3D Meeting toolbar – the CAD-Reviews independent review

Enabling 3D modelling to be shared remotely

Many of us will have spotted Microsoft’s NetMeeting application on our machines and perhaps even tinkered with it.

Few I suspect will have used it in anger.

Although NetMeeting can be used to share any application, the latest patch for SolidWorks 2000 includes specific tools to enable 3D modelling sessions to be shared with remote colleagues even if they do not have SolidWorks on their machine and without complex set-up requirements.

A new SolidWorks 3D Meeting toolbar offers Meet Now and Schedule Meeting options.

The simplest route to establish contact with external participants is to send an email invitation that includes a Join The Meeting hyperlink.

When clicked by the recipient it checks that NetMeeting is installed and if not gives the option for it to be installed.

Once all is ready the hyperlink automatically joins the meeting.

Alternatively for use within a corporate LAN network, a discrete Computer Name can be specified directly.

These methods avoid the technical complexity of needing to know machine IP addresses.

Once the session is established, one or more third parties can see a live view of the SolidWorks session in their web browser.

Since this is essentially a bitmap representation, the complexity of the model view will determine performance.

However model view manipulation and geometry editing can be happily viewed by remote participants.

If each machine is also set-up for audio, an 8 bit verbal dialogue can run through the same connection although to maintain the maximum bandwidth for the graphics a simultaneous telephone call may be preferable.

In order to achieve true collaborative working, the host can also allow others to request editing rights.

Again without having SolidWorks installed locally, remote participants can fully edit and manipulate the model geometry.

The host can regain control by double clicking in the graphics area or by selecting Unshare in the NetMeeting application.

Clearly all edits apply to the data source opened by the host.

As part of the NetMeeting session the Transfer File command can be used to transfer data directly to remote users.

Although I found session set-up straightforward, SolidWorks provide extensive help topics ranging from agreeing common screen resolution between participants and performance issues to dealing with firewalls.

This functionality is not unique, but is well implemented in order to make it as approachable as possible.

We are approaching the point of critical mass with sufficient users having the correct network connectivity and hardware to make remote collaborative working a natural part of the way we work.