Categories
Cloud Software

Tinkercad

The traditional approach for designing a 3D representation of a real physical object is to use a CAD product on a desktop or laptop PC. Until recently, this was the best platform to use because of the resource requirements of the CAD product in particular, memory requirements, processing power and graphics needs.

WebGL and HTML 5 are just 2 of the components that have enabled a growing number of start-up companies to try and provide a CAD (Computer Aided Design) program in a web-browser. The front-end of the product can be built and run locally in the web browser, with the expected processing, memory usage and possibly some graphics capability provided via the “cloud”. I hope to discuss in a later article, how such a product can be architected, but in the meantime, lets take a look at Tinkercad.

Tinkercad is a web-based 3D modeler which was originally targeted towards the growing market of enthusiasts interested in using low cost 3D printers. These users are seeking something different from the traditional CAD system – something that is quick, easy to use (I’m not looking for an exciting “experience” I just want to get the job done) and most importantly not difficult to learn!

tinkercad

The user interface consists of 3 basic steps:

  1. Place a shape in your workspace. A shape can either “add” or “remove” material and you can work with pre-existing shapes or create your own.
  2. Shapes can be moved, rotated and adjusted to your exact requirements.
  3. Group together a set of shapes to build more complex shapes to create detailed models.

and there you have it. From the simple to the more complex:

sample

The application runs in a web-browser and to get started, simply visit the website at

https://tinkercad.com/

Register for  an account and get building.

Other interesting points worth a mention are:

Tinkercad provides an interface for the user to create shapes using JavaScript programs.

https://tinkercad.com/developer/api-procedural.html

The writer can define parameters which are made available to the user. Parameter values are used to adjust the dimensions of the defined 3D shape.

The geometry kernel, is a major par of any CAD system and Tinkercad uses a custom in-house built kernel called Gen6. This has been designed to run in a cluster of servers (in the cloud) utilizing potentially thousands of CPU cores, that allows computations that may take minutes or hours using other geometry kernels to execute in fractions of a second. Learn more at:

https://tinkercad.com/developer/gen6-intro.html

Then, Tinkercad recently announced (in March) that they were closing down.

http://blog.tinkercad.com/2013/03/26/announcing-airstone-and-the-closure-of-tinkercad/

They stated their intention to concentrate on a new project called Airstone – an interactive simulation environment (powered by a supercomputer) providing real-time 3D design and physics simulations for product designers and engineers.

http://airstonelabs.com/press/announcing-airstone

A couple of months later (May) Autodesk stepped in and acquired Tinkercad

http://blog.tinkercad.com/2013/05/18/autodesk_tinkercad/

Autodesk has purchased all the core technology necessary to operate Tinkercad, so its good news for users of the system.

Categories
Cloud Software

Supercomputing and CAD in the Cloud

Background

Cloud Computing presents an opportunity to exploit massively parallel and expandable computing resources providing supercomputing facilities for a fraction of the cost of traditional hardware. One of the significant benefits of supercomputing, of course, is it’s ability to reduce the amount of time necessary to process large data sets, or to perform other compute intensive tasks.

Although in the past, this may have been little more than a dream, today it can be seen to be a reality.

In the Pharmaceutical industry, where researchers can spend years testing for solutions to fight a variety of different diseases, the analysis of molecules can be completed in a fraction of the time needed to test in labs, but requires a massive amount of compute power. For an example of this in action, see details of a 50,000-core utility supercomputer provisioned using Amazon Web Services “Cycle Computing Ramps Global 50,000-Core Cluster for Schrodinger Molecular Research” at:

http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/Cycle-Computing-Ramps-Global-50000-Core-Cluster-for-Schrodinger-Molecular-Research-1646214.htm

In this example, Schrödinger’s researchers completed over 4,480 days of work, nearing 12.5 years of computations in a few hours, with cost under $4,900 per hour at peak requiring no upfront capital.

Details of services provided by Cycle computing can be found at

http://www.cyclecomputing.com/

and Schrödinger at:

http://www.schrodinger.com/

Computer Aided Design (CAD)

Supercomputing in the Cloud can also be applied to other applications too, one of these being Computer Aided Design (CAD) applications.

In the majority of cases, however, the software may need to be developed from scratch to ensure that the implementation of the necessary algorithms exploit parallelisation in order to take advantage of the distributed computing environment available in the cloud. This is where small start-up companies may succeed over traditional CAD software, often written many years ago, that did not exploit the use of multi-core processors and other multi processing solutions. In earlier days, I explored using the Transputer

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transputer

and the Occam programming language, to develop a graphics engine, for a CAD application, that used several CPUs to solve tasks in parallel. This was never adopted or taken further and in later years, of course, hardware development moved to provide multi-core processing. Software development lagged behind and today we have software applications which fail to exploit parallelisation.

Although a lot of discussion surrounding CAD in the Cloud seems to centre around the collaborative nature of the cloud and security of data, there also opportunities to exploit the available compute power.

Some areas in a CAD system which could take advantage of increased computing power include, but are not limited to:

  • 2D and 3D Constraint Solving
  • Analysis and Simulation
  • Rendering
  • Manufacturing

Some examples of current Cloud based CAD applications, which may be exploiting the capability of distributed processing in the Cloud  include

Tinkercad – using the distributed Gen6 Geometry kernel running on the Tinkercad server cluster

https://tinkercad.com/developer/gen6-intro.html

3D Modelling application

http://www.publishyourdesign.com/

Cloud Invent

http://www.cloud-invent.com/

Interactive Photoreal 3D rendering in the cloud

http://home.lagoa.com/