Inside Extreme Scale Tech|Tuesday, June 2, 2015
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Autodesk Beefs Up 2014 Design Suites 

It’s that time of year again—everyone is hitting the gym to get ready for summer. But with the recent announcement of its 2014 Design Suites, 3D design giant Autodesk is beefing up in a slightly different way.

The release includes changes to both the Product Design and Factory Design suites that include new software, an expanded asset library, greater interoperability with building information modeler Revit, and a side helping of CFD (computational fluid dynamics) simulation tools.

The first, Autodesk’s Product Design Suite, is for engineering professionals focused on digital prototyping who need access to design, simulation and visualization tools.

While its suite tiers (Standard, Premium and Ultimate) have not changed, Autodesk went into this release with the opinion that expanding access to its complementary products would better tailor each tier for its target customer. So although this might mean paying for a couple of products you may not use, it establishes a better workflow and is priced more competitively than each product independently.

For example, whereas Standard is meant for someone just getting started with CAD and CAE, Premium is meant for the vast majority of product designers and engineers, regardless of industry. Thus, adding Inventor Premium and its integrated simulation tools should prevent engineers from having to buy additional software to complete their workstation.

Helping improve the ease of use for creating subassemblies in Inventor is a new system that uses terminology to help users find the component they need, such as a ball joint versus a hinge joint. From there they place the joint within the assembly and can then test the assembly through real-time dynamic feedback to see how the model will then behave.

A final change is Inventor’s new ability to move data into and out of Revit, its architectural modeling application. This means that an engineer working on an A/C unit or elevator can send the model to architects and construction companies down the supply chain to help better incorporate a new design into a building.

Targeted toward industrial designers looking to make highly stylized consumer products is Product Design Suite’s Ultimate tier. In this release, Ultimate has gained Navisworks, a large model aggregation and simulation tool focused on whole project management.

Finally, each offering within the Product Design Suite gained AutoCAD Raster Design, a raster-to-vector conversion tool that will help designers integrate scanned paper drawings, maps and satellite images into their workflows.

Factory Design Suite, on the other hand, targets the ecosystem of manufacturers who are focused not on designing products, but improving the way those products are made. Rather than designing new facilities, these professionals are constantly working to upgrade existing plants to optimize flow and production while incorporating new equipment like robotic arms and conveyors, which requires software that has been designed with factory equipment in mind.

While key offerings from the Product Design Suite such as Inventor are still included, this version has a special AutoCAD that allows the user to switch between 2D layouts and 3D visualizations of an environment. Autodesk believes that this along with interoperability with asset libraries will grant users the flexibility they need to easily map out their production facility.

Similar to the Product Design Suite is the addition of tight integration with Revit. Because Revit support was added to Inventor itself (an offering in both design suites), engineers working to optimize their factories can still benefit from the addition, albeit in a different way. Here, a Revit model of a factory in question can be loaded up to provide detailed context into which assets such as robots or belts might be incorporated.

Perhaps the most significant change, however, is the addition of a point cloud engine that can provide data for a portion of a facility where no information existed previously. So if information about the factory floor is incomplete, engineers can use laser scans to import data that will enhance both 2D plans and 3D solid models of a facility.

This would be especially helpful to a plant designer who is considering removing and replacing a component with new equipment. By using this 3D scanning tool, he can identify potential barriers to that installation, such as structural supports, and make a more informed decision that can ultimately save money.

Additionally, while Autodesk includes new assets such as robots and belts into each update, this release integrates those 300+ additions via the company’s 360 Cloud platform, allowing for single sign-on access to the asset library.

Finally, Autodesk’s Simulation Software 2014 family of products, including Simulation Mechanical, Simulation CFD and Simulation Moldflow, has matured to offer better performance and usability.

Simulation Mechanical, formerly known as Project Scout, has templatized its drop test so that it can be performed using only 3 clicks, simplifying an inherently complex prediction of what happens to an object when it falls to the ground into an easier and thus quicker tool to use. Autodesk’s hope is that by lessening simulation time, its customers can run more simulations to arrive at the best product it can deliver.

Meanwhile, Simulation CFD added a tank slosh feature to analyze how liquids move within vessels. Most notably are freeway tankers delivering anything from milk to gasoline that need to make sure that transit conditions won’t jeopardize the structural integrity of the container or cause the tanker to veer off-course.

This release has been designed to take us one step closer to an all-inclusive, integrated offering like Adobe’s Creative Suite. Whether or not these additional products provide the enhanced workflow users have been asking for, we’ll have to wait and see.

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