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Product Review: IMSI Design TurboCAD Mac Pro 8

Architosh reviews the latest version of IMSI/Design’s TurboCAD Mac Pro 8. Since 2006 the company returned to the Mac CAD market with its leading TurboCAD product lineup and the native Mac code-based versions offer compelling solutions at various levels of the low to mid-level CAD space. Powered by the power Spatial ACIS geometry modeling kernel, TurboCAD Mac Pro 8 offers many new modeling features plus rendering, workspace/workflow and much more.

It has been over a year and a half since we last reviewed IMSI/Design’s venerable TurboCAD Mac Pro, now at version 8. As noted in our last review, IMSI/Design’s overall family of TurboCAD CAD products competes primarily against Autodesk’s market share leading AutoCAD as “generalista supremo” of electronic drafting environments. And while the days of 2D CAD are far from over, like its many rivals, TurboCAD has long had solid 3D capabilities, these days powered by Spatial’s powerful ACIS geometry modeling kernel.

Any veteran Architosh reader knows that this site can talk the “kernel” talk like no other. Take a look at our extensive coverage of the new Vulkan graphics API and you will see that getting to the technology behind the technology matters to us. And it should to you as well if you are in the market for software in the CAD industry.

Key Modeling and ACIS Improvements

Since a major set of features in the latest TurboCAD Mac Pro involve the incorporation of the Spatial ACIS release 24, we can start our review there.  For readers who are totally new to TurboCAD Mac products, our last review includes a bit of an introduction to how the program works. (for learning purposes…).

Back in 2013, TurboCAD Mac Pro was powered by Spatial ACIS R 22. Now in version 24 of the modeling kernel (aka: engine), TurboCAD Mac Pro gains many new advantages. The chief one among these is that TurboCAD Mac Pro 8 is now fully 64-bit. ACIS R24 itself introduced new 64-bit binaries for its Mac version and in the process deprecated the 32-bit version for the platform. Another big change related to overall performance of the latest TurboCAD Mac Pro 8 is that ACIS R24 delivers binaries for the Mac platform that are thread safe. This applies to multi-threaded operations—using more cores or processors on your Mac.

You may be curious to know what is meant by “thread safe” as it relates to ACIS R24 and its explanation bears value on this review. In a nutshell, the tricky business of using “multi-threading” in code development is making sure that individual threads do not compete for shared resources such as shared memory. When two threads write concurrently to the same shared memory resource problems can occur. Thread management is an important aspect of “multithreading” and the overall effectiveness of utilizing the latest CPU processors with many cores.

Core ACIS R24 Benefits 

There are several new modeling features that come about because of ACIS R24 in version 8, but before we get to those we should summarize the core benefits as well.

  • New fully 64-bit only (TurboCAD Mac Pro 8 requires 64-bit native OS X machines)
  • Thread safe multi-threading
  • Faster load, process and render of larger models and assemblies (directly relates to multi-threading notes above)
  • 2.3 GB model limits have now been lifted to working with models of any size (only limited by on-board memory within your Mac system)
  • Some boolean operations operate up to 60 percent faster (Spatia’s data)
  • New and enhancements to Meshes
  • Faster file saves, especially with larger models

On the second to last point about Meshes, TurboCAD Mac Pro version 8 now features new Quad mesh and Subdivision modeling tools. Let’s look at those next.

New Quad Mesh Tools

New in TurboCAD Mac Pro 8 are Quad Mesh modeling tools. Quad meshes, versus triangular meshes, offer other types of benefits, including the use of ring or loop selection tools in other 3D software programs. They are also useful for UV mapping.

01 - New quad mesh tools in TurboCAD Mac Pro 8, with new subdivision tool highlighted.

01 – New quad mesh tools in TurboCAD Mac Pro 8, with new subdivision tool highlighted.

In TurboCAD Mac Pro 8 a range of Quad mesh tools are available, including a mesh surface, mesh sphere, mesh block, mesh torus and, importantly, mesh skin. There are also mesh extrude, where you can extrude an arc, for example, and mesh lathe and mesh cover. The last tool on this palette is the subdivision tool. (see image 01 far tool on right)

With a mesh block, for example, the user creates the x, y and z dimensions of the basic block. A block mesh is made up of six quad mesh faces, each with its own grid blocks based on #X, #Y and #Z numeric input fields. Those fields can be edited before or after the mesh block is created.

The subdivision tool then enables the user to specify the level of mesh subdivisions, adding vertices and surfaces (quads), to surfaces to increase smoothness. Two choices for SubD’s include Faceted and Catmull-Clark method. Faceted smooths the mesh by subdividing the quads incrementally by three faces. Catmull-Clark is an algorithm that subdivides the existing faces and edges to smooth the quads.

02 - A basic box quad mesh.

02 – A basic box quad mesh with numerical input fields shown above.

03 - With the subdivision tool quads can be "smoothed" using faces or Clark-Catmull method.

03 – With the subdivision tool quads can be “smoothed” using faces or Clark-Catmull method.

When working with the new quad mesh tools and using subdivision, the user can control-click (left click) to bring up a context menu with numerous options, among them Show Subdivision. The result is a red colored subdivision surface grid showing the smaller faces generated by either of the two subdivision methods (Catmull-Clark or Faceted). (see image 04 below).

05 - quad mesh subdivision based model of a spoon.

04 – quad mesh subdivision based model of a spoon.

Importantly, while quad meshes enable complex smoothed shapes, they start essentially from one object type that is manipulated using the Gripper tools to pull discreet parts (faces) of the overall subdivision surface. From this process it is possible to create just about any smooth-bodied object, from a teaspoon to a concept for an atomic force space craft. (see next series of images – 05 – 06)

06 - Using a series of operations that edit individual mesh segments (scale, move, rotate) on a SubD model one can develop all kinds of forms.

05 – Using a series of operations that edit individual mesh segments (scale, move, rotate) on a SubD model one can develop all kinds of forms.

07 - The same model of a concept for a NASA space craft shown in lit OpenGL surfaces.

06 – The same model of a concept for a space craft shown in lit OpenGL surfaces.

In our final space ship model concepts you can see that surface formation is rather infinite in possibilities. In terms of degree of subdivisions possible, the limit we ran into is four (4) levels of smoothness.  This is not a limitation of the Catmull-Clark algorithm, but perhaps a limit set by IMSI-Design itself within the framework of the ACIS R24 modeling engine.

next page: More Modeling and Woodworking Tools

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