Solids from software

Technology is helping architects realise and market their designs. James Boley investigates what options are available in the Middle East.

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By  James Boley Published  May 5, 2008

Technology is helping architects realise and market their designs. James Boley investigates what options are available in the Middle East.

CAD software is now as much a part of the architect's toolkit as a pencil, paper and a powerful imagination. It's essential for putting together technical drawings and helping architects create new icons and buildings.

However, new technology is starting to change the way GCC-based designers can use CAD to realise their visions.

First used in the 1960s, initially CAD usage was limited to large corporations that could afford the computer mainframes required to run such comparatively demanding software.

Dropping prices of technology meant that by the end of the 1980s, CAD software could run on standard home computer systems, resulting in widespread adoption of CAD.

Industry standards

CAD software can be used for a variety of purposes, and the industry standard still remains AutoCAD, originally released in 1982 by Autodesk. "You cannot find a single architecture practice that does not use AutoCAD," says Tharakesh Ananthakrishnan, technical manager of Autodesk distributor Omnix.

AutoCAD's ubiquity means that any CAD program that wishes to survive on the market must open the DWG file format. Several clone programs that mimic the functionality of AutoCAD are now available, and tend to undercut the higher price point of an AutoCAD license.

"For many companies, 15,000Dhs (US $4000) for an AutoCAD license is a lot of money," says Per Gogstad, professional services director of BricsCAD distributor Tecnoserve.

Therefore, alternatives can be desirable. Programs such as BricsCAD are so close to AutoCAD in terms of functionality that CAD operators trained in one can easily use the other.

AutoCAD clones can prove attractive for smaller firms, but AutoCAD distributors understandably warn that similar software doesn't always include the same features, slowing down the design process.

Serious problems also exist in terms of piracy. In 2005, Autodesk estimated that over 80% of copies of AutoCAD were illegal copies. Pirate copies destroy the incentive to opt for cheaper alternatives and also threaten quality of design.

It causes serious damage to the design because the client doesn't get the support," says Ananthakrishnan.

A new dimension

AutoCAD has retained its market dominance for many years, but new ways of virtually designing buildings have been creeping onto the market for some time, and are now beginning to gain common currency in the GCC.

3970 days ago

An interesting development in the architectural industry is the use of 3d printers to make a maquette or a scale model. A major issue is the quality of the 3d file. Most CAD software applications don't support correct .stl preparation. As an important development (cheaper and freedom of form) CAD developers should take care of this issue.

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