Autodesk Floats Design Tools in the Cloud

DN Staff

May 17, 2010

3 Min Read
Autodesk Floats Design Tools in the Cloud

Autodeskfilled in some pieces of its vision for putting design tools in the cloud,releasing new details on its ProjectButterfly collaboration tool and announcing two new Software-as-a-Serviceinitiatives surrounding Inventor and its MoldFlow offering.

Project Butterfly, as described byTal Weiss, lead software development manager at Autodesk, allows AutoCAD usersto view, edit and collaborate in real time on DWG files online. With this cloudcomputing technology, anyone with a Web browser can log onto a site and accessthe same version of a file as opposed to the current way many engineering teamscollaborate, simply by e-mailing files around.

"Our intent is to enable AutoCADusers to take any AutoCAD file and upload it to the cloud using thisapplication, and share it with anyone at a remote site without the need for thesoftware," 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 diskand they can pan and zoom, annotate and edit files."

Dave McGee, lead CAD technician atLacy and Ebeling Engineering Inc., astructural and industrial engineering firm, has experimented with the ProjectButterfly technology preview. Most recently, he and a client at a remote siteconducted a co-editing session on a 2-D AutoCAD drawing showcasing a load-outfacility for a truck. "Rather than the time-consuming task of having to sendhim a PDF, then calling him and having him tell me he wanted something in thenorthwest corner, we didn't have to do any of that," McGee says. "He waslooking at his 2-D drawing, I was looking at mine, and I just followed hispointer and it was pretty obvious what he wanted."

Weiss wouldn't say when ProjectButterfly would be commercially available. Users can download the technologypreview at ProjectButterfly.

In related news, Autodeskannounced a couple of other SaaS efforts: Project Cumulus, which leverages the cloud computing model to delivermore computational horsepower for MoldFlow plastic design simulations; andProject Centaur, which lets Inventor users offload simulation tasks to thecloud. Both technology pilots, currently available to select Autodeskcustomers, leverage the cloud to lets users perform simulations theytraditionally wouldn't be able to do on the desktop.

"We're letting users leverage theuntapped potential compute power of the cloud to bring optimization into theequation," says Jeff Wymer, Autodesk senior product line manager, digitalsimulation. "We're allowing the MoldFlow designer to optimize their design andget the best results with unrivaled performance and capacity compared to thedesktop."

The new technology will run as alightweight desktop, allowing MoldFlow users to set up their geometries andinput locally. Once they hit "solve," the lightweight application will transmitthe data to the cloud for computation and will return the results back to thedesktop when finished. The amount of processing time will vary depending on thecomplexity of the design, however, the technology works asynchronously so itallows users to conduct normal computing during the simulation.

Project Centaur, aimed atmechanical engineers, is focused on the pervasive problem of designoptimization, helping users reduce material weight while achieving qualitytargets. Similar to Project Cumulus, Project Centaur will run as a smallplug-in on the desktop, allowing users to retain the user of their computerwhile the simulation is in progress on the cloud. Project Centaur is alsoaiming to push the envelope in terms of usability, delivering simulationcapabilities in such manner that they can be utilized by the broad spectrum ofmechanical engineers, not just simulation experts, Wymer says.

There is no official availabilitydate for either Project Centaur or Project Cumulus.

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