I spent most of the week in Toronto at Autodesk Accelerate, a conference that discussed Autodesk’s manufacturing strategy going forward. The theme of the conference was “The Future of Making Things” (at least according to Autodesk), and in large part Autodesk succeeded in getting this message across with its Fusion 360.
For a long time Autodesk has tried to be everything to a wide range of industries – from manufacturing to mapping to architecture to entertainment. Some forays have been successful, some not so much, but that hasn’t stopped the company from trying. I personally was glad to see manufacturing return as a focus of Autodesk recently, because for the past couple years a focus has been, in my opinion, AEC and rebuilding the world. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but this focus left a lot for mechanical design/manufacturing customers wondering how committed the company was to them for the long haul.
After making a big noise about its investments in manufacturing, the company has divested itself of some interesting manufacturing products and technologies for a variety of reasons. Previously, and I’m dating myself, but it wasn’t all that long ago that Autodesk had dedicated manufacturing products, such as Mechanical Desktop and AutoCAD Mechanical (I was a big fan of both at the time). Then came the late arrival of Inventor for 3D design, but that’s story for another time. Finally, Autodesk has said to me that IoT is definitely in the center of their radar screen but what is there to show for it? Sure, IoT has a mechanical component, but it’s a lot more than just that, and it will become more prominent in Fusion over time.
Although I’m not much of a fan for Las Vegas per se, I do enjoy attending Autodesk’s annual spectacle that attracts at least 10,000 attendees to Sin City — Autodesk University.
This year’s event was markedly different than ones in the recent past. Different because:
This was the first AU presided over by Autodesk’s new President and CEO, Andrew Anagnost
The attention the Forge development platform received
AEC and construction seemed to take center stage for much of the event and the exhibit floor
Generative design and Fusion 360 were emphasized on the manufacturing side of the business
The Internet of Things (IoT) is getting a lot of attention fro Autodesk and will be coming out of the shadows very soon
The “cloud” was everywhere, including the addition of AnyCAD into Fusion 360
I’ll briefly discuss each of these bulleted items, but will cover each of them in more detail in coming weeks
Words From The New CEO
Having been the President and CEO of Autodesk since June, Andrew Anagnost took the stage the first day of AU in his relatively new role to talk about the theme of this year’s AU, which was designing more things, designing better things, and accomplishing this with less — materials, staff, resources, and time.
Andrew Anagnost, AU 2017 Keynote
Anagnost said the panacea for making this happen is automation that will actually increase jobs and productivity. We shouldn’t be so concerned about if automation take our jobs as we should be of the opportunities of where automation will take us. With so much happening so quickly on the automation and technology fronts, the problem is not so much a scarcity of jobs as it is a scarcity of skills to benefit from the opportunities.
An interesting numerical comparison he made that back in the day there were approximately 300,000 drafters in design, manufacturing, and architecture. Compare that to today’s approximately 10,000,000 design software users and you appreciate how things have changed by the sheer number of people involved on the creative design side.
This week Autodesk also announced that it has formed a new partnership with Village Capital to fund the creation of their workforce development and transition initiative, focused on entrepreneurship, job training, and upskilling in a world of automation. The company is also teaming up with LinkedIn Learning to offer free access to more than 40 courses in multiple languages, relevant to the architecture, infrastructure, construction, and manufacturing industries.
Technology can accelerate solutions to our most pressing problems, such as anticipated global population growth of 30 percent by 2050, but only if people are prepared work with machines in new ways. These are the latest moves in Autodesk’s efforts to prepare the workforce to thrive in a future that will require people to make and build more, do it better, and with less negative impact on the world.
Last month at the RAPID + TCT event, many new things were presented and among those was GE Additive’s setting a target of growing its new additive manufacturing business to $1 billion by 2020, and selling 10,000 metal 3D printing machines in 10 years, building upon acquisitions it announced last year.
“It’s a big number,” said Tim Warden, senior sales director of GE Additive. “That’s why they’re investing heavily,” he said, referring to GE.
GE controls Concept after agreeing last October to buy an initial 75% stake in the German company, with plans to acquire the rest over an undisclosed number of years. The GE Additive turned to Concept Laser after a previously announced deal with SLM Solutions fell through.
The company estimates that it ultimately can expand additive manufacturing into a $10 billion business. GE owns more than 70% of Arcam but doesn’t have full control of the Swedish company.
The following video shows GE Power’s advanced manufacturing facility in Greenville, SC to learn about GE Additive’s metal 3D printing process for creating a gas turbine component that is used to power homes.
GE Additive and the Power of Additive Manufacturing
For now, “We’re concentrating on Concept where we can do what we want to do,” Warden said. “We’re going to support Concept in every way possible.”
I spent this week in the beautiful city of Ghent, Belgium for a series of company and product overviews at Bricsys at an event the company called Bricsys Insights.
For me, this was an introduction to and company and product line I had heard about, but didn’t have much knowledge about. This week that all changed for the better.
As a company, Bricsys has taken on several iterations over the years since it was founded in 2002, and has emerged today as a real player in the CAD markets for both architectural and mechanical design applications. The company currently has 130-140 employees, the majority being developers, so it is efficiently run and product focused. (more…)
It’s said that all good things must come to an end, and last week at Autodesk, they did, with the resignation of Carl Bass, Autodesk’s President and CEO.
While at SOLDIWORKS World last week, I received an early morning email from an Autodesk spokesperson that the company was announcing that Carl Bass had decided to step down from his role as President and CEO. “With our subscription and cloud business well underway, Carl and the board have determined that now is the right time for Carl to step aside and let someone else guide the company into its next phase,” said the spokesperson.
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.