If there is any company in the digital space that is rapidly and continually increasing the capability of its software offerings for designers and engineers, it is certainly Autodesk (http://usa.autodesk.com/). Earlier this year it launched its latest suite of software for 3D design, simulation, plastic part creation, and data exchange, Autodesk Inventor 2010.
2010? Yes. Even though it is still 2009, that's the nomenclature on the release—sort of like the timing of automobile models, albeit without the EPA-related calculations. And while Autodesk senior vice president, Manufacturing Industry Group, Robert Kross deals with various types of industries, he cites automotive as one where there is plenty of design activity going on in order to create products that will help bring companies out of the current economic sinkhole. He says that there are fundamentally three approaches that must be taken: (1) control costs; (2) achieve product excellence; (3) invest in the future. Although Autodesk may be most widely known for its AutoCAD offering, its 2D and 3D CAD package, it has gone far beyond that, developing and acquiring capabilities that are driving full digital prototyping through the Inventor offerings. (Incidentally: AutoCAD users can upgrade to Inventor; 2D designs are preserved through DWG compatibility.) And it is through digital prototyping—rather than physical modeling—that Kross says these three approaches can be fulfilled.
One of the Autodesk tools that is well used and well regarded by automotive designers and stylists is Alias. Because they've discovered that more than 30% of designers prefer the Mac over the PC, Alias now runs native on the Mac OSX 64-bit (as well as Windows Vista). There are now three products in the lineup:
- Alias Design: for the process from ideation to final surfaces
- Alias Surface: for 3D surface modeling; can develop Class-A surfaces
- Alias Automotive: for the visualization and analysis, from the early sketching to the development of Class-A surfaces.
One of Autodesk's acquisitions is the Moldflow software suite. Moldflow is the means by which plastic parts can be designed such that they can be manufactured (i.e., based on the materials—and there is a library of more than 8,000 commercial plastic grades, as well as an additional 4,000 proprietary grades—and the injection molding parameters, the simulation shows whether the mold is appropriately filled within the necessary cycle) and the necessary tools to do it, as well.
In this case there are two packages:
- Moldflow Advisor: for the part designer who is looking for early info on part and mold design feasibility; this is an easy-to-use package
- Moldflow Insight: for the comprehensive simulation and analysis (e.g., creates warpage plots) of molds and parts for a variety of molding processes.
One interesting aspect of what they've added to Moldflow is the ability to determine the environmental impact of a particular part from the standpoints of both the recyclability of the material used and the amount of energy required to produce the part in the first place.
Predesign to Product.
Consider: a product is developed in Alias. Then it is moved to Inventor where the detailed drawing is performed. Once that's been accomplished, the file goes to Inventor Tooling, where the mold is designed. And all of this can be done with input from Moldflow (elements of which are integrated with the 2010 Inventor Professional package). This integration helps facilitate product creation, from concept through to the factory.
Knowing with Navisworks.
Navisworks Manufacturing 2010 offers what's called the ability to perform "multi-CAD data aggregation," which is important because it can also perform "4D simulation." And the purpose is to perform full-blown factory design and simulation (as well as other AEC-related tasks), so this ability to take in lots of information—from scanned data clouds to drawings to other CAD files—is rather important. And the "4D"? It's correlating scheduling data with geometry so that it is possible to simulate the build sequence.
Keeping It Together.
There's Autodesk Vault, the offerings that are designed to perform data management, coordinating everything from bills of material to engineering change orders, all while providing security and revision control.
And there's AutoCAD 2010, which was developed, in part, to facilitate the use of somewhat more-advanced design capabilities, such as parametrics.
Kross points out that one of their initiatives is to provide designers with the full suite of tools necessary to execute quickly and accurately and to do so in environments that are most conducive (e.g., the move to Mac for Alias) to them.