ACIS: Sixteen Years and Counting!

I was first introduced to ACIS in 1992 by Bruce Morgan of Spatial. punch_sideFor those of you unfamiliar with ACIS, this is the underlying modeling kernel in ViaCAD and Shark. At that time I was responsible for Lockheed’s internal CAD development group. Bruce came in with his ACIS sales hat on with the mission to get Lockheed to incorporate ACIS components into our CAD tools.

What he set into motion though was something quite different!

As part of his pitch for ACIS, Bruce handed me a sheet comparing complex kernel operations (booleans) on different platforms. What really struck my eye were the comparisons between UNIX machines and the PC. It was clear the PC was on the technology trend up and my current Silicon Graphics was threatened to become a boat anchor along side my former PERQ, Apollo, and Sun workstations.

The first workstation I designed a CAD system on was a PERQ in 1983. With a “large” raster screen (versus stroke vector) 1MB RAM and a 24 MB harddisk it was the “hot” machine.  At that time workstations were an appealing alternative to mainframes because of their reduced facility requirements in support of black hole projects.  For some of our classified projects we were required to work in a cramp lead shielded vault.  Using a workstation as our CAD platform, we developed a CAD system from the ground up that was very specific to the process of designing airplanes. The CAD system we designed had tools for drafting, curves, surfaces, and solids with customized modeling procedures for rapid design interations.  We also spent quite a bit of effort on integration with the analysis communities (CEM, FEM, CFD)–which is where we made quite a bit of our productivity gains.

At Lockheed, we spent considerable time tweaking our kernel providing me with a background receptive to the advantages of ACIS. In fact, a year or so after Bruce’s visit, I left Lockheed and formed CADSoft Solutions with the goal of providing precision CAD on the PC, armed with the “CAD for all” battle cry.  Later CSI was acquired by Punch and since then I have been fortunate to be part a variety of CAD products using ACIS.  What’s exciting about  Punch is that with it’s extensive distribution system, “CAD for all” is not a marketing vision, but a reality.  Just walk down the the isles of your nearby OfficeMax, OfficeDepot, Staples, or Fry’s super stores and check out our ViaCAD products.

Spatial has put together a nice case study regarding Punch.  If you are interested in more information click on the airplane designed with ViaCAD.  Read the full case study here:

Leave a Reply