Autodesk’s CAD Users to Get CAE and CAM – For Free
Roopinder Tara posted on August 09, 2017 | 6388 views
Autodesk seems to have expanded – not contracted – Inventor capabilities. The latest “collection” adds simulation with Nastran In-CAD, multiaxis machining (HSM) and factory layout. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)
Stephen Hooper, Autodesk’s senior director of Manufacturing Business Strategy and Marketing. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Stephen Hooper, Autodesk’s senior director of Manufacturing Business Strategy and Marketing. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Stephen Hooper, Autodesk’s senior director of Manufacturing Business Strategy and Marketing was on the phone. Autodesk will be throwing simulation and CAM into Inventor—not just any simulation, but NASTRAN, which was previously trying to sell for $3,500. And Autodesk is not charging a penny more than what it was already charging for Inventor. HSMworks will also be included.

From the speed of an online demo, it’s hard to tell how it will all work together but the potential of all this functionality in the box is enormous. The CAD, CAM and CAE, all working inside a single interface of Inventor, not only elevates the mainstream MCAD modeler Inventor back to star status at Autodesk, it raises it a level above ordinary MCAD from the competition. The mechanical designer or engineer is now empowered to do simulation and to send models to the CNC machine. They don’t have to purchase a CAM application, learn a whole new interface or be at the mercy of a machinist.

Don’t let on yet, Stephen says during the call last week. Autodesk is going to make a surprise announcement. And a surprise it will be. Many Inventor users have been bemoaning the lack of new capability in Inventor for a few years. Autodesk itself has been forecasting a cessation of the Inventor product line, with the idea that a tired desktop app would give way to cloud-based Fusion. They have been feeling left out and left behind, as a modern, cloud-based, mobile-device-friendly Fusion products have taken the spotlight.

This changes everything.

Pricing and Other Details

It's not a pricing story, says Stephen, but he still recognizes the importance of pricing.

Incredulous at what appears to be a grand giveaway, in which the products are included with an Inventor subscription, I have to press.

“Stephen, I can’t believe you are selling Inventor for the same price as ever, but, now, also adding NASTRAN and HSM. Really? No additional cost?”

“Believe it,” says Stephen.

Also announced is a change in the name of the “collections,” or what was previously called “product suites.” What used to be called the Product Design Collection will now be known as Product Design and Manufacturing to reflect all that has been added to the box. The name still is not enough. Also included are Autodesk products for architecture, visualization, electrical… and more.

Maybe the only thing mechanical or manufacturing related not included in the collection are Delcam products. Apparently, integration of the Delcam suite of products – and probably the Delcam companies – is a bit more involved than the smaller and more manageable HSM acquisition.

That’s a lot of products in the box. The “collection” with Inventor now has multiple software titles for design (Fusion360, AutoCAD, AutoCAD Mechanical), manufacturing (HSM), visualization (3dsMax) electrical design, factory layout, photogrammetry and 3D scanning (ReCap)… even architecture. We’re wondering what it doesn’t have. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)
That’s a lot of products in the box. The “collection” with Inventor now has multiple software titles for design (Fusion360, AutoCAD, AutoCAD Mechanical), manufacturing (HSM), visualization (3dsMax) electrical design, factory layout, photogrammetry and 3D scanning (ReCap)… even architecture. We’re wondering what it doesn’t have. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

The collection will include Nastran In-CAD, which is the version of Nastran that works inside the Inventor interface. Autodesk bought NEI Nastran in 2014.

Users who would add Nastran In-CAD and HSM by themselves previously would have had to pay an additional $7,000. Now, those that were getting the Inventor Collection for $2,460 a year will get Nastran and HSM for no additional cost

I’m already sold, but just like the offers on the Home Shopping Network, I’m about to receive another set of amazing Ginsu knives.

“We’re also giving away three licenses of Fusion 360,” says Stephen. Just when I thought he was in hot competition with the Fusion guys, Stephen shows interdepartmental cooperation.

We’re not done. The full collection (for $2,460 per year) has AutoCAD, Navisworks, Vault, ReCap Pro, 3dsMax, Factory Design Utilities… Stephen is reeling off the products faster than I can take notes. I haven’t time to consider what the collection doesn’t have.

What Does This Mean?

With the expansion of Inventor capabilities, provided with the addition of CAE and CAM functionality, Autodesk has breathed new life into its desktop MCAD products. They can no longer be seen as aging products kept alive through the sheer will—or the potential revolt of users scorned. The company has come in solidly (pun intended) behind a product, and a concept, that most had thought the company had lost interest in.

While Inventor users will no doubt be pleased (who doesn’t like getting more for the same price?), industry watchers may well be confused. If Autodesk is now comfortable with parallel tracks, one desktop and one cloud -based, so much for the current story line, the unrelenting march of technology, of innovation brought on by vendors’ unbridled enthusiasm for the cloud and mobile products. We were all convinced that it was inevitable. It gave us a sexy technology angle as well as provided the conflict and tension (new vs. old, leading/bleeding edge, etc.).

While adding simulation to CAD products has been happening for years, making machining available for all designers and engineers in a design user base is new – and commendable. Autodesk is, in effect giving away machining software to everyone who has its design software. However, simply putting CAM software in the box does not a machinist make. CAM software, even that within a CAD interface, demands additional knowledge and skills. It’s not what engineers are taught. Still, granting access to CAM goes a long way towards a goal that Autodesk is committed to: letting engineers have control of the part creation—not just the definition of its geometry.

At disadvantage now is every other CAD company, notably—but certainly not limited to—SOLIDWORKS. In reality, all CAD vendors still charge for add-ons for CAM and CAE. How could they not? They are dealing with 3rd party vendors that also need to make money. Only Autodesk can really afford to include its CAM and CAE software the subscription.

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