Alright, we are waiting for those members of the media who slept in and missed the bus from our hotel in downtown Portland, out to Autodesk's manufacturing headquarters in Lake Oswgo, Oregon. The rest of us are here to hear about what's new in 2012 series of mfg'ing software.
I am here reporting for WorldCAD Access blog, upFront.eZine newsletter, and Design Engineering magazine. VP Robert Kross is giving a condensed version of the financial overview he gave during last week's Webcast. (See yesterday's upFront.eZine.)
Conference room filled to the brim with bloggers, editors, pr people, and some Autodesk staff.
In the foreground, you see Randall Newton's MacBook with its grunge-themed screen,
attained by stepping on the computer.
Mr Kross is excited about realtime simulation software. Algor is now renamed "Autodesk Simulation."
The sleepy-headed editors just showed up 65 minutes late. Some sleep-in!
Mr Kross sees software suites as a way to for customers to get a handle on the many, many software products sold by Autodesk. I haven't counted them recently, but the last time I counted, Autodesk offered 65 individual software programs. Counting suites, the number is probably closer to 100 now.
One license manages the entire suite. Across the board: data interoperability; Fusion; and visualization.
Web services will be the next big thing following suites. The suites will be linked to Web services somehow, to be announced later this year.
The AutoCAD lineup is AutoCAD, LT, Electrical, and Mechanical. Content Explorer for Elec has 750,000 blocks, while Mech has 800,000 of 'em.
Al Dean asked about cleanup tools for imported 3D models. There are none in AutoCAD, but Fusion can do the job. I asked about the "ClassicArray" command missing from AutoCAD 2012, but didn't get an answer. Apparently the Android version of AutoCAD WS is available from a secret download link, but I haven't got ahold of it yet. (Adroid is #1 requested "feature," Autodesk tells me; heh: no surprise, seeing's how Android now outselling iOS devices.)
We got a brief demo of SketchBook Designer from someone who learned it last Friday. Autodesk found that about 30% of AutoCAD users use a photo or graphical editing program. So, SBD is thrown into the suite, and runs like Fusion: click a button on the AutoCAD toolbar, and the current drawing is exported transparently to SketchBook Designer.
SketchBook Designer being demo'ed to us during the AutoCAD Breakout session.
Digital Design Session
We've moved down the hall to conference room "Bell" to get more on SketchBook Designer. The problem is that I am no good at freehand sketching on computers, although SBD seems to have some aids that assist freehand klutzes like me. It can export sketches as Curves DWG, PhotoShop PSD, or TIFF format. Remembers PhotoShop layers format. "Curves DWG" is the vector lines and curves laid down in SBD.
Alias is the big brother to SketchBook, and has a new auto-hide Object Lister that lists geometry and layers. Alias can now export to Fusion; once in Fusion, can shell. Lots more demo stuff on Alias adjusting a model of a power drill, but, sorry, I'm a CAD guy, not a tangent-continuity guy.
I said I was confused by the many versions of SketchBook. There is SketchBook Pro (raster only) and SketchBook Designer (raster and vector) for desktop computers and various OSes. SketchBook Mobile is for Android and iOS, in paid and free versions. Editor Martyn Day further clarifies through Twitter: "Alias Sketch now called SketchBook Designer."
Ken Wong asked if there are Web services associated with SketchBook and Alias? Not at this point. Someone asked about companies that block access to online help, such as Wikis. There is downloadable version of help. Is there hardcopy help for Alias 2012? No, it is all electronic. What about training videos Autodesk used to have? Still evaluating.
Although Mac products litter the demo rooms (MacBook Air, iPad), all the demos are done on Windows laptops, even the Alias demo. Even though the demo drill model is colored bright green, I am disappointed that it is not powered by solar cells. Or built-in windmills.
American editor Kenneth Wong simulates testing a 3D model of the power drill designed in Alias. Unwilling victim: British editor Al Dean. Murderers can now custom design their tools of death.
Digital Factory Session
Break is over, and now it's over to hear about Autodesk's digital factory software bundle. $15.8 billion wasted annually by inefficient factory design (source: NIST), so use Autodesk software and save yourself billions! At least I think that was the message they are trying to convey.
Editor Jane Gray from The Machinist magazine of England asks what happens when the factory floor layout changes, how do the updates occur? AutoCAD and Inventor will update each other's layouts, something not available if using non-Autodesk software. What about capacity planning, Kingman's flow? This is just an initial release and does not do these planning objectives. From the questions she is asking, it is becoming clear that Factory Design is still a young product. Al Dean asks, How do you define multi-level factories? By assigning floors to machinery. Can bring in the shell of the building from Revit and interface points (electrical, water, etc) from MEP.
Teaching us about Autodesk Factory Design Suite, which consists of AutoCAD (2D design), Inventor (3D design), Navisworks (interactive walkthrough viewing), and 3ds Max Design and Showcase (for animation and visualization).
Factory Design Suite starts up with a selection of preset design flows. AutoCAD gets a "Factory" tab in the ribbon, a Factory Object Properties palette, material flow browser (not rendering materials, but factory flow, such as storage-in, rough machining, clean, and storage-out.) Material Flow Analysis meters instantly report the fuel and cost of changing parameters, such as using a human, a robot, a fork lift for transport, etc.
"Cloud-based factory assets" get tiny icons that indicate if block is not yet downloaded (white circle), being downloaded (progress bar) downloaded and available (green checkbox). This is a fancy term for downloading blocks from a Web site. Ken Wong asks if users can upload their factory models. "We are starting to hear that, and will address it in upcoming releases."
And then the other form of cloud-based factory assets... point clouds created by laser scanners. 40 million points scanned in a half hour providing a 3D image of the factory's existing layout. Useful for collision detection, as performed by Navisworks. Problem objects are shown in red. 4D simulation shows how the factory is built.
Jane Gray asks if the base level suite is feasible for an SMB firm to use? Autodesk's most expensive suite is much cheaper than competitors' factory design software. (So, no point buying the Standard and Premium versions of the bundle?) Blogger Mark asks about licensing? One license of the suite is like a license of Inventor. When one person is using one software from the suite, then nothing else is available from the suite to other users. Ken Wong asks if there is a difference between Factory Design and Plant Design. Plant is for process and flow; Factory is about discrete products. Jane asks if there is any sustainability intelligence? There is, through Inventor. But not specific to the suite, other than optimizing the flow. Ken Wong asks what formula is behind the power and cost meters? Costs are associated with difference processes and distances. Editor Jane asks which markets will adopt this fastest? 70% of Adesk customers do "brownfielding," retrofits of existing factories. Food and beverage factories use this the most.
Also used for hospital work flows, post office sorting machines, large trade show booths, ship building "factory." Al Dean asks if people are interested in the ergonomics of workflows? Something Autodesk plans to explore.
Hilde Sevens of Autodesk claims that more people still use AutoCAD for factory design over products from Siemens. I've heard the same claim over in the P&ID (piping) side of Autodesk. Blogger Mark says one problem is that Siemens is a couple of releases behind in supporting AutoCAD (DWG, I suppose).
I must say, I find factory floor design much more interesting than Alias and SketchBook! It's the engineer in me. The first release of Factory came out 9 months ago, this is the second release, and gives an idea of pace of change customers can expect for future releases.
Lunch is done, and it's time to start the simulation session, which was not simulated; no VR goggles. Customer designs curtain walls, where the primary concern is safety, especially for connectors. He is showing a connector that used to be calculated by hand, and then sent out to make a prototype -- at a cost of $6,000. Now using Algor to simulate the connectors digitally in-house. Also, how does the wind deflect the panels, which could be aluminum or glass.
Editor Bill Fane notes that many of the customers presenting to us today are from Canada.
Now hearing from Autodesk on how serious they are about simulation. "We are the only vendor who can take you from linear analysis to plastic." Now owns the fastest-growing CFD (computational fluid dynamics) software -- BlueRidge Dynamics.
We are learning about a new two-car roller coaster design that spins the cars about as the cars tear along the track. We get to see the most violent, 2-second portion of the ride in simulation. See figure below.
Autodesk Simulation simulates all the axes of rotation of the roller coaster.
Moldflow to become available to run inside of Pro/Engineer. Will it be a Creo applet? It is currently a WildFire applet, and Autodesk is wondering how Creo will do, first.
How fluid flow (CFD) applies to architecture: can determine the comfort level, color coding shows where rooms are too warm and too cold. AEC can finally correctly design air conditioning. Also used to retrofit LED lights into existing sockets. Ken Wong wonders if BlueRidge does multi-phase? No, cannot model liquid and gas in a single model. He also wonders if the license costs more to run on more CPU cores? Currently, yes, but in the future, no.
Over lunch, some of us editors talked about the difference between Autodesk's and PTC's approach to apps. Autodesk is bundling lots of them into suites -- super apps, as it were. In contrast, PTC is unbundling big apps (Pro/E, CoCreate) into many smaller units -- mini apps, as it were. It will be interesting to see which approach is a bigger hit with customers.
Also over lunch, we got a look at editor Jane Gray's 7" Android tablet, the Samsung Galaxy. She likes the smaller size over the iPad's 10", but finds it a bit cramped to type on the soft keyboard. Perhaps that's why Samsung is releasing an 8.9" unit this summer. Meanwhile, Ken Wong showed us his brand-new color Nook ebook reader. He's excited about Nook releasing apps for the e-reader this summer.
Editor Jane Gray's 7" Android tablet from Samsung.
Digital Engineering (aka Inventor) Session
Weatherhaven builds tents, the kind used by the mililary and in the arctic. When they got their start, they needed an office to host a potential customer, but had no office. So they hung a "Weatherhaven" sign over the door of a friend's office. Today, they have a 200,000 sq ft office in Vancouver, Canada, and additional offices in more than a dozen countries.
Cost of energy is a big concern for customers, when each litre of fuel can cost hundreds of dollars [I think I heard that correctly], once the cost of transport and security are included. Use Inventor to design. Saving the cost of a single prototype can pay for all Inventor licenses for the entire department.
Most specialized one is an EMI-proof shelter -- insulated against electromagnetic interference both going in and out. The newest one is a standard 40' container that expands itself to triple its floor space; compact delivery size for hostile environments.
Now hearing what's new in Inventor 2012. New marking menus appear at the cursor; you can just right-click and then drag the mouse at -45 degrees to access the Fillet command -- invisibly. Autodesk is calling this "muscle memory." New repair environment is associative to all downstream edits. Realtime ray tracing inside Inventor; YouTube output. Drawing view creation is now 10x faster by taking advantage of multi-core CPUs. "Squilt"? I think the demo jock just said "Squilt." Perhaps he wants to make sure we are still alert at 2:48pm in the afternoon.
New Inventor OEM is for buiding custom-branded applications -- like AutoCAD OEM. Will we see a Revit OEM? No one has signed up for it yet, but there are pilots going on.
New Intent is for doing engineering-to-order. Configure what the product will look like at POS (point of sale), and determine its pricing. The Japanese editor sitting next to me is scribbling on the inside back cover of her notebook -- oops, just started on a spare sheet of paper. Meanwhile, her translator sits nearby, chattering quietly into a mic connected to a wireless xmitter; the Japanese editor has a wireless receiver and an earpiece.
Updated Inventor Publisher 2012 is now on its 3rd release: 3D instructions (interactive, dimensions, visual parts list), user experience, and interoperable workflow (new add-in for Word). Drag and drop Publisher elements into Word document. Seeing some use of Publisher with AEC field.
Al Dean asks why Publisher is not in any suites? Becauase it has its own "persona." He also would like a ban on the use of the word "suites."
OK, it's 4pm and we're down to the second-last session of the day: 60 minutes of PDM! Vault is described as "an 8-year-old, work-in-progress, data management tool." One customer has a terrabyte of data in Vault.
Vault 2012 now supports lots more Autodesk software, including Buzzsaw, Revit, Navisworks, Simulation, and Streamline -- even Fusion. API is enhanced, and now works with SAP.
The projector is getting tired, as it changes to a lower resolution, cutting off the top of the screen.
Al Dean asks if Vault could work with iPad. Yes, it can be through Safari Web browser connecting via WiFi. Jane Gray asks about "enterprise PDM" appearing on the slide, but "PLM" is not being used? Vault is meant to handle CAD data across the enterprise, and customers might also use PLM, using Vault to populate PLM software. Yes, but you have lifecycle information in there, Ms Gray counters. There are shades of gray, Autodesk says, where other software calls itself "PLM," and there are things that Vault does not do that would be required of PLM.
Q: What other areas of simulation does Autodesk need to acquire?
A: Can't necessarily buy everything, but customers are wanting to simulate everything.
Q: What is the business objective, since Autodesk will be making less selling 3d Studio Max, and not increasing sub fees.
A: Our take is competitve separation. We will see more volume because of the suites. Only big customers buy everything; most customers don't buy a second seat of 3d Studio Max.
Q: Is this more of a plan to take competitor seats?
A: They are all competitor seats today.
Q; So saturation is full.
A: Everyone uses CAD today.
Q: Chris Randles of SpaceClaim still thinks there are engineers with no CAD.
A: There are engineers with no CAD.
Q: So why not give away Fusion outside of suites?
A: Fusion will continue to be on Labs. Free todownload and use. I intend to continue rapid development of Fusion. I got a demo of the next release this week.
Q: What is the page for the Android version of AutoCAD WS?
A: Once live, it will be at http://www.autocadws.com/android
Q: Does Inventor LT still exist?
A: Yes, and is in a suite with AutoCAD LT but not with Fusion.
Buzz Kross concludes: "We have been known for mechanical CAD, but we are becoming a manufacturing solution."
And we're done!
[Disclosure: Autodesk provided me with accommodation, some meals, and travel assistance.]