Supplier Source – A Major Meshverse Milestone!

I’d seen reBang’s post on Dassault’s “3D Flicker” gambit
and like Csven I was less than overwhelmed initially. Plus, proprietary-to-the-core software without open specifications always throws up a red flag for me – the internet abhors gatekeepers. HOWEVER 3DVIA provides a compelling business case that will have a powerful and near-term impact. For starters, existing product parts are available at 3D Content Central right now:

3D ContentCentral® provides access to free CAD drawings and 3D models representing millions of supplier-certified part numbers in all leading 2D and 3D CAD model formats, including AutoCAD® models, Autodesk Inventor™ models, Pro/ENGINEER® models, Solid Edge™ models, CATIA® models, SolidWorks® 3D CAD models, Unigraphics® models and other CAD systems. Model downloads are free to registered 3D ContentCentral® users and you can download as many CAD models as you want. In addition to providing access to supplier-certified parts models, 3D ContentCentral® puts you in touch with the efforts of a community of more than 280,000 registered users, who contribute 3D CAD models to the site’s user library.

Engineers and suppliers who have the tools and skills to leverage this can find each other through Supplier Source. When combined with the previously mentioned 3DSwym which puts end-use customers in the loop, the key participants in the ecosystem can collaborate. Not surprisingly, they’ve already got Microsoft into a partnership and Google will have to react – their 3D Warehouse and Sketch-Up offerings simply cannot compete with this. If Dassault opens things up a bit, both Croquet and Second Life can mesh very nicely with their core. Regardless, I’m predicting that before the year’s end, several major brands, movies, TV shows, and/or musical acts will be drawing large numbers of people into the meshverse for business. I expect IBM to be involved in many because they see the business case, understand who’s in charge and are actively engaged internally and externally in virtual worlds.

IBM – long considered a technology king maker. Their investments? Well, they lent their name to this particular conference. And anyone who attended the Rational Conference last week can describe in detail the massive presence Second Life had there – it was everywhere. As part of their efforts on the day, they cranked out a nice video (which, interestingly, featured a track from Jessy Moss – an artist not too many folks have heard stateside), several panelists and presenters, and an excellent demo of some climate science related virtual world technologies.

Make no mistake, however: the technical limitations on both the server and client sides are daunting. As Kapor noted, the ready availability of fast PC’s with fast connections in the Participation Age gives virtual worlds the critical mass they need for the early adopters. Crossing the chasm, however, will take time.

Last Friday didn’t convince me that virtual worlds have done so, but it did make me more optimistic that they may – possibly in the not too distant future.
Redmonk: Virtual worlds … not converted but coming around

3DVIA is going to grow like Second Life did last year – perhaps even more. In order to leverage their newfound momentum, they will find like Second Life, Adobe and others that open source is their friend.



  1. csven said

    Yep. That “Update” is kind of a big deal. haha

    Next question: Where does ParallelGraphics fit into this equation?

  2. […] Meshverse on 3D “flickr” initiatives […]

  3. Laurence said

    That’s a good question. I haven’t been tracking the CAD vendor space closely but am spending a few more cycles on it these days. I’ve probably been too put off by the weak api’s, draconian licenses and high cost of entry of the past – things have changed more than I realized. Even so, we need more than open standards. I’ve felt for a very long time and still do, that a Linux, MySQL will emerge in the CAD space. One built on Croquet would be ideal, but will probably take more energy than currently exists in the Croquet ecosystem. I’d love to be wrong about that, but an open CAD seems more likely to emerge from one of the existing open projects(I have no idea who really leads here) or an existing closed platform that a vendor opens in an attempt to survive. I think that it will happen in the 3-5 year range.

  4. Khepera said

    This communal drive in the realm of 3D modelers is cool, but as ReBang noted in his blog, the pimping of the modeler community by big corps as the modelers buy-in to the community is a red flag. The oft-noted challenge of interfacing various CAD file formats is important, but perhaps is seeking a solution by asking an imprecise question. Interoperability seems much more significant an issue in CAD. Sure, we all use the same measurement units, and the same coefficients for materials, but it’s the way each file type handles surfaces & forms which is claimed to be the problem. Perhaps a glance to the PCB CAD realm may point the way.

    Yes, they still have many of the same file-sharing problems, but there are bridges(Gerber, among others). The point is that one big leap in PCB CAD was the introduction of intelligent components, particularly at the schematic level(for instance a resistor schematic component has package, resistance and power rating parameters embedded). If parametric 3D models were embedded with analogous intelligence regarding materials, FEA, etc., much more than design intent would be captured, and a more informed usage of the design would be possible by other designers who might pick it up. Material/weight/FEA data would help trade-off choices, and establishing a standard for such embedding could be the core skeleton around which a multi-use CAD file format could be crafted…..

    If nothing else, such an approach would further empower the bridging/merging — yes, *meshing* — of the electronic & mechanical CAD realms into a unified suite.

  5. csven said

    That’s an interesting point, Khepera. I’m not a EE, but I think I’d read about PCB CAD’s intelligent components recently when looking at freeware/open source circuit modelers. And while I recall thinking how nice it would be to have a unified suite of design tools that bridged all these areas, it had not occurred to me how that particular solution might be applied to material properties and such. Nice thought.

    As to an open source CAD application, there have been some efforts, of course, but nothing of note imo. Not yet anyway. However, I suspect we’ll see something emerge in the next few years. There are too many talented people and too many possible opportunities available for it not to happen afaic. I’d say 3-5 years is about right.

  6. Laurence said

    Not too long ago, I listened to a Google podcast that mentioned how people are using the Ruby API in Sketchup to add material and other 411 not supported in Sketchup. I think that an open source Sketchup would be a high impact entry and a nice prelude to a higher end offering.

    On another note, I agree that the so-called “intelligent components” approach points in the right direction because they encourage cleaner, more object-oriented architecture under the hood. However, a better file format isn’t what’s needed – more on that shortly.

  7. […] discussion mentioning CAD file formats motivated me to make this entry.  A file format is a particular way to encode information for […]

  8. Khepera said

    Following Funkencode’s assertions @ file formats, I would agree, and my initial post suggested something similar in the “The oft-noted challenge of interfacing various CAD file formats is important, but perhaps is seeking a solution by asking an imprecise question” remark.

    Taking it a step further, my closing point was suggesting that a core matrix of data points — comprising embedded intelligence — could be structured so the same data points would always show up in the same locations. Mechanical, perhaps grouped by form factors(say extrusion wall thickness @ strength characteristics); FEA/stress data; material properties(including conductance/E-M). At first glance, this may seem superfluous at the mechanical level, but many in aerospace & marine applications are all too aware of dissimilar metal issues. Yet this would provide a natural lead-in to the inclusion of electroconductive, perhaps even electromotive properties as the assembly in question meshes into the bridge realm of electromechanical packaging & design.

    With this approach, Dr. Funkencode’s assertions regarding the integrated design of software/hardware/firmware would have a fertile starting ground, particularly as motion dynamics data points(at least at the subassembly level) were included in the set, providing useful ref’s for programmers, and designers up the assembly tree.

    So if the formatting of the data is driven by need/design intent/utility, it would likely be more self-streamlining, with the premium put on simplicity & utility than arbitrary structures.

    In this context, the good Dr.’s ref to “Why not divide it up into little computers…” is an interesting parallel to some ancient insights. In ancient Egypt, the human body was seen as the highest form of design. We now know, as some did then, that the human body is not a ‘main frame’ design, with the brain running everything, but rather a distributed computing system with intelligent nodes — the sense, organs, even the skin and nervous system — each competent and well orchestrated in jazz idiom to heartbeat rhythms. Applied to mechanical/electronic/electromechanical design, such an approach as paradigm would generate a shift in focus, values and options whose harvest is to vast to predict here.

  9. Laurence said

    It’s worth noting that the quotes from Alan Kay are discussing thoughts/events from the early 1960’s. Also, he went on say

    Of course, philosophy is about opinion and engineering is about deeds, with science the happy medium somewhere in between. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that most of my ideas from then on took their roots from Simula–but not as an attempt to improve it. It was the promise of an entirely new way to structure computations that took my fancy. As it turned out, it would take quite a few years to understand how to use the insights and to devise efficient mechanisms to execute them.

    (emphasis mine) The paradigm shift has been underway for a few decades now – Sun’s “the network is the computer” slogan was coined in 1984. So the challenge would seem to remain finding ways to apply the insights. O’Reilly’s 2000 essay The Network Really Is The Computer provides an excellent blend of insight and application in the context of how ecosystems evolve.

  10. […] experience will be frustrated. Parts will break or won’t come out right, but through Supplier Source and other online sources connections to professionals will be found. It’s not hard to […]

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