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Release 6 of Autodesk's Inventor delivers significant advances in hybrid solid and surface modelling based on their proprietary ShapeManager kernel, first introduced in release 5.3.
Whilst in many respects the kernel debate such as ACIS v.
Parasolid is somewhat passť, Autodesk's decision to diverge from ACIS potentially trades off their benefits of control and flexibility against robustness of a less widely debugged product and necessary development effort.
In the real world, translation of data between modellers remains a significant issue and development of yet another proprietary format will cause issues; as history has shown even products at their peak such as Pro/E have not achieved total data dominance.
In many applications, forms more complex than prismatic geometries are required.
Current design centric modellers aim to include surface modelling capabilities to generate complex forms without compromising the speed and ease of use offered by parametric solid modelling.
Autodesk calls their implementation of such hybrid modelling Unified Shape Technology, which allows models to be converted from solid to surface and back at any time whilst maintain their parametric history.
One modelling strategy can then be to create simple approximate shapes as solids then to sculpt them towards the desired complex shapes using the surface tools.
Although the extrude, loft, revolve, sweep, knit, replace face, thicken and offset surface tools add powerful new modelling capabilities, the current absence of trim and extend options can limit their application.
The dual Thicken / Offset tool creates offsets from part faces or surfaces to create new parallel surfaces or add or remove material from a part.