filled in some pieces of its vision for putting design tools in the cloud,
releasing new details on its Project
Butterfly collaboration tool and announcing two new Software-as-a-Service
initiatives surrounding Inventor and its MoldFlow offering.
Project Butterfly, as described by
Tal Weiss, lead software development manager at Autodesk, allows AutoCAD users
to view, edit and collaborate in real time on DWG files online. With this cloud
computing technology, anyone with a Web browser can log onto a site and access
the same version of a file as opposed to the current way many engineering teams
collaborate, simply by e-mailing files around.
"Our intent is to enable AutoCAD
users to take any AutoCAD file and upload it to the cloud using this
application, and share it with anyone at a remote site without the need for the
software," says Weiss, who came to Autodesk last November when his company,
VisualTao, was acquired as the foundation technology for Project Butterfly.
"The only thing they need is a browser — there is nothing installed on the disk
and they can pan and zoom, annotate and edit files."
Dave McGee, lead CAD technician at
Lacy and Ebeling Engineering Inc., a
structural and industrial engineering firm, has experimented with the Project
Butterfly technology preview. Most recently, he and a client at a remote site
conducted a co-editing session on a 2-D AutoCAD drawing showcasing a load-out
facility for a truck. "Rather than the time-consuming task of having to send
him a PDF, then calling him and having him tell me he wanted something in the
northwest corner, we didn't have to do any of that," McGee says. "He was
looking at his 2-D drawing, I was looking at mine, and I just followed his
pointer and it was pretty obvious what he wanted."
Weiss wouldn't say when Project
Butterfly would be commercially available. Users can download the technology
preview at Project
In related news, Autodesk
announced a couple of other SaaS efforts: Project Cumulus, which leverages the cloud computing model to deliver
more computational horsepower for MoldFlow plastic design simulations; and
Project Centaur, which lets Inventor users offload simulation tasks to the
cloud. Both technology pilots, currently available to select Autodesk
customers, leverage the cloud to lets users perform simulations they
traditionally wouldn't be able to do on the desktop.
"We're letting users leverage the
untapped potential compute power of the cloud to bring optimization into the
equation," says Jeff Wymer, Autodesk senior product line manager, digital
simulation. "We're allowing the MoldFlow designer to optimize their design and
get the best results with unrivaled performance and capacity compared to the
The new technology will run as a
lightweight desktop, allowing MoldFlow users to set up their geometries and
input locally. Once they hit "solve," the lightweight application will transmit
the data to the cloud for computation and will return the results back to the
desktop when finished. The amount of processing time will vary depending on the
complexity of the design, however, the technology works asynchronously so it
allows users to conduct normal computing during the simulation.
Project Centaur, aimed at
mechanical engineers, is focused on the pervasive problem of design
optimization, helping users reduce material weight while achieving quality
targets. Similar to Project Cumulus, Project Centaur will run as a small
plug-in on the desktop, allowing users to retain the user of their computer
while the simulation is in progress on the cloud. Project Centaur is also
aiming to push the envelope in terms of usability, delivering simulation
capabilities in such manner that they can be utilized by the broad spectrum of
mechanical engineers, not just simulation experts, Wymer says.
There is no official availability
date for either Project Centaur or Project Cumulus.
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How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
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