April 19, 2010
2011 Digital Prototyping Software Shown At Autodesk Manufacturing Tech Day
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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On March 25 Autodesk introduced its new 2D and 3D design and engineering software lineup for manufacturers of all sizes seeking to digitally design, visualize and simulate their products before they are built. The tight technology integration offered by Autodesk Inventor 2011 software and the complete Autodesk Digital Prototyping software portfolio helps enable designers and engineers to compete more effectively and do more work in house.

“Over the last several years, Digital Prototyping workflows have torn down historic barriers to innovation ¾ time, money, distance, language ¾ and helped foster manufacturing teams in which designers, engineers, marketers and end customers collaborate continuously from concept to production,” said Robert “Buzz” Kross, senior vice president, Manufacturing Industry Group at Autodesk. “Autodesk's 2011 product lineup makes huge strides in technology integration and productivity, extending the benefits of Digital Prototyping to even more small and large manufacturers seeking to make better products.”

Autodesk enhanced its specialized tools for product development professionals focused on conceptual design, design visualization, engineering and manufacturing disciplines, and at the same time, the company embedded key functionality from these tools within its core Autodesk Inventor 3D mechanical design and engineering software. New direct manipulation capabilities in Inventor 2011 software fundamentally improve the mechanical design process, helping accelerate design times as compared with Inventor 2010 software by approximately 40 percent on common tasks such as assembly modeling. Inventor 2011 software also incorporates Autodesk's leading design visualization capabilities within the CAD application so users can better conceptualize and communicate designs with clients. New shading, lighting and material properties give users a photo-realistic representation of their designs, with Inventor software rendering designs as the user works.

“We have relied on Inventor software to create digital prototypes of our tooling and machinery products for nearly 10 years,” said George Radcliffe, manufacturing engineer for Park Manufacturing. “Inventor 2011 enhances our 3D design and engineering process on many fronts. The real-time performance of the new visualization graphics engine gives us a surprising leap forward in output capability for design communication and marketing purposes. With 2011, we can easily create impressive rendered images with a combination of quality and speed that was impossible to achieve with Inventor 2010.”

Other highlights of Inventor 2011 include:
  • Simulation: With added frame analysis, users can test responses of frame models to gravity and other loads and record animations of displacement and stress results. The software guides users through the steps required to define the best testing scenario, making simulation more accessible to CAD users.
  • Tooling: Inventor Tooling 2011 improves performance for a number of key operations by more than 50 percent, supports dynamic simulation of mold assemblies and helps enable users to automatically generate the mold core and cavity for a broader range of plastic parts, whether using native Inventor or imported files.
  • Design Automation: Inventor iLogic technology is now fully integrated into Inventor 2011, dramatically simplifying rules-based design. The new iCopy feature enables customization of commonly used assemblies by automating the process of copying and positioning similar components.
  • Freeform Shape Modeling: Autodesk Alias Design for Inventor 2011 is a new product that integrates freeform shape-modeling capabilities in the Inventor parametric modeling environment.

Along with Inventor software, new applications within the Autodesk solution for Digital Prototyping offer powerful capabilities spanning conceptual design, engineering and manufacturing workflows.

AutoCAD Electrical 2011 software helps electrical controls designers to quickly create control system designs and more easily access extensive catalog information for large electrical controls projects.

AutoCAD Mechanical 2011 software's streamlined design environment gives users vastly improved access to power dimensioning functionality, which automatically aligns part dimensions with the rest of the drawing properties, without ever opening a dialog box.

Autodesk Algor Simulation 2011 mechanical simulation tools now feature integration with Autodesk Moldflow 2011 software, allowing engineers to utilize Moldflow simulation results and the extensive Moldflow material database when performing structural simulations on plastic parts.

Autodesk Alias 2011 family ― Alias Sketch, Alias Design, Alias Surface and Alias Automotive ― delivers surfacing capabilities supported by industry-leading sketching, modeling and visualization tools. New Autodesk Alias Sketch software's unique hybrid paint and vector workflow helps creative professionals transform ideas into compelling design iterations more quickly.

Autodesk Inventor Publisher makes its commercial debut after its recent Technology Preview on Autodesk Labs. The easy-to-use software for creating compelling product documentation helps enable manufacturers to provide their customers with clearer and more comprehensive technical instructions by leveraging the same digital model used in the design to manufacturing process.

Autodesk Moldflow 2011 software helps users validate and optimize plastic part and injection mold designs before manufacturing begins. Users can now easily export their Moldflow simulation results to Autodesk Showcase 2011 visualization software to expose defects and see how the part will look in real life, helping to assess part quality and make better design decisions.

Autodesk Vault 2011 family, a workgroup solution for managing the complete digital prototype, now features a new visual experience for graphically mapping Vault information directly to Inventor models to streamline workflows, fundamentally improve the reporting and decision-making process, and accelerate model selection and interaction.

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

We just returned from an event sponsored by Autodesk, Manuafacturing Tech Day, as it launched its 2011 manufacturing product lines. Although a lot to take in in one day, I along with about 30 of my peers got a compressed, but comprehensive look at the new offerings, such as Inventor, AutoCAD, Alias, and an app that runs on the new Apple iPad, among others. Not really knowing what to expect, we left with a better understanding of how several of the Autodesk products fit and work together.

Since I saw and played with the iPad app, Sketchbook Pro for iPad, first, let's begin there. It's very easy to use and is a really a professional-grade paint and drawing application. It uses the same paint engine as its desktop counterpart, and has a complete set of sketching and painting tools through a streamlined and intuitive user interface designed exclusively for the iPad. I had a lot of fun with it and was amazed at the functionality for the price -- $7.99.

Buzz Kross kicked things off with an introduction to what we would see throughout the day. He prefaced his introduction by saying that, “3D is not enough anymore”. Autodesk's digital prototyping philosophy reflected in its 2011 manufacturing product line goes beyond 3D, providing advantages to Autodesk, as well as its customers, and this is what the company set out to prove throughout the day. He also touched on the fact that with the 2011 products, Inventor is able to enter the AEC/BIM realm through bidirectional interactions with Revit.

Surprisingly, AutoCAD (for conceptual design) and AutoCAD Mechanical (for manufacturing) got a dedicated session. Wait a minute, AutoCAD for conceptual design? Autodesk demonstrated some pretty nice AutoCAD surfaces with enhanced splines and methods for creating what they called Explicit Surfaces that are more than NURBS surfaces. There is also surface associativity with directly manipulating surfaces with splines. In other words, surface shapes are driven by splines.

Furthering the cause for conceptual design using AutoCAD, a new $500 plug-in is available - Alias Sketch for AutoCAD. The plug-in was developed for more “creative types” for conceptual surface modeling and manipulating 2D raster images. You can also perform early stage shape analysis with AutoCAD Mechanical 2011 before exporting to Inventor.

As an aside, Autodesk is anticipating as many as 20,000 customers migrating from plain AutoCAD to AutocAD Mechanical this year. I've liked ACAD/M for a number of years for its focus on 2D mechanical design, but this figure seems a bit high to me; however, time will tell.

One of the sessions was dedicated to simulation during the product design phase, one of the key elements of digital prototyping with simulation capabilities provided from within Inventor itself, as well as the Algor add-in. The presenters drove home the point that without simulation, 3D is just design documentation. Although the breadth of simulation capabilities has expanded in recent releases, Autodesk has found that in many cases this has led to less use. Hoping to reverse this trend, Autodesk has focused on ease of use with simulation capabilities for 2011 with tooltip video tutorials, a simulation guide that walks you through simulations (and is more than a “wizard”), and a simulation report generator that can output reports in RTF format.

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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.

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