color, depending on the hardware. RENDER works with all AutoCAD 3-D entities including AME solid models and is accessible through ADS and AutoLisp.

On the output side, plotting commands are now accessible through a dialog box. Up to 29 different configurations of plotters, printers, and other output devices can be stored on-line. Single devices may have multiple configuration files. Plot configuration files may contain individual pen parameters and five user-definable paper sizes, in addition to other plot parameters required by AutoCAD. Plot files can be previewed on screen before plotting in what-you-see-is-what-you-get format, reducing the need for check plots. Under Release 12, AutoCAD supports 256-color, line-type, and pen-width definitions when plotting.

Support for the PostScript page description language within AutoCAD has been added to Release 12, allowing users to read, write, and display PostScript files. PostScript images can be inserted into AutoCAD drawings as blocks and AutoCAD drawings can be exported to Encapsulated PostScript files. PostScript support includes the ability to display, store, and output text using Adobe Type 1 PostScript fonts.
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Author:Puttre, Michael
Publication:Mechanical Engineering-CIME
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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