Autodesk Unveils 2007 Manufacturing Lineup

4 Apr, 2006 By: Sara Ferris

New features abound in Inventor, AutoCAD Mechanical, AutoCAD Electrical, ProductStream and Vault

Autodesk's Manufacturing Solutions Division hosted an Inventor Summit last month to show off its new releases of Inventor, AutoCAD Mechanical, AutoCAD Electrical and the Vault and ProductStream product data management tools. As you might guess from its ever-lengthening list of offerings, Autodesk's message, according to vice-president of marketing Bob Merlo, was: "Our game has expanded."

Indeed, given that a year between releases is an extra-long period of time for the Manufacturing Solutions Division, many new features are to be found. The division maintains nine research and development sites worldwide, and also augmented its lineup this year via acquisition. The Manufacturing Solutions Division now oversees the renamed Alias industrial design products: Alias Studio, ImageStudio, PortfolioWall, Showcase and SketchBook Pro. In addition, Autodesk Intent is the engineer-to-order configuration software acquired from Engineering Intent Corporation (formerly Heide Corporation). Autodesk Manufacturing made two other buys last year: COMPASS Systems, a data management solutions developer, and Solid Dynamics, a developer of motion-simulation applications.

Autodesk says its strategy is to focus on serving key markets within manufacturing rather than try to meet the needs of all segments. Its tools for industrial machinery and transportation are nearing completion. Though half a million customers have already switched to 3D, Autodesk says there's still approximately 2.5 million AutoCAD users left to convert.

Autodesk's Andrew Anagnost ran through the highlights of the latest releases of Autodesk manufacturing products.

Inventor 11
Inventor 11 supports unlimited assembly size and simplifies access to and display of large assemblies by enabling users to unload certain components from memory. A capacity meter provides feedback on system resource use.

Surfacing and sketch tools are improved, including advanced fillet control suitable for castings. Full-round and face-face fillets are now available. A new Sculpt tool quickly combines surfaces and faces into a solid (so long as they define a watertight volume).

Multiple product variations can be stored in a single assembly. An iAssembly is a table-driven representation for a set of related assemblies. The Inventor BOM supports iAssemblies by displaying a single structure view that contains the aggregated list of items. Each configuration is displayed as a separate column, with quantity differences noted.

STEP import is improved, and a new AEC Exchange feature transfers models and associated intelligence from Inventor to Autodesk Building Systems. Data import is aided by new tools to heal problems - these include surface repair tools, control over stitch tolerance and the ability to refit faces.

Autodesk continues to work on the functional design technology it acquired from Mecsoft several years ago. Inventor 11 includes new and redesigned Design Accelerators such as those that create geometry automatically from functional requirements. A Bolt Connection Generator controls design and placement of nuts, bolts and washers. The Components Generators handle the design of power transmissions for industrial equipment. A Frame Generator simplifies creation of structural frames.

New analysis capabilities include zebra and Gaussian analysis for surfaces as well as cross-section and draft analysis. Inventor 11 Professional also incorporates motion simulation technology from the Solid Dynamics acquisition to allow users to check the operation of mechanisms.

Inventor 11 Professional provides new dynamic simulation capabilities.

Inventor 11 runs on 64-bit operating systems or as a 32-bit application using the WOW architecture in Windows x64. This increases the available virtual memory to the full 4GB limit for 32-bit applications. Inventor 11 also supports Direct3D graphics drivers. If you want to use OpenGL, you'll have to switch drivers in the Hardware tab of the Tools / Application Options dialog box.

Inventor Series is priced at $5,295, a slight increase above Inventor 10 ($5,195). Pricing for Inventor Professional was not available at press time.

AutoCAD Electrical 2007
With the goal of taking down barriers between electrical and mechanical design, Autodesk has integrated AutoCAD Electrical ($5,295) more closely with Inventor Professional. Design information can be transferred bidirectionally between the two programs via XML, so an electrical designer can send cable and conductor information to Inventor for automatic generation of a 3D wire harness. And the mechanical designer can send data about wire connections to AutoCAD Electrical 2007 for generation of 2D schematics.

AutoCAD Electrical 2007 supports point-to-point designs. A Connector Generator automatically builds a connector based on user input (number of pins, spacing, orientation). The Insert Wire command routes wires to avoid interfering with existing geometry. New libraries contain hydraulic, pneumatic and P&ID symbols. There's also a catalog of manufacturer content that provides more than 45,000 devices such as switches, sensors and lights.

AutoCAD Electrical 2007 includes symbols for hydraulic and P&ID drawings.

The Electrical Audit tool detects potential design errors, and users can also opt to be alerted to possible problems as they design.

AutoCAD Mechanical
The focus in AutoCAD Mechanical 2007 ($4,495) is on 2D, with improvements to drafting functionality such as power dimensions that automate tasks such as spacing and formatting. Users can now create multiple hole charts in a single drawing. New to the extensive libraries are taper and slope symbols. Autodesk reports that performance with large assemblies (20-50MB) is improved.

Data Management
ProductStream v5 helps improve standards compliance by allowing users to set item property policies that maintain corporate standards for item descriptions - for example, minimum and maximum length, case sensitivity and whether the item is displayed on the item form. ProductStream now supports BOM (bill of materials) integration with AutoCAD Electrical, so users can create a complete BOM that lists both mechanical and electrical data. Users can compare the BOMs for two different top-level items and assign items to any file, including non-CAD files, stored in Vault.

Ensure consistent entries by setting input standards in ProductStream.

The latest version of Vault is backward-compatible with the previous versions of AutoCAD and Autodesk's manufacturing software, so users can upgrade Vault without upgrading their CAD software. An Autoloader examines single Inventor projects for duplicate references, missing files and other potential problems so they can be fixed before the project is loaded into Vault. Users can search the full content of DWG and Office files in Vault using Microsoft iFilter technology. The Help system has been overhauled to display content dynamically, depending on what the user is trying to do.