The Business of CAD 
Issue #996   |   October 22, 2018

From the Editor

I will be traveling to conferences over the next few weeks, and so the next issue of upFront,eZine comes out in mid-November. Here are the conferences I'm planning to attend: Perhaps I will see you at one of these events!


Q&A With CEO 
Jesse Coors-Blankenship

On Frustum's Release of Generate for Windows

by Ralph Grabowski
(This issue is online at
Frustum did something wrong last month. They moved their cloud-based design software, Generate, from the cloud to the desktop. That's not supposed to be happening in our "post-PC" era, as former Apple CEO Steve Jobs infamously labeled it.

The genesis of Generate is to topple traditional CAD by reversing the design process we've all used until now. Instead, Generate works like this (see figure 1.):
  1. Select the machine with which the part will be made (additive or subtractive).
  2. Specify constraints, such as an optional volume boundary, bolt holes, and expected stresses.
  3. Draw the part.

Figure 1: Left: Part being simulated in Generate; right: finished part 3D-printed (all images sourced from Frustum)

Except that in the case of Generate, the part is drawn by the software, not the drafter. 

I spoke last week with Frustum CEO and founder Jesse Coors-Blankenship about the thinking behind the software, the move to the desktop, and the company's future plans.
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Ralph Grabowski: You first released Generate as a Web app, running in browsers. Was it difficult to move Generate from a server to the desktop?

Jesse Coors-Blankenship:
The cloud is good for students and beginners, and for engineers experimenting without permission from the IT department. We are not abandoning our cloud product, this is an expansion of our product portfolio to meet the needs of the market.

But we saw that it needed to be a desktop product to be fully functional. Windows allows real interactivity by using all available CPU and GPU [processors in the graphics board] power. Windows lets us show the software updating changes live as they are made to the model, even on a laptop.

Grabowski: Someone like Autodesk would argue that the cloud has more compute power than the desktop -- as they put it in their implausible marketing slogan, "infinite computing."

The cloud makes sense for batch processing, but our interactive approach to generative design does not require thousands of independent calculations the way that Autodesk does.

In the future, as we begin to get into very large assemblies, interactivity may be difficult to achieve simply with desktop computing. This is where batch processing in the cloud may be more suitable. We imagine we could connect our Windows product to our cloud product at some point in the future, but for now we want to take advantage of all available compute power on Windows.

Grabowski: Talk to me about the process of rewriting the server-based software to run on the desktop.

We did not need to rewrite our core technology, TrueSOLID [proprietary modeling kernel]. Generate for Windows is a totally new application written in C++. (See figure 2.) The lazy approach of boxing up the Web product would not have allowed interactivity, so we started fresh.

Figure 2: Generate for Windows showing volume boundary in light gray

Grabowski: Did you write the Windows version in a way so that it could be ported to other operating systems? 

: Yes.

Grabowski: You also have the TrueSOLID kernel that you license, but there are several new kernels on the market. Tell me how yours is different.

We are also a component company, which is not all that common for a new CAD company, given the amount of energy it takes. In the past, we put most of our energy into TrueSOLID. Now that is has come to fruition, we are able to focus on productizing it with Generate.

TrueSOLID is a generative design engine that consists of three parts:
  • At the bottom is a geometry modeler, which is an implicit geometry kernel, based on volumetric modeling to handle indeterminate solutions. It does not use surfaces (b-reps) as most other kernels do. The modeler is what enables operations like freeform topology optimization, blending, and lattice forming.
  • The next layer is our simulation framework, something we emphasized already in the early days; it makes use of multi-threaded CPUs and/or GPUs when available.
  • Finally the top layer is the optimization framework that enables interactive generative design, design for manufacturing, and topology optimization.
I predict that volumetric modeling will become more common. It hasn't been used much in the past because it can be computationally heavier, but for complex designs like lattices, it is better than surface modeling. 

Another benefit to volumetric modeling is that it gets the 3D printing output directly from the volume data. This makes a lot of sense for additive manufacturing, which can handle a lot more geometric complexity than can subtractive manufacturing.

['Additive' manufacturing is like 3D printing, where material is added to make the part; 'subtractive' modeling is like milling machines and drills, which make the part by removing material from a stock piece of metal. 'Casting' and 'molding' make parts by melting metal or plastic and pouring it into a mold.]

We can do STL, the lowest common denominator b-rep which is triangle mesh. Surface patches are still in process for topological design, but not for lattices as b-rep is not good for representing lattices. 

Grabowski: You received funding from Siemens and they use your technology in NX and Solid Edge. 

We provide their topology optimization (see figure 3), but not their lattice work. 

Figure 3: Frustum technology running inside SimCenter from Siemens PLM Systems

Grabowski: What are your future plans for Generate on the desktop?

: Following user requests on our latest Generate release, we will focus on lattices and modeling. We are still figuring out how to expose the implicit modeling, but it would certainly involve primitives, extrusions, and preset parts like bolts (from a parts library) for connecting the geometry.

We are learning from our customers how to close the workflow, which we see being like this: specify the bolts (fixtures) along with some kind of envelop (optional) and physical requirements and manufacturing requirements, and then the software determines the part. Should infill be a part of it, such as lattices? That would be an option.

We want to work more closely with all the [manufacturing] machines out there, allow the user to select the machine and get the ready-to-make part automatically with no retouching necessary. (See figure 4.) In the future, customers might tailor their Generate software to the five machines in the shop, enabling useful workflows and customization.

Figure 4: A part modeled with the same parameters but designed for different kinds of manufacturing in mind

In a future release, we plan to scale across multiple nodes [networked computers] to optimize any number of parts in an assembly. As a continuous-release product, we plan to ship updates each quarter.

As we continue to update our offering, we are not interested in providing a traditional CAD solution. It can't be CAD, because that already exists. We are trying to shoulder into the market as the next generation of 3D design software.



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The Rest of the News

Some of the most recent posts on my WorldCAD Access blog:
- - -
David Robison at Design Master has this survey hack for busy people: Just answer the first two multiple choice questions, then click Next. Take the 9th annual BIM MEP survey at

View the results from last year's BIM survey by Design Master at 
- - -
Pointfuse adds cloud-based data processing service Pointfuse Bolt to its Pointfuse 2018 suite of laser scanning software that converts 3D laser scans into 3D mesh models. The Bolt Web service reduces processing times and IT requirements.
- - -
COFES 2019 celebrates the 20th Anniversary by moving the event to Menlo Park, California from Sun 7April to Wed 10 April. More info from
- - -
Ex-Autodesk-er Noah Cole is now director of public relations at Siemens PLM Software.
- - -
To celebrate 20 years and 900,000 users, ZWSOFT has this multi-license offer: Purchase 3+ seats and get 20% off the full license and 1-year upgrade, with lifetime ownership. Email for coupon until Oct 31. 
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Free stuff, but only if you live in MA: "PTC Offers Free ThingWorx Starter Kit to Massachusetts Manufacturers, Fueling State-Wide Digital Transformation Efforts." Dunno about the 'fueling' bit, tho.
- - -
The other half of the Network Effect: "Computers fail differently than most other machines: It's not just that they can be attacked remotely -- they can be attacked all at once."
- - -]
Bentley Systems renamed its software with the “Open” prefix, such as OpenFlows FLOOD. It's not that they've suddenly made their software open, as is traditionally understood, but renamed them to emphasize that the packages work with each other. Open, but closed.
- - -
This could be good for CAD vendors: "Over the past year through July, US manufacturing added 327,000 jobs, the most of any 12-month period since April 1995."
- - -
Brcisys is working with Hexagon Leica Geosystems to offer the CloudWorx for BricsCAD plug-in to turn point cloud data into models and linework. They say it is identical in power and function to the CloudWorx Pro for AutoCAD plug-in.
- - -
Synthesis company now provides free development and software for your first parametric master CAD drawing. The Synthesis software is regularly $495, and includes free support, and a week of development work.
- - -
Here's my article on the Prague conference posted by Jon Peddie Research's GfxSpeak publication: "Open Design Alliance powers along beyond DWG -- A report from Prague: The ODA finds new opportunities in APIs and visualization." 
- - -
For late-breaking CAD news, be sure to follow upFront.eZine on Twitter at @upfrontezine.

Letters to the Editor

Fyi, the link to nanosoft in your newsletter does not work very well. Chrome and Firefox show it as an insecure site. However, the site does work fine. I enjoy your newsletter BTW
    -Pete Segal

The editor replies: Normally I check every link, but I missed this one. It is interesting that they do not use domain. Thanks for finding the error!
- - -
In your interview, Dr. Sarkar [ceo Vectoworks] mentioned, "We were among the five companies that first began this initiative, and we contribute ideas and bug reports." Do you know what the other four companies are?

Do you think an IFC-to-Revit will ever be possible?
    - Dave Edwards

The editor replies: I think that Bricsys and Graphisoft are part of the five, but the actual list is not being broadcast.

As for the IFC-Revit xlator, Open Design Alliance ceo Neil Peterson says, "Our IFC project is still in an early phase, but once it is finished we will be in a position to provide this type of solution based on our independent Revit and IFC SDKs. The priority of this issue among our members is not clear at this point, but from a technical perspective there is nothing preventing a solution in this area."

Re: Cambashi Webinar on CAE Opportunties

The difference between CAE [computer-aided engineering] and CAD is that in CAE one size does NOT fit all. Every little company (and many of these are very small) has its own unique algorithm for a specific engineering process. Consolidating this industry via a CAD company (or holding companies like Hexagon) would be like playing Pokemon Go ... gotta catch them all! 
    - Randall Newton (via WorldCAD Access)


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Spin Doctor of the Moment

"To best meet the needs of Canadians, LG Canada will not be releasing the LG V40."
     - LG spokesperson


upFront.eZine is published most Mondays. This newsletter is read by nearly 6,000 subscribers in 70 countries. Your comments are welcome at; deadline for submissions is every Saturday morning. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Read our back issues at

Editor: Ralph Grabowski 
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