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AIA: Show Floor Reports: Autodesk, Trimble and Nemetschek Group Companies

In this show floor report we’ll cover the news and items shown at AIA Atlanta by three of the Big Four AEC software companies and include our notes from our meetings with these companies. We had three separate meetings with Autodesk alone, a meeting each with Trimble and each of the Nemetschek Group companies Graphisoft and Nemetschek Vectorworks Inc.

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We’ll start by saying, sprinkled within these reports are some very interesting tidbits gleaned in our interviews with company executives at AIA Atlanta. For example, in our meeting with Autodesk Phil Bernstein, FAIA, RIBA, LEED AP, Vice President Strategic Industry Relations, when we asked him at point blank range if Autodesk Revit will ever be released for Mac OS X natively he gave a very blunt answer. In the interest of keeping everything copacetic his response might best be characterized as expressing the shear cost of the effort given how Windows-centric the application has become. In other words, Revit appears to be not very portable to the OS X platform (or at least this is our guess).

In the immediate, the company has no plans for producing a native Mac OS X version of Revit. Bernstein said that obviously things can always change but noted that people today are perfectly happy running Revit on Macs via Boot Camp and Parallels. “I’ve got a Mac and I’m happy running it just fine,” stated Bernstein.

We have more to report on our talk with Phil Bernstein and we’ll spend a whole article on Autodesk shortly.

Autodesk at AIA Atlanta

Autodesk had several official announcements at the AIA National this year. On the Revit side the company introduced Autodesk Revit Collaboration Suite, a new “pay-as-you-go” offering designed to make the BIM workflow more affordable for those who are segueing from a predominately 2D workflow into BIM. Products in the new suite include: AutoCAD 2016, Revit Architecture 2016 and A360 Team, a centralized platform for storing, sharing, and exchanging project files across the team.

01 - Autodesk FormIt 360 Pro features early-stage energy and solar analysis so you can understand performance from day one.  (image: Autodesk. All rights reserved.)

01 – Autodesk FormIt 360 Pro features early-stage energy and solar analysis so you can understand performance from day one. (image: Autodesk. All rights reserved.)

The big announcements for Autodesk at AIA were twofold around some of their newer software applications—FormIt 360 Pro and Dynamo Suite. (see image above). Both of these tools actually represent more of Autodesk’ future directions at the technology foundation level.

MORE: AIA: Autodesk launches Dynamo and FormIt 360 Pro in Atlanta

What is happening across the tech industry is that we are moving into a new phase around the disruption caused by cloud plus mobile. This new phase will be very exciting for those who have felt frustrated by the “tyranny of desktop operating systems” to quote Phil Bernstein in our 30 minute talk. (more to come).

Trimble at AIA Atlanta

The Trimble SketchUp folks had an official release of the next generation of SketchUp Mobile Viewer. We wrote our full report on that announcement over here.

In our Trimble talk we spoke with Michael Tadros, Product Manager for 3D Warehouse and SketchUp, who demoed the new mobile app as well as talked us through other items. For example, the Trimble 3D Warehouse will now have STL built-in, making the world’s largest repository of 3D models much more connected to 3D printing. What Trimble has done is partner with Leuven, Belgium-based technology company Materialise.

02 - The Trimble SketchUp booth is always popular and busy at the AIA show, in some ways a reflection perhaps of how common SketchUp is in both large and small practices alike.

02 – The Trimble SketchUp booth is always popular and busy at the AIA show, in some ways a reflection perhaps of how common SketchUp is in both large and small practices alike.

Materialise is a provider of additive manufacturing (AM) software solutions and sophisticated 3D printing services. With this new partnership SketchUp users have direct access to powerful technology that facilities the process of validating their models for 3D printing. Models uploaded to 3D Warehouse can now be flagged for Materialise’s cloud services which are capable of analyzing and fixing models to ensure printability on 3D printers. Materialise’s technology then produces high-quality, printable STL files that get parked within 3D Warehouse.

The result of this announcement is that over time 3D Warehouse will become a massive repository of high-quality, ready-to-go, printable 3D model files.

Trimble Connect

Recently Trimble and Nemetschek AG of Germany announced a technology partnership. We asked Michael Tadros to elaborate. “Trimble knows that one company’s solutions will not be enough to get a building designed, built and maintained,” said Tadros. Trimble is a company committed to open standards and interoperability and partnerships allow the shifting and de-coupling of data silos.

Tadros said that Trimble Connect is a collaboration platform that is agnostic and it “doesn’t matter what tool chain” architects and AEC professionals are using. The Nemetschek AG partnership expands optionality for tools that can plugin and work within the Trimble Connect collaboration platform. One final tidbit that readers may find interesting is that when we floated the idea that perhaps Trimble is now only missing a true BIM application and that maybe they should just acquire one from a smaller company, Tadros quickly brought up all the BIM-goodness of SketchUp itself and of Layout and the ability to handle complete BIM tasks via all the vast range of external plugins (like Sefaira) that add things like energy and daylighting analysis.

Is SketchUp a BIM platform in itself? It seems that Trimble increasingly sees this to be the case.

Nemetschek Vectorworks at AIA Atlanta

Nemetschek Vectorworks this year had a unique showing. On the one hand, the company was showcasing Vectorworks 2015, its current shipping version. But it was also showcasing its next upcoming Vectorworks 2016 with all its massive amount of new major features. Architosh has two meetings with the company, with a final talk with its CEO Sean Flaherty on Friday. Flaherty shares overall Nemetschek Group strategic direction with Graphisoft’s CEO Viktor Varkonyi.

Given the Nemetschek Group’s superb financial results over the past year (Architosh recently reported on the most recent quarterly results here) the question of continued acquisitions was put forth to Flaherty. The group, he said, is keenly looking for acquisition targets that ideally are similar to the overall metrics of its recent Bluebeam Software buy but perhaps at a slightly smaller level. The Nemetschek Group is particularly interested in the US market, noted Flaherty.

Adding some analysis in at this point in the discussion maybe particularly helpful. For starters, based on projected growth in global economies, the United States is projected to grow its economy by 38 percent from its 2012 GDP to its projected 2020 GDP. On the other hand, in Japan, where both Nemetschek Group companies are very strong, the economy is expected to drop its GDP over the same period by as much as 19 percent. And in Germany, the world’s third largest CAD market and the world’s fourth largest global economy, growth over the same period is projected at a more modest 17 percent. (reference this chart: IMF, World Economic Outlook, at CNN Money).

Smartly, the Nemetschek Group leadership is not only determined to hold and grow its leading share in Japan and Germany, the third and fourth largest economies in the world but is smartly focused on China and Asia in particular. Still, the US economy is expected to balloon to $22.5 trillion GDP by 2020, four times the size of either Japan or Germany. With Bluebeam Software holding such a dominant market share in its domain of large US construction companies, the estimated growth of the US economy looks to favor heavily that company’s contribution to the Nemetschek Group’s overall bottom line in the years to come.

Graphisoft ArchiCAD at AIA Atlanta

Graphisoft has its annual release cycle well timed for the AIA show each year. The company just announced its version 19 for its flagship ArchiCAD BIM program. At AIA Atlanta the booth was filled with people looking to check out the product’s new features, the biggest of which is its predictive background processing.

03 - A view of Rhino and the process of pushing data to the ArchiCAD native format for integration in the BIM environment.

03 – A view of Rhino and the process of pushing data to the ArchiCAD native format for integration in the BIM environment.

For us, a particular set of questions were focused on the company’s recent announcement of a Rhino to ArchiCAD connectivity, the fruits of a collaboration agreement between Graphisoft and Nikken Sekkei, the 4th largest architecture firm in the world.

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The new Rhino-ArchiCAD link converts a Rhino model into ArchiCAD geometry. The container of the Rhino-based model is GDL. There are two elements to this new functionality. There is the option to bring in a single object from Rhino into ArchiCAD 19, and there is also the second option to bring in complex structures into ArchiCAD, which consists of multiple model elements which get converted into a set of smaller GDL objects.

MORE: GRAPHISOFT announces Rhino to ArchiCAD Connection

While this is an exciting announcement given how popular Rhino is as a major design tool within some of the world’s leading architectural firms, the transfer of data is currently one way. The Graphisoft folks said that the company is also working on taking ArchiCAD model data back to Rhino, thereby creating round-trip functionality. While such functionality will have usefulness, the primary pipeline is that Rhino is used as a early design stage modeling and design tool that is, in essence, pre-BIM.

This is our first real show floor report and we have many more companies to cover, including reports on talks and meetings. So much more to report from AIA Atlanta, so stay tuned here on Architosh!

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