In just about any industry or market segment you can think of, the words “cloud,” “mobile,” and “app” are about as ubiquitous as it gets. PLM is proving no different, although acceptance and implementation seem slow in coming. However, the tide is beginning to turn.
PLM, of course has received considerable support from large organizations, and is finally being embraced by significant numbers of SMBs. To date, the two biggest obstacles for SMBs considering PLM, much less implementing it, have been cost and complexity – whether real or perceived.
Although hardly the first or only one, a couple years ago Autodesk launched a major effort to bring PLM to the SMB masses with the introduction of cloud-based PLM 360. More recently it launched a PLM 360 app for iOS and Android mobile devices.
If you’ve been around the technical/engineering software business as long as I have, as with any business, nothing stays the same. This includes founders, executives, and other major players who were once prominent in the industry, but for many reasons have moved on. Some, to other companies in the industry, some to other industries, and some who have just plain disappeared. History never stands still and the CAx industry is no exception.
Although it’s a bit dated and based on a research project, check out the video below for a very short recap on the history of CAD:
A Short History of CAD
During the coming weeks and months we’ll try and track down players who were formerly very prominent in the MCAD arena and see what they’re up to now. Some of these folks include:
John Walker – Autodesk
Mike Riddle – Autodesk
Carol Bartz – Autodesk
Dominic Gallello – Autodesk
Dick Harrison – PTC
Steve Walske – PTC
Jim Meadlock – Intergraph
Joe Costello – Think3
Pat Hanratty — MCS
Martin Newell – Ashlar
Jon Hirschtick – SolidWorks
John McEleney — SolidWorks
Jeff Ray – SolidWorks
Jason Lemon – SDRC
Fontaine Richardson – Applicon
John Wright – United Computing (later Unigraphics)
Thomas Curry – MSC Software
Robert Bean – CADKEY
Obviously, this list only scratches the surface of possibilities. If there is anyone currently or formerly renowned in the CAD/CAM/CAE/CAx industry you would like to see us track down and update what they’re up to, send an email to me at email@example.com with a subject line that reads, “Where Are They Now?”, and we’ll do our best to respond in an upcoming blog on a person’s whereabouts and more recent accomplishments.
Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a series of four evaluation articles of CAD/PDM systems for SMBs.
Autodesk Vault Profession is one of three levels available from the company. Also available are Vault Basic and Vault Workgroup.
Vault Professional is a standalone application providing access to vault data. Integrated add-in clients for CAD and non-CAD applications are used to manage data. When working on files managed by any vault-type system, it is important to note that copies of files that are stored in the vault are checked out. Files are never directly edited in the vault; these files are read-only until they are checked out. In effect, copies of files are checked out of the vault for editing. In a vaulting scheme, a file can be checked out only by one user at a time. Changes made to checked out files are sent back to the server when a file is checked in.
Over the course of the past year, Autodesk has gotten heavily involved with the CAM side of product development.
As a case in point, relatively recently, Autodesk has made it clear that it intends to become a major force in CAM to round out its Digital Prototyping philosophy that also includes design and simulation. As examples to this CAM commitment, in the past year or so it has acquired HSMWorks (a relatively small step in CAM), and more recently announced its intention to acquire Delcam (a relatively giant leap in CAM).
It was really big news when, Autodesk announced its intention to acquire Delcam, one of the world’s leading suppliers of advanced software for manufacturing. The companies offer complementary ranges of software, with Autodesk’s programs for design (CAD) and engineering (CAE) able to be combined with Delcam’s strengths in manufacturing (CAM).
On completion of the acquisition, Delcam will become a subsidiary of Autodesk. It will maintain its focus on continued growth of its market share in the manufacturing sector, counting on added strength that will come from becoming part of a larger organization.
Both Delcam and Autodesk invest heavily in product development, and this will likely continue after the acquisition, as there is likely to be little overlap and duplication of effort.
Delcam is a publicly traded company and will be purchased with cash that Autodesk has stashed outside the U.S., keeping it there most likely for advantageous tax purposes and for opportunities for transactions like this one.
GibbsCAM and Autodesk Inventor Interoperability
Cimatron Limited, a developer of integrated CAD/CAM software for toolmaking and manufacturing, announced this week that its GibbsCAM software has been certified for Autodesk Inventor 2015 under the Autodesk Certified Apps Program. This marks the fourteenth consecutive year that GibbsCAM has been certified under the program.
GibbsCAM directly opens Autodesk Inventor part models, allowing CNC programmers and machinists to program machine tools from the models, extending cost reduction and efficiency through the programming and machining processes. GibbsCAM provides integration with Autodesk Inventor, by directly reading Autodesk Inventor IPT (part model) files, preserving all color information, features and attributes assigned within Inventor to provide continuity in recognizing and communicating part and feature attributes. Alternatively, with the GibbsCAM Autodesk Inventor Add-in, Inventor users can transfer files directly into GibbsCAM with the “Transfer to GibbsCAM” menu option of Inventor software running on the same workstation. Once machining processes are defined in GibbsCAM, they are automatically updated when the Inventor model is revised.
“We are gratified for our continuing partnership with Autodesk and for Autodesk’s recognition of GibbsCAM interoperability with Autodesk Inventor,” said Robb Weinstein, Senior Vice President of Sales and Strategic Planning of Gibbs and Associates, a Cimatron subsidiary. “Our commitment to joint customers around the world remains unchanged, despite changing marketplace dynamics, as we continue to optimize the CNC-programming power and flexibility GibbsCAM provides Autodesk users.”
“We are very pleased to have Gibbs and Associates affirm their continuing dedication to interoperability with Autodesk Inventor through Inventor certification for GibbsCAM,” said Carl White, Senior Director, Manufacturing Engineering, Autodesk. “Having companies like Gibbs and Associates as partners is highly beneficial to our manufacturing customers.”
In 2008, Gibbs and Associates merged with Cimatron Ltd., and is now operating as a wholly owned subsidiary.
The GibbsCAM product line supports 2- through 5-axis milling, turning, mill/turning, multi-task simultaneous machining and wire-EDM. GibbsCAM also provides fully integrated manufacturing modeling capabilities that include 2D, 2.5D, 3D wireframe, surface, and solid modeling. GibbsCAM is either offered or endorsed by a number of leading worldwide control and machine tool manufacturers, including GE Fanuc, Infimatic, Siemens, Doosan Infracore, DMG MORI, Haas, Index, MAG, Mazak, Mitsubishi, Okuma, and Tornos.
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.
Over the years, and with considerable interest, we have observed the ongoing consolidation of the technical/engineering software industry, and it continues unabated today. The consolidation occurs primarily through mergers and acquisitions, whether in whole or in part, but consolidation marches on.
We’ve witnessed consolidation in CAD, CAE, and more recently, CAM, and Autodesk has been a major participant in this consolidation. Relatively recently, Autodesk has made it clear that it intends to become a major force in CAM to round out its Digital Prototyping philosophy that also includes design and simulation. As examples to this CAM commitment, in the past year or so it has acquired HSMWorks (a significant, but relatively small step in CAM), and just last week announced its intention to acquire Delcam (a relatively giant leap in CAM).
Virtually since its inception, the CAD/CAM industry has always had its proponents, detractors, champions, pundits, and naysayers, and this diverse group of industry watchers continues to flourish today.
One of the most heated and opinionated debates that I’ve seen in quite some time came when HSMWorks was acquired by Autodesk a little over a year ago. Rumors circulated that HSMWorks was toast because Autodesk was going to kill it, owing to the fact at the time that the vast majority of HSMWorks CAM customers were also using it as an integration with SolidWorks. Well, as often happens, the rumors turned out to not exactly be as disastarous as claimed (or hoped for).
Last week, Autodesk reported financial results for the second quarter of fiscal 2014. Yes, that’s right, 2014. Although I’ve had this funky financial calendar explained to me, I still don’t quite get it. It’s sort of like cars that are introduced in January 2013, but they are 2014 models.
Anyway, Autodesk had some pretty mixed financial results company-wide for the quarter.
Carl Bass, Autodesk’s president and CEO said, “Our second quarter was marked by strength in our Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) business segment and continued growth in suites”. “Growth in these vital areas was offset by mixed contributions from other parts of the business. On the product side, we strengthened and expanded our leading product portfolio with new desktop, cloud and mobile offerings.”
What we take that to mean is AEC is doing well, but other major market segments, such as mechanical is doing OK, while media/entertainment continues to go down, with no prospect for real improvement in these segments anytime soon.
For example, revenue from the AEC business segment increased 9 percent to $177 million compared to the second quarter last year. On the other hand, revenue from the Manufacturing business segment increased just 2 percent to $144 million compared to the second quarter last year. Finally, revenue from the Media and Entertainment business segment decreased 11 percent to $43 million compared to the second quarter last year. Ouch on the last one.
For flagship products (such as standalone AutoCAD), revenue decreased 11 percent to $289 million compared to the second quarter last year, while revenue from suites increased 18 percent to $193 million. Suites are sweet for Autodesk.
For something a little more inspiring, check out the following video that shows some interesting “Behind the scenes” 3D printing news from Autodesk’s perspective.
Now back to Autodesk financial results . . .
Looking ahead to the future, Mark Hawkins, Autodesk executive vice president and CFO said, “With the recent introduction of more flexible license and service offerings that have ratable revenue streams, such as cloud-based and rental license offerings, Autodesk’s business model is evolving. We are currently refining our plans around the pace and time frame for this business model transition”
Admittedly, with the way Autodesk has changed internally, what it offers, and the way it offers its products, these results are not all that bad. The company is into a lot of things for the long haul, such as low-priced, cloud-based apps and subscription software that do not now and may never contribute greatly to the bottom line. Of course, this can’t go on forever, but the company has shown a higher degree of patience than in the past – good for customers, not so good for investors.
For many reasons, and these financial results notwithstanding, Autodesk fully acknowledges that it cannot afford to slip into any state of complacency or stagnation. The company has gambled on a number of technologies for “creators” through in-house development, as well as acquisitions. Autodesk seems to be financially willing and able to continue down this path, realizing that there will be some winners and some losers. In the end, though, Autodesk will have to remain at the forefront of innovation if it wants to maintain the status and stature it has in the many market segments it serves.
After several months in Beta, Autodesk today officially and commercially released Fusion 360 (formerly known as Inventor Fusion) — the newest member of Autodesk’s growing cloud-based products/services family.
Essentially, Fusion 360 is a conceptual design tool. I liken it to a relatively simple modeling tool where CAD meets social media for collaborative design. As an industrial designer myself, I was especially interested in what Fusion 360 could do as a conceptual design tool, so I signed up for the Beta program and had some hands-on time with it.
Check out the Fusion 360 overview video to get an idea of what it’s all about:
Fusion 360’s interface is pretty basic, so it doesn’t take long to start creating some shapes and forms. Keep in mind that a lot of 3D form creation is based on T-Splines technology (that Autodesk acquired), so it’s different than Inventor’s method.
For conceptual design, you’ll probably spend the majority of your time in the Sculpt (for creating organic forms) or Model (for creating solid geometry forms) workspaces. For repairing imported surfaces, you’ll use the Patch workspace.
At least initially, a slightly different mindset is required for using Fusion 360 because it is based on a hub-and-group premise. At the center is your personal hub, where you can create and participate in groups, and post items to, and monitor them. Each hub and group has a similar set of tabbed pages with areas called tiles that contain related information and tools.
As of today, Fusion 360 is commercially available and is free of charge for the next 90 days. After that it will set you back $25 per user per month with an annual contract commitment. So, for $300 a year you get a fairly capable conceptual design tool that I feel can fit into many collaborative product design workflows, as shown in the following video:
There’s a lot to learn and cover in Autodesk Fusion 360, and in the coming weeks, I’ll take you through some different design workflows that involve interacting with others — importing data, creating different types of models, refining designs, exporting design data to other CAD applications for other purposes, collaboration, etc. In other words, what you can realistically expect to do with Autodesk Fusion 360.
OK, so Autodesk Fusion 360 is just outta Beta, but is ready for prime time? With some reservations, I would say yes, no, and maybe. How’s that for commitment? I think it all depends on what your expectations are and how hard you want to push it. Admittedly, it’s come a long way, but in my opinion, still has some maturing to do before I’d truly consider it production-ready for sophisticated design purposes.
I like the potential of cloud-based applications, but like Adobe’s Creative Suite, I’m still coming to grips with the perception of data integrity and vulnerability, as well as a perpetual monthly fee. I guess, like many new users of cloud-based applications, I just have to get used to the inevitability of this brave new world. That said, though, with Version 1.0, Fusion 360 does have some limitations, but its potential is tremendous.
Over the weekend we learned that Autodesk had signed a definitive agreement to acquire Tinkercad, a browser-based 3D design tool/service that is relatively easy to use. The addition of Tinkercad makes a lot of sense for Autodesk and will further broaden its 123D family of apps. The acquisition will also rescue Tinkercad and its user community, despite a previously announced June 2013 shutdown by its founders.
“We are excited to have reached an agreement with Autodesk that will provide a solid home and bright future for Tinkercad,” said Kai Backman, founder and CEO of Tinkercad. “We found in Autodesk a shared vision for empowering students, makers and designers with accessible and easy to use software, and with their global reach and expertise in democratizing design, we’re confident in their ability to introduce Tinkercad to new audiences around the world.”
Introduction to 3D Modeling with Tinkercad
Autodesk said it intends for Tinkercad to remain available as part of its consumer portfolio. I assume this also includes Tinkercad’s four pricing tiers: $0-$499/month. The company also intends to incorporate elements of the Tinkercad technology and user experience into the Autodesk 123D family of products. The transaction is expected to close within the next 30 days, although (as usual) no financials were disclosed.
“Tinkercad is a natural extension of the Autodesk 123D family as well as our other apps and services for consumers, as it is already used alongside Autodesk products,” said Samir Hanna, Autodesk vice president, consumer products. “We look forward to welcoming the Tinkercad community to Autodesk and to continuing their mission of accessible 3D design for all.”
Summarizing the acquisition, Backman said, “Before signing the deal we spent a lot of time talking to Autodesk engineers and product people about their vision for Tinkercad. We were impressed by the deep insight the Autodesk team had into the Tinkercad interface and its underlying technology. There is also a strong alignment on topics like furthering education and the vision of making design more accessible. But most of all we are very excited about the roadmap Autodesk has drafted for Tinkercad.”
This acquisition is good news for Tinkercad principals and users, and should be a good addition to the Autodesk 123D portfolio and its users. The companies are also located less than a mile apart, so the commute won’t be too bad for either party during the transition period.