u p F r o n t . e Z i n e
t h e b u s i n e s s o f c a d
Issue #685 | April 5, 2011
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In This Issue
1. Autodesk Mfg'ing Press Day 2011
- The Next Big Thing
- Miscellaneous Notes
2. Programming Languages and AutoCAD, Part 2
by Patrick Emin
3. Out of the Inbox
Autodesk Mfg'ing Press Day 2011
It's becoming a pleasant pattern that Autodesk's Manufacturing division annually invites a few members of the CAD media to its headquarters outside of Portland Oregon USA at the end of March. The group of journalists is the usual gang, plus a few newcomers. See figure 1. This year, I met a German-speaking reporter from Brazil, and a British-speaking one from Britain. (I felt sorry for the few that immediately afterwards had to rush off to another event in Copenhagen, glad that I could hang out an extra day in wonderful downtown Portland with my wife.)
Figure 1: Editors enjoying chatter over lunch in Autodesk's Lake Oswego office.
For extensive coverage of the day's events, read my 2,400-word report and see the photos in "Live blog: Adesk Mfg'ing Press Day 2011" at http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/blog/2011/03/live-blog-adesk-mfging-press-day-2011.html
Buzz Kross (full title: Senior Vice President of the Manufacturing Industry Group at Autodesk) began with a condensed version of the financial overview he gave during a Webcast the previous week. (See upFront.eZine #864.)
Suites were emphasized, naturally, since Autodesk is pinning its future financial growth on y'all snapping up these software packages that cost more overall, but give you more software at a lower price. This is probably why ceo Carl Bass decided to dispense with seat counts last year, since suites make seat counts meaningless. Who knows how much of a suite's individual products are used?
Each suite comes in three steps, Standard, Premium, and Ultimate. For instance, here are the stages for the one named "Design Suite":
1. Standard suite ($4,295; save 31%):
Sketching (SketchBook Designer; $525) and sculpting (Mudbox; $745) -> drawings (AutoCAD; $3,995 by itself) -> direct modeling (Fusion; free) -> visualization (Showcase; $995)
2. Premium suite ($4,995; save 49%):
Adds 3D Studio Max ($3,495) for animations.
3. Ultimate suite ($5,995; save 56%):
Adds Alias Design ($3,995) for conceptual modeling and surfacing. (Be forewarned: Alias Designer is no longer integrated into Inventor 2012, but runs as a separate app, like Fusion. Credit Deelip Menezes.)
But any story, no matter how suite, becomes repetitive when heard too often, and this was our third exposure ro the wonderful world of suites in just eight days. As the day went on, cracks in the story became apparent to us. Here are examples of some problems:
- Autodesk insisted that these suites are not mere bundles, but interoperative pieces of software. Yet the only one that made sense to use was Factory Design Suite, because all of its software is oriented to a single task -- designing factory floor layout in 2D, 3D, and animation.
- Suites include Mudbox, software no engineer would spend time learning to use, yet leave out Publisher, a key final step of the design process.
- There is a "suite" that bundles AutoCAD LT and Inventor LT (already available in earlier years) but inexplicably leaves out Fusion. (It must be downloaded from Labs, but presumably is not "integrated.")
- Fusion is in (nearly) every bundle, but is poorly integrated. Each time you switch from AutoCAD to Fusion, you wait 10-15 seconds (on fast computers). Deeplip Menezes determined that Autodesk forces Fusion to unload each time you return to AutoCAD, something that makes little sense for those of us with multi, multi-gigabyte systems.
- The lower package pricing of suites means lower revenues for dealers, we suppose.
- Although Autodesk has software for Linux and OS X systems, the bundles are by necessity Windows-only.
- Although suites are being emphasized, a number are not yet ready.
There are bright sides to suites:
- One license manages an entire suite.
- The software is delivered on a read-only 32GB USB drive, instead of dozens of DVDs. (We did not receive a sample copy of the software, as in previous years.)
- If you are on subscription, then you will move to a related suite for free.
- Nearly all suites throw in visualization and animation from the Media + Entertainment division, nearly for free. The more expensive a suite you buy, the more you get.
This last point puzzled us. Why would Autodesk leave $2,795 (net of the retail price) worth of revenue on the table for software as popular as 3D Studio? When editor Martyn Day asked the question, he did not get an answer to the question.
The Next Big Thing
Autodesk told us the Next Big Thing will be Web services -- their word for the cloud. The details were few, however. While there are "true" cloud apps like AutoCAD WS, it seems that the bulk of it would be downloadable content, not apps.
The one example given was of assets for Factory Floor Design that will be available for download by subscribers (only!) later this year. There was no new information on Autodesk's earlier announcements of hopefully doing renderings or FEA on the cloud.
Of all competitor products mentioned (and that was rare), Rhino got the most mentions, an indication of who Autodesk considers the greatest threat.
A question I forgot to ask: why does AutoCAD 2012 import 3D models from competitors like Pro/E, Catia, and SolidWorks, but not from complimentary software, like Inventor? I suspect the answer might be that AutoCAD imports Inventor-DWG files; however, AutoCAD's new ViewBase command directly imports Inventor's part, assembly, and presentation files -- albeit only as 2D representations.
The Android version of AutoCAD WS should be ready any day now. When it does go live, it will be at http://www.autocadws.com/android and will become Autodesk's first product for the top selling smartphone operating system.
Autodesk is pleased to have spent a half-billion dollars acquiring a variety of simulation software packages, and showed a slide the extent of their collection. I asked where the holes were: what areas of simulation are still missing. I didn't get a straight answer, other than there are some more acquisitions to come, and that some would be programmed in-house.
When AutoCAD Mechanical 2012 was demo'ed to us (and yes, it's still around), I noticed that all the features shown to us were actually part of core AutoCAD, except for updated templates. When I asked if there was nothing else new, I learned that there were other peripheral improvements, such as to BOMs.
While the new Content Explorer is fairily empty in AutoCAD 2012, it comes with around three-quarters of a million parts in AutoCAD Electrical.
When an editor asked Mr Kross about SolidWorks, he said he doesn't think about his biggest competitor. (He never once mentioned SolidWorks in his Webcast of the previous week.) When challenged by a statement he made a couple of years ago (that SolidWorks keeps him awake at night the most), he half-heartedly acknowledged that . Autodesk's strategy has pivoted away from attacking SolidWorks directly and frequently to ignoring them.
One reason for bundling disparate software products (like Mudbox) with AutoCAD is that Autodesk hopes users will stumble upon new uses for this software.
[Disclosure: Autodesk provided me with hotel accommodation, some meals, and travel assistance.]
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Programming Languages and AutoCAD, Part 2
by Patrick Emin
[Part 1 was presented in upFront.eZine #683.]
To be a good programmer, you must have certain qualities. You must have logic, must know the field of application, such as AutoCAD, have to be able to understand specifications, know how to build projects and algorithms, and then write the code. (For LISP, however, it is not necessary to know the intricacies of how a computer works, not even how work a compiler. This is probably one reason for the popularity of LISP. It is accessible to non-specialists.)
Then much later, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) arrived, and more recently the.NET environment, which was presented to us by Microsoft as the pinnacle of development environments. At that point, the poor VBA was slowly abandoned -- despite the many services it had rendered.
Did VBA became a bad language? Is LISP obsolete?
No, not at all. VBA was abandoned, because Microsoft decided it so; Autodesk still makes VBA available as a separate download even with AutoCAD 2012, but warns it will be obsoleted in a future release. What do we have instead? Well, we still have the old LISP rendering services, unless you need to program dialog boxes, in which case you'll have to learn to handcode DCL as well. And then, of course, there is the famous .NET Visual Studio that Microsoft is pushing, along with its Autodesk partner.
Only now it is more difficult. We can't switch from an appropriate language, such as AutoCAD LISP, for a language still quite suitable, such as AutoCAD VBA. Instead, we switch from two languages (LISP and VBA) that are somewhat complementary for an environment with several programming languages, which is quite clearly a tool for professionals. That is the node of the problem.
We hear that .NET is better, faster, more powerful, but we also hear little voices saying "Best is the enemy of good enough." Over the decades, we've moved from a very high level language, LISP, to a language that operates at a lower level, VBA, to languages at even lower levles, Visual Basic, C#, and/orr F# in the .NET environment. To be forced to move from a high level language to low level language does not seem to me we are raising the level; instead, we are likely to soon touch the floor. Nothing less than that.
[Patrick Emin is an AutoCAD and Android programmer, and runs numerous helps sites, such as www.acadnetwork.com and autocad.shapado.com. This article was reprinted by permission from http://www.acadnetwork.com/topic-80.0.html]
Part 3 will appear in a future issue of upFront.eZine.
DraftSight is a no cost*, easy-to-use 2D CAD product that generally takes a few minutes to download and runs on multiple operating systems, including Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and the Mac.
Out of the Inbox
Forget cloud computing. Reverse engineering is the rage, as the press releases filling my Inbox reveal:
Delcam takes the functions of its CopyCAD reverse engineering software and plunks it into PowerSHAPE Pro 2011, their 3D CAD system that uses traingle modeling. Customers on maintenance get it free, which means they can creates CAD models from all types of digitised scan data. http://www.delcam.com
Rand Worldwide updates launched Scan to BIM ($2,495) for creating geometry in Revit 2012 from scan data: 3D walls, piping and ductwork (MEP only), topology, automed section placement and 3D views, and slab deformations. http://imaginit.com/scantobim
ClearEdge3D releases Edgewise Plant for automatically extracting CAD geometry from 3D point cloud data using algorithms that identify surfaces. Download a trial version from http://www.clearedge3d.com
Chameleon 3D haptic design software from A1 Technologies is an alternative to 3D CAD. It takes input from a haptic arm, and constructs a 3D model of what it felt. http://www.a1-tech.co.uk/chameleon.asp
CCE's new release of EnSuite for reverse engineering and rapid prototyping now compares native CAD data with scanned point cloud data and STL files. http://www.cadcam-e.com
Extensible CAD Technologies announces that its InspectionXpert now supports Catia V5, because of "Rand Worldwide's recent announcement that it will no longer sell or support its Functional Tolerance and Annotation and First Article Inspection tools," they say. http://www.extensiblecad.com
And Riegl's VZ-1000 laser scanner gets long-range scans through echo digitization and online waveform analysis. It's accurate to 5mm at up to 1.400km (0.85 miles), measuring up to122,000 points per second. http://www.3dlasermapping.com
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These were some of the news items that were posted during the last week at our WorldCAD Access blog <worldcadaccess.typepad.com>:
- The Wengerd Report: AutoCAD 2012's EULA is now 60,000+ characters. Be sure to read them all. by Owen Wengerd
- Live blog: Adesk Mfg'ing Press Day 2011
Spin Doctor of the Moment
"An iPad with a keyboard, a mouse, and a case -- you'll be at $1500 or $1600..."
- Andy Lark, global head of marketing for large enterprises, Dell Computer. [iPad with keyboard and case is $800; it does not work with mice.]
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Entire contents copyright 2011 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $250 and up. All trademarks belong to their respective holders. "upFront.eZine," "The Business of CAD," and "On your desktop every Tuesday morning" are trademarks of upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. Letters to the editor may be edited for clarity and brevity. Translations and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.