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March 21, 2005
Autodesk Updates Product Portfolio
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on MCADcafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
Each MCAD Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the MCAD industry, MCAD product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by MCADCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Autodesk Updates Product Portfolio

Autodesk announced new versions of its software portfolio, including more than 25 products that help its customers create, manage and share digital assets most effectively, to compete and win. These products provide best-in-class solutions for 2D design, basic conceptual design to advanced 3D modeling, animation, visualization, data management and collaboration. With across-the-board focus on productivity improvements, the latest suite of products and solutions enable customers in the manufacturing, building, infrastructure and media and entertainment industries to turn ideas into reality faster than ever before.

Autodesk is introducing innovative, industry-specific solutions that surpass all competitive offerings. In addition, the company is releasing the 20th version of AutoCAD, the de facto standard in 2D design and drafting for engineers and designers.

"The Autodesk 2006 suite of products offers quick implementation and ease of use, enabling our customers to realize new efficiencies quickly and enjoy a fast return on investment," said Carol Bartz, chairman, president and CEO of Autodesk. "Delivering the strongest product portfolio in our company's history is no small order, so I'd like to personally thank all of the product teams who have continued to execute flawlessly in helping our customers realize ideas for competitive advantage."

Autodesk's major new product releases include:
  • Autodesk Inventor 10, the world's best-selling 3D design software for the fourth consecutive year. Inventor 10 introduces comprehensive functional design features that effectively prevent "over-engineering" and save time and money on projects.
  • Autodesk Civil 3D 2006, the industry's only 3D civil engineering design program that features a dynamic engineering model to complete projects faster and more accurately.
  • Autodesk Map 3D 2006, which connects CAD and GIS data with unique geospatial tools. These tools create and manage map books that combine building and infrastructure details with precision location.
  • Autodesk Revit Building 8, incorporating state-of-the-art building information modeling (BIM) capabilities that let architects, designers and engineers work together on a single holistic representation of a building project, to save time and money in the design process.
  • AutoCAD 2006, the world's leading customizable and extendable CAD software for 2D and basic conceptual design, detailing and design documentation.
  • Autodesk Buzzsaw service which has been enhanced with project portfolio monitoring features and workflow improvements so that project teams can communicate, share, and track project information throughout the lifecycle of the project to keep on schedule and within budget
  • Autodesk DWF Composer and DWF Viewer, which enable design professionals to share and revise digital design documents with great accuracy and speed, while ensuring the integrity of all underlying information. Using this digital process, project teams reduce costs and eliminate the typical 2-3 day lag associated with traditional methods and incompatible formats.
  • Autodesk's approach to product design is simple: help customers realize their ideas -- and realize them quickly and easily. More than simply creating programs that run faster and take maximum advantage of advancements in computing, Autodesk works closely with its community to understand how they work. As a result of this collaboration, all of Autodesk's new products save time by reducing the number of steps in a given task or by making a process more intuitive. Whether being used to design a skyscraper, a bridge, a complex manufacturing machine, or a tiny consumer product, Autodesk's design solutions are purpose-built for their users.

    Since the first release of AutoCAD brought professional computerized design tools to the desktops of PC users, AutoCAD has been the industry standard. A constant stream of innovations has created a product with additional features and functions that make drafters and designers more productive and more efficient, while enabling them to share design data easily with others in the design process.

    That effort has culminated in the release of AutoCAD 2006, the 20th release of the program, which incorporates improvements to its interface for easier data input; annotation enhancements that speed changes to text, hatching and table calculations; and single-click conversion to Autodesk DWF format, allowing instant sharing of designs and related information with anyone through a free downloadable reader.

    AutoCAD 2006, 20th Version Of AutoCAD Released

    Autodesk announced the 20th release of AutoCAD and the latest release of AutoCAD LT software, with features that advance core drafting functions for more intuitive and faster design and drafting capability than ever before. With more than five million active licensed users worldwide, AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT are the world's most popular design software for projects as diverse as a state-of-the-art roller coaster in Las Vegas and the new Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. With the latest releases of AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT, design professionals can create, manage and share design information more efficiently to increase productivity and achieve their design and business goals simultaneously.

    "I have been using AutoCAD for 18 years and with each release comes a new level of innovation that makes designing easier and more efficient," said Darren Myles of LHT, a building design office in New Zealand. "The new drafting features in AutoCAD 2006 help us produce construction drawings more efficiently and accurately, which will save LHT countless hours in drafting time with improved productivity. AutoCAD is by far the best choice for design and drafting, from basic conceptual design representations to visual presentation."

    For 20 years, Autodesk has responded to customer and technological demands to evolve AutoCAD software with features that optimize digital design efficiency. Recent AutoCAD releases have been developed based on a roadmap that addresses themes or major categories of functionality that incorporate both design and process features to help users improve productivity by spending more time designing and less time drafting. Two-dimensional drafting remains the cornerstone of productivity in the design industry, and the enhanced conceptual design capabilities in AutoCAD 2006 offer functionality and productivity features that set new standards for the industry.

    "2D design software remains an integral part of the larger design software market. Users will continue to deploy 2D tools for automating drafting processes even as they embrace 3D across their industry-specific design efforts," says Sharon Tan, principal analyst with Gartner, Inc.

    AutoCAD 2006 is the latest in a series of releases that focused on solving significant customer challenges associated with a certain set of user issues. The new software focuses on minimizing the tedious tasks associated with everyday drafting and includes features such as:
  • Dynamic input, which gives customers the power of the command line at the graphics cursor, allowing them to focus on the design. Dynamic input displays dimensional information during geometry creation and makes it easy to edit.
  • Dynamic blocks, which allow access to multiple variations on a single block. Dynamic blocks dramatically reduce cumbersome block libraries and make it easy to modify block geometry during and after insertion for faster design changes.
  • Data Extraction Wizard, which automatically creates tables such as schedules, bills of material and price estimates. Users can sort and filter block information quickly and easily and combine it with their company's standard table styles, for accurate tables of data.
  • Annotation enhancements, which include easier text placement, improved hatching and enhanced table functions that perform common math expressions in and across cells, rows and columns.
  • One-click migration of customized files from earlier releases of the software to AutoCAD 2006.
  • AutoCAD LT, the world's best-selling 2D drafting and detailing software, is optimal for design professionals in all industries who require full DWF file format compatibility and core functionality without extended customization and visualization features.

    "The 20th release of AutoCAD marks an important milestone for the company and our customers," said John Sanders, vice president of Autodesk's Platform Technology Division. "What began as a software tool to help designers graphically represent their designs has evolved into an innovative solution used worldwide. Our customers have been extremely progressive in the ways they use AutoCAD, and we continue to advance the AutoCAD platform to serve their design needs."

    Autodesk AutoCAD 2006 and AutoCAD 2006 LT are available on March 22, 2005, in English, German, and Japanese.

    There have been more than a few comments on the Web this week regarding the release of AutoCAD 2006 information via Web logs (Blogs) prior to the end of the Beta NDA period and press embargo that journalists were expected to honor. That's all been covered elsewhere, so we won't bother with it here, especially because we didn't sign the NDA in December.

    Let's instead take a first look at a couple of the products of interest to mechanical designers - AutoCAD 2006 and Inventor 10.

    Now in its 20th iteration, AutoCAD 2006 once again proves that there is still life in 2D. Although there are some enhancements and improvements to the UI, the majority of the major change seem to be in drawings.

    Drawings created in AutoCAD are often composed of standard components (or blocks) that represent such things as fasteners or tubing. In AutoCAD, these standard components are often represented by blocks that help save time and standardize drawings by eliminating th need to redraw standard components. Blocks can number in the thousands at some companies and can be difficult to scale, place, or re-create. AutoCAD 2006 now has dynamic blocks that let you add dynamic behavior to existing block libraries, reducing the time spent manipulating blocks inside of a drawing.

    Introduced in AutoCAD 2005, the enhanced Sheet Set Manager helps you organize the multitude of drawings generated during most projects by collating them into logical sets and subsets that you can define. Sheets can be added or removed from sheet sets relatively easily using the Sheet Set Manager tool palette or a context-sensitive menu.

    Finally, AutoCAD 2006 has some new commands for inserting and manipulating annotation in your drawings. You now have a lot more flexibility and options when creating, formatting and aligning text and tables. Tables also now support mathematical expressions based on cell values.

    Those are just a couple of the highlights of AutoCAD 2006. Now on to 3D and Inventor 10.

    Although there are a number of enhancements and new features, the most prominent are those found in sketching, part modeling, the construction environment, quality check of imported data, and the Content Center parts library.

    Sketch improvements in the 2D environment include dimensions driven by equations are denoted by "fx:" in the graphics window, dimension visibility can be toggled off and on, and you can create lines and splines using precise coordinates.

    3D sketching builds on many of the techniques used in 2D sketches. For example, you can add constraints to sketch geometry, including a tangent constraint for splines, create 3D sketches using precise coordinates, switch dimensions to driven dimensions, dimension to geometry outside a 3D sketch(as long as one piece of geometry resides in a 3D sketch), and show a 3D sketch in a drawing view.

    Several areas (modeling, drawings, etc.) of Autodesk Inventor now "recognize" 3D sketch geometry. For example, derived parts and assemblies can include 3D sketches - select a sketch in the browser of the derived component to include it in the derived body. Also, a drawing view can include 3D sketch geometry.

    In the part environment, the Feature Generator provides a new way to edit extruded, revolved, and swept features so you can drag and drop predefined and custom features from the Content Center (parts library). You can modify a feature sketch with 3D Grips and see a preview of the effects of the modifications. The Feature Generator publishes authoring information directly to the Content Center rather than store it with the feature. The Author tool specifies parameters to be included with the published feature in addition to options required for the feature type, such as an axis for a revolved feature. You also can drag features and parts from the content library to a document.

    New tools in the construction environment let you manage, modify, inspect and repair imported data, including IGES and STEP. An interactive Quality Check tool analyzes surfaces and reports conditions that may prevent surface data from being less than totally useful in Inventor. You can analyze for geometry errors, topology errors, stitching errors, or ambiguous errors. If it gets hung up, you can stop the inspection process and restart it later. Results of a previous analysis are retained so that analyzed data is not re-inspected. You can clear all analysis results and start again. If error conditions are detected, they are listed and a repair method is suggested, and a link is provided
    to additional information about the error condition.

    The new Content Center provides content management, customization, and publishing capabilities. In addition to evolving the standard parts library, the Content Center provides a graphical utility for accessing and publishing content (parts and iParts), edit content, and search for content, and the ability to customize your view of the content, including access to commonly used components called "favorites."

    When version 1 of Inventor was released, admittedly, it was a little late out of the gate compared with the competition, but has gained ground, especially in the past few releases. This very preliminary look at Inventor, however, indicates that it's a good one. More to follow …

    Jeffrey Rowe is the editor and publisher of MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached here or 408.850.9230.

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    -- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.