With AutoCAD still dominating the 2D market, some may wonder why 2D CAD software developers stopped innovating. But now Berlin-based Gräbert is taking DWG to new highs, writes Martyn Day
AEC Magazine has been championing 3D modelling and BIM processes for well over a decade. As the industry has slowly moved to adopt model-based workflows, the one thing that is still fundamental to the process appears to be the creation of 2D drawings.
Documentation still dominates the time spent in the design phase and, somewhat ironically, many BIM-based firms don’t like the automated output. This leads to add hours of work adding detail to the automated 2D output of model-based systems, breaking one of the key selling points of the BIM process — coordinated drawings during edits.
From conversations with design and IT directors of leading AEC firms, beyond their issues with BIM, most agree that they have a problem with 2D output, in that they want the model system to fully automate the output, so they can spend more time designing. Suddenly the focus in firms is the ‘2D problem’.
Other things are changing. Autodesk is rapidly hiking up subscription and enterprise licensing costs, to the point where firms are looking at their software budgets and ideal technology stacks. For all the positives of subscription, it always puts the cost of ownership up. Firms are also assessing the velocity of development, or lack of it. This is all driving the re-evaluation of AutoCAD licences.
There has been an active and growing AutoCAD clone market for decades, but it hasn’t made a serious dent in Autodesk’s user base. The fact is, these firms have gone so far beyond just being ‘clones’ that they have become independent CAD systems in their own right, doing interesting and new things for 3D and 2D users, beyond AutoCAD, but still within a DWG ‘wrapper’. Previously we have looked at BricsCAD which has a unique, powerful and low-cost BIM modeller in a DWG environment. This month we highlight some innovations from long-standing German developer, Gräbert (Graebert).
Gräbert is more of a traditional ‘CAD’ developer, in that it concentrates most of its development efforts on the production of 2D drawings. However, more than any other developer, it has really pushed its core platform to enable DWG drawings to be available on pretty much any device, any operating system, anywhere.
The company produces three flavours of its ARES CAD software – Commander (for Windows, macOS and Linux), Touch (for Android and iOS phones and tablets) and Kudo – a browser-based variant for editing DWGs in the cloud (supporting all leading web browsers). At some point in the past, this seemed to be Autodesk’s objective as well, creating a cloud-version of AutoCAD, but it seemed to lose its focus and its feature set was never really completed.
With ARES Kudo, Gräbert has produced a much more feature-rich, professional and reliable cloud DWG tool than Autodesk. Combining Commander, Touch and Kudo, Gräbert offers a true multi-platform DWG tool and provides a unique ‘drawing anywhere’ solution with a consistent interface. All this for €250 a year, for all three environments (desktop, mobile, cloud) or €695 for three years. Flex (shared) or full perpetual license prices are available on request.
To put this in context, a single three-year subscription licence of AutoCAD from its UK website costs £4,131 (including a 15% discount). That’s six licences to one. Out of all the global markets, Japan seems to be one which is most keen to reduce costs and opt to use DWG alternatives. Both BricsCAD and Gräbert have some key wins in big Autodesk Japanese customers. While talking with Dr Robert Gräbert, the company’s CTO, it was interesting to hear that Japanese companies really concentrate on regularly benchmarking comparative products with every release, having dedicated teams who literally test performance feature by feature and the developers would be expected to improve performance to match or surpass competitive products.
Gräbert is good at developing drawing tools. It provides OEM versions to key players in the manufacturing industry. Dassault Systèmes, for example, uses the Gräbert ARES DWG tools in its 2D CAD system, DraftSight, which now has over one million users. The ARES core also powers the 2D drawing engine of cloud-based product design system Onshape.
Gräbert is also turning its eye to the BIM market, but as usual is taking its unique slant on selecting where it should add value. The new release of ARES is the first instalment to add IFC (in/out) & RVT import, a BIM Navigator (to filter and isolate required info), BIM data extraction to CSV and section and elevation view take-offs. These are all really about better integrating ARES into BIM workflows.
However, this is stage one of a bigger plan. Gräbert is looking at the perennial issue of firms that don’t like the automated output of Revit, so have to embellish their drawings in a DWG CAD package, which currently breaks the automated documentation part of their BIM process. The company aims to develop some kind of associative design link, enabling the dynamic updating of BIM-issued drawing sets which might be made in the modelling tool throughout the design process. This could be a huge play for the developer if it manages to pull this off, as ARES could provide a huge boost to those wanting to bring Revit’s automated output up to company standard without breaking the chain. Stay tuned!
With customers who have cross-graded from AutoCAD, measuring performance feature by feature, huge MCAD developers who use OEM versions in their professional products and now BIM devotees who are looking for a more intelligent connection between BIM and drawings, Gräbert has managed to maintain and please a very demanding customer base. All this, without really stepping outside of its core comfort zone, the age-old art of producing drawings in DWG format. There seems plenty more innovation to come.
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