I spent most of last week in Houston where I attended the LFM User Meeting which was hosted by Aveva at the Hotel Sorella on March 4. This was the first LFM User Meeting that I have attended and according to Matt Wren, Senior Marketing Specialist for LFM, it was the largest user meeting to date. While LFM has been available from Z+F for several years now, it was purchased by Aveva in October 2011. Despite LFM’s history and the size and scope of Aveva, the meeting had the feel of a user group from a new “startup”. In some cases this is more accurate than one might suppose as the group within Aveva that is responsible for LFM has reorganized a lot of the LFM system from the way that modules are represented to the distribution network. This chance to reboot the brand and the addition of Aveva personnel seem to be suiting the LFM brand well as they presented new features, new opportunities, and a willingness to listen to customer feedback that were all well received at this year’s meeting.
LFM’s base users are very heavily skewed toward piping and the petrochemical industry. This was certainly apparent at the User Meeting but Aveva was quick to point out that they are looking to move beyond being a single industry package without abandoning this core group. Without getting too specific they left me with the impression that BIM may be the direction in which they would like to grow. Here are a few of the highlights:
• Neil Cocker (LFM Support Team Lead) presented a ton of “tips & tricks” for processing data and producing deliverables in LFM. One of the most interesting to me was the use of “Bubble Views” as opposed to the 3D view when extracting information from the point cloud. While I certainly prefer the 3D cloud I have trained plenty of traditional CAD people that would be very happy to never have to work in a 3D point cloud. This option will be most welcome in those quarters.
• Improvements on All Fronts. The latest updates were all touted as providing enhanced visualizations and improved performance versus prior releases.
• Advantages to not using ReCap. Using any of the “Link” products available allows LFM database users to use their data without having to export it in a common file type and then convert to a ReCap file. Link packages were shown for AutoCAD, MicroStation, Revit, SmartPlant, PDMS and Navisworks.
• New 3D Online Viewer. Graham Dalton (VP Plant Product Development) presented a new point cloud engine that they built in order to visualize 3D data over the internet. The engine renders multiple scans as a mesh in real time. Graham stated that it could also be used to create pseudo bubble views from positions that are different from the scanner’s origin. This is particularly exciting to me as it could be the engine that gives us Netview for mobile data.
• Feedback Session. My first experience with this type of feedback session was at the first Leica HDS User Conference. While those were a lot of, “Fix this particular issue” or “Add this particular tool.” The LFM feedback was a bit more like a design meeting. While we still had some specific issues that needed to be resolved, just as many started with, “What if you…” The view from the users seemed much more big picture than specific software tweaks.