This past June at Solid Edge University, I was able to talk with Dr. Ken Versprille. In fact, he came up to me after my presentation and offered an improved version of my definition for “topology”. I had defined it as the type and number of faces it takes to make up a model. Dr. V included the connectivity between the faces. As the Father of NURBS, his advice is easy to recognize as something you should listen to. It’s not every day that you get the originator of a such a widely used concept as NURBS to give you some free advice. Fortunately he had a name tag on and I was able to recognize his name.
So a couple of months ago, Dr. V agreed to write a blog post for the Solid Edge Community Blog on the past and future of NURBS. This has turned out to be one of the most popular articles in the 6 month history of the blog. You can click the link to go over there to read the bulk of that article, but what I want to share here was just what he had to say about Synchronous Technology and about the future of NURBS.
Today, the question of history-based modeling versus direct modeling is a hot topic in the industry… It was always apparent to me that even at the height of history-based, parametric modeling, the commercial CAD vendors were doing very little trying to demonstrate dimension-driven or constrained geometry… So in my mind the conclusion is that in an effective solution you need both history-based and direct modeling tools.
Various CAD vendors have tried to move in that direction. Many have added a limited number of direct modeling operations to their predominately history-based applications. Others have created separate applications and move data between them. Of them all, the most intriguing is synchronous technology from Siemens PLM Software. It’s interesting ability to blend both methods in the same model under user control provides users with a powerful design tool.
To me, these words were very encouraging. I made a career move because I believe in this combination of what have been thought of as competing technologies, but are really complementary. Dr. Versprille seems to be validating this choice.
About the future of CAD, he went on to say:
What does the future hold? Well, I am sure the debate will continue. I expect sub-division surfaces techniques will enter the fray, but I don’t expect they will take over totally. The “canonical form” aspects of NURBS that originally enticed Boeing is still too strong. And look for point cloud mathematics from the gaming and entertainment industries jumping into the ring more often.
In my freelance years, I did my fair share of reverse engineering parts with complex shapes using laser scan data. This is essentially point cloud, mesh, sub-d data or whatever you want to call it. There is a great need for this kind of data to be manipulated within a traditional CAD system, but capability is not really there yet. Most of the tools to work with this type of data are either primarily intended for 3D graphic artists or laser scan data post-processor specialists. I definitely share Dr. V’s view of point cloud having a more pronounced role in the future of CAD.