Along with almost 10,000 other attendees, I was in Las Vegas this week at Autodesk University and am still trying to comprehend if I’ve just seen the future of manufacturing.
To a large extent, Autodesk’s vision for the future of making things stems from what it calls generative design.
So what is generative design? According to Autodesk’s official definition, generative design mimics nature’s evolutionary approach to design.
AU 2016: The Future Of Making Things
In the digital realm, designers and engineers input design goals into generative design software, along with parameters, such as manufacturing methods, materials, and cost constraints. Using cloud computing, the software quickly explores all possible permutations of a solution, generating design alternatives. The software then tests and learns from each iteration what works, what doesn’t, and what works best.
In other words, with generative design, there is not necessarily a single solution to a problem, instead, there are potentially thousands of solutions that address the initial problem.
IMTS is all about the many aspects of manufacturing from a technology standpoint, so it’s only natural that a lot of the major CAM vendors were represented on the exhibition floor.
During the course of IMTS 2016 we visited and talked with several CAM vendors on what they specifically were showing at the event, as well as their take on the CAM industry in general.
Almost without exception, every CAM vendor we spoke with talked of faster rates for increased efficiency/productivity, greater levels of automation with less operator intervention required, better integration with CAD, ability to handle a broader range of machines, tools, and materials, new roughing and finishing strategies, and so on. Some touted cloud-based capabilities and the ability to exploit the benefits of model-based design. Admittedly, though, with fancy new wrappers, some of the CAM tools were basically repackaged with aging technology more than a decade old underlying a new user interface. However, there were some notable exceptions, and these really stood out from the pack as CAM innovations.
What follows are the results of some of the conversations we had while looking for the latest and greatest in CAM software and what was truly new.
At IMTS 2016 Autodesk ushered in its new 2017 CAM products for many advanced manufacturing applications ranging from CNC mill- and lathe-programming to complex mold and die manufacturing that combine the legacy in CAM software from Delcam with Autodesk’s 3D design and manufacturing software.
Last week Autodesk announced several updates to its Forge platform, including new cloud application development tools, and three investments at Forge DevCon, the company’s inaugural event for cloud developers.
Since its inception in December 2015, Autodesk claims that rapid progress has been made with early adopters of the Forge Platform in changing both what and how things are made, and at transforming “the future of making things.”
The Forge Program consists of three main components; the Forge platform (PaaS), developer program, and a $100M investment fund. The cloud-based Forge Platform features APIs and SDKs developers can use to create design, engineering, visualization, collaboration, and other types of enterprise applications. The Forge developer program aims to bring together a community of cloud application developers by providing application development resources. (more…)
In a major move last week, Autodesk and Siemens announced an interoperability agreement aimed at helping manufacturers decrease the huge costs associated with incompatibility among product development software applications and avoid potential data integrity problems. Through this agreement, Autodesk and Siemens’ product lifecycle management (PLM) software business will take steps to improve the interoperability between their companies’ respective software offerings. The agreement brings together two CAD heavy hitters with the common goal of streamlining data sharing and reducing costs in organizations with multi-CAD environments (and these days, who doesn’t have a multi-CAD environment?).
The interoperability agreement aims to decrease the overall effort and costs commonly associated with supporting these environments. In particular, the companies are hoping that interoperability between the offerings from Siemens and Autodesk will significantly improve the many situations where a combination of each other’s software is used. Under the terms of the agreement, both companies will share toolkit technology and exchange end-user software applications to build and market interoperable products.
“Interoperability is a major challenge for customers across the manufacturing industry, and Autodesk has been working diligently to create an increasingly open environment throughout our technology platforms,” said Lisa Campbell, vice president of Manufacturing Strategy and Marketing at Autodesk. “We understand that our customers use a mix of products in their workflow and providing them with the flexibility they need to get their jobs done is our top priority.”
“Incompatibility among various CAD systems has been an ongoing issue that adversely affects manufacturers worldwide and can add to the cost of products from cars and airplanes to smart phones and golf clubs,” said Dr. Stefan Jockusch, Vice President, Strategy, Siemens PLM Software. “Siemens has been at the forefront in helping to resolve this incompatibility issue with a wide variety of open software offerings that significantly enhance interoperability. This partnership is another positive and important step in our drive to promote openness and interoperability and to help reduce costs for the global manufacturing industry by facilitating collaboration throughout their extended enterprises.”
For as long as I can remember, cloud storage and computing have offered only one thing – endless promises and perpetual growth. For a while that was true, but some things have happened in the past couple of years that temper those claims and may portend what may happen in the future for technology providers that become increasingly reliant on the cloud – layoffs.
Cloud computing, or internet-based computing provides shared processing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand. From the beginning it was intended as a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort.
Proponents have always claimed that cloud computing allows companies to avoid upfront infrastructure costs, and focus on projects that differentiate their businesses instead of on infrastructure. Proponents have also claimed that cloud computing allows enterprises to get their applications up and running faster, with improved manageability and less maintenance, and enables IT to more rapidly adjust resources to meet fluctuating and unpredictable business demand. Cloud providers typically use a “pay as you go” model. This can lead to unexpectedly high charges if administrators do not adapt to the so-called cloud pricing model.
To a large extent most of these claims have proven true, and I have been a proponent for many aspects of cloud computing, but there is also a downside – generally, you just don’t need as many people to run and maintain a cloud-based organization.
The downside is that you will have limited customization options. Cloud computing is cheaper because of economics of scale, and like any outsourced task, you tend to get what you get. A restaurant with a limited menu is cheaper than a personal chef who can cook anything you want. Fewer options at a much cheaper price: it’s a feature, not a bug and the cloud provider might not meet your legal needs. As a business, you need to weigh the benefits against the risks.
In its latest legal challenge and triumph, Autodesk as plaintiff and WCAD Software Co., Ltd., ZWCAD Design Co., Ltd., HK ZWCAD Software Ltd., and GLOBAL FORCE DIRECT, LLC. (doing business as ZWCADUSA) (collectively, ZWSoft) have agreed to settle lawsuits pending in the Hague and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
In these lawsuits, Autodesk alleged that the AutoCAD source code had been misappropriated and improperly used when developing ZWCAD+. Autodesk had filed suit before the Hague in the Netherlands in February 2014 and in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in March 2014.
Although it initially denied the allegations, ZWSoft’s subsequent internal investigation revealed that an employee had, in fact, improperly used AutoCAD intellectual property when developing ZWCAD+ (another AutoCAD wanna be) and concealed it from ZWSoft’s management team. This sounds something akin to the VW emissions fiasco, and you have to wonder; how could this happen without the knowledge of management?
After the “discovery,” ZWSoft and Autodesk worked to assess and remedy the inappropriate use of Autodesk’s intellectual property. Upon learning these facts and admitting fault, ZWSoft stopped selling ZWCAD+. Customers who purchased ZWCAD+ are eligible for a free replacement version of ZWCAD Classic.
Check out the video below that demonstrates some of the features of ZWCAD+ 2015. Does it look or feel much like AutoCAD? You be the judge.
A day before its official release, I spoke with a couple of Autodesk Fusion 360 staffers, Daniel Graham, Fusion 360 Senior Product Manager and Bill Danon about what to expect in the newest update.
The biggest news was the inclusion of simulation capabilities in Fusion 360 – at no additional cost – at least not for now or the foreseeable future. That in itself is pretty significant. Of course, there were some other improvements and enhancements, but let’s start with simulation
Simulation in Fusion 360 lets you perform linear stress analysis that assumes linear elastic behavior and infinitesimally small displacements and strains, as well as modal analysis for study the dynamic properties of structures undergoing vibration. With Fusion 360 simulation you can define materials, add constraints, and add loads to solve for weaknesses in assemblies, within the design environment.
When in the Fusion 360 design environment, a workspace labeled “SIM” under the workspace switcher is where you choose from two types of simulation studies: Static Stress and Modal Frequencies.
For many years all of the major CAD vendors have been touting the importance of managing the mountains of design, engineering, and manufacturing data created using their software. Conversely, most manufacturing organizations, large and small, have made the transition from 2D to 3D and are finally investigating how to best manage these mountains of CAD and associated product development data beyond files, folders, Excel spreadsheets, Window Explorer, and FTP servers.
It is estimated that approximately 70% of commercial CAD seats today still are not connected to any product data management (PDM) system, and the CAD/PDM/PLM companies are very aware of this situation and are doing everything possible to change it. It has come down to an aggressive SMB-marketing of existing “scaled down” or “right-sized” PLM solutions, as well as introducing of new opportunities by leveraging cloud and open source solutions.
The biggest challenge in the SMB space is promoting an answer to the question, “Why change?” At the end of the day, if a company can get things done by using Excel, Office and email, a very compelling alternative solution to change is needed. Small doesn’t necessarily mean simple. Small- and medium-sized business is complicated and competitive. Cost and implementation challenges are still two key elements that every vendor struggles with when trying to provide a viable PDM solution for SMBs.
Various sources claim the following benefits of PDM, including:
30 percent to 70 percent shorter development time
65 percent to 90 percent fewer engineering changes
20 percent to 90 percent faster time to market
200 percent to 600 percent higher quality
20 percent to 110 percent higher productivity for engineers
While these are impressive figures, many SMBs are still not convinced of the benefits of PDM and remain on the fence as to whether to implement it or not. This indecision presents both a challenge and an opportunity for making believers of SMBs in PDM.
Generic Product Data Management Overview (From Wikipedia)
Organizations implement PDM for many different reasons, but virtually all implement with common goals, including:
Securely controlling product-related information
Sharing product knowledge for collaboration
Searching for and reusing product information.
The two biggest words and phrases that resonate with SMBs regarding PDM are “preconfigured process workflow” and “design reuse.”
As much as I have tried to resist the temptation to gush all over myself, I’ve had a tough time restraining my enthusiasm for the myriad cloud-based computing and storage options that have come online in the recent past and their potential. OK, it’s time for a reality check – facts, fallacies, myths, and risks.
Keep in mind, though, that Onshape is online only and always requires a Web connection to be functional. With connectivity so universally ubiquitous, this shouldn’t pose a problem for a majority of prospective users. At this time, the company has no plans for making Onshape available offfline, so if this is an issue or concern, then Onshape may not be a design tool for you. However, that said, I’d encourage you to check out Onshape.
Also, I pointed out that as interesting Onshape is, it is by no means the first or only cloud-based technical/design/engineering software offering. As a matter of fact, it turns out there are quite a few, including:
Admittedly, this is not an exhaustive list, and is not meant to be. I just wanted to provide some of the cloud-based tools currently available. I also realize that the above have different features and capabilities, so it’s not an “apples to apples” comparison.
While the following video is a few years old, and some of the technologies discussed have been superseded or retired, it provides a good overview for novices of what cloud computing is about.
San Francisco is always a great destination, but even more so when the weather is sunny and warm as it was this week while we attended the REAL 2015 Summit, Autodesk’s initial foray into making sense of a term it coined – reality computing. In Autodesk’s vernacular, creating data is what ultimately is used to create reality, but more about what that actually means later.
REAL 2015 was nothing like any company-sponsored event I had ever attended. It was all about 3D capture (scanning/sensing), computing (modeling), and creating (additive/subtractive manufacturing). It was more like a sophisticated maker faire than a traditional trade show. I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical about coming to REAL 2015, thinking it was going to be a 2 ½ day Autodesk sales pitch/advertisement to a captive audience, but was pleasantly surprised that it was nothing of the sort, and was more analogous to a TEDx event, which is a very good thing.
Capture was put into the context of sensing that is becoming ever more ubiquitous (think smartphone cameras); Compute was about the cloud, mobility, social media, and analytics; and Create was about the increase of accessible fabrication. These three branches were talked about going from feasible to transformational, as well as Autodesk’s initiative as a company of then transforming implications to applications.