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The iPad: How the CAD/3D industry is being changed

In our second article in our 2011 State of Apple in CAD/3D industries, we talk to five key CEOs in these industries and one expert on what the impact of the Apple iPad is having, as it helps reshape CAD and 3D.

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Royal Farros, Chairman and CEO of IMSI/Design, the makers of TurboCAD and the makers of the leading 3D DWG file viewer on iOS today, remarked previously to Architosh that: “We really believe that the iPad represents an inflection point in the CAD industry.” Farros sees it this way because he emphasizes the remarkable combination of battery life and what is convenient about Multi-touch in the tablet formula. “You simply can’t match what it can do with any other computing device.”

Indeed, and some feel there is much more ground ahead. Bob McNeel, founder and president of McNeel & Associates, makers of Rhino and the new iRhino 3D for iOS, feels that the market is just getting started. “iRhino is a very basic product at this point.” “We can do a lot more,” notes McNeel, “but we wanted the feedback from the market to see how to prioritize the hundreds of potential new features.”

James Dagg, Vice President of Development at solidThinking, Inc., said “we see the iPad as an opportunity to compliment” the 3D modeling focus of solidThinking on the desktop. “For instance, through the iPad you could view your 3D models and play with material assignments, lighting and animation sequences.”

As Yessio remarked, it’s early still to think of the iPad as a primary creation device rivaling or replacing the desktop. And yet is is crystal clear that the iPad is not just a fantastic new vessel for digital voyage and discovery, creating new work flows where none existed before, but one that hinges on that amazing singular feature essential to it: touch!

The Human Touch

Dr. Yessios implies that Multi-touch has to grow (and perhaps the iPad’s work surface too!) in order for it to become a creation device rivaling desktops. That appears obvious to many developers working on such solutions as solving that particular problem is non-trivial.

Of course perhaps touch isn’t the limiting factor we imagine it to be. James Dagg of solidThinking made perhaps the most interesting comment of this series. “We don’t see Multi-touch as a competing technology to traditional interaction,” notes Dagg, “but something that completes it.”

The implication there is perhaps we let go–at least for now–of the idea of trying to make the iPad into a major creation device. Perhaps the deeper lesson about the limitations of Multi-touch ultimately take us back to the desktop. And in this it is Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, who will contribute our parting thought:

“It’s kind of like the switch when everyone suddenly had mice,” says Bass, “if you kept building applications just for the keyboard, you would have been equally crazy. The same thing is true now with Multi-touch.”

Editor’s Note

This is the second article in our 2011 State of Apple in CAD/3D Industries special series reports, corresponding to SIGGRAPH 2011 week. We hope you enjoyed this article as we will have more like it this week coming up, including a high-level overview feature titled: Top CAD/3D CEOs Talk About Apple in the Industry

Voices in this article include: Sean Flaherty, CEO, Nemetschek Vectorworks; Carl Bass, CEO, Autodesk; James Scapa, CEO, Altair; Royal Farros, CEO, IMSI/Design; Dr. Chris Yessios, President and Founder, AutoDesSys; and James Dagg, Vice President at solidThinking Inc., an Altair Company.

Any thoughts or suggestions, please share by posting below or emailing us. Thanks.

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