Alibre Design Professional 8.0 - Affordable Design And Collaboration

As far as assemblies are concerned, Alibre Design seems well suited for those users who don't necessarily deal with large assemblies. Performance can be an issue for users regularly working with assemblies over 500 or a 1,000 parts, depending on the complexity of the parts being designed. However, for users who do not regularly work with large, complex assemblies, Alibre Design should handle the job quite nicely.

2D Drawing And Detailing

In Alibre Design, a drawing can contain multiple drawing sheets, each created with user-defined or standard templates and drawing borders. 3D parts and assemblies are used to create standard orthographic views, as well as a full complement of other key view types including sections, details, and broken and auxiliary views. Dimensions can be placed as either driving design dimensions or reference dimensions that are driven by changes to the primary driving dimensions.

Hidden lines are automatically generated, along with support for centerlines and various other key annotations and symbols like GD&T, weld symbols, threads, and so on. The system also allows flexible control of dimension and annotation properties providing support for national and international standards, as well as custom corporate standards.

Exploded views of assemblies with support for BOMs and balloon callouts are also provided, along with a BOM editor that lets you customize the BOM. Finally, 2D drawings are bi-directionally associative with the model.

Data Management via the Repository

The Repository window provides the interface to Alibre Design integrated data management capabilities, including the ability to set appropriate permissions and access rights to certain folders or items, as well as the ability to check-in and check-out files, track revisions, send notifications to team members based on user-defined events, like checking in a design, and so on. Multiple Repositories with user-defined folders and sub-folders can be created on a user's local hard drive, or on any standard windows storage device accessible via a network.

For those who do not want to use the integrated Repository, the Windows file system is supported allowing you to simply store your data on your network in any standard windows folder you choose. You can also move between the two, using the Repository like a vault, saving in-process designs to the file system and when complete, checking in the finished design to the Repository. Repositories can also be published and shared with others via the Internet.

Collaborating "On The Fly"

Collaboration can be a funny thing (read sticky wicket). On the one hand, designers often want to bounce ideas and concepts off of their peers just to assure themselves that they are on the right track. On the other hand, though, there is often a deep sense of ownership with a design and a reluctance to share it with others until it is somewhat refined (at least in the mind of a designer).

Alibre has always emphasized the collaborative nature of design, and collaboration remains a strong suit of Alibre Design.

Collaboration in Alibre Design can happen spontaneously in any workspace or via the data manager known as the Repository. At any time when modeling a part, assembly or working with a 2D drawing, you can start a Team Design session with other Alibre Design users who are signed on. Just choose Lead Session and pick the contacts you want to work with and they receive an invitation and you are off an running. All participants can independently control their view, add pointer arrows and redlines, participate in text or voice over IP chat, and reorient their view that of another participant, or set their view to follow the view of another automatically. The leader controls a "baton" which can be passed to any participant allowing them to make edits to the model, but the leader always maintains the final say on whether to accept or reject edits to the model or drawing. In addition, any Repository can be published and shared with others. This is peer-to-peer collaboration where clients connect directly once a user is authenticated by signing on. Data is transferred directly between clients rather than shuttling through a central server, and provides better performance, even in lower bandwidth environments. Although you must be the owner of a repository to share it, you can select which individuals can access and view data in your Repositories, and even control the level of access to certain types of data. For instance you might only allow someone doing drafting to have read access to your models, but write access to drawings in a certain sub-folder of a Repository.

There is a lot to this collaboration aspect of Alibre Design and you can do a lot with it once you get the hang of its underlying purpose and mechanism. You have to pay attention when you're setting things with regard to such things as assigning permission policies for Repository items and publishing rules. On the other hand, assigning team roles and the overall utility of the collaborative functions are generally much more straightforward than other tools of this type that I've been exposed to.

How Alibre Design Fares And Compares

Alibre has a relatively small but growing group of solution partners, primarily in CAM, advanced surfacing, FEA, CFD, and input devices. The number of partners should increase, however, because Alibre Design 8.0 now supports an API to drive and customize it. This first release of the API is focused on supporting procedural automation of existing capabilities, rather than hosting an application that requires full interaction with the model. Applications that Alibre has targeted for this first release of the API include standard parts libraries and associativity with third-party applications. For instance, in Alibre Design 8.0, the interface between ALGOR DesignCheck and Alibre Design has been rewritten using the API to provide a tight associative link between the model in Alibre Design and the FEA model in DesignCheck.

If you are in the market for a good mainstream modeler - and you have some flexibility on your demands for free-form surfacing and large assemblies, Alibre Design may be a good fit for you and your organization. Alibre Design does not have all the bells and whistles that some of the competition does, but that offers the benefit of making it relatively easy to learn and use. Alibre Design's collaboration capabilities are powerful and unique, especially in the way they use them to provide support for the product. The product has appeal for a wide spectrum of potential users, and users new to 3D CAD or CAD period should have a positive experience with Alibre Design as they embark into the realm of 3D digital design.

Alibre Design Professional 8.0

Plusses (+): Good overall value; strong core modeling and associative 2D drawing creation capabilities; built-in PDM system; collaboration capabilities.

Minuses (-): Limited freeform surfacing capabilities; large assemblies over 500 - 1,000 parts tend to bog the system down.

Price: $1,295 (US)

Contact: Alibre Inc., 972-671-8492,

Jeffrey Rowe is the editor and publisher of MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached here or 408.850.9230.

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