Software for solid simulation

12th March 2004 at 00:00

Inivis pound;29.95 (single-user licence)

pound;296 (secondary school site licence)

Tel: 01353 614 560


Modelling software is an increasingly popular way of incorporating ICT into schemes of work. It has for some time been available as a tool with which students at key stages 3-5 can produce three-dimensional graphic representations of their ideas. The AC3D package continues to expand the options by which this can be achieved.

The package is a comparatively inexpensive investment and its creator, Inivis, is responding to feedback from users and schools to match the product to customers' requirements.

A recent improvement has been the addition of two features, the first allowing the software to be more easily used with whiteboards and the second making it possible to personalise view angles.

The 14-day trial version (downloadable from www.ac3d.orgpagesdownloads) allows experimentation before converting to the full version - exploring its potential before deciding how effective the package is.

It comes with a full e-manual (70pages), and online technical support and useful tutorials which could be accessed from the CD-Rom. Further technical support is offered. The manual is very detailed and thoughtful consultation was needed to discover how to reliably implement a number of the techniques.

Even without a full understanding of all the features, inspiring results can be achieved easily. However, as might be expected of sophisticated software, early creations might be difficult to amend without a more complete knowledge of the software.

The package's complexity led me to believe that older students would be better able to handle the programme and its potential, although younger students might still be able to create simple images quite easily.

The working screen area is initially divided into a panel of five sections, four of which (three working drawings and a 3D view) can be resized to exclude unrequired views. The remaining area, approximately 20 per cent, is given over to the command panels.

This layout allows alterations or new drawings to be added in any of the three main orthographic view panels (X,Y and Z), with the 3D version updating instantly as changes are made.

It would be possible to export files to machining software but the greatest use for this package may be found in the instant translation of ideas to 3D images.

A variety of example picture files were also supplied on the CD-Rom and provided inspiration for the scope of images that might be created.

It would have been useful if step-by-step guided exercises had been included for reproducing some of these, and this might have been the best way to learn how to use the software.

Inivis intends to support the product with guides and instructions along these lines and this should enhance its use in schools as a rapid visualisation tool.

With a trial so accessible, the software may find a useful place in several school departments.

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