Intergraph patents Model Data Reuse

Patent Award
Valery Gerard, software consultant for SmartPlant Construction development; Charles Evans, executive vice president and chief technology officer; and Steven Herold, senior manager for Smart 3D Core development

Intergraph recently received a new patent thanks to the ingenuity of two of its software developers in the Huntsville, Alabama, U.S. office. Steven Herold, senior manager for Smart 3D Core development, and Valery Gerard, software consultant for SmartPlant Construction development, collaborated on creating the Model Data Reuse command, a new way to improve the scalability and robustness of Intergraph Smart 3D’s copying functionality.

“The patent protects not only Intergraph’s innovation but also the effort of an entire organization. Model Data Reuse is a key asset for Smart 3D,” said Gerard.

“With the need to consume more and more data for larger and larger plants, software must adapt. One way is to rely on hardware and hope that the technology will fit the need. Our idea was to use a different road.”

Only a single unit of data is processed each time, but also the integrity of the entire operation is maintained. Doing so allows the processing of any plant, regardless of its size.

“The challenge was to define a way to sort and split big data into smaller unit. Our inspiration came from the way our customers are building a plant, and that’s how the initial sequence between the operations was defined,” said Gerard.

Preserving relationships

In Smart 3D, relationships between objects capture design intent, so that modifications behave more intelligently.

“When we copy objects, we preserve the relationships and the original design intent. If we’re copying unrelated objects, the sequence doesn’t matter, but when objects are related, the sequence in which they are copied becomes very important,” said Herold.

The patent defines a method of selecting the specific sequence in which objects are copied. For example, when copying a system hierarchy, the software copies the parent first, and then the children. When copying a piping network, the header is copied first and then the branches are copied.

A large copy operation is broken up into a sequence of smaller operations. In technical terms, each of these smaller operations is performed within a database transaction. The result is that customers can now copy much larger portions of the model, with greater reliability. This helps them reuse a unit multiple times in the same project, or use best practices to copy from that model to start a new model.

Teamwork

The patent offers tangible proof that we’re being innovative here at Intergraph,” said Herold.

“When I started working on Smart 3D in 2006, Valery had already been working with Smart 3D for several years and was the recognized expert on the subject of copy. I was the new guy on the block and Valery had the experience. That combination of my fresh outlook and his seasoned experience were the important ingredients. We worked closely together to come up with the bold new approach that resulted in this patent.”

“Thanks to everyone at Intergraph who believed in this idea, supported us and helped us to make it a reality,” said Gerard.

About the patent

U.S. Patent No. 20,090,300,083 for “Method And Apparatus for Copying Objects in An Object-Oriented Environment Using A Multiple-Transaction Technique” states that:

A large number of objects, such as objects representing beams and columns in an object-oriented enterprise engineering system, may be copied in a model database by partitioning the objects according to certain criteria into a number of ordered small copy groups and copying the objects in each group as an atomic operation. Objects that are to be copied are organized into the ordered groups, and the groups are copied in order, such that all predecessors of a given object are copied into the database before, or in the same small operation as, the given object. If a large copy operation abnormally terminates before all the small copy operations have been completed, the model database is, nevertheless, left in a consistent state, and the copy operation may be resumed from the point of interruption. Furthermore, the number of objects that may be copied is not constrained by the amount of memory available in the system.

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