Design and Manufacturing solutions through Digital Prototyping and Interoperability

Category Archives: Reviews

A Review of IrisVR Scope

IrisVR Scope

I recently wrote about IrisVR (Virtual Reality with IrisVR).  IrisVR builds virtual reality tools focused on the architecture and design-related industries. IrisVR offers two products, Scope and Prospect.

Panoramic in VR

With IrisVR Scope you quickly convert panoramic imagery into VR viewable content for smartphone devices. This includes utilizing GearVR and Google Cardboard. Generate the images using applications like V-Ray, Lumion, Autodesk A360, and others and then convert into VR with Scope. With the panorama converted, you view it virtually using your mobile device.

With the Scope Library you upload the “panos“, generate a code, and share the panos with whoever needs to see it.

The free version provides support for the Cardboard and Samsung’s GearVR. It allows you to view any pano shared with you. The Pro version ($40/month) gets you access to the Scope Library with unlimited uploads, the option to sort panos into sets, and fullscreen 360 previews.

Creating Panoramic Images

I am still very new to Virtual Reality. I learned that viewing panoramas on devices like Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR requires images in particular formats, like Cubic Projection. What is Cubic Projection? It’s basically like laying out the image like orthographic views, placing the imagery along an unfolded box. The Cubic image is viewed from its center.

Revit, as an example, does not produce images with Cubic Project unless you generate a Stereo Panorama using the A360 Renderer and download it using the Stereo-Pano for GearVR option. With Panoramas generated from Revit (or other non-cubic images) you’ll need to use a combination of image editing software (like imagemagik) and a script to setup the image properly. Scope itself provides no conversion processes.

Scope supports 2×6 Stereo Cubic specifically for images generated from A360.

A360 Rendering Download Stereo for GearVR

As mentioned, a combination of Revit plus the A360 Renderer provides a quick-and-easy method to generate panoramas and stereo panoramas. With selecting either Panorama or  Stereo Panorama you set the quality, exposure, and desired width. The dialog updates to show how many cloud credits the render will cost. I threw a couple bigger Revit models at it and they all completed in under 10-minutes.

Revit Cloud Render Stereo Panoramas

Creating Panoramic Images (3DS Max)

To generate Stereo Panoramas from 3DS Max it is a bit more involved, fortunately, the IrisVR blog provides the steps to generate the stereo panorama. Panoramas, however, are generated using the Panorama Exporter. Scope supports 1×12 Stereo Cubic for images generated by V-Ray.

3DS Max Panorama Exporter

I need to spend more time with the Panorama Exporter (as a V-Ray alternative) as the images appeared very “boxy” within Scope. It was clear that the image was laid onto a box and was not smooth at all. The biggest distraction is how the images were not connected and were offset at each corner.

So the best option for generating VR content from 3DS Max is also provided in the IrisVR blog. Using the tools from V-RAY, you add a V-Ray Stereoscopic Helper. This dissipates the “poles” meaning you don’t get the seams in the corners of the box. The V-Ray demo only allows rendering of small resolution (600 x 400 or less) so viewing within Scope was not the best experience. It was obvious the image was much better rendered for virtual reality.

Uploading to the Scope Library

Uploading panos to Scope is quick and easy. From the IrisVR website you log in, switch to your Scope Library, and click Add Panorama Set. With the Set added, use the + to upload the panos.

IrisVR Scope Library

Something very important when generating images is that Scope accepts pano dimensions 12:1, 3:1, 2:1, and 1:1. With 3DS Max you can set the dimensions from the exporter but within Revit you set the Crop dimensions from the view itself. Scope provides the supported dimensions on the upload screen, a nice touch by IrisVR to make sure the information is readily available.

IrisVR Upload Panorama

There is limited information however when the pano doesn’t fit within the supported range. A simple message appears repeating the already stated supported dimensions. It would be nice to have a bit more information, even listing the current pano dimensions to make it a bit more clear on why it is failing.

IrisVR Scope Upload Panorama Issue

I did have one image that for whatever reason would not upload. So I contacted IrisVR support and within a couple hours, we had a resolution (I’m not patient enough).

Utilizing Scope

It didn’t take me very long to appreciate the power of VR. The Revit models I viewed within the Scope app looked great, in fact, I actually squinted at the sunlight coming through the windows. “Looking around” using Scope is very smooth and I did not ever encounter any fragments or jerky movements.  You are stuck however at the center of the view with no method to move.

It is also important to note that you must download the pano to your device. Scope makes this easy, even providing an option to only download on Wifi so as you are not consuming data on your cellular plan. However, it would be nice to have a view in cloud type option to eliminate this step.

Google Cardboard

To view the panos with the Scope app I used Google Cardboard. This is Google’s very affordable viewer for a “VR experience.” It is open-source, meaning Google readily provides the instructions on how to build your own. It’s called Cardboard as that’s literally what it is…. two lenses, within cardboard that you fold into a box. You stick your phone in and the supported apps provide the virtual reality content.

Final Thoughts

First off you can’t beat the price. Free for anyone you want to share with, plus easy access within the Scope app.

IrisVR brands the Google Cardboards they send out which is a brilliant strategy. With how well the models present within Scope I can definitely see situations where companies would send out the branded Cardboard to their potential customers. The customer then views the models within the free Scope app…. tough to beat this strategy!

At $40/month, the price for access to the Scope Library is very reasonable, especially when you consider you get unlimited storage. As you generate codes to share with others it is also very easy to control who has access to your data.

The upload process is quite simple and works as expected. It would be nice to have a bit more information on why images fail to load. Especially for newbies.

Viewing within Scope is also a simple process. My only complaint is that you have to download the pano. There is no view online option.


  • Uploading images to the Scope Library is easy and you have unlimited storage
  • Sharing is easy by sending a code (email, text, over the phone)
  • Very reasonably priced (free to view, $40/month to publish)


  • No option to view online, you must download the panos to your device
  • Limited feedback on why images fail to load to the library
  • No method to move within the pano.


A 30-day trial of Scope is available on the IrisVR website


*Disclaimer: IrisVR provided the Google Cardboard, but the opinion is my own. No influence from the IrisVR or payment was received for this review.


Are We Virtually There? Virtual Reality with IrisVR

Virtual Reality

Time sure does fly past fast. Almost a year ago I posed the question, Are We Virtually Ready?. If Autodesk University is any sign, Virtual Reality (VR) is here and it is quickly becoming available to anyone. IrisVR is taking a different approach by supplying tools to create interactive Virtual Reality from your architectural models almost instantly.

The Problem with Virtual Reality

Around three years ago Shane Scranton, CEO, and co-founder of IrisVR, was heavily involved with architectural modeling and visualization. He got his hands on a development Oculus Rift and fell in love.

IrisVR Shane Scranton

Shane quickly discovered that with Virtual Reality, you can communicate with your clients in a method that provides huge cost savings. By using VR you require fewer meetings and you get quicker sign off to projects and to changes. Most importantly VR highlights errors that are caught by virtually walking through the model. Errors that would be difficult to see on the 2D drawings or with the 3D models.

The problem, as Shane saw, was the process to convert the 3D model into something Virtual Reality ready was too involved and took too long. The process typically involves gaming engines that require game design skills. A Revit model typically requires 100-200 hours to transfer into Virtual Reality properly at a level providing a presentation level experience.

Shane wanted the process to be plug and play and go. With this, he started IrisVR.

IrisVR Goes Mainstream

Things just got stepped up a notch as IrisVR recently announced it has raised $8-million in Series A funding. With this and other investments, IrisVR’s total funding is $10-million. Based in New York, IrisVR is currently 15-employees. Shane joked during our interview that he thought “VR would be easier” hence the reason most of the employees are engineers.

IrisVR Virtual Reality Headsets

Even though the products just moved out of the initial beta phase, IrisVR has over 22,000 sign-ups so far for their Prospect product (more on this product in a bit).

A quote from the funding release:

“There are real, industry-changing applications for this technology and IrisVR is building one of them,” Shane said. “Simply put, we’re reinventing the canvas on which a vast, global industry communicates. For design and construction professionals, the vision is the core of every project. IrisVR brings that vision to life.”

So what does IrisVR do? They build VR tools focused on the architecture and design-related industries. Their goal is to provide VR ready content from your models in 30-60 seconds. The difference between their products and others is they are after the quick-and-dirty, as in get the model pushed into VR instantly and start collaborating interactively. If you are after the high-level presentation continue using others which involves much more of a time commitment to build the presentation VR.

See here for more details:

The plan for 2017 is to continue development with a focus on “effective communication.

So what makes IrisVR’s solution different? Instant VR with a focus on collaboration. Plus their base products are free to use!

The Products

IrisVR offers two products: IrisVR Prospect and IrisVR Scope. They are available in free and paid for versions. Prospect is intended to take your 3D models and convert them into VR viewables for devices like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Scope is intended to convert panoramic images into a VR viewable for smartphone devices like the GearVR and Google Cardboard.

IrisVR Immersive Review

Immersive review courtesy of the IrisVR Blog

Iris Scope

For IrisVR Scope you generate the panorama in V-Ray, OctaneRender, Lumion, Autodesk A360, Corona Renderer, and others (and more are coming) and then convert into for VR with Scope. With the panorama converted, you view it virtually using your mobile device.

With the Scope Library you upload the “panos“, generate a code, and share the panos with whoever needs to see it.

The free version provides support for the Cardboard and Samsung’s GearVR. It allows you to view any pano shared with you. The Pro version ($40/month) gets you access to the Scope Library with unlimited uploads, the option to sort panos into sets, and fullscreen 360 previews.

Iris Prospect

Prospect offers support for Revit, Rhino, Sketchup, and OBJ models. There really is no limit on the model size as the product can handle complex assemblies.  There is no limit on the number of files you can process, even with the free Basic version.

Within the IrisVR Prospect environment, you get to experience life-like presentations with complex details. The conversion from model to VR is “in less time than it takes to print.

With the Pro ($200/month) the tool set is extended. Using the built-in tools you toggle between different design options by switching layers off and on. The provided annotation features create markups and callouts in 3D. Prospect Pro also provides the means to capture screenshots from within the VR so that you can review outside of the VR.

If you are using the Pro version you can send and receive VR via their IVZ format. The resultant file is small enough to send via email, which at the moment is the mechanism most IrisVR users are using to share with others.

Finally, the Pro version includes daylight system tools so that you can adjust the sun and lighting position real-time.

What do I Need to Start?

The IrisVR website provides a lot of information, not just on their products, but for getting started with Virtual Reality.  First place to start?…. Hardware.

You’ll need a computer. Consider the “VR Ready” hardware offered by Lenovo.

IrisVR recommends getting a powerful graphics card at the recommended minimum. They suggest at a minimum the NVIDIA Geforce GTX 980 or something equivalent.  You’ll also need an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive. Which one? The Rift is intended for sit-down experiences while the strength of the HTC Vive is its ability for room-scale virtual reality.

For a complete run-down of requirements check out their blog here.

What’s Next?

A Google Cardboard is on its way to me. I’m also on the hunt for a Samsung GearVR. Once I get my hands on one of these devices, I’ll be reviewing Scope.  I’m looking quite forward to it.

A Review of the Lenovo Yoga Book

Lenovo Yoga Book

For my recent trip to Autodesk University, I wanted something small, light, and extremely portable. Something that I could slug along during my very hectic schedule. I no longer wanted pen and paper hence I needed something that I could take notes. The Lenovo Yoga Book fits the bill perfectly.

Lenovo Yoga Book 1

The Yoga Book is a unique take on the tablet design. Lenovo has taken every effort to make this tablet look and feel just like a notebook. This includes the metal rings along the “spine” making it feel like opening a book when opening the tablet. The watchband-style hinge was adapted from the high-end Lenovo laptops to work with the much thinner tablet.

“Mobile productivity enters a new era with the Lenovo Yoga Book, a 2-in-1 tablet like none you’ve seen before.”

“We set out to redefine the tablet category conundrum, namely that consumers no longer separate their activities into productivity and entertainment – it all blends together, and so should the device they use,” said Jeff Meredith, vice president and general manager, Android and Chrome Computing, Lenovo. “The Yoga Book introduces keyboard and handwriting input capability in an elegantly simple, unconventionally slender tablet design. We believe our unique design will offer tablet, 2-in-1 and traditional notebook buyers a first-of-its-kind option for evolving usage trends.”

Refreshingly Unique

The tablet can be used in four modes: tablet, tent, laptop, and what I call book mode. With the push of a button the keyboard turns off and what was the keyboard is now your writing and sketching area for the stylus. As you write on the pad it is captured on the screen.

Lenovo Yoga Book Modes

Interacting with the Yoga book is accomplished in one of three ways: typing, pen, and drum roll please…. paper notes. As mentioned above the keyboard can be turned off converting the area into the “Create Pad.”  Opposed to drawing on the screen with the stylus you draw and write on the create pad.

Lenovo Yoga Book 5

(My wife said I should include a picture of what the Yoga book looks like after 1-adult and 4-kids have used it for a couple weeks… yes, it needs a wipe down!)

A unique option is taking real paper notes. The digital tip of the stylus is replaceable with an ink tip. Putting paper onto the create pad means that as you write with the real pen ink tip your notes are automatically captured as a digital copy.

I had quite a few people coming up to me at AU intrigued by this tablet. It looks cool.

The Details

This thing is thin… only 9.6mm (0.38 inches) when closed. It weighs a mere 690-grams (1.52lbs). Overall the unit is 256mm x 170mm x 9.6mm [10.1″ x 6.72″ x 0.38″].

Lenovo Yoga Book 2

The specs:

  • 10.1″ FHD IPS Display (1920 x 1200)
  • Intel HD 400 Graphics
  • Intel Atom x5-Z8550 (2M Cache, 2.4GHz)
  • 4GB RAM (LPDDR3)
  • 64GB Storage (MicroSD expandable to 128GB)
  • 8500 mAh Battery
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 4.0

Even at this size it still includes cameras, speakers, and a headphone jack. [Question… if Lenovo can fit a headphone jack into the Yoga Book, why couldn’t Apple fit one into the iPhone?].

Ports and buttons are at a minimum. The sides of the unit include the power and volume buttons and the already mentioned headphone jack. There are only three ports: Micro-USB, Micro-SD, and Micro-HDMI.

The sound emanating from the device is surprisingly good. Lenovo included Dolby Atmos enhancements to improve the audio experience

The chassis is comprised of high strength magnesium-aluminum alloy. It’s rigid and there was never a fear of damaging the unit. In fact, at my day job we are actually considering purchasing these for our mechanics to take underground when they go on service calls.

The 8500 mAh battery provides plenty of juice. I used the device all day long at AU, 7AM to 7PM and there was still plenty of power left. I was easily able to go a whole day and just plug it in during the night.

The screen provides Full-HD and is bright and sharp. It supports both touch and using the stylus.

Android for Me

You can have the Yoga Book in either Android (6.0 Marshmallow) or Windows 10 Home. There are a few differences between the versions. The Android version includes:

  • the Book UI taskbar with notification customization
  • support for  multiple windows
  • the Lenovo Note Save App (discussed later)
  • enablement of digitizing when the screen is off
  • TouchPal software for Auto-correct, auto-complete, and word prediction for typing

I am using the Android version.

The Lenovo-i-fied version of Android supports three windows splitting the screen. The apps can be moved about the screen by long pressing and dragging. A pin icon allows for the app to lock into place. This makes the screen seem bigger than it really is. Having apps side-by-side reduces the amount of back-and-forth.

The Keyboard

The Yoga Book’s keyboard is “zero-travel” backlit capacitive touch referred to by Lenovo as the Halo Keyboard. It is non-mechanical as it has no moving pieces and utilizes its own touch panel which is how this tablet can be so thin. The keyboard is covered by Gorilla Glass, so it’s tough. And it is covered with an anti-glare coating with a matte and grainy paint to provide a “feel” for typing.

The keyboard provides haptic feedback and software algorithms that adjust the underlying layer to fit your typing habits. The Halo lighting is perfect for any environment even the darkest of rooms.

Lenovo Yoga Book Halo Keyboard

Although Lenovo markets the Yoga Book with “traditional 10-finger clam shell typing” all the videos I watched regarding using the Yoga Book show two finger typing. We (me and my kids) really struggled with 10-finger typing, not because it is non-mechanical but because of the size. I’m hoping that the more I use the keyboard the more the algorithm finds space to spread out the keys and more it learns what I’m actually trying to type.

The keyboard can be turned off and on. This utilizes the space to its fullest as you can type with the keyboard or turn off the keyboard and write on it like a notepad. When flipped into tablet mode the keyboard automatically turns off so as not to be accidently invoked. The onscreen keyboard is the standard Android keyboard configuration.

The Pen

As much as typing is an issue writing with the digital stylus is not. Opposed to writing on the screen you draw on the pad (called the “Create Pad”). It provides a unique approach, one that doesn’t take long to catch onto. It is difficult for me now to go back to writing with a stylus on a standard tablet screen.

The digital stylus smoothly (and easily) glides across the pad. Using the Create Pad creates a more natural platform for an artist. The proof is my 10-year old daughter who prefers paper and pen to a standard tablet but within minutes of using the Yoga Book she was counting her pennies to see if she had enough to buy one.

Lenovo Yoga Book with Stylus

Lenovo continues their partnership with Wacom. Underneath the Create Pad is a layer of Electromagnetic Resonance (EMR) film powered by Wacom Feel technology. This technology supports up to 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and 100-degree angle detection. This is way more than I’d ever need for note taking and sketching, but for my daughter who is the artist, it is amazing the various thickness and gradients she’s able to achieve.

A huge bonus is the pen does not require batteries (awesome!).

Stylus with Ink

The digital stylus tip is removable making it replaceable with mini-ballpoint ink tips. By placing paper onto the Create Pad you can write or draw with the pen on the paper and it is transferred digitally to the tablet. The mini-ballpoint tip is standard meaning it can be picked up from any office supply store. The pen does not contain any special technology.

A magnetic book pad is included with the Yoga Book to hold your stack of paper to the tablet. There is nothing special about the pad (or the paper) it just helps hold the paper in place. Any A5 sized paper will fit within the pad.

Lenovo Yoga Book with Paper Pad

I’m assuming because of the small (thin) size of the tablet there is no place to attach the pen. This is a real annoyance. I wish there was a clip or hook or something that I could attach the pen. Fortunately, it hasn’t been lost (yet). Even worse are the small stylus tips. I’m not sure really what to do with them to ensure I don’t lose them. Currently, they are in a small medicine bottle.

The only accessory for the Yoga Book is a sleeve. Which would be ok for storage but to use the tablet it needs to be removed from the sleeve. There’s no storage on the sleeve for the pen either.

The first couple attempts at removing the tips were not overly successful. I’ve actually slightly bent the digital tip. The tip is removed using a hole in the pen lid with slight sideways pressure to pop the tip out. It was hard at first to gauge the amount of pressure required. I’ve got it now down to a science but the first few times were a bit stressful.

The Notetaking App

The Yoga Book includes the Lenovo Note Save app which automatically opens when the tablet is placed into drawing / writing mode. As you start to take notes it is automatically captured in the mini-window that appears in the lower right corner of the screen. You can quickly switch into full-screen mode.

To save battery you can take notes with the display turned off. Just make sure the Note Saver mini-window is open and turn off the display. Rotate the device into tablet mode, align the Book Pad (or any paper) on the Create Pad and start writing.  Double-clicking the pen starts a new page.

Editing with the Note Save app is at a minimum. There is also no text recognition.

Lenovo also includes their Art Tage app and although ok I (and the kids) much prefer Sketchbook. It could be familiarity but Sketchbook seems to be easier to use and offer more features.

Final Thoughts

The good:

  • The size, its light-weight, and its sturdiness
  • Very cool form factor… it looks cool, feel cools, and draws positive attention
  • A digital AND pen tip stylus with no batteries required
  • Paper AND a digital writing pad
  • Window splitting

The bad:

  • The keyboard is hard to do 10-finger typing
  • There is no place to attach the pen nor store the stylus tips

The meh:

  • limited ports
  • the included Lenovo apps (you may want to explore other free apps)

So if you are not looking to spend iPad Pro or Microsoft Surface money I would seriously consider this tablet. Coming in less than US$600 this device is very reasonably priced for what it offers. Who is this for? Artists looking for something that is extremely portable. Business people or students taking a lot of notes and need to capture text, sketches, and other notes. It’s also awesome for running one of my new favorite apps; FormIt 360.




Featured Image: Stickney Brook Yoga 149 by Matthew Ragan

Shine an Iray on It! (A Review of…)

Rendering takes time. Add on the multiple tweaks, making sure the lights, materials, and scene settings all align to create the perfect picture or video, and you have a time-consuming process with a lot of time waiting around. Therefore, Lenovo and NVIDIA have a solution…. kickass hardware from Lenovo and powerful rendering software (Iray) from NVIDIA.

NVIDIA Iray Server

NVIDIA’s Iray Server allows you to offload your render to a stacked system or an entire network of systems. This utilizes the better hardware in your server plus cycles from each system in the cluster to reduce the rendering time. Network rendering is not new, but what’s most noteworthy is what Iray runs on and the lack of overhead. Iray runs on the hardware of your choosing. It integrates with NVIDIA’s physically based rendering product. It does this all without any host application overhead.  In addition, use the Iray server to stream interactive renderings to another “lesser” machine. providing these systems multi-GPU power.

Iray Server Makes Light Work of Complex Designs

On the server, it starts with a simple installation, which installs both the server software and the license manager. Server setup is so extremely simple I thought I had missed something. It is really install-and-go!

iray Server Tools

The server runs from a console window additionally providing details of the active events. Configuration is accomplished via the web-based interface.


Iray Server Settings

NVIDIA Iray Plugin

On the local system, it starts with the installation of the software plugin. The plugin is available for 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, Maya, and Rhino. I tested this with 3DS Max, obviously using the 3ds Max plugin.

Why would you use Iray over Mental Ray? Interactivity… Iray provides instant results. This plugin generates interactive physically accurate renderings by tracing light paths (progressive path tracing). The render starts and gets less and less noisy with each pass. Not only is it a progressive renderer, it also utilizes the CPU and GPU!

As the initial pass is up almost instant, therefore you can quickly see (or at least appreciate) what the final rendering will look like. Although it might be very noisy, you don’t need to wait until the end to make adjustments. You can make instant adjustments, quickly iterating through settings until you are satisfied with the results.

The Iray plugin provides two renderers: Iray+ and Iray+Interactive.

  • Iray+ is for quality. It produces the best results. This option contains a Lighting Analysis mode to simulate and monitor the minimum and maximum lighting levels and find dark spots in your building designs.
  • The Interactive option is for quantity. It provides live rendering. As a result, you can leave the render window open and it will continually iterate, updating the view as you make changes to the model and the settings. While the view is updating you get almost real-time results from changes without restarting the rendering.

On my Lenovo P70 system, I rendered quite a few models and the results were stunning. The settings are quite simple, which it a good thing.  You can get very good results, quickly, with very little tweaking.

Here, for example, is a Ducati Street Fighter using 3DS Max Production Rendering Mode and utilizing the Iray+Interactive renderer using the settings out-of-the-box.

Ducati_Product Iray Interactive

It took just under 10-minutes to complete the rendering and as you can see the results are awesome.

Ducati Local Results

[On a somewhat related note, with the Iray renderer, you can additionally download hundreds of materials.]

Lenovo Thinkstation

May the good Lenovo server shine a rendering on you,
Make every image(you create) your favorite hue.
May the good Lenovo server shine a rendering on you,
Warm like the evening sun.

To really push the rendering I utilized a big, black Lenovo Thinkstation Box I have lovingly named Ira. This beast is impressive… rocking 3 (yes three) NVIDIA Quadro M6000 Graphic cards. The rest of the specs includes Intel Xeon E5 processors at 3.10GHz and 128GB RAM.

lenovo thinkstation box

The NVIDIA M6000 utilizes Direct 3D 11 and rocks with 3072 CUDA Cores. The 24GB of VRAM uses a memory data rate of 6610 MHz and bandwidth of 317.28 GB/s.


Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA) are parallel processors in your graphic card. Consider them the equivalent to dual or quad cores in your CPU. The CUDA cores process data into and out of the GPU. As you can have hundreds of cores you can significantly improve performance.


Here is an independent M6000 benchmark

Network Rendering

Similar to local rendering you have the option to submit the render to the server as well as using the Iray server to stream the rendering. By streaming, you can see it render real-time on your system.

As you submit a job to the server it is put into a queue. Use the queue to monitor the status of jobs as well as adjusting the order. The queue is web-based and is accessible via a browser from any system.

iray server queue

If your environment contains multiple Iray servers the queue will take care of dishing it to the proper (aka available) server. So really there is no limit to the amount of hardware you could have at your disposal to process your rendering jobs.

To reduce the amount of data transfer, previously submitted information is cached and reused on future jobs. Existing jobs can be tweaked and resubmitted without going back to 3ds Max. Jobs can be copied, tweaked, and submitted, again without going back to 3ds Max.

So the proof is always in the pudding…

Using the same model and settings as with the local render, I submitted the job to the network renderer.


Although the results are identical it took just shy of 2-minutes to complete the process. That is 1/5th (20%) the time!



In Review

We took a look at three things in this post: Iray for 3DS Max, the Iray Server, and the Lenovo ThinkStations.

The Lenovo ThinkStation is a big beautiful black box chock full of power. This machine screams rendering but also provides enough power for other features like Virtual Reality.

In NVIDIA’s words, Iray is “primarily for working with 3D content when you require predictable photorealistic imagery. It delivers immediate visual feedback that results in stunning imagery for everything from architecture, engineering, and design to marketing and advertising visual effects.

To offset the heavy lifting from your local system consider implementing the Iray Server. With the right hardware and/or number of server systems, you can significantly reduce the time to render.

NVIDIA’s Iray products are available as a 90-day trial as well as for purchase on the NVIDIA website.


What’s New with Tetra4D?


Tetra4D, a market leader in creating 3D PDF. They are poised to really shake things up in the world of PDF and document presentation, yet again. Tetra4D took the opportunity at Autodesk University to announce two exciting products: Automate and a mobile viewer.

Taking a quick step backward, what a lot of people do not appreciate is that PDF is a container for any type of data. Think of it as a portfolio, that 3D can be a big part. It’s a collection of information, with relationships between the data. Tetra4D uses this to its advantage to present an entire solution.

If you are not familiar with the Enrich product, take a look at my reviewEnrich is able to convert 20+ CAD formats and neutral formats. Once converted it enables 3D measurements, markups, and different view types directly within Adobe Acrobat. With Enrich you build interactive 3D PDF’s.

The Enrich product is updated with a new replace reference feature. This is key, as you can build a template, positioning the 3D data, and then replace the reference to quickly generate another document.


“Automatically Create Data Rich 3D PDFs with Tetra4D Automate. With Tetra4D Automate, manufacturers get a simple server solution that enables them to create data rich, interactive 3D PDF documents automatically or on-demand”

Tetra4D Automate is a server solution to automate the generation of Tetra4D PDFs. Automate capitalizes on the new replace reference feature to generate new PDF documents, either on demand or on batch. It’s important that it works with your Enrich templates. So now, you create your 3D PDF template and using Automate generate however many documents you require.

“Being able to automatically populate 3D PDF templates created with Tetra4D Enrich has by far been the most requested capability by our customers,” said Lionel Vieilly, product manager for Tetra4D at Tech Soft 3D.

Tetra4d Automate

The Automate solution is a simple server-based offering setup easily and requiring very little in the form of training, customization, or support.

Mobile Viewer

After much effort, Tetra4D has solved the issue of presenting the full 3D PDF experience on a mobile device. Currently in beta, the Tetra4D mobile viewer provides ubiquitous access to the Enrich generated 3D PDF portfolio. An IOS version is also in development and will be available in early 2017.

With the free (yes free) product you access the PDF via the built in dropbox feature or by options like email. With non-Enrich generated PDFs, you still can view the 3D, but obviously not to the same level. You can test out the mobile app for yourself now.


I’m excited to get access to the new products shortly and will be following up this post with a full hands-on review. Keep your eyes open for that.

For More Information…

Listen to their Beyond 3D podcast for insights and stories about 3D data

Automate, Converter and Enrich can be purchased through an authorized reseller or directly from

How to Keep Pace with CadTempo (A Review)


If you are like me, you work on various projects and tasks, often bouncing back-and-forth, trying to meet multiple deadlines. When the dust settles, how do you know where your time went?

CadTempo takes time keeping “into a new realm of time tracking, logging, and reporting of the engineering activities of your users.”. It provides an easy mechanism for tracking time spent on a task, a file, and within an application and provides tools to review the data in graphs and charts. CadTempo integrates into just about any CAD related system, including AutoCAD, Inventor, Revit, SolidWorks, Proe/E, Sketchup, and more… and don’t let the “Cad” in the name mislead you… it truly integrates into any application on your system.


Created by Patrick Hughes, a machine designer, and owner of Engineered Design Solutions. He has been working with AutoCAD since 1991 and over the years he has developed a number of software solutions to automate his workflows and increase his productivity. This includes his time tracking tools which became CadTempo. He’s also famous for his CAD Dinosaurs Journey series, which he wrote for Cadalyst.

Time Tracking

The key feature of CadTempo? The CadTempo Logger. It automatically records your time, and it starts immediately when you log into your computer. No program to launch, and no timer to start. The recorded time is not the “open” time, but the actual edit time.

During installation (or after in the options) you specify the file types, applications, and folder locations you want to track.Because it starts automatically and already knows what to track (based on your selections) it is completely unobtrusive and honestly, at times, I completely forgot it was even running.

CadTempo - Options Applications

When you want to track an activity, independent of a particular file or application, you can launch the Task Timer. After specifying the task name and additional information click Begin to start tracking time. I was impressed by this feature as when I left my computer and forgot to stop the timer, it had automatically paused itself, prompting me to resume tracking time when I returned.

CadTempo - Task Timer

Similar in process to the Task Timer is the Activity Timer. Use the Activity Timer to account (backfill) for unanticipated time away from your computer.

Want a quick peek of your current activity? CADTempo has you covered with the Timer Display, that shows the current document and the currently collected time data.

CadTempo - Timer


Viewing the Data

The CadTempo Viewer is the tool to review the recorded time and activities. This will collect the time from all users on the computer. It is a bit rough around the edges, as it is not the most elegant application I’ve used. I ran into a couple of instances where I could not resize the dialog as I wanted, but it was nothing I could repeat. A switch between tabs or a shutdown and restart of the application resolved the issue. Let’s remember that appearances are not everything, and this application provides a lot of data in an easy to digest manner.

Starting with the Files tab you can view the editing and elapsed time on a folder, a collection of files, or a single file. In the image shown below, I can quickly identify that I spent 3.19 hours on the “ACAD” folder between April 30th and May 7th, with the most time with Civil Base.dwg (1.23 hours). By selecting a file and a calendar date range I can see the specific times I worked with the document.

CadTempoViewer - Files

The Session view provides summary and detail information for a selected date range. This provides a timesheet type view so you can see the days you worked, the hours you worked each day, and see when you worked those hours. This view can quickly be switched between the Session Report (shown below), Task Report, and the Activity Report.

CadTempoViewer - Session

With the time tracked, you can use the various options to view the data in different charts and analytical views. The raw data can be exported to an Excel spreadsheet.

CadTempo - Reports Analystics

CadTempo - Charts


The Review

At US$$79.95 / license CadTempo provides an inexpensive means for tracking time. As it starts & stops automatically there is no forgetting to track time and it also means you get a true look into your time spent, no estimates. Installation and setup is straightforward and easy to accomplish. The analytics and chart features will be great, especially if you are reviewing time spent by others.

I found that I needed to “play” a bit with the CadTempo Viewer features and options, not because it was difficult to use or hard to understand, but just to get a sense of what it was presenting. The help is a bit lacking when it comes to explaining the various tabs, the features, and all the options.

Overall this is a great product, especially in that it can track time for any application on the system, not just CAD related. I love the fact that it is invisible, but silently tracking time in the background.

You can try the product for 30-days before you decide to buy. Although it is available in the Autodesk Exchange I’d recommend downloading it straight from the CadTempo website to ensure you are on the current version.




Feature image credit: Macro Diesel Watch via photopin (license)

Join the Community