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Inventor Fusion goes Public

Published 04 February 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: autodesk, autodesk inventor, synchronous technology, inventor fusion, cocreate, direct modelling

Autodesk has officially launched Inventor Fusion (we reported on it at AU late last year). The company has finally come out from the cloud of secrecy surrounding Inventor Fusion and talked to the press/media about it openly. While there’s not been a great deal new learned in the last few days (as it’s still a while away from becoming available) it’s worth answering the major questions that cropped up. We’ve also got some better quality video showing how the system works in different use cases, so let’s mix up the two.

#1: Why?

Fusion #1: Here you’ll see how the system is configured to model from scratch. Things to look out for are the stripped back UI, how the majority of commands and operations are both highly context sensitive, and present in a radial manner around the cursor.

This one is easy. Inventor is currently a history-based parametric modeling system. Quite a number of Autodesk’s competitors have been developing systems which are not. These systems allow you to dynamically edit geometry without recourse to parametric design, without recourse to history – no regeneration, not flipping hourglass. Due to the nature of these systems, they allow you to work with geometry from other systems nicely.

And those other vendors have been making quite a lot of noise about it. Hence, Autodesk’s response. Yes, I’m sure everyone’s been working on something similar. Facts of the matter are that workstations of the last 20 years (since the release of Pro/E) have not had enough power to carry out these types of calculation in one go.

As a result, each model’s construction was split up into chunks (features) and executed in linear order (history). But we’re now at a stage where the compute power in your average workstation is sufficient enough to allow to do both, simultaneously. While the development of this technology was inevitable, the release of SpaceClaim and the subsequent acquisition of CoCreate by PTC, all brought things to a head and provided the catalyst. Here we are.

#2: Is it the new Inventor?

No. Not yet. It’s a technology preview. As such, its a system that you’ll be able to download and play with. Essentially, Autodesk want users to knock the rough bits off it, kick it into shape and see where it goes.

#3: Will it be the new Inventor?

No. Well. Sort of. The name is the clue. Fusion is about bringing in a new technology into the Autodesk offering. Eventually, I would imagine and it was confirmed during the launch web-conference, that all of this technology (in whatever form it ends up once the Technology Preview is over) will become part of standard Inventor – unless users want otherwise.

#4: What’s the difference between this and SpaceClaim, CoCreate, and Siemens’ Synchronous Technology et al?

The modeling technology is not particularly unique. Whatever system you work with, if you’re working with basic, prismatic and well translated parts, then it’ll work like a dream. Step outside of that, and it won’t. Basic topology changes will be OK, dramatic ones will not.

Inventor Fusion does have some very nice User Interface details, radial menus at cursor (rather than menu), stripped back dialogs, context sensitivity – it’s all there. It’s very NX like in fact. For me, that’s a 100% good thing.

Fusion Video #2: Here you’ll see how the system works with existing geometry, making design changes and editing patterns/array. While you’ll see a feature tree to the bottom left of the UI, that’s feature only – not a history tree. So updates are made instantly.

#5: So, it looks like other systems, works like them, what’s the Big Deal?

The Big Deal is this. Now, this is only demo-ware at the moment, but the potential is huge. You can take a history+parametric+feature-based part from standard inventor into Inventor Fusion. In Fusion, you can edit the geometry of the part, delete faces, move specific instances from a pattern.

Fusion Video#3: Edits are being made to this transmission housing, using the direct modelling tools. Note how the system is pulling, dragging and droppping non-native data.

You can then read it back into Inventor, have the system interrogate the part and reconfigure the history and feature tree to accommodate those changes. Whizz bang, your part has been round-tripped successfully, edits made without recourse to history.

Now, the quick amongst you (or the cynics) will say – surely that shows that you’re lacking tools in standard Inventor. Absolutely. but consider that eventually, this technology will be one and the same system. that’s intriguing. That’s mix and matching direct editing with parametric and history-based design and maintaining that history. Creating a Fusion. That, my friends, is very interesting indeed. See, I told you it’s all in a name.

Register your interest at www.inventorfusion.com

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PTC schools competiton hits Top Gear

Published 29 January 2009

Posted by Stephen Holmes

Article tagged with: ptc, scalextric, james may

The Scalextric4Schools Slot Car Design Challenge got its official launch this week with Top Gear presenter James May giving his backing to the scheme to get pupils using design and engineering skills in a fun way.

We’ve covered the competition before in an earlier blog, but what was interesting at the actual launch was: A) The level of work the kids at the launch school (the John Kelly Boy’s Technology College in Neasden, London) could work to when given the software; B) The clear grasp James May had of the situation facing Britain’s designers; and C) How genuinely interested Mr May seemed to be in what the kids would be doing, in what was really just another celebrity endorsement for a software company.

When asked what he thought the kids would get from the experience, he enthusiastically replied: “A general understanding of how Scalextric works, which includes some very basic physics, electrical theory, circuits and all that type of thing, but I think also, more importantly, the thing that was always a struggle for us when we were kids in the pre-CAD/CAM, pre-rapid prototyping age, which is a sense of how you can come up with an idea and see it all the way through to being an actual, physical artifact.”

“When I was a lad we were still in an age where you maybe sketched something, and then made an engineering drawing, and then from the engineering drawing and the dimensions on it someone would have to make a pattern maybe if it was to be a cast, so someone would be making something out of wood, or a die out of aluminium. Then you started making the component, and then modify it and then go back because it wasn’t quite right, but in this it’s a continuous process, because the data that makes the drawing is the same data that controls the machine that makes the thing. So it’s a very good way of understanding that process, but also at the end of it you’re making something which is fundamentally quite exciting – it’s a small car that will race around a track.” After all, this is a man who knows at least a little bit about cars on tracks.

Alan Patterson, head of design and technology at the college, where CAD and CAM has a big emphasis on the courses taught there described the event as: “A twenty-first century project in schools.” He shed light on the ability of the students, where although a lot of the students do not speak English as their original first language, they still demonstrate high levels of skills in other areas such as maths and drawing, the fundamentals for design and engineering.

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Dimension uPrint aGoGo

Published 26 January 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: prototype, rapid prototyping, 3d printer, dimension printing, uprint, desktop printing

The Dimension 3D Printing Group (a business unit of Stratasys) has just launched the uPrint Personal 3D printer. The uPrint is priced at EUR 11,999 or $14,900 is available for purchase immediately through Dimension’s reseller channel (personally speaking, D3D loves Laser Lines).

As you can see, uPrint is designed for the desktop (a growing trend these days, with Objet getting their first) requiring only a 635mm x 660mm footprint and featuring an 203mm x 152mm x 152mm build envelope.

There’s a video on the dimension web-site, but they don’t share it, so you’ll have to make do with this one, from a reseller.

As you’d expect, the machine uses Dimensions’ Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) technology using the ABSplus filament: a stronger variant of the standard ABS material (around 40% stronger than standard ABS). The machine also uses the soluble support material that’s been standard on most Dimension/Stratasys machines for some time.

With the release of the uPrint, Dimension’s changing the market. Objet might have got their first with the Alaris30, but Dimension has removed a pretty big price barrier. Let the games commence. I wonder who’s next? Z Corp with a desktop machine (unlikely, because of the nature of the process) or maybe even 3D Systems or Desktop Factory might even consider shipping a products at some point soon, rather than just talking about it.

Oh and did I mention – this thing comes in Green, Red or White. Choo Choo.

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Double Trouble for AutoCAD LT?

Published 22 January 2009

Posted by Stephen Holmes

Article tagged with: autodesk, doublecad

At Autodesk University, huddled away in a casino bar, we got a first looks at a new product from IMSI (the makers of TurboCAD); it was a FREE, as in given away, 2D drawing tool which to all respects was a wannabe clone of AutoCAD LT.

The concept behind it being ‘why pay for LT when you can have this?’ and by the way there is a professional version for about £500. At the time the company was stuck for a name and wanted to call it A/CAD LT, a clever play on AutoCAD LT but there were legal reasons in its usage. Autodesk has been a tad letigious of late, slamming SolidWorks/ Dassault over the use of DWG and yellow boxes on logos, so it was going to be a bit of a punt launching front of the Autodesk legal-team firing squad.

The name was undecided and the launch delayed. Our friend Kenneth Wong at Cadalyst Magazine has just reported that the launch is now set for February and the name that has been chosen is DoubleCAD XT. IMSI have never really won any awards for their naming and this looks like another head scratcher. The concept is that it’s good at drafting and detailing. The Professional version will be called DoubleCAD XT Pro. It supports AutoCAD AEC, Mechanical design and has a plethora of symbols. It’s actually more powerful than LT as it also offers a clever 2D constraints system.

Given the economic climate DoubleCAD is likely to repeat on Autodesk’s digestive system, hitting it in the low cost kidney. Last time anything like this happened it was IntelliCAD, which brought out an AutoCAD DWG clone for a couple of hundred dollars - this didn’t make much headway as it was rushed out and Autodesk countered with the 100% DWG advertising campaign, which reminded customers that DWG files created elsewhere were likely to be a bit crap and possibly corrupt your system or introduce errors. Who knows what mayhem this could end up causing, it could impact manufacturing, products and the harm the general public.

What’s different this time is that DoubleCAD will be free. So even if it’s not all they make out to be, more troublecad, it’s like SketchUp and it didn’t cost you a bean, and that’s cool. Autodesk will either ignore it or go for the DWG jugular again, This is something that the company is doing anyway, trying to trademark the term and stop everyone else from using it.

Should 2D CAD cost anything? Will IMSI ever come up with a decent name for a product? Time will only tell.

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