Autodesk Shores Up BIM Offerings

16 Jan, 2014 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

Autodesk University 2013, part 3: Company highlights acquisitions, other efforts to bridge gaps in building and civil engineering workflows.

Possibly the loudest buzz at Autodesk University 2013 in Las Vegas last month came from the manufacturing side of the business — specifically, the announcement of Autodesk CAM 360, the industry’s first cloud-based solution for computer-aided manufacturing (CAM). As big as that announcement was, it couldn’t completely overshadow all the news and activity from the AEC side of the business. The company announced acquisitions and new products and highlighted on-going initiatives aimed at supporting the entire building project workflow, from concept design to ownership.

“BIM [building information modeling] is the center of all our AEC efforts,” said Amar Hanspal, Autodesk senior vice-president of Information Modeling and Platform Products, during a media luncheon at the annual user conference. The company’s “technology roadmap” going forward will incorporate three transformations in AEC, Hanspal explained, including:

  • moving from a tool- and file-centric workflow to a project-centric workflow,
  • designing in context, and
  • connecting the digital to the physical.

He emphasized also that the company is focused on extending BIM to infrastructure applications.

In a related press release, Hanspal offered further comment: “We are expanding the reach of BIM on multiple fronts — into conceptual design on one end of the spectrum and into construction on the other. Our advancements are empowering professionals to move from designing objects and simply representing their ideas in 2D and 3D to designing in context while optimizing and better predicting the performance of their designs. Autodesk is helping to drive higher levels of productivity into the building design, infrastructure, and construction industries both in the office as well as in the field with our expanding desktop, cloud, and mobile portfolio.”

News and Updates

Announcements at Autodesk University spanned all facets of the BIM process for both buildings and infrastructure.

Autodesk Dynamo and Autodesk DesignScript merger for algorithmic design. For building designers, Autodesk announced a major update for computational design with the merger of Autodesk Dynamo and Autodesk DesignScript. Dynamo is an open-source visual programming environment for BIM that can stand alone, be integrated in any CAD software from any developer, or be used to extend the parametric capabilities of Autodesk Revit. Autodesk DesignScript is a programming language currently in beta testing that is intended to help designers build and analyze complex geometric models that would be difficult to model with interactive techniques, according to the company. In combination, the tools offer visual programming capabilities in a modern user interface that is tightly integrated with Revit. “Our unique approach has been to marry parametric and algorithmic design,” Hanspal said at the AEC media luncheon.

Autodesk FormIt expansion for conceptual design. A BIM-based conceptual-design tool, Autodesk FormIt beta software is now available for the desktop in addition to previously released iPad and Android versions. Offering easy-to-use tools to create, collaborate, and share early-stage design ideas, FormIt allows designers to continue the BIM process by taking conceptual models directly into Autodesk Revit. The newest version includes a web-based application that runs on a choice of browsers for Windows and Mac. FormIt for iPad has been updated to take advantage of iOS 7 and includes new energy-analysis features that provide simple indications of potential building performance at the early stages of design.

Looking ahead, Autodesk demonstrated a forthcoming feature in the FormIt family of applications that supports real-time collaboration, enabling future designers to simultaneously access and collaborate on design models using their FormIt application of choice. “You can expect [FormIt] to evolve and support more complex modeling and become wired to more platforms,” Hanspal said.

Graitec acquisition for structural detailing. Expanding its capabilities in the structural-detailing stages of BIM, Autodesk announced the close of its acquisition of Graitec’s Advance Steel and Advance Concrete products, which offer modeling, detailing, and fabrication to support BIM-based steel and reinforced concrete workflows.


Autodesk Structural Bridge Design for span bridges. For bridge designers and engineers, Autodesk has launched Autodesk Structural Bridge Design. Resulting from the August 2013 acquisition of technology assets from U.K.–based Bestech Systems, the new software joins the Autodesk BIM for infrastructure portfolio. For small- to medium-span bridge design processes, it integrates loading, analysis, and code checking in a single environment.

Autodesk Structural Bridge Design 2014 conducts loading, analysis, and code checking in a single environment. Shown here is an example using Eurocode Grillage 3D elements. Click image to enlarge.

Azalient Technology acquisition for traffic simulation. Autodesk announced the acquisition of technology assets from U.K.–based Azalient Ltd. The acquisition helps support the evolution to BIM-based design workflows among traffic engineers and transportation planners working on roads, highways, and railway projects, the company reported. The acquired traffic analysis simulates how people travel — whether by automobiles, buses, or trains — in isolation and in series and provides tools to help predict demand for new infrastructure projects, forecast how to handle future demand, and predict traffic disruptions caused during construction, with the addition of cost and benefit analysis of alternative infrastructure designs. The software drives planning and is an example of Autodesk’s efforts to enable design in context, Hanspal pointed out.

Topcon collaboration for field layout and construction. Building existing collaboration, Autodesk and Topcon Positioning Group, a developer of precision location and elevation measurement technologies, are now working to further improve the integration of BIM workflows and field layout for general contractors and MEP trades. Autodesk is developing a new BIM 360 mobile app for iPad that further simplifies the process of precisely locating BIM coordinates on a construction site. The app controls a robotic total station — as well as the new Topcon LN-100 3D positioning system — that can accurately position control and layout points on the construction site, then as-built data can be fed back to the design model via BIM 360 for quality assurance.

These announcements follow numerous other major investments Autodesk has made in recent months to expand BIM for infrastructure and construction. In infrastructure, Autodesk recently launched Autodesk InfraWorks 360 Pro, Autodesk Roadway Design for InfraWorks 360 Pro, and Autodesk Vehicle Tracking (based on the acquisition of technology assets from Savoy Computing). In construction, Autodesk BIM 360, a suite of cloud-based mobile-accessible tools for preconstruction coordination through field execution, has seen dramatic uptake in the past year. Autodesk adds about 50 new users per day for BIM 360 with approximately 15,000 monthly active users, up 65% year-over-year, the company reported. Adoption of Autodesk ReCap reality-capture tools grew from 8,000 to more than 21,000 users in just two months, Hanspal said.

Near the conclusion of the AEC media luncheon, a reporter asked Hanspal, “What about AutoCAD Civil 3D?” — given that the popular tool hadn’t been mentioned during the event. Hanspal noted that Civil 3D integrates with the Autodesk InfraWorks, where InfraWorks supports planning and Civil 3D serves as the design tool, adding, “Civil 3D continues to evolve,” driven largely by 3D enhancements made to AutoCAD as well as user-requested enhancements.

See Cadalyst's recap of new software and hardware technologies showcased in the Autodesk University 2013 exhibit hall. Recordings of Autodesk University classes and other resources are now available free online to users who register.

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