PROS: Transportable objects Intelligent Compact FREE
CONS: Still thinking . . .
It is all too common for technology companies to seek new routes to solving the same problems - but most of the solutions address the effect and not the cause.
The good old-fashioned pencil is the perfect example - inventors have sought to design-out the effect of the inherent brittleness of lead. Traditionally, different methods of sharpening were suggested and, more recently, the propelling pencil has reigned supreme, the lead being supported by the dispensing sleeve, thus reducing the likelihood of breakage.
Developers convinced by the single building model approach to design development have each embarked on a difficult journey to create an easy-to-use, featurepacked application. Unfortunately it seems that the two are not mutually compatible if we are to believe what we see emanating from technology giant Autodesk in the guise of Architectural Desktop 3. The effect of its development is a feature-rich environment but the cost - and, in this case, the cause - is a tool that is far from easy to use.
This is only a small part of a much bigger problem, however - interoperability. When one designer develops a model with one tool, the information is typically locked in that environment. Of course, the geometry can be distributed and shared amongst the team for use with their tools but the properties - or, as often misquoted, the intelligence - is lost along the way. The effect is the technological version of rubble; the cause is the low quality of data-translation available to us.
Technological advances Fortunately, one company is making rapid advances in the issue of collaboration and data sharing. An old-timer called Graphisoft, famous for ArchiCAD, has just donned a smart new suit, set up a new company called GDL Technology and stepped into the ring to do battle, with a difference.
The difference is that GDL Technology does not rely on conquering the competition.
Quite the opposite, in fact. Its success relies on the continued success of all the major CAD platforms, including AutoCAD, MicroStation and ArchiCAD (of course).
GDL Technology has created a standard data format for manufacturers called GDL Objects. Product manufacturers such as Velux are now able to develop product libraries using GDL Objects, which can then be placed in a CAD model or drawing using almost any CAD tool. The product libraries can be stored on the web or on CD, giving easy download access to any building industry professional. These objects are created using scripts that make them tiny for downloading from the web.
Each object contains three important types of information: parametric scaledependent two-dimensional plan symbols;
full three-dimensional geometric data; and manufacturers' information, such as material, colour and price.
While manufacturers are racing to GDL Technology's door to sign up, developers and clients are quick to see the benefits too.
Porsche is using GDL Objects to manage its brand identity as it builds more than 300 new showrooms worldwide.Having defined the building style and interior, Porsche, in conjunction with the product suppliers, has produced a CD-ROM with all the selected building components, including cladding, doors, furniture and finishes.Designing and detailing the various schemes will be as straightforward as using Lego.
To ease the process of accessing, sizing and placing the product libraries, GDL Technology has developed a product called GDL Object Explorer, a free-standing application that can be placed on the CD with the product libraries. Furthermore, in addition to giving access to the GDL Objects, the Object Explorer also enables the user to save the object in one of many file formats, including DWG, DGN, DXF, 3DS and even the IAI's IFC.
However, if you are an AutoCAD user, another tool has been designed especially for you. It is called the Object Adapter and it works inside AutoCAD 14 and 2000. The Object Adapter will dynamically convert all GDL Objects to AutoCAD Blocks during placement, which means that they can be controlled with standard AutoCAD commands. Furthermore, each object can be linked to an online document from the manufacturer's website, which is ideal for more extensive product information.
Object for the future Two other tools developed to make the most of the objects are the Web Plug-in and SalesCAD. The Plug-in enables objects to be dynamically modified and displayed on web pages; Sales CAD is an easy to learn and use design tool for sales teams to explore, develop and cost designs on a Notebook PC while sitting in architects' offices. All sales quotations are directly extracted from the model and presented in HTML format as a mixture of product images, product descriptions and tables identifying quantities and costs.
With full lifecycle information stored in each GDL Object, it is no surprise that GDL Technology sees its objects as the future for building design. Indeed, it is not alone - the IAI has already said it will explore the possibility of associating GDL Objects with its own data-sharing format, IFC.
So down to the dirty stuff - how much it costs. At the risk of sounding like a market trader in Petticoat Lane, 'To you guv? Nuffin''. That's right - as a user of this technology it will cost you nothing. Not a penny. It is gratis. Free. The product manufacturer pays for the licence to host its libraries on the web or on CD and even then the costs are small, as little as 50p for each CD filled with objects.
GDL Technology has come up trumps with its GDL Objects. It has developed a new way to solve old problems. If CAD were a pencil then GDL Objects would be ballistic lead, which would never break or lose its point. This is a much better alternative to the strategy used by many of its competitors, who seek to avoid breaking the pencil by persuading the artist not to press down so hard.
If you are still reading and you have not already dropped the magazine and run off to find out if your favourite product supplier has already signed up, I suggest you check out the following websites: www. gdlcentral. com and www. gdltechnology. com. If you do not see them there, pick up the phone and ask them why. This is the best thing I have seen in a long, long time.
For further information, contact Sanjay Patel, technical director, GDL Technology UK, spatel@gdltechnology. com.
Joe Croser can be contacted at joec@adremdcx. com , tel 07973 263360
GDL OBJECTS KEY FEATURES
File size 80 KB 1MB
Parametric capabilities yes no
Online behaviour yes no
Compatibility DWG , DXF, IFC, DGN,3D, VRML DXF,3D
Maintenance easy difficult
Product specific yes no