Posts by Martyn Day

Autodesk to cut 10% of staff

Published 16 January 2009

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with: autodesk, recession, credit crunch

Autodesk has announced that it plans to cut about 10% of its workforce, approximately 750 employees, as it lowered its fourth-quarter earnings outlook. The company expects to post quarterly results between $475 million and $500 million on Feb 26th. Previous forcasts were in the region of $525-$550 million.As a result, Autodesk plans to take a pretax charge of $65 million to $75 million for restructuring. The company has a hiring freeze and is implementing business travel restrictions.

Times are tough for all vendors out there as sales dry up. Previously, Carl Bass, the company CEO has gone on record saying that it’s proving difficult trading conditions as companies struggle to find funds to put into major projects. Autodesk has been amongst the first vendors to react strongly to the change in market conditions. Autodesk has lost 64% of its share price in the last year, although that said, it does have $1 Billion cash in the bank.

“Autodesk has a strong cash position and leadership across multiple product sectors and geographies,” CEO Carl Bass said in a statement on the job losses. “The company has experienced several economic downturns during its 26-year history, and like before, we fully expect to emerge from the downturn stronger, more efficient, and more competitive.

I would expect nearly all the other vendors to follow suit in the coming months.

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Autodesk Subs get real

Published 24 July 2008

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with: dell, workstations

Autodesk’s Subscription to date, has been little more than paying for the next release, which has settled into a yearly cycle around the March time-frame. One would hope that in the concept of a yearly subscription you would get more than one update. Looking at Bentley’s SELECT subscription it’s hard to tell what the feature set of MicroStation is, as it changes every month and quarter. Autodesk started out by streaming features and updates randomly through the year but this didn’t work and so fell back on paying for the next release. The company also monkied with the upgrade fees making Autodesk Subscription the most cost effective way of owning any Autodesk product.

It’s hard to generate good customer spirit if updates are sold on cost of ownership and you are literally paying for the next release - which they may or may not even use. While Autodesk has benefitted greatly from the increase in regular revenue, Autodesk Subscription has been suffering from a little complacency.

The good news is that Autodesk’s AutoCAD product team has launched ‘Flexible Software Delivery’, which harks back to a more traditional concept, where updates and new features are added when they are ready, as opposed to when the next major release comes around. this means the software is delivered on demand. No more boxes hanging around and you can select what features you want.

So in addition to the yearly update, there will be Subscription Bonus packs which will include early releases of upcoming features. the first one is scheduled for July 24th and will include several AUGi wish-list items. These will only be available to subscribers. Also Product updates, for all customers, will replace service packs, to fix bugs and drivers.

One wonders if this will be copied across Autodesk’s many Divisions? The complexity of non-synchronized change across Autodesk’s products was the downfall at the first attempt, we will have to wait to see as to how this invigoration of Subscription works out.

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Back in the Fold - the Strida returns

Published 05 July 2008

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with:

I’m excited as there is a new version of my favourite folding bike on sale. The Strida is the brain-child of UK industrial designer, Mark Sanders. I regularly shove it my Strida into the passenger seat of my car and take it away with me. Yes, it looks odd and nobody ever seems to have ever seen one before but I wholeheartedly endorse one of these bikes if you are looking for a foldable bike. This clip is an interview with Mark, where he explains his design concepts and process. About half-way through you see that now Mark uses SolidWorks to design and reduce the number of prototypes, but sketching and ‘feel’ are bedrocks for his process.

www.strida.com

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Autodesk doesn’t go with the flow

Published 26 June 2008

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with: autodesk, cfd, flomerics, acquisition

Yesterday I met Autodesk’s Ken Bado (executive vice president of sales and services) and the first thing we talked about was the potential acquisition of CFD specialist developer, Flomerics. Bado wanted to set the record straight and said that Autodesk was no longer interested in buying the company.

There had been huge speculation of a deal after Flomerics issued a statement to shareholders announcing that the board was in discussions with Autodesk over a possible offer for the company. The move followed aggressive share purchases by silicon design tool specialist, Mentor Graphics.

In an added twist to the plot Mentor has just become the subject of a potential hostile take over from its biggest competitor, Cadence. In a highly fluid situation, Autodesk’s shock decision to pull out of negotiations further muddies the waters, as to what fate Flomerics will have.

While a deal now looks unlikely, autodesk has shown its hand and has interests to add high-end CFD to its mechanical pot. The news probably has SolidWorks execs in Boston breathing a sigh of relief too, as had Autodesk got hold of it, Floworks would have vanished.

www.flomerics.com

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Acrobat 9 Unveiled

Published 04 June 2008

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with:

On Monday of this week, Adobe launched its now yearly update to its Acrobat digital document tool. I have been testing out the new release for a few weeks prior to the launch and I have t say that Acrobat 9 is a significant upgrade on nearly all fronts, from basic PDF creation to the advanced CAD/3D capabilities.

There have been a few name changes, so now the Acrobat 9 family consists of Acrobat 9 Standard, Acrobat 9 Pro, and the new Acrobat 9 Pro Extended software, which has replaced the Professional 3D branding but still offers the most comprehensive suite of tools. The Extended brand harmonises its name with Adobe Photoshop Extended version but by dropping the 3D I feel it might be confusing to Engineers and Architects that associated the 3D with the CAD version of the Acrobat. The news is that Extended is the 3D CAD flavour.

The first thing you notice is that Flash technology has been incorporated into the PDF format as a front end, enabling some very slick features. At first I did not quite get why Flash would be of such a great benefit as I could not mentally link PDF documents and Flash which I always assumed was just a web technology. The incorporation of Flash has actually provided PDFs, which contain multiple files, to have a very slick cover-flow like interface, as well as the new capability to include Flash compatible video as documents.

These new PDF portfolios are really very cool indeed. It is now possible to create a single PDF file that contains all types of documents and allows the creator to produce a front-end page with title and images, which are displayed on opening. Then each file can be flicked through as if they were on a carousel (think Apple iPod Touch, or iTunes). The Flash environment radically improves the experience of wading through a multi-document PDF. The video feature is great too, as you can convert and include all sorts of video into PDFs and pause the video and mark up frames with the Redline tools. A series of marked-up frames are available for quick access and the author has considerable control to select sub-sections of video to be viewed by the PDF consumer.

The Flash-isation of PDF also means that the PDF is an environment in itself and Flash applications can be added to PDFs and sent out. For instance, it is possible to add a calculator widget, a live web map, or other web service. This mean you could open a document and use the added calculator to work on spreadsheets or engineering calculations, without leaving the PDF document. It is actually pretty hard to get your head around it, as it blows the concept of what you can include in a document, as documents can be applications! To read an Acrobat 9 document you obviously need to download the new free viewer.

CAD

So, enough about all the flashy stuff, down to what is new in engineering PDF. The formats has been updated and Inventor, B-reps, STL, Catia V5 and Siemens PLM Solutions’ NX formats are now included. For AEC users, Acrobat 9 supports Revit and Graphisoft via IFCs.

Gone is the pretty horrible Adobe 3D Toolkit and welcome to the powerful new Adobe 3D Reviewer, which came along with the TTI acquisition last year. While the interface is nowhere near as slick as Adobes other products the functionality of Reviewer goes way beyond authoring and enhancement of the 3D models, it also acts as a agnostic 3D CAD viewing and comparison tool like Cimmetry Autovision. 3D parts created in multiple CAD systems can be easily imported into the same workspace and 3D assemblies created. There are compare tools to check differences in geometry between cad revisions, so new material added, or old material lost can be quickly identified. Measurement and sectioning have been improved and it is easier to export the files as 2D vector or Raster files.

Mapping is now on the menu, as Acrobat PDFs now understanding of geospatial information, with support for accurately measuring Kilometers, Miles, longitude and Latitude. This expands PDF into a whole new vertical area as well as enhancing map data for Architecture, Engineering and Construction applications.

Share and Share alike

Collaboration and sharing has seen some cool innovation too. Acrobat 9 users can access a new web service called Acrobat.com for storing and sharing files, use it as a central location for collecting data as part of a forms process, and to gather comments in a shared document review. Acrobat.com includes free and paid for services, such as Adobe ConnectNow, personal web conferencing that provides desktop sharing, video and voice conferencing, and integrated chat.

Another benefit of Acrobat.com is the opportunity to collaborate with other users while within a PDF document. Using Adobe Reader, other folks can join in a review session on a file, with the originator driving the group navigation through the PDF document in real-time. As Adobe points out, this helps ensure everyone is literally, and figuratively, on the same page.

Acrobat is really good at making digital forms, now it is great at distributing these forms and collating the returns. In the past we have used services like surveymonkey.com to do surveys, now we will be able to send PDFs out and the software gathers all the responses together and can tabulate the results. While it sounds complicated, it is all pretty straightforward using wizard-style dialogues.

Pricing and Availability

Acrobat 9 Pro Extended, Acrobat 9 Pro and Acrobat 9 Standard for Microsoft Windows, and Acrobat 9 Pro for Mac OS X, are expected to be available by July 2008. Acrobat 9 Pro Extended is expected to be available for £619 (which is a nice price cut), and registered users of qualifying earlier versions of Acrobat can upgrade to Acrobat 9 Pro Extended for £205. Acrobat 9 Pro is expected to be available for £425, and registered users of qualifying earlier versions of Acrobat can upgrade to Acrobat 9 Pro for £145. Acrobat 9 Standard is expected to be available for £265, and registered users of qualifying earlier versions of Acrobat can upgrade to Acrobat 9 Standard for £85.

We will have a fully featured review in the first edition of Develop3D.

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Fun with Sketching and Physics

Published 25 May 2008

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with: design, solid edge, siemens plm, synchronous technology, engineer

I found this by accident last year but it dates from 2005. It’s still pretty damn cool if you haven’t ever seen it. One wonders what ever happened to this, it’s surely has a commercial application, even with or without the whiteboard and projector. It would be a great application to have on a Tablet PC, although I can’t say I’ve seen that many Tablet PCs in actual use (the first ones were a little bit crap from memory).

If only all CAD systems were this easy to use and powerful, mind you i think there would be lots of 2D ‘games’ developed with the physics engine by bored engineers and students. If this kind of tool was available in schools surely we would be able to get more kids interested in science?

The system was created using three different technologies:

  • Working Model 2D v.2005
  • Mimio Whiteboard Capture System by Virtual Ink
  • ASSIST sketch understanding system pioneered by MIT Professor Randall Davis

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Sky is the limit for new product design

Published 17 May 2008

Posted by Martyn Day

Article tagged with: design, rendering, visualisation, art-vps

I’m always interested in new forms of transport and thanks to modern product design systems, new materials and a few determined inventors inability to limit their imaginations. The recent BBC news piece on Swiss ‘mentalist’ Yves Rossy’s home made rocket pack really is something else. Basically, the guy leaps out of a plane, his 3 metre wing unfolds and his four rockets ignite and off he goes. He has soared to heights of 8,000 metres at speeds over 100 knots. It’s probably not surprising that Rossy is an ex-military jet fighter pilot and commercial pilot, so he knows a lot about flying. It’s absolutely amazing and normally the kind of thing that’s mentioned in a conversation about the Darwin Awards, where some idiot has removed themselves from the gene-pool by doing something absolutely stupid and deadly, like attaching a rocket to their back, igniting it and flying into the ground.

It seems that he was formerly known as Jet-man but a sponsorship deal with Hublot watches meant he became Fusion-man to coincide with a watch name. Still, hey, you can’t blame him, the damn thing cost about $300,000 to develop.

Mr. Rossy’s madness led me to search for some more you tube fun. Looking for Swiss Rocket-man I found some chap who’d attached a rocket to his bicycle, reaching a speed of 242 Kmph, which is actually faster than Mr. Fusion-man’s rocket glider. The video doesn’t show how he actually managed to brake but we guess he survived. There is something weird happening in Switzerland, seems they will strap a jet engine to anything that blatantly shouldn’t!

I also found an actual new product, the world’s smallest helicopter. The Gen H-4, from Gene Corporation, costs about $32,000 and has two, 4 metre coaxial, contra_rotating rotors which eliminates the need for a tail rotor. The four 125cc 2 cylinder engines use standard petrol. The Gen H-4 can fly up to 1000 metres, at 59 mph for up to 30 minutes. It’s really impressive but I’m not sure about nipping to the shops in it.

You can’t have a round-up of ‘Jetsons’ flying vehicles without talking about Moller. The company has two flying cars in development. The two seater M200D Volantor is a round, space-ship like platform that can vertically take off and land and costs around $125,000. The ship is software limited to fly at 10 ft and uses 8 Moller’s Rotapower engines and Rotafan ducted fan for lift and propulsion, although the maximum payload is 250 lbs. I think this is the one i would choose for myself as it does have the air of a Marvel comic baddie vehicle. The M200D is a prelim to Moller’s other big design, the SkyCar.

and the Skycar:

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