Siemens PLM Software Scavenger Hunt On Now

In my last blog entry, I mentioned that Siemens PLM Software was hosting several events this month on their island in Second Life. Along with the presentations, the company is offering a scavenger hunt on the Siemens Innovation Connection island from 10 A.M. (EST) May 28 to 10 A.M. (EST) June 23. Visitors to the island can register at the red railroad car with the National Steel Car logo then proceed to find the six other railroad cars sitting at different locations on the sim. Each car poses a question related to Siemens PLM Software. Answer correctly and a prize will be placed in your inventory. One car distributes shirts with the National Steel Car log.
Register here for the Siemens PLM Software Scavenger Hunt in Second Life

An added benefit for going through the hunt is the chance to win a prize in real life. All avatars correctly answering all six questions will be entered into a drawing for a real life prize. To participate, register for a Second Life account, go through a quick orientation, and then use the search tab in Second Life to search for “Siemens Innovation Connection.” Hit the teleport button and you will be transported to the island where you can begin your hunt. For those of you who are already members of Second Life you can get a slurl here: Siemens Innovation Connection


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


    What I want for Christmas

    What I want for Christmas, at least from Second Life, is a scene exporter. Ok, maybe I won't get this for Christmas, but I would still be happy if I could get it sometime over the next year.

    Lately I have been working on a design project in Second Life that got me wondering how I could use the end result in my real life work on a construction site without having to go into Second Life. I kept thinking that if I build a detailed model of something simple like a manhole showing all the pipe connections, it would be helpful to be able to capture that "scene" by establishing a given area around the site. And I mean in a way that is not just a "photo" like I can already do. What I want is the ability to capture it in a way that I can view it on a special "viewer" that allows me to pan, zoom, tilt, the exported 3D scene as if I was in SL. I don't need my avatar there – I just want the ability to view it in the same manner as I would in SL.

    I realize that there are many who might suggest that regular CAD products could do this, but first, I think SL is best for building simple, yet dimensionally correct, 3D models in a fast and efficient manner; second, I want to be able to have the model placed in a realistic "scene" which is not easily created in a CAD program; and third, I need a construction worker to access this on the jobsite.

    That is why I am convinced that SL is the best medium to create the scene – I just need a type of generic file format that the scene could be exported as and then viewed with a viewing software made just for this purpose. Then I could give the file to the contractor, and he could, at each manhole installation, easily access that file on his phone (which soon will evolve to allow this type of viewing) to verify that the installation is taking place as designed. To do this he would not need to have any knowledge of CAD.

    Those of us in civil-related construction know that the plans are rarely consulted on the job. Sometimes the contractor does not even have them handy; yet he always has his cell phone. I want my 3D manhole detail on that phone!


    Musings After a Week at AU

    I just got back from spending a whole week attending Autodesk University, AU, and as usual have come away with a lot of knowledge, but also a lot of questions about the engineering profession and where it is going.

    At the opening session, there were presentations related to the future of design which were incredible. The one that appealed to me as a civil engineer was a fly through of a city showing all visual components of an urban area that could be drawn/re-created in a 3-D virtual environment. We were shown virtual streets, landscaping, underground utilities, and buildings. The cool element of all this is that the whole virtual site would be populated in a GIS-type fashion making the "drawing" a type of 3-D GIS production.

    But everytime I am shown some futuristic presentation like this, I can't help but wonder how all of us are going to find the time to learn how to do it all, and as software becomes more involved, how many of us are going to be able to keep up with the learning curve. At what point have we evolved beyond where the majority can keep up?

    Someone has to collect and input all that data and information, and someone has to know how to run all that software. The amount of information to collect and the amount of work required to input all of it to produce that type of 3-D model presents a daunting challenge. Particularly at a time when the workforce is diminishing and the government continues to cut investment in infrastructure.

    There are several signs that point to this emerging challenge. Several people I spoke with at AU were reluctant to embrace some of the existing programs that have been around for a while due to the learning curve required to master the software. I am included in this group – I would love to move up to Civil 3D because it appears to be an awesome program, but I cannot invest the time right now to learn it. As long as I can continue to produce with the software I already have and know, there is little incentive to invest any more time and money on learning new software.

    A recent survey related to this subject was conducted by CE Magazine. The results, summarized in an article at, showed that almost 70% of those surveyed did not feel they were trained well enough to maximize the use of their civil engineering software. Yet a little more than 60% reported that 3-D modeling and GIS/CAD interchange would have the biggest impact on the civil engineering profession in the next five to 10 years.

    Some say the younger generation growing up with computers in their homes will fall right into this type of work environment. However, my experience has been that not all of this younger generation can always make technology work for them – they don't have the magical connection with it that some seem to imply is there. An analogy would be that all of us living today have grown up with cars, drive them almost every day, and yet many of us cannot fix the car or make it work if something goes wrong. We need an expert who has been trained in car repair to get it working for us again.

    Just because a future engineer grows up with computers and software, we should not think/hope/expect them to show up on the jobsite after graduation prepared to fully utilize all of the computer equipment and software that we provide. The key components to fully utilizing the tools that are already available and which will be developed in the near future is education and staffing. That is why I feel attendance at events like AU is so important for those of us in engineering and public works.

    As was stressed at AU, the tools are no longer holding us back – companies like Autodesk are at the cutting edge of technology and are driving us into the future. I just hope there will continue to be drivers to keep us going.