Designers in Second Life Unite!

Theory Shaw and Keystone Bouchard, along with many other designers using Second Life, have been pushing for an import/export tool in the Second Life client that would allow us to easily bring designs into and out of the Second Life environment. Theory has set up a request for this feature on the JIRA site. Read more about this on Keystone’s blog and follow his link to the JIRA site to vote for this feature.

Frankly I am surprised that this issue wasn’t front and center for the developers when they created the software. They obviously set up building tools allowing for a fairly precise coordinate system – how could they not have thought someone would want to import or export 3-D drawings and objects?

I listened to the comments made by Mitch Kapor at the closing session of the 5th birthday party for Second Life and came away with the idea that Linden Lab supports everyone’s efforts to present Second Life as a choice for delivering serious business solutions. Those of us already in Second Life are excited about using the software in this manner because we see the potential – we want to tell the world about it and look forward to the day the design community becomes fully immersed in this new virtual world. But we also realize the tools need a little more work for this to happen because our industry has such a conservative approach to adopting new technology.

So it’s up to us – use your vote to tell Mitch and the crew at Linden Lab that our industry needs this tool if they want us to be successful in promoting Second Life as a serious business application for planning, design, and construction. VOTE!


Siemens PLM Software – Making CAD Easier and Even More Fun to Use

Siemens PLM Software has hosted a few events recently in the virtual world of Second Life that have been fun and interesting for anyone interested in CAD. And according to their calendar, this is just the beginning. During one of these events, held on May 20, the company hosted a live launch of its Velocity series in Boston while at the same time hosting a live virtual launch in Second Life. Although I would never have been able to attend the Boston event, I was able to find my way into the Second Life event. What a great presentation!
Siemens PLM Software Velocity Series Launch
Photo of Bruce Boes in Second Life and in real life giving a presentation about Siemens PLM Software Velocity Series

By attending in Second Life, I was able to find out the following information presented by Bruce Boes, global vice president, Velocity Series Marketing:

  • The company has 425 channel partners on a global basis
  • 90% of the company’s Velocity business goes through their channel partners
  • Siemens PLM Software currently has a third of the market and is projected to represent half by 2011
  • A case study on Conn-Weld Industries showed a reduction in design time of 66% in their move from 2D to 3D
  • The presentation was fun and energetic and really nothing like I would have expected or had ever seen before having worked in the engineering field for the last 25 years or so. Lets face it, engineers aren’t usually thought of as the life of the party. But Siemens PLM Software showed me that maybe things are changing a little in our field. Throughout the presentation, a guy who introduced himself as the “answer man” would jump onto the stage to offer his own take on what was going on. The distraction provided a unique method of introducing key points.

    Answer Man at Siemens PLM Software Launch
    A photo of the Answer Man who kept interrupting the Siemens PLM Software Velocity Launch Event in Boston.

    Several videos were shown to demonstrate the ease with which products can be designed with the software in the Velocity series. I have to admit that I primarily use CAD for mapping and producing civil engineering plans which are quite a bit different from mechanical drawings. But even I could appreciate the ease with which products could be designed and then changed on the fly.

    Some benefits included the ability to create specific constraints in the drawing such as holding a particular dimension, and then making changes to the product without having to worry about going back and checking or updating each constraint. During the editing process, the software revised everything on the fly as specified. You can even tell the software to always make sure a particular hole or component is always located in the center of another part – thus specifying a constraint based on a formula. That seemed impressive to me. I wish I could do that in my CAD software with my roadway or sewer design as easily as this was done in the Siemens PLM Software.
    Editing a drawing with Siemens PLM Software

    So in answer to why this type of drawing manipulation – termed “synchronous technology” is useful, Boes said it will allow the engineer the freedom to be an engineer and not have to be fully proficient in CAD. And this is good – if engineers can actually start creating the product drawing while they are designing, a significant decrease in time and elimination of mistakes can be realized. And this is what company’s are experiencing. Boes went through several design process examples to show how much time and money can be saved.

    Anyway the grand finale was a man who got on stage and put himself inside a balloon. Now there’s something you don’t get to see everyday. And that part happened at the real life event!
    Man in a Balloon


    Second Life Builds Take you from Cradle to Grave…

    Well, maybe not really cradle to grave as in the lifetime of a person, but more in the lifetime of a project. Everyone seems to have realized the benefits that Second Life can offer during the planning stage of a project, but few have discussed how Second Life can be used throughout the remaining phases of a construction project. Because I tend to focus more on the construction and operation phases, I find myself looking for ways to use Second Life to streamline tasks within those areas instead of just for planning and design.

    The other day I was thinking about two engineers I know who work for a local construction company. Both have seen the Second Life demo I give everyone who dares to visit my office, but I don’t think either have taken the time to check it out on their own. I was wondering “what would finally push them to use Second Life?” and started thinking about the bidding process. If I could build my project in Second Life and tell bidders that they could visit a representation of the project while they were trying to put together their bid, perhaps this would entice them to check out this new 3-D world.

    The more I thought about it, the more I thought that this actually might clear up a lot of issues and questions engineers and architects get during the bidding process. Which could help minimize costly add-ons later on that occur because something was not caught early on. As questions came up, a build in Second Life would offer a representation of the completed project where engineer/architect/contractor/owner could meet to go over concerns about the bid package. And although making the whole build a completely accurate replica is not feasible, smaller builds could be placed nearby to serve as details of specific components – just like details are used in plans.

    If the build was left in place during construction, engineer/architect/contractor/owner could again use the 3-D model as a place to meet and discuss specific concerns or questions that arise during construction. It would be so much easier to discuss problems with a completed model. Also, a builder/contractor could make his own solution and display that in-world for analysis and review by the architect/engineer.

    Even after the project is completed, the build could be left in place for monitoring and operation – particularly for structural builds, (the ability to monitor equipment in the real world from a location in Second Life has already been accomplished) but that is another topic for another day. In the meantime, we have a new wastewater plant that will be going out to bid soon….


    Manhole Kit Now Available on Public Works

    Ever since coming to Second Life, I have been working on ways to use the software to help me on my real life job. One of the items I have been working on is a Manhole Sizing Kit. Every now and then on a design, I am not really sure what diameter manhole would work best. Sometimes I have larger than average pipes and sometimes there are numerous pipes in one manhole. In the past I have always drawn out the manhole and pipes to scale and tried to recreate the design in a way that would help me visualize how it will all work. Well, now I realized, I can easily do this in Second Life.

    After already using Second Life for this purpose last month and realizing how much easier this task was by doing it in-world, I decided it would be even better to have the whole kit available so that I don’t have to build my manholes and pipes as I need them. If I have all the sizes available to begin with, then the process of sizing the manhole using Second Life will be even that much faster.
    Manhole Sizing Kit on Public Works

    Well so far I have a box with precast manholes available in the following inside diameters: 2′, 3′, 4′, 5′, 6′, 7′, and 8′. I also have reinforced concrete pipes in all the available sizes from 12″ to 72″ inside diameter. They are set up in boxes for sale for $0L inside the Public Works Resource Center which is the brick garage on the hill on the Public Works Sim. I will also be adding some PVC pipe boxes in the future – most likely SDR 35 and SDR 26. If anyone has any other types of pipes that might be useful, just email me at

    Now anyone can use these tools to help them size manholes in the design process just by logging into Second Life and picking up a kit. In the end, the completed manhole design might even provide an interesting photo opportunity.