Web UI for a Cloud Collaboration Community

3D Content Central web application is a community of users and suppliers that features millions of manufacturer-certified part and assembly models of commercial, off-the-shelf components. These can be downloaded for free in all major 2D and 3D CAD formats, including SOLIDWORKS, DraftSight, Autodesk Inventor, and AutoCAD. One of the key factors determining the success of this application is the availability of models for all possible needs. In order to encourage users and suppliers to upload models, the application requires a user-friendly interface that allows the simultaneously uploading of models of all degrees of complexity.

3dcontentcentral 
 Customer: Dassault Systèmes

Client
Dassault Systèmes, the 3DEXPERIENCE Company, provides businesses and individuals with virtual universes to imagine sustainable innovations. Its world-leading 3D design software, 3D Digital Mock-Up and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions transform the way products are designed, produced, and supported.

Business Challenge
3D Content Central web application is a community of users and suppliers that features millions of manufacturer-certified part and assembly models of commercial, off-the-shelf components. These can be downloaded for free in all major 2D and 3D CAD formats, including SOLIDWORKS, DraftSight, Autodesk Inventor, and AutoCAD. One of the key factors determining the success of this application is the availability of models for all possible needs. In order to encourage users and suppliers to upload models, the application requires a user-friendly interface that allows the simultaneously uploading of models of all degrees of complexity.

Solution
The design solution provides users of the web application and suppliers with file upload tools that allow simultaneous upload of multiple models, automatic upload of selected models referenced in the upload, extraction or generation of model 2D or 3D preview, categorization of models based on custom properties, and tracking of upload progress.
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Why AMC Bridge
Development of 3D Content Central was initially handled by Dassault Systemes SOLIDWORKS Corporation. When SOLIDWORKS began its search for assistance in developing the 3D Content Central web application, AMC Bridge already had an excellent track record working with SOLIDWORKS for several years. Experience with distributed web applications, in conjunction with overall technical skills and reliability as a development partner, made AMC Bridge the perfect choice for SOLIDWORKS as a developer of file upload functionality for 3D Content Central.

Design Challenges
Key technical and operation challenges included:

  • Deployment of the file upload tool at client side
    The first version of the client-side model upload component of 3D Content Central web application was expected to work in both the Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox web browsers. The solution was therefore implemented as an ActiveX control for Microsoft Internet Explorer, and as a plug-in using the same ActiveX control for Mozilla Firefox. In both cases, however, additional components had to be installed with the solution and registered in the system in order to support advanced processing of models created with SOLIDWORKS.
  • Transfer of large amounts of data over the internet
    Files of models created in CAD applications can be extremely large. In light of the possibility of multiple files being uploaded simultaneously, there was a need to implement special functionality to minimize the amount of data sent over the internet, and to ensure that data did not become corrupted as a result of the transfer.

Solution details
The solution consisted of the following components:

  1. Model upload component for users of 3D Content Central web application integrated with the web browser
    This component enables users to drag model files for upload directly from Windows Explorer and
    drop them onto a special zone of the web page. Here users can edit and review the list of files for
    upload, and automatically extracted model properties and categorization information for each file.
  2. Standalone application for suppliers
    Suppliers provide manufacturer certified part and assembly models and do massive uploads of the
    files to the 3D Content Central web application. To address the needs of suppliers for advanced
    management of their parts and assemblies catalogues, a separate standalone application had to
    be developed.
  3. Web Services
    Communication of both client-side components with the web application was implemented using
    web services, which allows allocation of dedicated servers handling file uploads without increasing
    the load on the web application server.
  4. Back-end model processing
    Every model uploaded to the server must be additionally processed in order to extract metadata.
    Since 3D Content Central provides models in all major 2D and 3D formats, the data must be
    converted to all the supported formats regardless of the format of the original model.

Implementation
Implementation of each component of the solution began with a SOLIDWORKS product definition specialist providing detailed project specifications explaining how the solution was expected to function. On receipt of initial project specifications the AMC Bridge team thoroughly reviewed the documentation and clarified requirements for desired functionality with SOLIDWORKS product definition and usability specialists.
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In order to keep everyone up-to-date on development progress, the SOLIDWORKS project manager set up two weekly online meetings. One was dedicated exclusively to model upload functionality of the web application and included AMC Bridge and SOLIDWORKS software engineers working on this functionality, SOLIDWORKS quality assurance, and usability and product definition specialists. The other meeting included everyone involved in development of the entire application. These discussions provided an excellent forum for resolving functionality and integration issues in a timely manner.
Upon completion of initial implementation of each project, the SOLIDWORKS project manager scheduled a demo for SOLIDWORKS product definition and quality assurance specialists. Here AMC Bridge and SOLIDWORKS software engineers previewed live functioning of the developed software, demonstrating that all of the requirements from project specifications had been addressed. This allowed product definition specialist to review and confirm that software functioned as required, and enabled quality assurance specialists to become familiar with the software.

Quality assurance of each project was done in two stages. The first stage ensured that software functioned per project specifications in all possible scenarios, and the second one repaired minor software issues identified by SOLIDWORKS quality assurance specialists during testing.
Development and testing of the software was always performed using a separate environment identical to the one to be used for the real application.

AMC Bridge Performance
The quality of work delivered by AMC Bridge exceeded client expectations:

  • Functionality developed by AMC Bridge was always delivered on time.
  • AMC Bridge provided quality results based on detailed project specifications.
  • AMC Bridge proved resourceful at filling in gaps and providing experience-based solutions, and especially excelled in development of graphical user interface and web services.
  • During stabilization of the solution AMC Bridge proved to be quick and responsive, with short turnaround time.
Jun 03, 2013
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