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30 Oct 2007

Armed with the concept of digital prototyping, Autodesk is moving to PLM

Dmitry Ushakov

Andrew J. Anagnost

The interview with Dr. Andrew J. Anagnost, PhD., vice president of CAD/CAM in the Mechanical Solutions Division of Autodesk published in CADCAMNet under the title “Digital Prototyping Trumps PLM” was the next expected move of the Autodesk top managers – after the famous declaration made by Autodesk CEO Carl Bass: "We Don’t Need PLM". In his interview Dr. Anagnost said that Autodesk defined digital prototyping as “the use of a design to digitally validate a concept, digitally model the form and fit, engineer it, and test its function. And then to hand that information digitally to the manufacturers.Form, fit and function from concept to manufacturing.” Dr. Anagnost admitted: “The concept of digital prototyping has been out there for 15 years but the truth of the matter is that only a very small percentage of companies actually do it.” Autodesk intends to make digital prototyping available to the companies regardless of their size by issuing a new version of Autodesk Inventor LT. Interestingly enough, the top management of Autodesk declares its disbelief in the market success of the concept of product lifecycle management (PLM), interpreting financial achievements of the companies that adopted it – Dassault Systemes, Siemens PLM Software (former UGS) and PTC – simply as a sheer failure.

Francis Bernard

So, what exactly is digital prototyping (which is well known to the market) and how it is associated with the concept of PLM? The editorial team of the portal approached a renowned expert in the field – Francis Bernard, the founder of Dassault Systemes, who led the development of the first 3D CAD in the world - CATIA. (Currently Mr Bernard has left the company he created to become the CEO of ParallelGraphics and a member of the Board of the ESI Group.) Below are his comments on the latest news from Autodesk:

It is obvious that Autodesk is trying to move from CAD/CAM to PLM, like DS has done in the past years. And they have to say it, in order that the Autodesk customers stay with Autodesk by moving from 2D to 3D, then from 3D to PLM.

Digital prototyping is the core of PLM. It means that you can create a digital simulation of the real world , taking into account

  • (1) the engineering of the product ie the DMU,
  • (2) the knowledgeware capabilities which allow to store and manage the IPs,such as the automatic generation of shapes according to new parameters,
  • (3) the engineering optimisation through the analysis of the product behavior in the environment, such as the ergonomics, the aerodynamics, the structural deformations under constraints, the vibrations, the noise,etc...,
  • (4) the manufacturing engineering, including plant design,process planning, manufacturing simulation and assembly simulation,
  • (5) the manufacturing optimisation taking into account the product materials and the physics of stamping,welding,rivetting,composites,etc...
  • (6) the maintenance support including assembly/dissassembly procedures description, structure and repairs management,
  • (7) the collaboration support between the users as well as between the entreprises collaborating on the same project.

As you can see, this is a very vast set of capabilities which must be integrated. Personnally, I have been adressing with DS mainly (1),(2),(4) and (7) with CATIA,DELMIA,ENOVIA/SMARTEAM. Also SIMULIA adresses part of (3). With PG I adress (6). And with ESI I adress part of (2), (3)and (5).

All of this is virtual/digital...everybody does digital prototyping...

In our view, the statement made by the Autodesk management on democratization / mass appeal of digital prototyping is a veiled market signal that the company has started developing a PLM-solution for the users of Inventor. In its attempt to distance themselves from the high-end solutions provided by Dassault, Siemens and PTC, the Autodesk management rejects the PLM term as such. In this connection, it would be appropriate to remember the first Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who accomplished the first human orbital mission around the Earth. The second person to travel into space, an American Alan Shepard, who, as it is well known, completed only a suborbital flight, was called an astronaut. However, both cosmonauts and astronauts (and even recently appeared taikonauts) successfully contribute to the common cause – studying and exploring the space, and opening new horizons for the mankind. Autodesk, with its huge AutoCAD and Inventor user base, has remarkable capacity to become in due course a PLM market leader and popularize the concept (regardless of its “label”) among all sorts of interested persons. The editorial team of the portal welcomes such trend of events, as customers always benefit from increased competition.

The third international isicad-2008 forum on "PLM+ERP: Informational Environment of the Modern Enterprise" that takes place on 4 - 6 June 2008 in Novosibirsk, Russia, will get together representatives and business partners of CAD/PLM leadings companies (Autodesk, Dassault Systemes, Siemens PLM Software, PTC, ASKON, Top Systems, and ADEM) and bids fair for very interesting discussions on the prospects of PLM and digital prototyping between the industry leaders.

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