Software manipulates virtual modelling clay

Paul Boughton

Sensable Technologies is now shipping the version 9.0, 32-bit edition of its Freeform software, with a 64-bit edition of the v9.0 software scheduled for release during Q2 2006.

The version 9.0 software includes a new user interface, semi-automated curve and patch creation tools, improved STL file quality and size control, Texturekiln functionality, and additional time-saving features such as enhanced Parting Line Colours and Object List notes.

The Freeform systems are innovative touch-enabled packages for fast 3D modelling of complex, highly-detailed, organic shapes. The systems allow users to work with virtual clay, providing creative freedom and speed, and include a Phantom device, a true 3D interface with force feedback. Users are said to be able to work in 3D faster than ever before because they use their sense of touch to model virtual clay just like real clay. The Freeform systems are easy to learn, and users typically become productive within a few days.

Within the Freeform product line, there are two models: Freeform Modelling and Freeform Modelling Plus. The Freeform Modelling system offers a fast and cost-effective way for designers and modellers to create original models or modify and stylise scan data, and then output to rapid prototyping systems for prototyping or use for STL milling of patterns. The Freeform Modelling Plus system has all the capability of the Freeform Modelling system and also includes CAD part interoperability with native Parasolid import/export capability, Nurbs surfacing and solids tools, and Mouldable Part and Mould Insert functionality.

Freeform v9.0 highlights:

* 32-bit and 64-bit Editions of the Software: a 64-bit edition of the v9.0 software for Freeform Modelling and Modelling Plus systems with the Phantom Desktop device is planned for release during Q2 2006 and is designed to run on Windows XP x64 and suitably upgraded hardware. When running on a suitably upgraded workstation, the 64-bit edition will provide access to larger amounts of system Ram, which will improve memory-intensive operations such as working with larger models.
* New user interface: the consistent, flexible, and efficient organisation of tools streamlines day-to-day work. Users can choose stacked or floating pallets for customised layouts. More customised settings are saved in the preferences, so it is easier to personalise the interface.
* Semi-automated and enhanced curve and patch creation tools: using these new tools, the surfacing speed in v9.0 with some models is now five times faster than in v8.2.
* Enhanced STL export accuracy and speed: the quality and size control of STL files in v9.0 improves capability in RP and polymesh workflows. A reduction to 10 per cent file size without loss of detail is now possible and files can be reduced in one step to a predefined tolerance or file size.
* Enhanced parting line colours: a variety of colours makes the areas of the model that are back-facing (undercut) easy to see and evaluate, including the straight areas without draft, which are now displayed in red. Users can flip the evaluation to the opposite direction with a hot key to work faster in preparing models for manufacturing.
* Texturekiln: this new functionality increases rendering speed of real-time models by enabling users to quickly create highly-detailed, 2D texture maps for applying to low-res, low-poly models in 3ds Max, Maya, or other 3D applications supporting UV mapped polygon workflows.
* Object List Notes: 'sticky notes' can be added to clay pieces in the Object List to facilitate communication or to help document and retain knowledge about the model. Notes are time stamped, and a log of comments is kept for each piece.

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