WHILE the actual number of visitors to this year’s Autodesk University was down 30% to just under 6000, an estimated 20,000 attended via a video link on AU Virtual from over 100 countries, making it the most successful AU to date.
Held at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas last week (December 1 — 3), the event offered design engineers a valuable insight into Autodesk’s latest products and future direction.
The event highlighted a series of real-world applications of digital prototyping, designed to inspire manufacturers with better ways to design and manufacturer leading products for competitive advantage.
Carl Bass, Autodesk’s CEO, said the company is developing systems that enable users to move between tools easier, “with more interoperability”.
“We are also developing more simulation and analysis tools to make design engineers more productive,” Bass said.
However, web-base computing – cloud computing was a reoccurring theme for Bass during his keynote address. Describing it as a “long monitor cable”, Bass said the price points are shifting for users.
“For those companies using computer heavy software, it makes sense to use someone else’s computing power.”
Bass believes in three to five years it will become far more common, despite IP concerns by users.
Of interest to Autodesk users and non-users alike was the preview debut of Inventor Publisher on Autodesk Labs.
Publisher is described as an easy-to-use software for creating interactive, 3D product documentation that delivers clear and comprehensive technical instructions.
Historically, product documentation has been dominated by 2D manuals that are text-heavy and confusing. Publisher is designed to improve the user experience by producing documentation such as assembly instructions and operating procedures or repair and maintenance guides that are 3D, highly visual and easy to understand.
With Publisher, product manufacturers can easily create highly detailed technical illustrations and animations without any prior animation experience.
Tools specifically designed for creating documentation work directly with the digital CAD data to automatically create exploded views and view sequences or generate full-motion animations illustrating a process from multiple viewpoints.
“Publisher helps us to more clearly communicate complex instructions with 3D and impressive animation,” said John Cay, project design engineer at ContiTech Beattie, a leading supplier of specialist hoses and fluid handling systems for the international oil and gas industry.
“That helps us create a better customer experience and reduces the chances of operator error,” Cay said.
Once authored, documentation can be published in a variety of formats including SWF, AVI, DWF, PPT, PDF, and other common image file types. This documentation can then be made available on the web or delivered electronically via email.
Publisher is said to benefit manufacturers as well as end users. Part of the Autodesk Solution for Digital Prototyping, Publisher provides the ability to produce documentation directly from the digital prototype, reducing rework and inefficiencies. And because documentation can be developed concurrently with the design process, companies can start creating their product documentation sooner — allowing for faster time to market.
Autodesk is offering a free download of Publisher, simply visit http://labs.autodesk.com.
3D Printed Jet Engine
Also at AU 2009, Autodesk and Stratasys unveiled the world’s first 3D print of a life-size commuter jet turbo prop engine.
The engine, which includes some functional, moving parts such as the propellers, is designed exclusively in Autodesk Inventor software by Nino Caldarola, an aerospace designer and engineer based in Manitoba, Canada, who currently is an application engineer with Autodesk reseller IMAGINiT.
The 10 foot by 10 foot engine, comprising nearly 200 ABS plastic parts, was on display in the AU Design Matters pavilion and will permanently reside in the Autodesk Gallery.
According to Autodesk, in a manufacturing industry context, a 3D print of this sophistication could help aerospace engineers validate the digital prototype, conduct analysis and determine how components will fit together.
Expanded Marketing Channel for Building Product Manufacturers
Also at AU 2009, Autodesk announced that it is expanding the Autodesk Seek web service to include additional targeted marketing channels for building product manufacturers (BPMs) that will help them reach and engage commercial and residential design professionals as well as homeowners.
Autodesk is connecting Autodesk Seek to two Autodesk technology previews, Project Dragonfly, a home design application, and Project Showroom, an interactive web service that enables users to mix and match products in lifelike room settings.
“Through technology and economic shifts, the building industry is in the midst of a rapid evolution that is requiring changes from building product manufactures to reach their customers,” said Jeff Wright, senior director, Autodesk Content Network.
“Overall marketing budgets are down, yet designers are demanding richer information packaged for their specific needs from manufacturers. Having recognized this need, Autodesk is expanding the Seek web service to offer building product marketers a scalable, high-impact channel to connect with their target customers and measure their engagement.”
Seek is a web service that provides building designers with branded and generic building product models and associated design content via a web browser or directly from AutoCAD and Revit-based software applications.
Designers can use Seek to quickly search and embed building products — including 3D models, 2D drawings and performance data — in their projects, which can greatly facilitate the building information modelling (BIM) process.
First launched in 2008, Seek has grown to encompass more than 36,000 products from nearly 1,200 manufacturers.
Dacor, a leading US luxury kitchen appliance design, manufacturing and distribution company, is now offering customers the ability to design, visualize and experiment with their products using Project Dragonfly, an intuitive and highly engaging, free web application that homeowners can use to configure room designs and layouts on the fly from any computer or browser.
“Technology offers new ways to engage with customers and provide a more personalized experience. As we evolve our marketing plans to take advantage of this, it made sense to partner with Autodesk given their strong customer base of professional designers and history of innovation in the manufacturing and AEC industries,” said Steve Joseph, vice president of marketing at Dacor.
“The combination of Autodesk Seek, Project Dragonfly and Project Showroom will help Dacor reach and connect with designers, give our customers the opportunity to directly participate in the design process, and help our company realize significant cost savings on set construction and product photography.”
Dacor plans to take advantage of the new integration between Autodesk Seek and Project Showroom, a hosted service for delivery of “synthetic photography” that building product manufacturers can provide via their websites.
Using Project Showroom, Dacor will offer a branded version of Showroom on its website that will enable visitors to mix and match products and create photorealistic room settings that show how the combined design, products, colours and lighting will look.
For more information about Autodesk Seek, Project Dragonfly and Project Showroom visit http://seek.autodesk.com, http://projectdragonfly.autodesk.com, http://showroom.labs.autodesk.com.