Technical illustration software from Canvas GFX

Technical illustration software is moving with the times, as one company’s expanding portfolio proves.

Technical illustration invariably summons up images of huge and highly complex documents painstakingly produced and treasured and guarded as a the source of all wisdom on a particular design.

The digital revolution has changed all that, of course and Canvas GFX is a key player in that transformation. Canvas GFX provides the technical illustration software of choice at leading brands from verticals including aerospace, automotive, energy, and education. Designed specifically for technical users, Canvas software enables the creation of rich visual assets that express complex ideas with clarity, powering effective visual communication across organisations and ecosystems.

Canvas already has 3,300 customers, including names like Boeing, Raytheon, Caterpillar. Say Canvas’s CEO Pat Hume: “I mean big, big names. These are groups of users in the technical engineering community within these companies who decided to purchase Canvas to use as their tool of choice to do their work. The product has great market fit right with 3,300 loyal customers that continue to purchase the product under the auspices of a perpetual licence model. Every year people would come back in and purchase an upgrade, purchase the new features and functionality.”

Canvas has four main products in its portfolio. Three of these run on Windows, while the other – Canvas Draw – runs on Mac OS. The best established of these products is called Canvas X, and is a product that makes it possible to handle both vector graphics and raster images with the same powerful enhancement tools. It also allows users to apply a host of effects to both images and graphics in a single document.

As well as delivering 0.035 micron accuracy for an engineering and scientific user base, Canvas X offers complete control over vector object coordinates. This means users can create illustrations from geometric data, use grids and guides to position objects, and adjust objects’ numerical position for absolute precision.

The outputs can be anything from technical documentation, how-to guides or technical white papers that need graphic illustration to accompany the communication of visually communicate the message.

The newest addition to the Canvas GFX portfolio is a development of Canvas X called X3. Says Pat Hume: “So many of our customers came to us and said, you know, we need we would like you to be able to add the ability to manipulate 3-D files as well as 2D files. So we took what is the Canvas X code base and we added the capability to import 3-D files. So Catia, SolidWorks, AutoCAD – we cover approximately 40 different 3-D file types. It’s being tested by some of our largest customers today. The goal right now is to be able to drive awareness and to grow the adoption of X3. The product came to market in late January.”

Canvas X3 combines a rich graphic toolset with the ability to import and handle 3D CAD models, making it easy to create powerfully precise visual documentation. It offers control over 3D model visualisation, allowing users to rotate and explode 3D models; ghost, hide and highlight parts and apply numerous graphic effects to models for technical illustrations.

In Canvas X3, visualisations of 3D CAD objects can be edited and re-edited as many times as you need, without you having to request new source files. X3 imports all the data you need to create compelling, custom illustrations of models for a raft of 2D assets.

Users can display their 3D object precisely as they need to, using both orthographic and perspective views combined with a host of render modes, including smooth, outlines, wireframes, technical, flat, and silhouette. vectorise views with unbeatable detail and quality and export to a huge range of image and vector formats.

In terms of its existing and potential markets, Canvas’s current sweet spot lies in high-value engineering. Says Pat Hume: “We target a few verticals where we have seen great success. One is what I will call big manufacturing. When we say big, we’re talking about automotive, heavy equipment, pharmaceutical medical equipment, anything that has a lot of parts. They are designing things that have a lot of parts numbers. And our product is suited to an audience that is creating things that has a lot of parts numbers.”

Academia is another area where Canvas does well. “We have about 650 universities worldwide that use Canvas,” says Hume. “These tend to be schools that do medical research and are very strong in the engineering curriculum. Harvard uses our product. Yale uses our product. M.I.T. uses our product. We just got an e-mail from a professor at Columbia University that’s using it.”

However, Canvas also has its place in the SME market – something that has been facilitated in part by an adjustment to its pricing model. Pat Hume takes up the story: “Certainly our product is priced to be able to be placed in the SME market. So we’re not priced prohibitively for an SME. That may be, for example, a sub-component manufacturer to one of the larger, big brand manufacturers. We moved to a subscription based pricing model back in October of last year. So we moved away from perpetual to subscription and we’re seeing great success in the transition, which allows us to be a bit more modern.”

But development is not stopping yet. Communication with customers has inspired more innovations to the platform. “One thing that we hear,” says Hume,” is the need to introduce a visual collaboration capability into the product (beyond the ability to view from one workstation to another) to actually allow teams of people to collaborate in real time on whatever it is that has been produced inside what we call the Canvas creator.

“So here’s what we’re doing. We’re taking the Canvas X3 product and we’re building out a hybrid platform. And the platform is composed of four elements. Element 1 of the platform is our workstation product, which is the canvas X product. We’re going to do some things to enhance the user experience and to make it a bit more intuitive.“