MCAD Tech News #103 (Aug. 14, 2003)

13 Aug, 2003 By: Joe Greco

Two issues ago, I wrote a piece about Autodesk Inventor 7 and the new Autodesk Inventor Professional solution. I criticized Autodesk for not adding any new features to Inventor 7 and asked users for their thoughts on this. Here is a sampling of the comments I received (edited for clarity).

Reader Responses

Thomas A. Pritchett, an Inventor subscriber and engineer who works for a plant-engineering firm in Tennessee, didn't seem to appreciate Inventor 7's lack of features. "I am upset because I have used Autodesk products for close to 15 years. I have been with the company through AutoCAD Designer, before it became Mechanical Desktop. But this is the last year I will participate in the subscription program."

Doug Wright is an Inventor user based in California, with more than 30 years of experience in engineering, manufacturing, quality control, and other areas. He is a big fan of Inventor and even detailed how he convinced one supplier he was working with to use the software in order to facilitate better communications, and how that company was able to get up to speed with Inventor in less than two weeks, editing his "complicated injection molded models remarkably well." However, in discussing the Inventor 7 upgrade, he writes there is "not much ROI if you ask me," adding that he has "paid for this product close to four times over the years with all the so-called upgrades, add-ons, VIPs, and so on." Wright concludes his comments by saying, "Well, I just paid my yearly VIP subscription fee--nearly a Kilobuck--down-the-drain? Maybe. Right now, I am wondering if I should have bitten the bullet and put that money toward a copy of SolidWorks."

Not all the respondents see Inventor 7 as an empty upgrade. Mike Best in the software support department at RTS Wright, a supplier of integrated automation solutions, located in Nashville, TN, writes, "As a beta tester for Inventor Release 7, I found anywhere from a 17 to 60 percent performance increase throughout the product. My findings are based on a 12,000-part assembly, adding parts, editing models, and creating a detail of that assembly. I test the building of model patterns, open and save commands, rebuilding, creating details, and editing those details. Everything I tested on R7 had an increase in performance." Doug Wright, the California engineer, agreed with Best that the upgrade seemed faster, pointing out that working with large drawing files seems to take less time.

While Best admitted that it would have been his preference to call the upgrade Release 6.5 instead, he also feels that, "for the value of the product we receive for our Autodesk Inventor Series (AIS) subscriptions, our fees are well spent. We have more than 140 seats of Autodesk software under subscription at our location, and the cost is equal to the subscription fees of roughly 38 seats of SolidWorks. That's an incredible value for any company."

Pritchett, the Tennessee engineer, also has some comments on the new Inventor Professional: "I will work around any new software benefits for a year or two. By then something new will have replaced Inventor Pro, and I will look at that." Pritchett concludes his thoughts with this: "we only have a few seats of Inventor, but we have close to 1,500-2,000 seats of AutoCAD, and I for one am not a happy camper."

What You Get for the Upgrade

Some readers thought I was too nice to Autodesk regarding this new package. Gary Marzetti, a CAD Designer located in Troy, MI, writes, "I enjoyed the article, but I think you left out one MAJOR point. Inventor was meant to be 'Autodesk's premier high-performance 3D design system.' With the release of Pro, Autodesk is now sticking it to its loyal Inventor subscribers and forcing them to upgrade to Pro if they want to see any new modules."

Gregg Cooper, a layout engineer at SVI Trucks, writes, "As an Inventor user, I resent the fact that Autodesk has released the 'Pro' product. As an AIS subscriber, I think this move is purely profit motivated. It upsets me that problems still exist with Inventor that have not been addressed yet, but the 'Pro' Version is spun off--especially at such an inflated price. I feel 'Pro' is a betrayal of trust, as Inventor was originally plugged as being a total machine design solution."

A layout designer for an energy company located in Eastern Pennsylvania says, "Our company has 15 seats of AIS and will not be upgrading to the 'Pro' Version. We cannot afford to and feel it should have been added to the core Inventor software. Now Autodesk has 'two' versions of Inventor to contend with! This is totally opposite from what Autodesk originally promised--that Inventor would be 'the' premier modeling package with no need to purchase add-ons, as it would be an all-in-one software package. As new features were added, your subscription fees would get you the latest and greatest stuff!"

It seems that even non-Inventor users are unhappy. Deborah Panna, the Design Documentation Manager at a Pennsylvania-based company, says, "All of our drawings are still done using Mechanical Desktop. We are using the 'Inventor Series' for Desktop drawings (and an occasional Desktop model). Nice how Autodesk has just about abandoned us Desktop users. Nice that it is forcing us to support Inventor even though we don't use it. The only real new things in Desktop 2004 are AutoCAD 2004 features. If we didn't have so many drawings in Desktop I would tell Autodesk what it could do with Inventor. From where I stand, the future doesn't look any brighter."

Panna does not soften up in her concluding thoughts. "Autodesk was kidding itself when it thought everyone using Mechanical Desktop would jump to use Inventor. We supported 15 Desktop licenses at one time; we are now down to 9. The day is coming when we will be able to rid ourselves of Desktop. Until then, I just have to bite my lip, pay the subscription fee, and work on a plan to free us."

The Vault

An Inventor user who works for a Florida-based military simulator contractor comments, "Our company has had Inventor 7 in-house since its release, and we've been reluctant to install this upgrade. What is holding us back is that we are using TruEVault (, the forerunner of Autodesk's Vault. It's a can of worms that has hampered our archiving and server storage efforts. Going to Release 7 may cause more archiving and storage glitches, and we cannot afford to jeopardize our file integrity."

Mike Best disagrees with this user regarding the value of the Vault. He comments that, "overall, I found it easy to use and implement, and my users were operating the software after only a two- to four-hour training session. In addition, I think Autodesk's decision to purchase a popular and proven product was a good move."


Well, from this small sampling I think the conclusions are obvious. To back this up, I also visited a discussion group that runs on the Autodesk site and found the stories of scores of unhappy customers ( Hit "View All" and search for the group called "Logic and Strategy for Launching Autodesk Inventor Professional," or you can do a CTRL+F and type in "Logic."

So Autodesk seems to have made a mistake. The question is, will they do anything to fix it?

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