Inventor 2008 Debuts28 Feb, 2007 By: Jeffrey Rowe
Autodesk shows off the latest release of its products and further digital prototyping
I attended Autodesk's first World Press Day event a couple of weeks ago in San Francisco. In general terms, president and CEO Carl Bass talked about the company's products and markets and then let the vice-presidents and directors talk specifics about the various vertical markets, such as mechanical design and manufacturing. However, Bass stated bluntly that Autodesk was not pretending to be a PLM (product lifecycle management) company or positioning itself as such. It would, however, continue to position itself as a mechanical design and PDM (product data management) vendor because that's what makes the most sense for both Autodesk and its customers.
He described design as a way of solving problems and said the company would continue the push for the ability to experience things before they become real, as the primary reason behind developing digital tools for design. Buzz Kross, vice-president of Autodesk's Manufacturing Solutions Division, reinforced this notion with what he referred to several times as digital prototyping. Though it is not exactly a new concept, Kross and Autodesk have put a little different spin on it.
Kross said the realization of digital prototyping, and a component of it known as functional design, are ongoing efforts by Autodesk that won't come to full fruition in a year, but will become more comprehensive over time. All of this combined promotes a "test before build" process. In other words, creating a digital prototype before committing to a physical design (and physical prototypes) that starts with functional requirements and specifications -- from abstractions come physical realities.
Inventor 2008 Preview
The next day we were briefed on some of the new features and capabilities of Inventor 2008 and other products in the manufacturing suite, such as AutoCAD Mechanical. We were told that there were 403 new features in the manufacturing suite, although only a few dozen were actually presented via Power Point, which seemed a bit odd. We had to go to the exhibit area for a live Inventor 2008 demo.
This year Autodesk is changing the way it identifies new releases of Inventor. It will now be named using the product release year -- the same system used by AutoCAD. As a result, this release is known as Inventor 2008.
For companies that still use 2D AutoCAD and 3D Inventor in the same design environment, Inventor now directly reads and writes DWG files (and not IDW) to and from AutoCAD with DWG TrueConnect. (Inventor can still save in IDW, too.) Because no translation is required, the data is fully associative to the 3D Inventor model, resolving a major disconnect that past users have had to contend with. This is a big deal because this interoperability is achieved directly without translators.
According to Autodesk, some of the key updates that will contribute to the digital prototyping effort include the following:
- AliasStudio Interoperability. New capabilities for importing AutoCAD surface and solid data, combined with new DWG export from Autodesk AliasStudio provides an efficient way to transfer concept designs into Inventor.
- Sheet Metal Design Tools. Upgrades improve productivity in sheet-metal part design and provide support for manufacturing information including flat pattern modifications and punch tool data.
- Ribbon Cable Design Tools. Provide control over the shape and routing of ribbon cables for simplifying the design of electrical wiring, thus reducing manufacturing errors by ensuring that all types of wiring can be included in a digital prototype and associated documentation.
- Sketch Productivity Tools. An updated 2D sketch environment that according to Autodesk reduces users' learning curve and improves productivity with clearer constraint status information and sketch geometry formatting tools.
Dynamic simulation and finite element analysis tools will also play a significant role in Inventor 2008.
Along with Inventor, Autodesk is also releasing new versions of complementary products that comprise its manufacturing software suite:
- AliasStudio. A complete set of tools for the conceptual design process (industrial design). AliasStudio is now interoperable with Inventor, a major feat because of the different mathematical methods each employs to create and manipulate surfaces.
- Showcase. An interactive tool that facilitates creating realistic imagery from 3D design data and an environment in which to present and review designs.
- AutoCAD Electrical. An application specifically for designing and documenting electrical control systems. This is an important product for companies that develop so-called mechatronic systems with mechanical and electrical components.
- AutoCAD Mechanical. The 2D mechanical design and drafting application that features standards-based libraries of parts and content, automation tools and associative detailing of Autodesk Inventor models. This is basically AutoCAD that has been optimized for mechanical design.
- Autodesk Productstream. PDM software that automates the release-management process by managing engineering changes and bills of materials.
The release date for Inventor 2008 and the rest of the manufacturing software suite is sometime this spring. I'm eager to get a more hands-on feel for how Inventor stacks up against previous versions, as well as the competition. Over the course of the next several months we'll be taking a closer look at Inventor 2008 and some of the other complementary manufacturing suite software products.