CATIA to Alias and Maya: Anything You Can Sketch I Can Sketch Better

CATIA Natural Sketch running on Wacom tablet, as seen in a video clip released by Dassault Systemes.

Screenshot of CATIA Natural Sketch, part of Dassault Systemes' CATIA V6 suite.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, Dassault Systemes launched what could be a powerful comeback against Autodesk Alias and Maya. CATIA Natural Sketch, according to Dassault, “brings together the intuitiveness of creative 2D painting gestures and the power of accurate, realistic 3D modeling.”

In the last few years, Dassault’s rival Autodesk has made headways in introducing sophisticated sketching functions to its mechanical design software users. Autodesk titles like Alias and Maya, used by many in industrial design and digital content creation, offer Spline-driven sketching in 3D space, a method that offers greater flexibility and expressiveness in geometry. The use of touch-responsive tablets, like the iPad, also allows Autodesk to experiment further with apps like SketchBook Mobile. Traditional mechanical CAD packages offer simple sketching functions, but they hardly rival the capacity found in Spline- or NURBS-based drawing programs.

Dasssault’s latest offering, CATIA Natural Sketch, seems to take a similar approach, allowing users to draw editable, malleable Spline objects in 3D space. (Dassault released a YouTube demo clip to illustrate the software.) Details on the software, however, are still a bit sketchy. The company has announced the product’s “availability,” but it’s nearly impossible to figure out how to buy it, download it, or try it out.

The announcement calls CATIA Natural Sketch part of CATIA V6, Dassault’s comprehensive design suite, but doesn’t mention whether Natural Sketch will be delivered as part of CATIA’s CAD modeling features, an option plug-in, or an independent title. The video clip shows the software operating on a Wacon tablet, but it’s unclear if such a device is essential to using the software.

According to Dassault, “CATIA Natural Sketch completes the CATIA for Creative Designers solution, which now combines 3D sketching, concept modeling, class-A surface modeling, rapid prototyping and visualization.”

I hope to be able to supplement this post with more details upon my return from Thanksgiving break.

For more, watch Dassault’s video clip below:

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