Case Study

Bentley leverages Parasolid to free architects’ creativity

Bentley Systems

Parasolid foundation permits geometric modeling for buildings that capture the imagination


With a user base that includes architects whose work shapes our environment and inspires us all, Bentley must provide geometric modeling capabilities that go well beyond the simple shapes of conventional buildings.

Meeting the needs of the architectural avant-garde

Bentley Systems, Incorporated provides software for the lifecycle of the world’s infrastructure. The company’s comprehensive portfolio for the building, plant, civil, and geospatial vertical markets spans architecture, engineering, construction (AEC) and operations. Like Bentley’s applications, its users represent an equally wide range of capabilities and interests. Some of them create simple buildings using only 2D tools. But many others are leading the design community in the use of 3D, creating some of the most adventurous and inspiring buildings in the world.

This demands commitment from Bentley to ensure that its software provides a strong foundation of reliable functionality while enhancing the creativity of its advanced customers. Ray Bentley, executive vice president of the company’s platform group, explains the challenge this way. “Some of the most advanced, high-end architects in the world use our MicroStation design software, and their buildings are not typical boxes,” he explains. “For example, MicroStation has been used to design the Millennium Dome, the Reichstag in Germany, and a number of other organic, freeflowing buildings. Many of these structures are based on sculpted surfaces, which you don’t find in typical architectural applications.”

Complex surfaces, large models

To support the level of architectural creativity of which its users are capable, Bentley must include sophisticated 3D modeling capabilities in MicroStation. (MicroStation is Bentley’s flagship product, with other applications built on top of it, such as Bentley Architecture, Bentley Structural and Bentley HVAC.) In addition, MicroStation must be capable of handling very large models. “In AEC applications you may not have the complexity of some mechanical models, but you typically have a great many more components – thousands and even tens of thousands,” explains Vern Francisco, development manager, Bentley building products group. “In developing our applications, we have to make sure that they are stable even when handling large models.”

Bentley decided to license Parasolid® software several years ago to provide the core modeling functionality for its software. After evaluating the available modeling technologies, the company selected Parasolid, the world’s leading geometric modeling kernel. “The primary consideration in selecting a modeling kernel at that time was the quality of the modeler,” says Bill Bentley, manager of Software Operations at Bentley. “We believe that Parasolid was – and still is – the most reliable and stable modeling kernel on the market.” More recently, Bentley reinforced that decision by standardizing on Parasolid across its product line, so all copies of MicroStation now use it as their 3D modeling foundation. Although some users still work exclusively in 2D, the vast majority work in 3D, according to Ray Bentley. “We have a larger concentration of 3D users than most PC-based CAD systems,” he says. “And the 3D segment is growing as people are seeing the benefits of 3D in terms of usability and productivity.”

Accuracy ensured, creativity unleashed

One of the most commonly sought benefits of 3D modeling in building design is visualization. “With MicroStation’s built-in rendering capabilities, architects and engineers can quickly make accurate photorealistic images or animations that convey the design intent to their customers, and ensure that the design is understood and appropriate before construction even starts,” explains Francisco. “It’s one of the first reasons designers incorporate 3D into their workflow, and it’s extensively used.” Another important benefit is the ability to ensure design coordination and constructability while still early in the project, improving the quality and performance of the building and the profitability of the design effort. Parasolid enables all MicroStation users to take advantage of these benefits, and assures reliable, stable performance even when they create large models.

But it’s at the more geometrically creative end of the spectrum that the strength of Parasolid becomes essential. “It doesn’t take much of a solid modeler to design simple orthogonal buildings, but when you get beyond that into the more avant-garde building shapes, it takes a very robust and versatile kernel to handle that,” says Ray Bentley. “With our software, users can cut the ends of beams using any arbitrary shape, for example, or make walls with the bottom bigger than the top. They can cut any type of shape in a wall. They couldn’t do these things without Parasolid.”

In addition to delivering reliable, high-end modeling capabilities, Parasolid brings other benefits to Bentley as well. One, according to Ray Bentley, is that resources are not expended on the modeling kernel, thus freeing developers to focus on continually enhancing MicroStation's world-class AEC functionality. “We don’t have to have a source code license with Parasolid because we don’t have to spend our time debugging it,” he says. “Also, when we have a problem, the developers at Siemens do an excellent job of helping us out. The result is that we don’t spend our time diagnosing issues in the kernel that are not our own, Siemens will handle that for us.” The combination of reliability and highend functionality that Parasolid provides is just what Bentley requires. With Parasolid as the foundation of its AEC design solutions, Bentley can deliver software to help create the buildings of tomorrow.

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