by Randall S. Newton
For years Digital Software, Inc. of Raleigh, North Carolina, has created and sold stand-alone civil engineering software; first for mini-computers and then for UNIX workstations. Realizing the tide had turned and that PC workstations had changed the economics of creating engineering software, company president Norman E. Smith decided to remake the company as a developer of add-on products for MicroStation. "Weve always been a developer of 32-bit software," Smith told MicroStation Manager. "Now that PC workstations run 32-bit software, we can bring our engineering expertise to a much larger group of users."
The companys first release for MicroStation, SPLASH, is now available. Digital Software bills SPLASH as the first "relationship-based" design system for civil engineering. Written specifically for the engineering and design of sanitary and storm sewers, SPLASH uses a custom relationship-management database to record all relationships between items. The relationships are managed using DSIs "Ripple-Thru" technology. If an engineer makes a change to any item in a design, Ripple-Thru technology examines the relationship data and automatically updates all impacted design elements and drawings.
For example, if an engineer running MicroStation with SPLASH makes a
change in an alignment, SPLASH will automatically move the sewer, correct the stationing
system, recalculate the profile and update both the plan and profile of all drawings
attached to the SPLASH database. Using SPLASH, an engineer could quickly layout a sewer
alignment at a depth of six feet, then begin to adjust slopes, inverts, pipes and
horizontal alignments. With every adjustment, SPLASHs ripple-thru technology
immediately recalculates and updates every impacted element of the design.
SPLASH works behind the scenes, the user still operates MicroStation as before. With SPLASH a user can change a sewer on any plan-and-profile construction sheet in a project and watch as profiles regenerate, the stationing system and engineering design text updates, and all manholes, catch basins and pipes are adjusted. Ripple-Thru software automatically transmits those changes through the Database, updating every drawing associated with the project. Engineering changes are reflected in the drawing changes with no manual re-drawing necessary. Smith points out that SPLASH stores relationships, not data, in its custom database. "Relationships are the key. The Ripple-Thru effect is based on the relationships between objects stored in the SPLASH database."SPLASH can run on top of TIN models created by GEOPAK or Intergraph products, or use its own TIN model. The product is written entirely in MDL. "It is fabulous to work in MDL," Smith comments. "[MDL designer and Bentley programmer] John Gooding is a genius."
Because SPLASH is pure MDL, DSI plans to apply Ripple-Thru technology to other engineering disciplines in future products. The company is also working on an Application Programming Interface (API) specific to GEOPAK, since the product does not currently offer one, if you exclude the programming tools in MicroStation. Smith says DSI is also looking forward to developing new applications using Java technology. "Java gives us sockets, ways to hook into and control files on multiple systems."
One uncommon feature of SPLASH is its Visual Help system. If the computer has a sound card and speakers or headphones, the user can play context-sensitive demonstrations of every facet of the software. The demonstrations on-screen are combined with spoken explanations by the software designers. Smith comments, "We never stop talking about a subject until there is nothing left to say." The product also ships with a demo CD designed more for a new user than a potential customer.
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