Autodesk Brings CAM to the Cloud12 Dec, 2013 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson
Autodesk University 2013, part 1: CAM 360 said to be industry’s first cloud-based solution for computer-aided manufacturing.
You’ve probably heard that saying, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Autodesk has decidedly taken the lead with CAM 360, which it describes as the industry’s first cloud-based solution for computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), also known as subtractive manufacturing. Scheduled for release as a technology preview (beta version) on December 16, 2013, CAM 360 is expected to be generally available next year in select markets.
Buzz Kross, Autodesk senior vice-president, introduced CAM 360 at a press conference at Autodesk University 2013 in Las Vegas last week. Sometimes the company develops tools that are followers but better versions of the original, he said, and other times the company innovates and develops first-ever products. “This announcement is in the ‘first-ever’ category,” he stated. It is also a major step in a much larger CAM strategy, underlined by the company’s announcement last month that it will acquire U.K.–based Delcam, one of the world’s leading developers of CAD/CAM and industrial-measurement software.
CAM 360 allows users to create machining tool paths, then simulate to see if the tool paths produce the desired results. It is the latest addition to the Autodesk 360 platform of cloud-based computing solutions, which currently comprises 26 million user accounts, according to the company, and includes PLM 360 for product lifecycle management, Sim 360 for design simulation, and Fusion 360 for 3D direct modeling. CAM 360 has the same look and feel as other Autodesk 360 tools, which integrate to support a single design workflow, and allows designers “to go from model to creating tool paths in 30 seconds,” according to the company. “This experience ... makes us unique in the market,” said Brenda Discher, vice-president of strategy and marketing.
Autodesk CAM 360, an integrated solution in the company’s cloud-based workflow for manufacturing, will be available as a technology preview on December 16.
By tapping into the computing power of the cloud, Autodesk reports, CAM 360 provides users with project collaboration tools; unlimited shared data storage; and virtually anytime, anywhere access to software and data from web-connected devices.
Carl White, senior director of Manufacturing Engineering Products at Autodesk, said CAM 360 gives users “a set of tools that’s simpler and easier to use but has all the functionality they need to complete manufacturing projects.” With CAM 360, operators can quickly view files, add fixtures, and make other changes as needed. The software saves file versions as you go, automatically creating a record of the process and maintaining links between files. Users receive instant workflow updates that are relevant to them, via any mobile or desktop device.
CAM 360 is built on Autodesk HSM (high-speed machining) technology, acquired from HWMWorks in October 2012. HSMWorks for SolidWorks and Inventor HSM plug-ins bring CAM into those familiar 3D design interfaces to provide seamless design-to-CAM integration, Autodesk reports.
“We are leading a discovery charge,” Kross concluded, explaining that Autodesk foresees professionals in the future collaborating much more online (including via cloud-based software) than in person or on the phone. “The team here envisions building a very complete system,” he added, hinting that more products are coming in the future to fill out the integrated network of cloud-based solutions for manufacturing.
At a separate press event last week, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass discussed the role of product lifecycle management (PLM) compared with less complex collaboration tools. Autodesk's belief, Bass said, is that formal processes that produce multiple products require PLM support, but more informal, ad-hoc projects don’t need it and can rely on Autodesk 360 to share design information, deliver project notifications, and so forth.
Very few CAD software developers are as invested as Autodesk in providing cloud-based solutions. “We believe that a day will come when the majority of engineering is done in a cloud/social/mobile environment,” Bass said. “New companies will come about to compete with us in this space, and traditional competitors will scramble to catch up.”