Issue: Volume: 23 Issue: 8 (August 2000)

Spotlight: Paraform Reshapes Itself

Paraform 2.0 comes with modeling and editing tools that make it not only an application that handles the conversion of point-cloud data to polygonal files, or polygonal files to NURBS, but one that maintains design intent throughout a manufacturing project by bridging hitherto troublesome gaps in processes-between industrial design and CAD tools, for example, or between the CAD modeling and quality assurance phases. Many of the problems Paraform solves in manufacturing also exist in the entertainment industry, and the program is finding use there also.

Paraform is now an industrial design tool in its own right, according to Bruce Jenkins of Daratech (Cambridge, MA). A user can, for example, stretch an auto body model with simple click-and-drag operations, and Paraform will make intelligent inferences about the changes-leaving the wheel wells the correct size and dimension, for example. "It's a break-through pro duct-with straightforward user implementations for some very complicated operations," says Jenkins.

According to Paraform, the motivating factor behind most of the upgrades is that 3D modelers-in particular CAD modelers-are increasingly faced with having to create complex, organic, free-form shapes in tight timeframes. Examples of these kinds of shapes include the Volkswagen Beetle, organically styled toothbrushes, personal communications devices, and so forth.

Paraform lumps the bulk of these new features into two categories that it calls Multi-Format Modeling and Smart Automation. The first incorporates a feature set that includes analysis and flaw-correction in models; polygonal sculpting with global modification; and associativity, with which changes made to a model are simultaneously made to any of its associated elements. The Smart Automation category describes automation features that are more powerful than in previous versions, which left many of the scan data or polygon data conversion decisions to users. The program now automatically handles "about 80% of the process" says Paraform CEO Brian Kissel, with the remaining 20% representing decisions the company believes must be made by users in order to ensure the highest quality models.

Paraform can be used by itself or in conjunction with a wide variety of products, including Alias|Wavefront's Studio Tools and Maya, Dassault Systemes' Catia, and PTC's Pro/Engineer. Paraform 2.0 is currently available for the Windows NT operating system. Sun Solaris and SGI Irix versions are planned for later this year. The cost is $19,000.

(Paraform; Santa Clara, CA; 408-855-4300;
-Jenny Donelan