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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

MCADCafe eMagazine: Autodesk Launches Cloud-Based PLM

March 8th, 2012 by Jeff Rowe

Autodesk announced the immediate availability of Autodesk PLM 360. The next-generation cloud-based alternative provides a powerful, affordable and easy-to-implement solution at a fraction of the cost of traditional PLM systems.

Autodesk PLM 360 is the latest offering to build upon the company’s leadership with cloud-based solutions. Unlike traditional PLM systems — which have historically been expensive and complicated — Autodesk PLM 360 is instant-on and easily configurable to meet customer-specific product-lifecycle process needs across the enterprise. It is also the first cloud-based PLM solution focused on business applications beyond engineering and bill of material management. As a result, employees in a range of roles — from planning and product development to quality and compliance to service and more — can better access product and project-related information that helps them continuously improve the products they design and manufacture.

“Our customers deserve modern technology to help solve the needs of their increasingly complex and global businesses,” said Robert “Buzz” Kross, senior vice president, Design, Lifecycle and Simulation at Autodesk. “Autodesk PLM 360’s simple, flexible, cloud-based approach will radically improve the ability for companies to gain the full benefits of PLM, helping them to become more competitive and grow their business.”

“We’ve found Autodesk PLM 360 to be a welcome expansion of our Digital Prototyping workflow,” said Rob Ferber, CEO at Electron Vault, a clean-tech energy-storage provider. “Given the high costs and expertise associated with traditional PLM, we just didn’t want to go there until now. Autodesk’s accessibility, rapid deployment and ease of use reduce the complexity of managing PLM processes across our global teams.”

Franke Foodservice Systems Inc., a division of Switzerland-based global manufacturer Franke Artemis Group, which employs around 10,500 staff worldwide and is established in over 40 countries, has adopted Autodesk PLM 360 to improve its product management, enhancing collaboration through product conception, realization, deployment and use. “No two restaurant customers are identical, and we have many staff in the field doing surveys of customer sites to customize equipment for a new menu item or coffee system,” said Duane Brown, manager, Product Data and CAD Operations, Franke Foodservice Systems. “Having a global, cloud-based application to track every step and all our major product milestones with instant sharing of all field and engineering notes in a secure application is incredible.”

Modern, No-Programming Approach

In addition to offering an attractive, modern look and feel for a superior user experience, Autodesk PLM 360 takes a highly configurable no-programming approach to system configuration that eliminates the need for expensive programmers and consultants. Dozens of pre-installed apps automate business processes across the lifecycle. With intuitive drag-and-drop functionality, users can easily tailor apps or build their own to meet specific needs and without having to purchase additional modules.

True Cloud Application

Autodesk PLM 360 is a true multi-tenant cloud application. Users and managers will never again have to worry about upgrades and broken customization; the application is always up-to-date and compatible with any customer-specific configuration. IT professionals are freed from non-strategic system management since users access Autodesk PLM 360 from a fully managed data center that provides security, high performance and disaster recovery. Additionally, the cloud-based foundation offers users anytime, anywhere access, from virtually any mobile device or web browser.

Autodesk PLM 360 also features integration and interoperability to on-premise systems including Autodesk Vault product data management (PDM) software. Vault enables workgroups to organize, manage and track their engineering CAD data, manufacturing bills-of-material and change processes from a centralized location.

Pricing and Availability

Full function access for the first three professional users is free, with each additional user priced at US$75 per month on an annual contract basis. Availability varies by country. Visit for additional information about how to purchase Autodesk PLM 360.

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

So, Autodesk enters the PLM fray – something it adamantly vowed for years it would never do.

Shocking? No. Surprised? A little, but I have to admit getting into the PLM arena was inevitable for Autodesk.

Why? For some time I suspected that Autodesk was developing some sort of PLM strategy and technologies to back it up. So, now the company has presented us with Autodesk PLM 360 (formerly known as code name Nexus). Autodesk’s product line already covered several aspects and stages of product development, so why not just add a new layer of skin to the onion to now include PLM? Autodesk, however, has a different spin on PLM than its competitors – it’s relatively easy to implement (at least outwardly), affordable (definitely), and configurable (more about this claim later). And, it’s cloud based.

Beyond affordability, the cloud factor is a big differentiator, because when asked what distinguishes Autodesk PLM 360 and other competitive cloud offerings, Buzz Kross, Senior Vice President, Design, Lifecycle & Simulation at Autodesk, responded, “Ours is real and we are in the market.”

I sat in on a Web-based presentation the day Autodesk PLM 360 was launched where the fundamental theme was “PLM for Everyone.” The presenters stressed that Autodesk PLM 360 is more than just a file sharing mechanism. It was made clear that PDM (on premise with Autodesk Vault) is for the design department, whereas PLM (PLM 360 and the cloud) is for the enterprise by providing crowdsource capabilities for sharing data and supporting business processes. It was made clear, though, that you do not need Vault to use PLM 360 — it will supposedly work with any PDM system.

Autodesk claims that its PLM 360 will completely change the PLM landscape, primarily because it costs a fraction of competing PLM systems, and requires nothing special (hardware or personnel) for implementing it. If true, that’s good news for organizations contemplating a PLM system.

Another claim that the company makes is that Autodesk PLM 360 is, “Insanely Configurable.” That’s a pretty strong statement, and would be easy to confirm.

Autodesk also says that no beta user took more than three days to get PLM 360 up and running. That’s also easy to confirm by trying it for myself.

Even though it admits it’s entering the PLM market late, Autodesk is hoping to take advantage of current PLM customers who are dissatisfied with what they have. They might have something there, but users new to PLM are one thing, users that already are dealing with an existing installed PLM system are another (for obvious reasons).

The company also is claiming that, “The cloud is the perfect technology for PLM” and “If you can use a browser, you can use Autodesk PLM 360.” Ease of use and PLM typically have not been used in the same sentence, but would be another key aspect to confirm.

As far as pricing goes for PLM 360, the first 3 users are free . Additional regular users are $75/month/user.

Regardless of price, security has historically been one of the biggest barriers to wider PLM acceptance. Autodesk assures us that that piece has been thoroughly addressed – another point for confirmation.

Autodesk PLM 360 is available for signup and download now. The site is pretty comprehensive and the documentation for setting up and using Autodesk PLM 360 is a Wiki well worth the time getting educated on the product.

Autodesk has made a lot of claims regarding PLM 360 and I’ll reserve judgment on them until I’ve had some hands-on time to confirm or dispute the claims. Obviously, it’s still really early in the game to say that Autodesk PLM 360 is finally “PLM for Everyone,” but I suspect that there might be at least some truth to that claim.

The Week’s Top News

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the news items that were the most viewed during last week.

C&R Technologies and SpaceClaim Announce New Mesh Generation Module

C&R Technologies, SpaceClaim OEM partner and provider of comprehensive software for heat transfer analysis and fluid flow analysis and SpaceClaim announced a new model for CRTech SpaceClaim, Mesh Generation for SpaceClaim. CRTech SpaceClaim is an extension of SpaceClaim Engineer specifically for designers needing part- or system-level simulations of heat transfer and fluid flow, including thermal radiation, convection, and contact resistance. The new mesh generation module represents an advanced FEA mesher built into SpaceClaim, taking advantage of SpaceClaim’s features for importing, healing, and de-featuring third-party CAD drawings. More than just an advanced mesh generator for parts and assemblies, Mesh Generation for SpaceClaim allows analysts to define materials and optical properties, initial and boundary conditions, insulation, convection, and contact in preparation for active linking with CRTech’s Thermal Desktop suite. Updates to geometry and meshes are shared, so Thermal Desktop users can update their thermal models with a single button click.

Delcam gives BYD Auto shorter delivery times and higher quality

Delcam’s PowerMILL CAM software is helping to shorten delivery times and maintain high quality at the Press Tool Division of Chinese car-maker BYD Auto. BYD Auto is part of the BYD Group, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of batteries for mobile phones. The company has also designed and manufactured handsets and parts for Motorola, Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Samsung. Owner Wang Chuan-Fu moved into the automotive business in 2003 by buying the Chinese state-owned Qinchuan Automobile Company. Like other manufacturing operations within BYD, the press tool department divides its work between supplying the parent company and manufacturing tooling for other automotive companies. The department has used PowerMILL since 2006. During that time, the users have experimented with most of the strategies in the software to optimize the results it obtains from its machine tools. The programmers use the PowerMILL machining strategies both to improve the efficiency of the machining workshop and to reduce tool wear.

Stratasys Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary of Industry’s First Low-Priced 3D Printer: The Dimension

Stratasys announced the tenth anniversary of its Dimension 3D Printer line that brought 3D printing technology to a broad audience and accelerated the trend of 3D printer use.

Additive manufacturing industry consultancy, Wohlers Associates, affirms this trend in Wohlers Report 2011, noting “Additive manufacturing’s reach was previously relegated to high-tech laboratories at Fortune 100 companies, but it now extends to the smallest of organizations – and increasingly even to individuals.” When introduced in 2002 at $29,900, the Dimension 3D Printer opened new possibilities for designers as a reliable, compact, easy-to-use machine, at about half the cost of the next lowest-price 3D printer. The Dimension’s introduction enabled designers to not only produce models for design verification, but also test functionality because the printer uses durable ABS plastic. Today, Dimension 3D printers represent the majority of Stratasys’ installed base that accounts for a 41 percent global market share, and includes other Stratasys brands Fortus and uPrint 3D Printers.

Seiko Epson Corporation Selects Aras as Enterprise PLM Backbone

Aras announced that Seiko Epson Corp., a leading global developer of crystal devices has selected the Aras Innovator suite as its enterprise PLM backbone. Epson will leverage Aras for comprehensive, closed-loop product configuration management and quality manufacturing bill of materials management integrated with MES, as well as regulatory compliance for REACH and RoHS. With 23% of the global crystal device market, Epson devices serve as the heart for a wide range of electronic products for consumers and industry. Utilizing its innovative hybrid quartz microfabrication technology, QMEMS, Epson offers technological expertise in timing, sensing and optical devices.

Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at or 719.221.1867.

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