Bentley Systems Inc.Exton, Pa.

MicroStation Link

The future of design is collaborative engineering across the Internet via the World Wide Web. Engineers will build home pages for projects and have access to engineering content, allowing joint efforts on the same design from all points in an office, around the country, and around the world. While this concept is still in its infancy, Bentley Systems Inc. has taken a leadership role as the first vendor to allow users to access the Web directly from within their CAD system, in this case Bentley's MicroStation 95 3-D solid-modeling package, via MicroStation Link. "The Web is always going to be under construction," says Yoav Etiel, Bentley senior vice president for marketing. "We have opted to introduce a stream of enhancements -- gradual, graceful steps to take advantage of the opportunities the Web provides. MicroStation Link is the first product in that stream and allows our MicroStation 95 users to access the Web just as easily as opening a file." MicroStation Link provides a direct route to the Web that otherwise can be a tedious process. For example, assume an engineer working in his CAD application wants to go onto the Web and find a drawing of a valve from another Web site so he can download it into his design. Currently he would leave the CAD application, go to his browser, go to the other Web site, click on the valve drawing, save it on his hard disk, go back to the CAD system, call up his design, and place the drawing into the design. A Web-enabled CAD system allows the engineer to access the Web directly with a click in the CAD system, pull up the valve drawing, and drop it directly into his working design. In addition, with a Web-enabled system, active links could be built directly into a working design so that clicking on an assembly, for instance, would bring up a subassembly across an Internet/intranet linkage via the Web, all within the CAD system. The route would be transparent. "You wouldn't know if it's from the designer next door or someone halfway around the world in Kuala Lumpur," says Etiel. While other CAD vendors may be waiting to see if browsers are embedded directly into new operating systems, "We sensed some urgency to do it now," says Etiel. "We took it upon ourselves to embed the Web access capabilities because our users were asking for it." To do so, Bentley licensed the Web Technology Kit from Spyglass Inc., Naperville, Ill. "Bentley's technology allows for plug-ins, so it was relatively easy for us to add the functionality. Other vendors whose systems are not so flexible will have to rewrite code to add this capability." Bentley's MicroStation also was one of the first CAD systems to work with virtual-reality-modeling-language (VRML) models, the compact file format that allows 3-D CAD models to be viewed across the Internet. A VRML viewer working with a browser provides the controls to zoom in and out or view the 3-D model from different angles. The VRML model can be downloaded into other non-CAD applications across the Internet for catalog preparation, for instance. In 1997 Bentley will introduce its next Web enhancement, ProActive M platform technology. "This technology will be like what Java is to static Web pages and will enable users to actually work on live models over the Internet," says Etiel. Microstation Link is an add-on to Microstation 95 3-D solid modeler and operates on Windows 95 and NT. It will be available on UNIX and Macintosh platforms in the first quarter of 1997.

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