Earlier this month, I mentioned New Zealand-based David Harrisons’ Stress-Free blog. In a more recent, long post entitled CAD Collaboration, he discusses the challenge of collaborating around CAD models.
He gives a good outline of how teams have used technology to share CAD information to date, including the use of what he calls “external document management”. He divides these into two camps: CAD vendor specific solutions such as Autodesk’s Buzzsaw and Bentley’s ProjectWise and vendor neutral solutions (he talks about Adept and Eskudos – neither of which I am familiar with – but I expect we could also include UK solutions such as my employer BIW, plus 4Projects, Asite, etc, etc, in this category).
However, his article really gets interesting when it moves beyond current approaches to building information modelling (BIM). He talks, first, about “An Always Connected, Centralised Digital Model” (he cites the IFC Server Project and Divercity research projects). This is similar to a concept that we have discussed at meetings of a recently-formed Constructing Excellence ICT and automation working party – established to help frame research proposals for the National Platform for the Built Environment (I attended a meeting of the High Level Group last Friday) – so I will be forwarding links to David’s article to my fellow working party members.
Then, after discussing connectivity drawbacks and some hybrid solutions, David moves on to “An alternative approach – snapshots and deltas“. I was particularly struck by this proposal: it adopts similar principles to a ‘differencing’ technology that BIW developed more than three years ago, called VDEFT (see BIW news release). Then, we explained how deltas could speed up the exchange of updates to conventional files (CAD files, Word documents, etc), but there is no reason why the technology couldn’t be developed and applied in the way David talks about. But what we need, as a commercial software developer, is some customer demand to make such R&D activity commercially viable – as with BIM (see BIM, BIMs or SBIM and BIM – some background reading), there is no huge clamour (yet) from project teams for collaboration tools to support this way of working.