Tim Scully is the architect of the AutoCAD plotting pipeline. Back in the day, Tim reported to me when we worked on AutoCAD 2000. In the early days AutoCAD had its own AutoCAD Device Interface (ADI) for communicating with video cards and plotters since it supported so many different platforms (e.g., Unix, Windows). Though I had never developed code for the plotting pipeline myself, I was aware of many of the issues surrounding plotting as part of the team.
Brian Mathews is the architect of the Design Web Format (DWF). Brian reported to me when he invented DWF. The idea got its start when Autodesk wanted to take advantage of the internet when it was still in its infancy. The dream goal was to be able to view an AutoCAD drawing (DWG) on the web. The problem was that bandwidth wasn't what it is today, and a Netscape Navigator Plug-in that could handle all of the intricacies of the DWG format would have been too large to download. So DWF was invented as a web friendly format that was "ready to display" on the screen because all of the geometry had been tessellated in advance. This made the plug-in simpler, and as a result, a smaller download. In addition, the file format was as compact as possible to keep file sizes small.
As part of improving the graphics performance for AutoCAD R13 subsequent to its release, our team had a display list based on some HOOPS (really HEIDI which stands for HOOPS Extensible Immediate Drawing Interface) technology from our past work as Ithaca Software. This display list had a set of primitives that were ready to draw so that the graphics would be really fast. It was called the WHIP (Windows HIgh Performance) ADI driver. For our internet solution, the team leveraged that technology, and AutoCAD generated its first DWF files by sending the DWFOUT command to the WHIP ADI driver. The web browser part of the solution that displayed the DWF file was called the WHIP! Netscape Navigator Plug-in. Internet Explorer had not been invented yet. Eventually as part of AutoCAD R14, the ADI interface for video display was replaced by a graphics pipeline based on HEIDI. A similar replacement was applied to the plotting pipeline for AutoCAD in a later release.
I mention all of this because I have been involved with displaying graphics on screens and paper for some time. Recall that I even spent 2 years working for Océ on an online plan room that would connect people with drawings with people who swing hammers. The go-between is a reprographer — a person who plots drawings to scale on paper and delivers them with quick turn-around so as not to delay construction projects. If you ever visit a reprography shop, it's more like an emergency room than a traditional doctor's office. Every print job has to be done STAT.
This brings me to today. I was contacted by Senior Production Manager for Astley Gilbert Limited, Hakan Usakli, who let me know that he had developed proprietary print software for large and small format, black and white or color, devices. He developed his software based on a unique PDF processing idea. His claim was that his software outperforms mainstream and known reprography solutions by far and is a direct response to those vendors for the lack of performance, features, or flexibility that he had personally identified from many years of hands on production work. It's called PDF Magick.
In later releases of AutoCAD, DWF and PDF were put on par. The format war ended years ago. Today the data is getting so large and complex that the strategy is to keep it in one place, the cloud, instead of sharing artifact files like DWF or PDF. But for people who have not adopted the cloud yet, DWF and PDF are the way to go.
PDF Magick has the ability to do VECTOR-based DWF to PDF conversion — seamless to the operator. Behind the scenes, PDF Magick uses Autodesk Design Review 2013 to write a batch job in XML format that Design Review processes, pushes the data to the Adobe Acrobat PDF Writer, and catches the result. This is all fully automated once it is configured properly.
For further information or to request a free 2 month trial, contact Hakan Usakli at [email protected].
Plotting is alive in the lab.