Engineering Animation

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Engineering Animation, Inc., or EAI, was a services and software company based in Ames, Iowa, United States. It remained headquartered there from its incorporation in 1990 until it was acquired in 2000 by Unigraphics Solutions, Inc.,[1] now a subsidiary of the German technology multinational Siemens AG.[2][3] During its existence, EAI produced animations to support litigants in court, wrote and sold animation and visualization software, and developed a number of multimedia medical and computer game titles.[4] Part of EAI's business now exists in a spin-off company, Demonstratives.[5]


EAI was incorporated in 1990 by Martin Vanderploeg, Jay Shannan, Jim Bernard, and Jeff Trom, all Ames-based engineers closely involved with Iowa State University's Virtual Reality Applications Center (VRAC) founded by Vanderpoeg and Bernard.[6] Later that year they were joined by a former colleague of Vanderploeg's, Matthew Rizai, a mechanical engineer and software entrepreneur, who became CEO.

EAI got its start by producing computer animations to help illustrate crime scenes and other technical courtroom testimony for lawyers and expert witnesses,[7][8] eventually branching out in to visualization applications in medicine, product design, and a wide range of other applications.[9][4] In 1994, EAI launched VisLab,[10] an animation package initially written to leverage the graphics capabilities of the SGI UNIX computer platform.[11] At the time, it was considered unusual in its ability to render complex animation in hardware rather than in software. Steve Ursenbach, general manager of SGI's Application Division commented, "VisLab is the first software program to take such advantage of our hardware rendering capabilities."[12] VisLab's UI was based on the widely used Motif software.[13]

EAI's computer-generated animations were used in reconstructing the TWA Flight 800 plane crash scenario and numerous crime scene investigations, including the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson[14] and the Oklahoma City bombing for NBC's Inside Edition.[15][16] In 1997, EAI collaborated with the American Bar Association Judicial Division Lawyers Conference to produce "Computer Animation in the Courtroom – A Primer," a CD-ROM introduction and guide to the use of computer animations in reconstructing crimes.[17]

EAI's manufacturing clients included Ford, Motorola, Lockheed Martin, and 3M.[18][19]

Visualization and collaboration[edit]

Based on the initial success of VisLab with automotive companies, EAI developed and released the first commercially viable 3D interactive visualization software package, VisFly, first on the SGI and later the HP and Sun platforms in 1995 and 1996.[20] VisFly was eventually ported to Microsoft Windows and IBM AIX and expanded into the VisView and VisMockup product lines.[21] Networking capabilities were subsequently added to VisFly via NetFly and to VisView/VisMockup via VisNetwork.[22] Providing the visualization software, tools, and network access methods to convert common CAD data into the JT visualization format were keys to this most successful of EAI's business ventures. Networking capabilities were eventually expanded further with, which provided an internet-hosted environment and many of the features now seen in mainstream collaboration software.[23]

EAI Interactive[edit]

By 1996, EAI began to broaden its scope of development. This led to EAI's purchase that year of a small video game developer in Salt Lake City, Utah, headed by Bryan Brandenburg. This new studio became the primary location of EAI Interactive's activities. The Salt Lake City office worked more or less independently, though from time to time it used the services of the main Ames office for overflow work.

As an independent game developer, EAI Interactive produced a variety of titles, including Barbie Magic Hair Styler,[4] Trophy Buck for Sierra On-Line, Championship Bass for Electronic Arts, A Bug's Life for Disney Interactive, Clue and Outburst for Hasbro Interactive, and Scooby Doo: Mystery of the Fun Park Phantom and Animaniacs: Titantic Adventure for SouthPeak Games.

In addition to game development, EAI's medical and scientific illustration team developed a variety of 3D interactive educational products including The Dynamic Human for McGraw Hill and The Dissectible Human for Elsevier.[10]


In the September 1997 issue of Individual Investor magazine, EAI was named one of "America's Fastest Growing Companies." In the January 12, 1998, issue of Businessweek, the magazine recognized company CEO Rizai as one of seven notable entrepreneurs of 1997.[24] In 1999, Forbes ASAP magazine ranked the company as one of the 100 most dynamic technology companies in the US, placing it twenty-third overall.[25]

An international company[edit]

In its heyday, EAI had offices located across the US and around the world. The company's primary financial success was its visualization software VisFly, later renamed VisView. This product line lives on today as part of Teamcenter from Siemens PLM Software after a series of acquisitions starting in 1999. The litigation supporting animation services portion of EAI continues as a spin-off company called Demonstratives,[8] today a division of Engineering Systems Inc. (ESI), in Aurora, Illinois.

Former EAI employees have gone on to work at Pixar, Disney, Zygote Media Group, Hasbro, MediaTech, Milkshake Media, DreamWorks, and Maxis, among others. In 2008, Vanderploeg, Rizai, and others in the EAI management team founded Webfilings (now known as Workiva), a SaaS company specializing in corporate compliance solutions software, also headquartered in Ames.

Products and services[edit]

Animation services and Special Effects[edit]

Animation software[edit]

  • VisLab (1994)
  • VisModel (1996?)

Visualization software[edit]

  • VisFly (1995)
  • NetFly (1996)
  • VisView (1997?)
  • VisMockup (1998?)
  • VisFactory (1998?)
  • VisNetwork (1998)
  • (1999)

Multimedia titles[edit]

  • Barbie Magic HairStyler
  • Crayola Magic Coloring Book
  • MicroType Multimedia
  • The Dynamic Human

Computer games[edit]


  1. ^ "Company Overview of Engineering Animation, Inc". Research. Engineering Animation, Inc. was acquired by Unigraphics Solutions, Inc. on 10/23/2000.
  2. ^ "Siemens to Acquire UGS Corp". Siemens PLM Software Newsroom. January 25, 2007.
  3. ^ "SEC TENDER OFFER STATEMENT". Security and Exchange Commission. September 5, 2000.
  4. ^ a b c Marsh, Ann (March 23, 1998). "Say It With Animation". FORBES magazine. pp. 146–148 (in the hardcopy version). Retrieved 1 February 2017. But no company makes animation for as many purposes as EAI.
  5. ^ "Demonstratives History". Demonstratives. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  6. ^ Upah, Eleni (August 13, 2013). "Merging engineering and business". Iowa State University College of Engineering News. Iowa State University College of Engineering. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  7. ^ Mahoney, Diana Phillips (January 1994). "See you in court". Computer Graphics World. PennWell Publishing Corp. 17 (1): 49. (EAI) has developed a method of simulating criminal activity to help juries in civil litigation trials visualize complex engineering principles germane to the case.
  8. ^ a b "Demonstratives History". Engineering Animation, Inc. (EAI) was established. Retrieved 8 February 2017. The company's initial focus was the creation of physically accurate animations of complex engineering systems for use as demonstrative evidence in the courtroom
  9. ^ William F. Long Business Performance Research Associates, Inc. Bethesda, MD (March 1999). "Three-Dimensional Anatomy of Human Body, With Animation, for Medical Training". National Institute of Standards and Technology. Archived from the original on 2016-03-13. Retrieved 2017-02-07.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ a b Deitz, Dan (December 1995). "A virtual cadaver comes to life". Mechanical Engineering-CIME. American Society of Mechanical Engineers. 117 (12): 136. The key to delivering such a realistic human representation was harnessing the power of EAI's VisLab and VisModel engineering software
  11. ^ Mahoney, Diana Philips (January 1995). "This animation starts with a bang". Computer Graphics World. PennWell Publishing Corp. 18 (1): 70. Engineering Animation Inc uses its VisLab animation software running on a RealityEngine MIPS-based graphics system from Silicon Graphics Inc ...
  12. ^ Belleville, Laureen (November 1993). "Fast and accurate 3D animation". Computer Graphics World. PennWell Publishing Corp. 16 (11): 23+.
  13. ^ Business Wire. "ENGINEERING ANIMATION, INC.'s VISLAB 2.0 MAKES 3D VISUALIZATION MORE INTUITIVE". The Free Library by Farlex. Gale Group. Retrieved 14 July 2017. VisLab 2.0's user interface is based on the industry-standard Motif interface,
  14. ^ Associated Press (January 22, 1995). "OJ SIMPSON TRIAL: COMPUTER SIMULATION OF INCIDENT". APArchive. Associated Press TV. The computer simulation, created by an Iowa company – EAI, Engineering Animation Inc. – shows the crime from four perspectives Missing or empty |url= (help)
  15. ^ Marsh, Ann (March 23, 1998). "Picture This". Forbes Magazine. Forbes Media. 161 (6): 146. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  16. ^ "Oklahoma City Bombing-Engineering Animations". Engineering Animations. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  17. ^ "Computer Animation in the Courtroom". ABA Journal. 83: following p. 96. February 1997. ISSN 0747-0088. This cutting edge multimedia product will offer you tips and strategies for preparing cases using computer animation technology.
  18. ^ Lisa Branston (June 4, 1998). "Engineering Animation Jumps On Steady Stream of New Deals". Wall Street Journal Interactive. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 4 November 2016. Customers in that area include large manufacturers such as Ford Motors, Motorola, Lockheed Martin, and Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing.
  19. ^ "Ford, and your mom, improve processes". Design News. UBM Canon LLC: 25. July 5, 1999.
  20. ^ "Fly-through tool". Industry Week: 45. June 17, 1996.
  21. ^ Rowell, Amy A. (February 1998). "PDM Sports a New Look". Computer Graphics World. PennWell Publishing Corp. 21 (2): 42+. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  22. ^ "Software: Package Integrates Product and Process Data". R&D. 41 (10): 64. September 1999.
  23. ^ Messmer, Ellen (August 26, 1999). "HP readies two more portals for supply-chain information". Network World: 12. The second portal, called, is being constructed by Engineering Animation, an Ames, Iowa, engineering firm.
  24. ^ "The Best Entrepreneurs – Animation Artist". Business Week. 3560: 73. January 12, 1998. From the cornfields of Ames, Iowa, comes a hot new name in technology, Engineering Animation
  25. ^ Willis, Clint (April 5, 1999). "America's Top Technology Companies". Forbes ASAP. 163 (7): 65–88. Retrieved 8 February 2017. Firms like Ford, GM, and Lockheed Martin use it to design their products quickly and cheaply, and get to market fast
  26. ^ "Clue Chronicles: Fatal Illusion". GameFAQs. Retrieved July 7, 2017.

External links[edit]