upFront.eZine #1,133: Scoping Infurnia
Interview with Lovepreet Mann
Inside the Business of CAD | 13 June 2022
Infurnia is doing it backwards. First, they developed a interior design package that runs in Web browsers, and now they are porting it the desktop.
The aim of Infurnia is to build an design platform for architecture, interior design, and construction at a “disruptive” price. After I mentioned the company in an earlier issue of upFront.eZine, Lovepreet Mann contacted me to explain the company plan in greater detail. He is a co-founder of the firm and its chief marketing officer.
The eight-year-old Infurnia spent the last two years re-architecting their Web-based software to make it multi-platform. “Multi-platform” does not mean it runs in a Web browser on any kind of device, as some other CAD vendors have described it; for Infurnia, multi-platform means running the code native, locally, on desktop computers with Windows and MacOS, as well as in browsers.
As of today, they have a proof-of-concept program running native on Windows, with the full version planned for next year, along with a MacOS version. Infurnia will also run in VR [virtual reality] environments, for which they have a viewing app working. All the versions run the same code, and access a single database.
Mr Mann showed me simultaneous editing on multiple platforms. He added a wall in the Windows desktop version, which showed up in the browser version.
“Being Web-based Web-first, helps us,” Mr Mann said. “We do not have a file format, per se. We store data in a database, which can be accessed by API [application programming interface] calls. Any properly authorized app can access it; a design license from Infurnia is not needed.”
“Design data is decoupled from the software,” he said. “Data belongs to the user; Infurnia simply defines it.” There is no longer a need to rely on a specific software program, should it be able to access an Infurnia database.
The core of the software can be embedded through an SDK [software development kit] in other apps, which gives, say, structural software its own UI and access to the data only it needs, such as for procurement, from the Infurnia database.
Ralph Grabowski: Who would prefer Infurnia?
Lovepreet Mann: We have several large clients, like Livspace and Spacewood.
We began writing software for modular furniture in 2016, then added a floor planner, then a detailed parts modeler, while working towards the long-term goal of architecture. Our code base is done, so we can really develop fast now.
We want to be self-reliant. We use funding from the interiors division to fund our development on the architecture side. It is currently free to users, so that we can get feedback from them.
Grabowski: What is the goal for your architecture software?
Mann: It should handle every kind of architecture construction in the industry, from small homes to big buildings. If something can be built, then it should be able to be designed in Infurnia.
We plan to have programming by scripting, like Grasshopper.
Grabowski: Were you following Onshape’s approach to the CAD market?
Mann: It is somewhat similar to Onshape, but more like Figma [a collaborative interface design tool]. Onshape is not truly multi-platform.
The problem with Onshape is that it places all the computation on the back end [on remote servers]. We don’t see Infurnia going in this direction [because it runs code locally on the desktop].
Grabowski: Is India your target market?
Mann: India is a good launch base, but we plan to sell it throughout the world.
Grabowski: The drawback to expanding architectural software internationally is that every country, every state might have its own design standards.
Mann: We have been so far focusing on the tech challenges. If we don’t have strong tech, we cannot penetrate the industry. But we recognize we have to deal with standards in different countries.
Grabowski: Do you have a plan to take on the established players in our industry?
Mann: There is a sense that there is no way the incumbents can be removed. But there always is one company that makes a breakthrough [such as when Solidworks on Windows disrupted Pro/Engineer on Unix]. It is when platforms shift that new entrants have an opportunity.
There is a shift to being able to do design on multiple platforms — on the Web, on VR. Autodesk, for instance, has not been able to shift AutoCAD to other platforms [fully].
Grabowski: Do you have a pricing model for the architecture software?
Mann: We plan modest monthly and annual subscriptions, like $50/month and $500/year.
Grabowski: How did you come up with the Infurnia name?
Mann: When we first thought about it in 2014, a flatmate suggested Infurnia — it is short for “interior furniture.” We thought the name would be temporary, but then it grew on us.
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Infurnia plans to place an IPO [initial public offering] in July on the Indian stock market to raise the equivalent of US$5 million at a nominal valuation of $20 million. The plan is to grow the company to a billion-dollar unicorn over the next half decade.
What Ralph Grabowski Thinks
Having seen many firms fail in my 37 years in this biz (remember when all display-list processing vendors disappeared overnight?), I worry about new firms. I love their drive to make a difference, their enthusiasm in bringing better products to market, and their aim to displace existing firms — or at least exist alongside them. Some make it, most don’t.
My suggestion of a business plan to upstarts is develop your wow!-software, sell the firm to an incumbent too sclerotic to do it itself, and pocket the millions.
What Infurnia is doing is a huge job. Others attempting a similar path are walking it in reverse, such as PTC and Zwsoft rewriting their Windows-based CAD programs to run in browsers. Infurnia has an advantage in beginning with a smaller code base and working with more modern programming methods. I will be fascinated to see what happens to all three firms in the long-term.
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And in Other News
AGACAD introduces what it says is the first software, called Smart Documentation, for automating the entire process of generating documents and drawings from Revit 2020-2023 models. Makes me wonder why Autodesk hadn’t done it yet. The software ships June 16. Lots and lots of details on how it works at agacad.com/products/bim-solutions/smart-documentation/overview.
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LTS is computer jargon for “long-term support,” and now the Open Design Alliance offers it with all its SDKs as of v22.12. This means, for example, you can work with release 22.12 for two years, during which ODA ships out security patches and critical fixes, with little or no change to the code otherwise. More info at opendesign.com/releases.
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Some of us have become tired of watching many conferences online, even though they are free. Hexagon is charging $149 to watch their conference taking place next week from your home computer, whether in real-time or on-demand later on.
In related news, Hexagon’s PPM (process, power, marine) division, based largely on their 2010 Intergraph acquisition, last week renamed itself “Asset Lifecycle Intelligence,” although the URL remains hexagonppm.com.
Letters to the Editor
Re: Another Way of Doing MCAD
I understand the need for brevity but the following statement is a little too brash for my taste: “Autodesk’s AutoCAD did 3D modeling from day 1.”
I have used AutoCAD from its earliest days, the first versions were definitely not 3D and only later was 3D functionality was bolted on — I don’t know which version. I have always found AutoCAD a rather clunky 3D modeler.
I was a Computervision Personal Designer reseller. The fact that Personal Designer could 3D models properly was the reason for its niche success. AutoCAD at that time was almost freeware due to the amount of illegal copies floating around.
(There was a specific architectural version called Personal Architect, which was very short lived. One of its features was that it supported the workflow of architects from conceptual to detail design.)
Most early 3D packages like Unigraphics, CADDS, and Personal Designer were direct modellers. Initially they were only surface modellers not solids. I now use Rhino for 3D surface modelling, but sometimes still miss some of the features Personal Designer had like associative geometry. Steve Ford did a wonderful job of porting CADDS to the PC.
- Rene Dalmeijer
The editor replies: The word ‘direct’ is missing from the sentence. My apologies. It should have read that '“AutoCAD had direct modeling in its 3D from day 1 of solids modeling.” I was dimly aware of Computervision at the time.
I agree with the opinion that the 3D modeling in AutoCAD was dreadful for the most part: first none, then 2.5D, then wireframe, then solids modeling limited so as to not compete with Mechanical Desktop and Inventor.
Little known fact: AutoCAD did have 3D modeling from the very start but the programmers didn’t know how to implement it. Mike Riddle had written MicroCAD, which he contributed to the original Autodesk guys, who renamed it AutoCAD. He eventually settled financially with Autodesk and wrote FastCAD in assembly language. fastcad.com
Mr Dalmeijer responds: Do you know of a book about the history of CAD?
The editor replies: Dave Weisberg in 2008 wrote an exhaustive one, The Engineering Design Revolution, but even it gets some details wrong and misses out some chunks — as all histories do.
He made it available for free, but the official Web site no longer works. I hunted it down and found a safe copy online, which I am making available through my site: pcloud.link/publink/show?code=XZOgHRVZm5EzgTXagkuDCOFFUJ5tyYidNBgy (10MB ZIP file of 24 PDF chapters).
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With regard to “One day, I envision we might employ a clay-like modeling environment, poking and pulling a shape with our fingers through augmented reality, along with some kind of permission assistance,” you might take a look at 3dsystems.com/software/geomagic-freeform.
No augmented reality, but a haptic device to “feel” the “clay” model. It uses voxels.
- Henry Lamousin
Re: Locating the Dystopia in Meta’s Utopia
Your Meta Dystopia Utopia reminded me of this conversation that I transcribed from a video well over a decade ago from a World Economic Forum discussion on Web 2.0 in 2007:
Bill Gates: “We need 3D. You’re seeing it on things like Xbox, where you have Xbox Live for 3D”
Off Camera: “Why 3D?’
Gates: “Well 3D: it turns out the world is in 3D. We used to have only UPPERCASE THEN WE GOT lowercase, and that was fun, then we went from black and white and got this colour thing, that was fun, but in fact 3D, you see glimpses of it, it’s gonna happen.”
And this, slightly edited to remove a country reference, from Douglas Adams:
"Virtually everything we were told turned out not to be true, sometimes almost immediately. The only exception to this was when we were told that something would happen immediately, in which case it turned out not to be true over an extended period of time."
- Robin Capper, New Zealand
The editor replies: In CAD, some talk of 3D being “just one more dimension” than 2D, when in fact it moves in complexity from just one plane to six planes, many of which are hidden from our view.
I will miss your reports, analysis and valuable opinion. Unfortunately I started reading upFront.eZine only a few years ago. What a waste. I could have been much better informed decades earlier.
My short paper (1,400 words) on TNG rigs will be printed this summer in the conference magazine for BIM Coordinators Summit 2022 in Dublin. I try to make TGN clearer than I have before: icloud.com/pages/0f782WpnVTEk2vfrS4ameFG_g#The_Form_of_Engagement.
I look forward to any writing you may do in your retirement.
- Rob Snyder
The editor replies: upFront.eZine reported on Mr Snyder’s concept of TGN rigs in issue #1,115, which place focus on specific portions of the 3D model through a UI and an API, partially solving the six-plane problem.
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To be truthful, I am upset that you will be ending producing upFront. I’m upset that I and the many others who read upFront will no longer have access to your thoughts which have a very wide range beyond simply CAD.
Unlike your neighbour who used to drive a concrete truck, there actually is no one to replace you. No one who has your depth of experience. No one who has your understanding. No one who will give their opinion free of commercial bias. No one who provides nuggets of technical information (you turned me on to wireless backlit keyboards). No one who shares their thoughts on so many things not directly related to CAD. No one who can provide others a forum to present their knowledge, thoughts and opinions. I will miss Notable Quotable and the emails you receive which helps us realize that we are not alone with our CAD frustrations.
Not receiving upFront each week will be a very big loss.
I wish you the very best post-UpFront, but honestly hope that you will reconsider.
- Dairobi Paul
The editor replies: I plan to continue to write for other publications (their editors are relieved to hear this!) but will wind down this newsletter in mid-September. I hope to also continue writing for my WorldCAD Access blog.
“Since any criticism of Apple can result in excommunication, I feel unable to trust Websites that can get access to Apple’s stuff.”
- Caps Lock
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