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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 »

AU 2013: Something For Everyone

December 10th, 2013 by Jeff Rowe

Last week we were at the Venetian in Las Vegas for what has to be the biggest spectacle in the CAD business — Autodesk University. While other cities could handle the crowd and serve as venues for AU, Las Vegas has been the destination for the annual event for a long time. Vegas is big, bold, easy to get to, and just a lot of fun to be around, even if you’re not into the “Vegas Lifestyle” — gambling, smoking, etc.

AU takes place at an odd time of year because it immediately follows Thanksgiving and is about four to five months prior to the new versions of Autodesk products being released. That said, though, there are always interesting product announcements made at AU.

AU 2013: Carl Bass (Autodesk President & CEO) – Cloud Products, Robots, and Creativity

From the MCAD side, Autodesk’s big news this year at AU was CAM in the cloud — CAM 360.

Based on HSMWorks (a 2012 Autodesk acquisition) kernel, CAM 360 is a cloud-based service that combines CNC programming, simulation, and design with collaboration and online project and data management in one product. Autodesk Fusion 360 modeling is built in to CAM 360 for tasks such as model prep and defeaturing.

CAM 360 is currently in beta and Autodesk said it would be generally available sometime next year, without committing to a specfic time frame. However, it is expected to cost $75 per month per user for 3-axis capabilities and $150 per month per user for 5-axis when they become available.

We were hoping to hear more about Autodesk’s pending acquisition of CAM giant, Delcam, but were told it is still in relatively early stages, and since both are publicly held companies, they are restricted as to what can be disclosed at this time. That all should change, though, in Q1 2014 when the deal is nearer completion. That will be a huge deal for both parties, as well as customers.

While detractors have certainly assailed or at least questioned Autodesk for getting into CAM, it makes a lot of sense for rounding out its tool sets for Autodesk’s Digital Prototyping philosophy – concept and detail design, rendering, presentation, simulation, and now manufacturing. CAM lets Autodesk come full circle for covering the entire process. An end-to-end workflow, if you will.

CAM 360 is the latest arrival in the cloud-based stable for Autodesk, and joins the company’s other manufacturing cloud service offerings, including Autodesk PLM 360, Autodesk Sim 360, and Autodesk Fusion 360. Several Autodesk employees we spoke with stressed that the company is not embracing the cloud just for the cloud’s sake, but rather for unlimited data storage, data availability anytime/anywhere, and collaboration.

“Two years ago, we launched PLM 360, creating a new paradigm for product lifecycle management,” said Robert “Buzz” Kross, senior vice president at Autodesk. “In September 2012, we broke down the barriers to testing and analysis with Sim 360. Last year, we ushered in a new era of cloud-based design with Fusion 360. And now, Autodesk delivers the final piece of the solution—manufacturing—with CAM 360.”

Yes, AU does provide something for everybody because the products and services offered by Autodesk are so diverse — MCAD, CAM, AEC, GIS, media/entertainment — and the list goes on. On the exhibit floor, CAD and CAM take up a relatively small amount of space compared with AEC, although there were a couple Haas CNC machines running and cutting metal. The exhibit floor is always interesting because while there are mega-booths, the really cool things are usually found at some of the smaller booths where partners show their technologies. A couple of things that caught our eye were portable 3D scanners and software plug-ins/add-ons for extending PLM 360 and connecting it to other systems, such as ERP.

Admittedly, while Las Vegas is not one of my favorite places, AU is an event I always look forward to attending because it is such a spectacle of old and new friends, customers, partners, new technologies, and the excitement of being a member of the engineering software community.

The next edition of Autodesk University will take place December 2-4, 2014 at Mandalay Bay hotel/casino in Las Vegas.

p.s. Thanks to everyone who stopped by our exhibit booth at AU to say “hello.” As always, it was good spending some time with our readers and partners.

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