Autodesk Analyst Meeting Highlights Breadth and Future Reach of Autodesk Inventor

On November 3, 2009 I had the opportunity to attend a one day meeting for industry analysts at Autodesk’s Manufacturing Industry Group headquarters in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

The themes for the meeting were loud and clear:

  • With Autodesk’s 9 million users, and 1900 channel partners, the company offers global solutions and has enormous financial strength.
  • Autodesk’s manufacturing group’s revenue comes, surprisingly enough, mostly from medium and large customers.
  • With its recent technology acquisitions and their well thought out and executed integration into the product line, the manufacturing group now has a wide breadth of solutions for digital prototyping. These span the range from concept design through design and manufacturing.
  • Different than many of its competitors, Autodesk likes to sell “boxed” products, not solutions and consulting to make more incomplete solutions work.
  • During the meeting Autodesk broke down their manufacturing design automation into four major areas: digital concept creation (Alias), digital engineering (Inventor, AutoCAD), digital simulation (Inventor Simulation, Moldflow, Algor), and a new digital factory offering based on NavisWorks.
  • An open environment, able to read from most many CAD vendors directly and most standards formats.
  • Autodesk also stressed its technology leadership, focusing on Autodesk Fusion, direct model editing capability that “unites direct and parametric workflows,” better use of screen real estate, Showcase for amazing visualization, a factory offering, and the upcoming release of Inventor Publisher.
  • We hope to soon spend some in-depth hands-on with Fusion and will let you know our opinion as to exactly how integrated the direct modeling and parametric workflows are. Some of our questions are exactly how much of the direct modeling changes are captured in the history tree and whether all direct changes can be captured. More in a future blog.

Carl Bass, the Autodesk CEO, spoke about how Autodesk caused and continues to cause “low end disruption” in the engineering and design marketplace because Autodesk shipments outstrips its competitors by wide margins. He expects such disruptions to continue in modeling and simulation. Bass also speculated on the possible impact of cloud computing, both to vendors and users. Business model changes will be needed to both, including pricing for the interactive and compute intensive portions.

Our conclusions

For engineering, Inventor is very well positioned, and offers terrific value for about $7K USD. So far, many of the Autodesk acquisitions have automatically been added to the Inventor Professional version at no additional charge. Industry leading positions are evident in sheet metal design, plastic part design and analysis, mold tooling, mechatronic control systems design tools, high value simulation (once Algor is fully integrated), and rules based design (with Intent and iLogic).

In digital concept design, Alias leads the way, especially in automotive and consumer design, and is well integrated with Inventor. Recently, Autodesk introduced the first CAD/design application for the iPhone – SketchBook Mobile, costing a mere $2.99.

In simulation, with its recent acquisitions of PlassoTech, Moldflow, and Algor, Autodesk aims to have its engineering customers engage earlier in the design process and appears well on its way to doing so. Algor’s former CEO, Teresa Anania, heads up this effort, knows the customers needs, and is aggressively moving these products into the mainstream.

For the factory, Autodesk brings together AutoCAD (widely used today for plant layout, Inventor for equipement and tooling design, Revit for facility design and BIM (building information management), and Navisworks for visualization and simulation. This offering is expected to challenge the price points of competitive offerings of Dassault Systemes’ Delmia and Siemens PLM Software’s Tecnomatix.

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