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In this next segment Sean Flaherty touches on several interesting aspects, including the necessity of an industry-standard for CAD components delivered by manufacturers. Interestly, he suggest that McGraw-Hill is perfectly suited to steward this industry effort.

As Nemetschek North America's CEO explains, VectorWorks 2008 includes both bindable and non-bindable xRefs, but the true benefit of the latest version of the CAD stalwart is its simple approach to dynamic referrencing in general--something that gets explained a bit in this segement of the interview.


Xref Systems, Libraries and the role of McGraw-Hill

AFR: You have True File referenceing now, is this on par with AutoCAD in your mind? If not, what is the difference?

(SF): No, no. I don't think you can ever look at VectorWorks as one-to-one with AutoCAD because we just approach things so differently. It's a bit like comparing apples to oranges.

This is a key component of what we heard people wanting of xrefs. I think the whole Xref system and all the binding options and things like that are very confusing. They are very powerful, but it forces the user to make a lot of decisions. Even when you look at Revit, they have a lot of the same complexity of decisions that are allowed.

What we are mainly interested in when we say "True File Referencing" is that we don't merge the data together. So, when you open a file and there is a reference, we dynamically go get it.

So the benefits are the dynamic data connection and file size?

(SF): Yes. So it doesn't take that file size impact. That is what we are getting at with true referencing. And sometimes you do want to merge things together, and AutoCAD calls that binding, and we want that, too. So we have bindable and non-bindable Xrefs in VectorWorks 2008.

So no, I don't think we ever feel we need to sit down and do a feature-by-feature chart with them (Autodesk) because we do some things very differently. The ability to workgroup reference a library, so you are not actually bringing all this data in, but you are bringing a hierarchy or rules from a central library--that is something that is unique to VectorWorks.

Now you have design-layer viewports. You have added another level to viewporting information. What was the goal there?

(SF): More and more of our customers are working with BIM workflows, so you need true referencing, you begin to break this model down so you can have ten people working on it. And that is what design-layer viewports are aiming at.

Now you have top brand product libraries like Herman Miller, Sub-Zero and Forbo flooring. Are we going to see more of this and how aggressive will you be in getting more top brands?

(SF): Yes, we'll get more of this. I think the whole industry has been waiting for everyone to get together to find a standardized way to exchange components. This just hasn't happened yet. I think the 3D Warehouse is the closet thing. Of course, that is meant for SketchUp and here we have full curve support. We hear that people want a toilet with rounded-curved edges.

At Nemetschek we have actually formed a department for building and gathering these libraries. All these manufacturers use CAD. Standing back from this, I see it as a 5-10 year kind of thing. One day the component industry will have to solve this problem. We are working with the same people as Bentley and Autodesk. I think someone like McGraw-Hill is better positioned to do this, but they don't have the technology background right now to do it.

When we talk about a CAD component standard, we are talking about companies like Herman Miller not wanting to be responsible for putting out a million different versions.

(SF): They will put it out in one format or another. Kohler had DWG files you can download. They have all been faceted so they are easy to read, but there is the rub, they're faceted. They don't want to publish five different formats of the file. It is a lot of work.

Today we are doing this work for our customers. I would love IFC to become this component standard. So Nemetschek North America is doing this work--getting the CAD data and doing the conversions. We do this once and distribute to our thousands of customers. We are trying to form partnerships with the bigger names on both the library side and the technology side. We need to get this standardized.


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