There is a very good new interview published on the publication CAD Digest, a Q&A with CAD and Mac software developer industry veteran Dr. Chris Yessios, CEO of AutoDesSys, Inc., the maker of the venerable and innovative formZ 3D modeling software.
Dr. Yessios came to America in 1968 to study city planning after studying architecture in Europe. Having some contact with early computer classes at university, he fell in love (was bitten) and transferred to an interesting new doctorate program at Carnegie Mellon University in CAD (computer-aided design).
The interview highlights that the innovative research work being done by Dr. Yessios at Ohio State’s department of architecture was strongly supported by IBM, DEC and the National Science Foundation. It also highlights the story in more detail of how the arrival of the Mac ushered in the emergence of formZ—the application—later in the late 80’s.
For Yessios, the arrival of the Mac gave the CAD researchers he was affiliated with the “interactive machine supportive of a graphic user interface,” the one the team had been “dreaming of” for implementing 3D modeling software tools.
The interview goes on to talk about formZ’s name origin, its beginnings and market segments, including estimates of its user base. Dr. Yessio says in the interview, which was conducted by industry CAD journalist Ralph Grabowski, that formZ’s main competitors in terms of functional and market lineup are Rhino and SketchUp. Yessios discussions formZ in comparison to those two tools briefly, in favorable terms for formZ naturally.
BIM and Scripting
Scripting and making generative-type parametric modeling possible and easy in formZ has been something discussed with AutoDesSys in our own interviews not that long ago. So none of that new news. But, besides the number of formZ users Yessios estimates working around the world, exclusive of students (which has always been a big group), a surprising tidbit was his comments about BIM and formZ. We won’t mention them as we encourage you to read the interview article itself. It is quite interesting.
This is a superb interview and the first time the company, to our knowledge, has shared so much about their future roadmap (though without any time-table or order of sequence deliverables—i.e.: without a map) with formZ. The company tends to hold its cards tight to its chest, whereas its main competitors in Rhino and SketchUp seem to have more open communities online and lots of engagement between users and developers.
Yessios’ comments regarding BIM suggest the company is carefully looking at Trimble SketchUp’s latest playbook. That, of course, is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a smart thing. The visual scripting or computational modeling comments expand upon what the company shared with Architosh last summer.
When one looks at the entire architectural software industry, formZ exists outside any of the “big four” AEC software houses (Autodesk, Bentley, Trimble and Nemetschek AG). But so does Rhino. SketchUp is a centerpiece of technology in Trimble’s hands. Autodesk has its SketchUp and Rhino equivalents (Vasari and its open-source offshoot Dynamo). Bentley has Generative Components for computational work, competing with Rhino+Grasshopper and the open-source Dynamo. But what does Nemetschek AG have? When it comes to a pure, purpose-built or “multi-personality” 3D modeler, the Nemetschek Group largely comes up empty. Counting Cinema 4D’s very good built-in modeler would be a false equivalence.
But back to formZ versus Rhino. Or formZ versus SketchUp. While the company may borrow plays from either of their play books, the one key thing both companies do so well that the folks at AutoDesSys may be weaker at, is support and encourage a vibrant user and third-party developer community. It’s the power of end-users given the right tools to flex their creative muscle to customize and share capacity with the rest of the community that makes those two communities—and the product at the heart of them—flourish.