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July 28, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 12:49pm

SPATIAL SEEKS THE BIG-TIME FOR 3D MODELING ENGINE

By CBR Staff Writer

3D modeling company Spatial Technology Inc’s trying to break out of the CAD/CAM ghetto and get its ACIS solid modeling kernel used by more mainstream applications. Then it thinks it’ll have a shot at being what Adobe Systems is to the page display and printing world. It says it’s obvious that in a couple of years’ time 3D modeling engines the major gaming companies are going to stop messing around with pictures and use 3D libraries to control, say the action of throwing a missile in a video game. Rather than a hit or miss affair, as the response conventionally is, Boulder, Colorado-based Spatial says its technology would enable the game to model more real-world behavior where the missile might bounce back at the player if it’s not thrown hard enough. Next month Spatial will ship version 3.0 of its ACIS application development toolset, which is already included in products such as Autodesk’s AutoCAD, Corel CorelCAD, Bentley Systems Modeler and Intergraph Solid Edge. Spatial has broken ACIS’ 400,000 lines of C++ code into 35 Dynamic Link Libraries in 3.0. It’s trying to establish its file format as a de facto standard. The competition includes EDS Unigraphics’ Parasolid, Dassault SolidWorks, Matra Datavision and Ricoh products. Spatial’s already got Intel Corp bundling an ACIS 3D viewer which is deployed as an ActiveX application and can be embedded in a web page or used a standalone application for viewing, sharing and manipulating ACIS 3D models within Microsoft Office applications. It’ll work with any of the graphics libraries on offer and doesn’t care about how polygons are actually rendered on-screen to the user. Its software generates those all too familiar cut-away sections of gearboxes and other engineering parts. Spatial claims 100 ACIS-enabled applications, 370 licencees, 750,000 users and 35 royalty-paying customers. A full ACIS development licence is from $40,000 on Unix and NT supporting Netscape and Microsoft browsers. Plug-in viewers are free. And there lies the rub. Ubiquitous in the CAD/CAM community it maybe, but in a world of sky-high IT company valuations and stock prices its balance sheet stinks. Last week it reported a second quarter net loss of $804,000 including a charge of $405,000 for restructuring, severance costs and other write-downs, compared with a profit of $125,000 last time, on revenue down 15% at $2.18m compared with $2.65m last time. It says license revenue declined 32% at $0.95m from $1.4m last time, but says it’s added 13 royalty-paying customers in the last six months. A disastrous IPO last year left the ten-year-old company with more (expensive) space and suits than it needed. So it got rid of them and started further. Now a 68-person company, it spent just $150,000 on marketing last year and is now conducting its first press tour. It wonders why we don’t already know everything about it and acts like the world owes it a living. Right now it’s trying to figure out how it’ll make the quantum leap to achieve Adobe-type status, the best analogy it can find for what it wants to be. Adobe did it the right way, it believes, however Silicon Graphics Inc, by the VRML Virtual Reality Modeling Language away to a committee, effectively turned it into a dead duck. We guess that’s another way of saying it’s not going to offer ACIS up to all-comers to prod and poke. It thinks the Boeings and General Motors of the world would like to be able to break away from traditional high-end CAD/CAM modeling solutions such as Catia and ProEngineer but says that at the moment they’ve got little choice but to keep pumping dollars into existing systems because of the investments they’ve already made and there’s little else on offer. It thinks change may arrive soon, however. Catia owner Dassault Systems just paid a whopping $310m for $25m three dimensional engineering design company SolidWorks Corp, in Concord, Massachusetts-based firm, and is moving to NT (CI No 3,190). It says it knows there are other moves afoot. Spatial got ACIS from Three-Space, a company formed by some of the co-founders of Cambridge, UK-b

ased Shape Data, developer of the first solid modeling kernel called Romulus, which sold out to EDS Unigraphics in 1986.

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