Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Autodesk 360 cloud - what's next?

Designers and engineers increasingly collaborate in extended teams on complex projects involving different disciplines - so they need to access current project data anytime, anywhere, on any device. A key aspect is the need to keep track of all changes and activities around the project, in one place. One of important requirements is also the availability of CAD data for non-technical users, or transfer of performance-intensive tasks to the cloud. All these benefits are offered in the cloud service Autodesk 360. What is the nearest future of Autodesk 360? This web application becomes a broad platform integrating various web services by Autodesk, enabling feature-rich online collaboration, creation and management of CAD data.

Within teams, you will probably encounter different types of CAD applications. Therefore, it is important to support multiple types of the most common CAD ​​formats. The existing version of Autodesk 360 supports the formats DWG, DXF, Inventor, Fusion, ATF, Navisworks, Revit, SIM360, but soon also other "foreign" CAD formats will be added, such as CATIA, Pro/E or Solidworks (already fully supported in Autodesk Fusion 360). You can then view this data interactively in your web browser, display the structure of the model, its exploded views, etc.

Especially for large projects, the search function is very important - Autodesk 360 supports "deep search", detailed search through projects or contexts, including the ability to search the contents of supported CAD files (components, texts). The forthcoming semantic search function then creates searchable links and relations between project data - what project is it? who designed it? who commented on it? what is it linked to and where is it used? who and when made any changes?:

The project management functionality allows you to create and organize tasks and milestones for workflows in the current project and team. You can also follow progress of the project, including notifications of critical situations.

Autodesk 360 will support (like other Autodesk web services) federated data - your CAD data can be physically stored in another cloud according your preferences - technical, enterprise or legal - e.g. in Dropbox, Box, Google, Sharepoint etc.

You are not limited to your desktop, you can also use any mobile device in the field or on the site to access project data from Autodesk 360, display supported types of CAD data, team members can comment on the designs, search project data, use project schedules, tasks and milestones. You can e.g. shoot photos with your mobile phone, place them directly into a project and use the ReCap 360 module to generate 3D models.

The nearest future

The new Autodesk 360 is already available in a form of a technological preview for invited users (since May 22nd for anyone on, log-in on the bottom), and it is also integrated in the current version of the 3D editor Autodesk Fusion 360. The existing (old) features of Autodesk 360 (internally called "Nitrous") will continue to be available for free. The new, enhanced Autodesk 360 will be available as a commercial service (starting end of June/beginning of July).

The existing Autodesk 360 cloud service supports individual files - can share them, view them. In contrast, the new, upcoming version offers online collaboration not only for documents, but for entire projects. It identifies relevant associated documents (xrefs, assembly components), offers the aforementioned team functions, time-scheduling functions, team user management, supports various types of CAD data formats, integrates other Autodesk's cloud services (render 360, Fusion 360, Sim 360, CAM 360, ReCap 360, PLM 360, Infraworks 360), plus there is a mobile version.

Roadmap of new releases of Autodesk 360:
  • May 2014 - integration of Rendering and Showcase 360
  • June 2014 - launch of the commercial version
  • July 2014 - integration of ReCap 360 and the cloud-based Revit Server
  • August 2014 - integration of PLM 360
  • December 2014 - new version for AU2014

The above mentioned planned new features include a unified universal viewer for large 3D CAD data (LMV - large model viewer); the "deep search" function - search through projects and through the contents of CAD data; project management (milestones, tasks); integration with Design Feed available in desktop applications; cloud API. So in the coming weeks and months we can look forward to exciting new tools that open interesting possibilities for easy collaboration on CAD ​​projects.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Autodesk - the NASTRAN acquisition

Autodesk announced its own 3D printer yesterday and today comes with new surprise - acquires certain assets of NEi Software (formerly Noran Engineering), including its main product, the well known NEi NASTRAN solver. NASTRAN (NAsa STructural ANalysis) is a highly acclaimed tool for analysis of 3D models based on the finite element method (FEA). This solver is also used in other CAE applications (e.g. Femap). The roots of NASTRAN date back the 60s when it was developed for space agency NASA. There are several offshoots of this software (FTC-induced clones in 2002). Calculations from NASTRAN are used today not only in the space program (e.g. for SpaceShipOne), but also for demanding "mundane" behavioral analysis of 3D models - linear and nonlinear analysis, dynamic simulations.

It can be expected that NASTRAN will complement the existing Autodesk simulation products. The desktop- and cloud-based CAE tools by Autodesk are being developed on the technologies derived primarily from acquisitions completed in recent years - such as Algor, Moldflow, CFdesign (Blue Ridge Numerics) or Firehole Composites.

The latest NASTRAN acquisition confirms that Autodesk is very serious in the simulation business.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Autodesk Memento copes with very large mesh models

Autodesk just launched a new update of Project Memento, a technology preview Windows application with tools for converting photos and scans into high quality 3D mesh, plus powerful tools for mesh clean up, fixing and optimizing mesh models for further use - e.g. CAD or 3D print. See the announcement on Shaan Hurley's blog.

We have tested the new version of Memento on a large model of "baby alien" from our last year's design contest Hedgehog in cage. The winner, the "Alien" model (with its cage/nest) was designed in 3ds Max and this organic shape is very detailed. Its source .max file has about 700MB, the exported .obj file is a hefty 1.6GB giant. Full detailed STL print file is also over 1GB, and thus many 3D print engines had problems handling it. It was also not easy to view or simplify this large mesh in any 3D software.

Loading this OBJ or STL model into Memento was very fast, about 2:20 min. on a plain home PC with just an integrated graphics card. The model then rotated and zoomed in real time. Individual faces could be easily selected. The native .rcm file has 700MB and it loads instantaneously(!) in Memento. Subsequent OBJ re-export of this model with 50% decimation (simplification) took about 4 minutes (there was not any visible degradation on this 50%-smaller model). You can 3D print on different 3D printers directly from Memento.

Alien OBJ (1.6GB) loaded in Memento

see the details of the model

So if you need to heal, process or 3D print a large mesh model (scanned or modelled), Memento is definitely worth trying.

See Project Memento on Autodesk Beta site.