the business of cad


Issue #762 |  January 29, 2013
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In This Issue


1. Autodesk Talks About the HSM Acquisition

   - Unique to HSMworks

   - New in HSMworks 2013

   - Why Autodesk Chose HSMworks

   - Q&A

   - What Ralph Grabowski Thinks


2. Out of the Inbox, and our other regular columns.



Autodesk Talks About the HSM Acquisition

Since Autodesk acquired HSMworks, there has been some "bad information," and so Autodesk last week set up interviews with the CAD media to talk about their plans for their new CAM software.


Ralph Grabowski spoke with Autodesk director of manufacturing engineering Carl White, who is responsible for HSMworks and Factory Design Suite manufacturing and production software), and product manager Anthony Graves. They were calling from Orlando, Florida, because "We are having user and reseller conferences here in Florida. We are talking to the HSM user group, and we have signed up 22 of the original 25 HSM resellers." The meetings are to reassure SolidWorks users of Autodesk's continued support and development of the product.


At this point, HSMworks 2013 is available exclusively for SolidWorks.


Unique to HSMworks

What is unique about HSMworks is its "distributed CAM" system. The engine underlaying HSMworks was designed from the first to be 64-bit and multicore. It the first on the market give years ago, and so far mostly the only one.


Processing of toolpaths is done by CPUs (not GPUs), and so distributed CAM allows multiple toothpath calculations by using not just all the cores in a PC, but all cores available on a network. To access other computers, a tiny program (800KB executable) is loaded onto the other computers, and then HSMworks evaluates available resources, specifically the CPUs and the RAM. These are ranked, and then toothpath calculations are distributed in order of performance.


A change to a part in SolidWorks might only take 15 seconds to propagate through the assembly, but then it might affect dozens of tool operations, which can take 45 mintues. Using the network, HSMworks does this work more quickly by using the unused cores on office computers, like ones that are used for word processing. This processing power is especially needed by the tool and die industry.


HSMworks was built on this base. For every core added, reduced toolpath calcs by 50%. 80 mins, and then go to 8 core, reduce down to 10 minutes. Mr White added, "You can see how the cloud might play into it as well."


New in HSMworks 2013

Mr Graves gave me a quick rundown of what's new in the 2013 release. HSMworks adds machine simulation, but unlike most CAM systems that rely on STLs, Mr Graves figures HSMworks is the best-integrated CAM product in SolidWorks. It works with SolidWorks parts and assemblies directly, and so can take advantage of mating and virtual components. It allows quick and accurate modeling of machine tools inside SolidWorks.


New in 2013 is toolpath trimming, where the user remove parts of tool paths. The new ramped strategy is an alternative to traditional contour machining that results in better finishes.

Why Autodesk Chose HSMworks

Autodesk chose HSMworks for the platform ability. Any MCAD program integrating HSMworks uses the same CAM platform and so has the same revision and the same functionality; all that needs to be adjusted is the API to the MCAD program. "In fact," added Mr White, "we were able to add some the HSMworks technology to 123D."


HSMworks was the last CAM company to start up. "Why would someone start yet another CAM company" asked Mr Graves rhetorically, "when there are already thirty of them?" Five years ago, integrated CAM was just come into its own, coming down from the heights of Catia and NX, and so HSMworks was the first one to be integrated into a mid-level MCAD program, specifically SolidWorks. If offered tight integration and lots of speed.


The founders of HSMworks thought not just of distributed CAM, but also of the new generation of users who getting into prototyping. They need to learn CAM, but prefer something that works just like the MCAD program that they are used to. And so HSMworks built a strong foundation under SolidWorks, but then made sure it would work with other MCAD packages. This is why Autodesk bought the company.



Q: So far, HSMworks runs only inside SolidWorks. When will it run in Autodesk's own Fusion 360 and Inventor MCAD programs?
We are working on the, but are not sure yet of the release date.


Q: Will HSMworks be ported to any other MCAD programs?
The platform gives us that opportunity. We will see where there might be demand once we are done with Autodesk products.


Q: You've had distributed CAM for five years now. Why doesn't anyone else do this kind of networked multi-core CAM processing?
We are not sure. Cimatron does something like it, but you need to rent a hardware box from them.


Q: What are other CAM vendors saying about Autodesk becoming a competitor to them?
Autodesk has relationships with Gibbs, Vero, and others. They have specialized usage and have tuned their business to specific machines. They are still great partners to Autodesk. We want to expose CAM to designers, as an easier next gen version of CAM. "We are new to the business, and we are going to learn."


Q: Autodesk likes to boast that it lowers the price of software, such as for AutoCAD when it originally came out and more recently with Moldflow. Will Autodesk lower the price of CAM, especially for Inventor and Fusion?
We don't see the price changing.


Q: How many users does HSMworks Premium have?
We'd rather not say.


Q: What is the pricing of HSMworks?
There are two versions of the software:

If you have SolidWorks 2010-2012, then you can download HSMexpress at no cost from http://www.hsmworks.com/download

What Ralph Grabowski Thinks

Autodesk needed its own package for CAM, just as it has acquired or written ones for many other verticals; the question was not if, but when. There is some evidence Autodesk may have tried writing its own CAM software, judging from the qualifications of some of the people it hired but then later laid off.


One of the hallmarks of the CAM software industry is that it has "too many" vendors. The conglomeration we've seen in other parts of the CAD industry never really occurred in CAM. Thus Autodesk had its pick of the litter, most of which have decades experience bundled in, and many of which already run with Autodesk software.


Instead, Autodesk bought the most unlikely company of all, one that (a) is the youngest; and (b) doesn't work with any Autodesk software. Why make such a disconnected purchase?


Being youngest probably made HSMworks the hungriest to be bought out. I speculate that the company has a very small customer base due to (a) being the newest kid on the block at just five years old; (b) its extreme pricing strategy of $0 or $10,000 that offered no middle ground; and (c) running on just one MCAD package, and not offering a stand-alone version with links to other packages.


Autodesk probably liked that (a) the purchase price was relatively low; (b) the technology at just five years old was relatively new; and (c) the ability of the software to run on multiple CPUs, matching its ambitions for the cloud.


The technical challenges for Autodesk are: (a) to port HSMworks to Inventor and Fusion; and (b) to get the distributedCAM code running on thousands of CPUs (using GPUs would be easier) for running on cloud servers.


The marketing challenges for Autodesk are (a) to convince the many other CAM vendors already serving Autodesk customers that HSMworks is not a threat to them; and (b) that customers should nevertheless replace their $0-$2,5000-$5,000-$7,5000-or-$10,000 seats of Mecsoft with $0-or-$10,000 seats of HSMworks.

Out of the Inbox

Last week, we wrote about the upcoming ZW3D MCAD software from ZWSOFT, and twice managed to mistype the software's name as "ZWCAD." Too much upper-case and too much ZW, but it was my fault. ZWSOFT has now announced the release date for the beta: January 28.
       Anyhow, the company also has a 2D mechanical add-on to ZWCAD (that's ZWCAD, not ZW3D) and this week they release service pack 1, which links to TeamVault and whose PowerErase adjust related dimensions automatically after an object is deleted. http://www.zwsoft.com/products/ZWCAD_Mechanical.html


In upFront.eZine #758, we ran the exclusive interview on how Imagination Technologies is putting ray tracing into hardware. That was just preview, and now-- Oops, I have to wait until tomorrow to write about this press release.


Vectorworks Cloud Services now offers versioning, letting users see earlier versions of the drawing files. http://www.vectorworks.net/cloudservices/


I have great admiration for what programmers pull off these days, and so when I see a press release that says "we'll be announcing an exciting new release of the Kenesto Social Business Collaboration platform," I feel conflicted, because I can't get excited about social business collaboration. There is just one systemthat all my clients use, and it is called email. Nevertheless, I'll let Kenesto make its elevator pitch to my readers:
      "We like to think that what we're doing for Social Business Collaboration is somewhat analogous to what SAP did for the ERP market. That is to say that we're combining several individual social collaboration capabilities together into a single, unified platform." http://http://www.kenesto.com


I have been watching since 1991 the attempts of competitors to grab customers from Autodesk, with varying success -- SolidWorks MCAD software being the most successful. (The earliest attempt was a full-page ad in CADalyst magazine from Intergraph showing a large picture of a sheherd's crock with the headline, "Follow the leader," which made absolutely no sense to users of the market-leading AutoCAD program.)
       Now Graebert has launched a consultancy to assist design firms and third-party developers switch from AutoCAD to DraftSight (distributed by... SolidWorks!).
For $250/seat, Graebert will switch your firm to DraftSight, including converting the plug-ins and special functions your firm uses. For third-party developers, there is the offer to assiste with the DraftSight API and the opportunity to sell to three million users.
      The press release directs us to www.graebert.com, but once there it's hard to find more information. After some poking around, I found this page: http://www.graebert.com/en/corporatedevelopment/convertds


On our Blogs

Here are some of the items that appeared recently on our WorldCAD Access blog at http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com:

And on our Gizmos Grabowski blog at http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/gizmos:


Notable Quotable

"The world's obesity crisis is, after the Moon landings, humanity's greatest achievement."
      - Ed West


upFront.eZine is published every Tuesday, except during summer and Christmas vacation. Editor: Ralph Grabowski. This newsletter is read by 11,000 subscribers in 70 countries. Your comments are welcome at editor@upfrontezine.com! Deadline for submissions is every Monday noon.


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