Design and Manufacturing solutions through Digital Prototyping and Interoperability

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Autodesk Vault | To Item or not to Item, that is the question

To Item, or not to Item, that is the question—
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of uncontrolled files,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles with Items,

You are looking at Vault or have just purchased Vault Professional and you have a very important decision in front of you… do we use items?

What are items?

Items represent things within your business, the components that your company manages, assembles, sells and manufactures.

Vault 2015 ItemEach item is identified by its own unique item number (or sometimes referred to as part number). Items can represent a variety of things including parts and assemblies, instructional guides, consumable goods (fluids, lubricants, etc), and any related Bill of Material. Some items might be purchased, while others are manufactured internally.

Do I Need Items?

Autodesk has definitely made it easier to work with items in 2015 (see our post Vault Pro 2015 is da bom!), but this may not be enough to answer the important questions. Do we use file lifecycles and revision management? do we use items and their lifecycle / revision processes, or do we look at implementing both?

Here are three important questions you need to ask yourself, and others within your organization, which will attempt to lead you down the correct path.

Question #1 – Do I need to share my Vault data with my <insert acronym> system?

Syncing the iPad - Lego StormtroopersImage Credit: 713 Avenue

Do you have an ERP, MRP, PLM, CRM or some other business system that you are wanting to link the Vault data with? If the answer is yes then do not pass Go, do not collect $200, and proceed directly to implementing items.

Items form an Item Master and guess what the other systems are based on?

If you do want to link with your business system then the next question is… do you ensure that your vault items have the same numbers as your business system items, or do you have 2 separate systems with some form of cross-referencing?

Vault 2015 Item MasterVault Items can be exported and it will include their property information and BOM Structure. Although you might have to build some type of intermediate process to clean the data before import Item-to-item linking is the easiest path to connection.

Question #2 – BOM Access

Do non-engineering or non-cad people need access to data about my parts and assemblies? Including Bill of Materials?

Items maintain a Bill of Material including where items are used, the quantities, the units, and all the related data. These BOM’s can be created from the associated CAD file or be built manually. You can also manipulate an existing BOM by adjusting quantities and adding extra components.

Vault 2015 Item Bill of Materials

Do you know that although the engineering specified 10-bolts there is no way that it will make it to the customer without losing 1 or 2? Then bump the quantity up to 12. Need packaging information that isn’t included in the CAD model? Then add it to the item assembly BOM.

Question #3 – Revision Management

Do I want a method to manage revisions? And control what downstream users see of my data? Do I want to manage CAD AND non-CAD things? Do I want to release data locking it from access? Do I want to use Change Orders to control and track revisions?

In the Vault Pro Item world, you have files and you have items. Files can be attached to Items but Items are not attached to the files. Consider the following scenarios…

Scenario #1: No File Lifecycling – Item controls Release and Revision Process.

Vault 2015 Item Change State

In this scenario the item is released setting the revision number and locking the files from change. You can configure both the Vault Client and the Web Client so that users can only see Items. Meaning that the CAD data can do its own thing and when its ready be made available to the item viewers, it won’t be until the item is updated and released. When a change is required the Change Order is issued against the item and the change is tracked on the item

Scenario #2: File LIfecycles – No Item Lifecycles

Vault 2015 File Change State

In this scenario you WIP – Review – Release your files, managing the revisions at a file level. The files are still associated to the items so that the BOM is generated and the item data can be shared with your business applications. Change Orders are issued against the files and the change is tracked on the file. The only interaction with the item is to perform an update after changes are completed on the file

Scenario #3: Both File and Item Lifecycles

Similar to #2 except the Items are also Released. This is so that the revision of the file and the Item (BOM) are both tracked, managed, and maintained. There can be some complications to overcome as the dually release and lock systems can overlap and fight for control.

Which is the right choice for my release management process?

Decision Ahead - Proceed SlowlyWhat I’m hoping to show with these scenarios is whether you are currently using file lifecycles or have just started to use Vault, there is a lifecycle option that will work.

Not using file lifecyces to manage change? Then consider skipping it and use Items for this.

Already releasing files? No problem; you can easily implement items with little impact to your current workflows.

Last Steps

“To Item or Not to Item?”, is an important question to ask yourself as you begin your quest with Vault Professional. Not that there isn’t the flexibility to switch or choose different paths, however making these decisions correctly up front can save time and effort. So take the quiz above and let us know how it pans out.


DIY CNC Machining from Scratch | The Electronics

For those of you who are following this series, this article goes through the electrical system design for the mill conversion. If you missed the first part, which covers the mechanical conversion, you can find that here.

So at this point, we have a machine that could go back and forth, side to side, and up and down automatically, if only we had something to tell the motors what to do. For those unfamiliar, the 3 axes we are talking about are usually as shown in the following image:

CNC Mill 3 Axes3 Axis Mill – Convention for X, Y, and Z

For 3 axes of motion, we need 3 motors, and 3 motor drivers. Enter the Geckodrive G540 stepper motor driver. Geckodrive make various motor controls, and the G540 is a particularly nice little unit as it is very compact but still has some powerful capability. It is actually 4 G250 drivers in 1 package, which simplifies wiring by requiring only 1 power feed for all 3 motors. I’m not using the 4th output at this stage, but if I installed a 4th rotary axis for indexing, then it could be used for that. I had used a G540 a few years before, in a 3-axis router conversion that I did, and so decided to select one for the mill conversion as it was familiar and easy to use. Here’s a really bad photo of it:

Geckodrive G540Geckodrive G540 Stepper Motor Driver

 So what does this gadget do exactly, you ask? Basically, it takes information from the machine controller (in this case a PC running LinuxCNC) in the form of step and direction signals, and uses that information to determine the magnitude and direction of current flow that it should provide to the motor windings to get them to move in the correct way. On the front panel, you can see 4 smaller connectors, and one large one. The large on is used to connect the unit to the PC, and the 4 smaller ones are connected to up to 4 stepper motors. On the back of the unit, there are various connectors for power, and input signals from things like limit switches which are used for homing the machine for a consistent 0,0,0 position.

The G540 needs a power supply which is capable of running all 3 or 4 motors. For converting AC-DC, switch mode digital conversion is a lot more efficient than the old coil type transformers. This type of technology has come down in price a huge amount over recent times, and so selecting a suitable supply was a pretty easy task. I found an Australian supplier who sells a lot of DIY CNC components and he had some reasonable pricing on Meanwell power supplies. I went with the 7.3A 48V DC unit here. I also got a few other miscellaneous items like a power socket with integrated fuse holder, and some switches.

Now that I had all the bits, it was time to work out how to package them up. Of course, I went straight to my indispensable 3D Digital Prototyping Swiss-Army Knife…… Autodesk Inventor. I started by placing models of the electronic components in 3D space, roughly where I wanted, then designing a sheetmetal enclosure to suit. I used Inventor’s wiring tools to create a simple loom and work out where I wanted to run the wiring. Trev from Hitech Sheetmetals then got to work, and produced a beautiful enclosure that exactly matched my digital model. A quick test fit of the components was followed by a spray of some wrinkle-finish paint, and the enclosure was ready to be fitted up. You can see the process in pictures in the slideshow below.

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With the electronics system now finished, I performed some testing to make sure that I hadn’t made any mistakes with the connections, and then took it out to the garage to connect it to the rest of the system.

An old PC I had lying around was to take the roll of the Machine Controller. For newbies to CNC, the controller is what takes the G-Code produce by your CAM software and turns it into step and direction signals to turn the motors that drive the machine. They usually also have feedback displays so you can see what the machine is doing, and where it is in the program. For any “real” CNC machinists reading this article, the PC takes the place of your Fanuc or Heidenhain, or whatever other controller you may have hanging off the side of your machine. A commercial machine controller like that can be worth tens of thousands of dollars, a budget that I simply did not have. Luckily, through clever open source development, a very functional and sophisticated software controller can be had for a much nicer price of FREE. LinuxCNC was my weapon of choice. I weighed it up against Mach3, it’s direct competitor, and decided to give the open source option a go, before trying the commercial Mach3 product.

Having used LinuxCNC in the past, the configuration and calibration was relatively quick and painless. Within an hour or so, the motors were happily singing away. I moved on to started cutting some air in the shape of the LinuxCNC logo, which is the default G-Code program that it comes with, for testing.

After spending quite a bit of time tuning and calibrating the various aspects of the system, I started machining a few test components. I quickly discovered that with longer programs, sometimes the accuracy would not be very good, and the symptoms of “missed steps” were starting to show. Missed steps can be caused by latency in the software step generator. Interruptions to the timing inside the computer means that sometimes the stepper driver might not receive all of the step information that it was supposed to. This leads to the machine ending up in a slightly different place to where the computer thinks it is. I was getting some latency errors in LinuxCNC and after a lot of messing around, decided that the PC was just not up to software step generation.

After a lot of googling, and a lot of reading, I decided that a hardware step generator would solve my issues. I found a company called MESA in California, and ordered one of their MESA 6i25 motion control cards. After a week of bashing my head against the wall trying to configure it, I received an answer from their tech support department asking me to check the positions of the jumpers on the card. Sure enough, one was in the wrong position, and I promptly fixed that. As soon as I ran the machine, I could see that the performance had improved dramatically. The machine can now run reliably at least 3 times faster than it did with software step generation. It sounds smoother, and the accuracy is a lot better too. 

With the mill now running really nicely, I set to work cutting some 3D surfaces to not only test the capability of the machine, but also to try out the new Autodesk InventorHSM CAM software that had recently become available to me. I will cover this in a lot more detail in a future post, but as a teaser, here is a picture of the first 3D surface that I milled with a 5mm diameter ballnose cutter:

3D Toolpath MachinedFirst 3D surface that I machined

 In the next post, I’ll talk more about the CAM software for creating the G-Code, and also the LinuxCNC software which is used to control the machine.


Autodesk Product & Factory Design Suite 2015 Released

Autodesk 2015 Product & Factory Design Suites Marketing WheelWe had a bit of fun last month with Mike’s post ‘Which Products will be in Autodesk’s 2015 Suites’, which stirred up some discussion, but the buck stops with today. Autodesk have announced new for 2015, Digital Prototyping software releases for the Manufacturing, Architecture, Engineering & Construction industry segments. Once again Suites and their makeup are a strong point of focus with respect to how they are enabling customers to get to market faster, cheaper, more reliably & generally just knocking out better stuff. The manufacturing design suites aren’t just about Product & Factory Design Suites, but also the related data management and simulation offerings Autodesk have. The 2015 product line brings those bang up to date with some dramatic changes across the board.

“Our suites provide designers and engineers with a complete set of tools and cloud services that allow them to simplify design, visualization and simulation workflows from product development through delivery,” said Robert “Buzz” Kross, senior vice president, Design, Lifecycle and Simulation at Autodesk.  “By offering solutions that are scalable, cost effective and open, our customers have the opportunity to design, manufacture and sell great products.”

Autodesk haven’t mentioned anything about which products will be in the Suites yet, other than an interesting change for the Product Design Suite. So in that regard I suppose they are just going to surprise their customers when they get access to their downloads. Worryingly, this screams there is controversy ahead to me. I’m tempted to speculate, but I might get in trouble, so I can’t. Anyway I digress….

Design and Motion will be bringing you a series of posts covering the new features in the core products within the suites over the next few days and coming weeks. Here are a few right off the bat:

AutoCAD 2015 Announced – Whats New?

Scotty, MText Me Up!

Autodesk Inventor 2015 Released – Whats New? T-Splines?

What’s new in Autodesk Simulation 2015 products?

Autodesk Vault 2015

Vault Professional 2015′s Item Master is ‘da BOM’!

Still to come….

More AutoCAD goodness from Mike.

Suite news as it becomes apparent.

Product Design Suite

“We understand that customers today don’t have a single homogeneous environment. Inventor is one of the best tools on the market today, when it comes to interoperability with other 3d tools and solutions, and being able to make changes to that geometry. You can actually do full manipulation of imported geometry with Direct Edit tool within Product Design Suite 2015.” – Jeff Wymer, Senior Industry Manager, Manufacturing

The big change here is Autodesk Product Design Suite Standard has been discontinued! All those PrDS Standard customers are being upgraded to Product Design Suite Premium. Which means those who elected to upgrade from AutoCAD 2 years ago, scored basic Inventor last year & look to be gaining Inventor Professional this year. So one would assume then, PrDS Premium seats will now be upgraded to PrDS Ultimate.

I wonder if there will be any casualties here? Will Mudbox finally be removed from the Suite? How about Alias in the Ultimate Suite? Will those Ultimate seats get any compensation for having their asset value watered down by the upgrade of Premium seats to Ultimate? Maybe Autodesk will lower the Ultimate subs rate to match the Premium subs rate of yesteryear? Time will tell.

Anyway, there is some very solid stuff appearing in this years PrDS, a lot of what I can bring up here is covered in Gavin’s Inventor What’s New post. So I will just share some pretty pictures highlighting an overview of the new goodies:


Autodesk Inventor 2015 Freeform T-Spine Seat

Autodesk Product Design Suite 2015 Freeform TrailerFreeform tools provide an alternate modeling approach to explore and create freeform shaped models.

Direct/History free modelling

Autodesk Product Design Suite 2015 Direct Edit FlangeThe new Direct Editing tool lets users easily manipulate native or imported geometry and parametrically move, size, rotate, and delete imported solid models or native Inventor files.

Improved Start Up & Learning Experience

Autodesk Inventor 2015 Home Tab

Autodesk PrDS 2015 Learning ExperienceWhile I’m far from impressed with the first version of the Home Tab shown above, I do REALLY like the learning paths including the continuation and expansion of the interactive tutorials. These really are a nice & modern touch for first time users. Hopefully this is a solid indication of where Autodesk are going with this new Home tab experience.

Factory Design Suite

Autodesk Factory Design Suite 2015 Themes

Autodesk Factory Design Suite 2015 Point CloudsAccess point cloud tools more easily with Autodesk ReCap.

Autodesk Factory Design Suite 2015 FDS BOMThe new Bill of Materials command on the Factory ribbon in Inventor software allows users to quickly create, edit and process a list of equipment used in factory layout.

Autodesk Factory Design Suite 2015 Process Analysis 360This is an interesting addition to the Factory Design Suite in my opinion. I’m really looking forward to taking it for a spin, but I hope it’s indicative of a future direction for the Autodesk Suites…. Core software is Desktop based, with Cloud based power tools which take advantage of server farms & collaboration where appropriate. That would mean only snippets of IP would be exposed to the Cloud, while maintaining ultimate control inside your firewall or within your private Cloud.


Other than the doubt about which products will actually be in the Suites (due to no announcement at this point) and the heavy focus on Inventor’s new features being pivotal to the Suite story this year, it does look rather promising. There are some great new features in Inventor & AutoCAD for that matter, but once again Factory Design Suite is the stand out, it’s workflows are maturing nicely and it’s increasingly becoming an excellent product to work with…. we just need some AutoCAD Electrical love in there please Autodesk.

I’ve been using Inventor 2015 for a while now as a Beta product, and I miss it whenever I step back to 2014. There are some stunning new tools in the sketch environment, which translate to huge productivity gains & if you do have to perform any rework, the new tools really help you out. I just can’t wait to get my hands dirty and start tying everything together across the products. FDS, iLogic, Vault Data Standard, PLM, 360 & even Microsoft Office 365. It’s a Geeky exciting world out there & 2014 is shaping up brilliantly.

You will start to see products appearing for download in Subscription Center from now & over the next week. AutoCAD 2015 is already there & so is Autodesk Vault 2015.

Thanks for reading guys


Based on this image released by InventorTopix there are some big losses in the Product Design Suite:

Showcase removed from Product Design Suite 2015So that means the following applications have been removed from the Product Design Suite:

  • Alias Design is gone from Product Design Suite Ultimate
  • Autodesk Showcase has been removed from all the suites
  • Autodesk Sketchbook Designer has been removed from all the suites
  • Autodesk Mudbox (as predicted) has been removed from all the suites.

To compensate for that, the buy price of each suite has been reduced & so has the price of the standalone products (which may mean the subscription costs will go down as well). I wonder if there will be similarly dramatic changes with the Factory Design Suite?

Also I would put good money on Showcase 360 making an appearance sometime soon, with access via Cloud Credits, which if you are on Subscription you will have a chunk of included with your Suite. Soooo it may end up working out. Again, time will tell.

I can also confirm that Autodesk Showcase 2014 WILL NOT import Inventor 2015 parts & assemblies.Inventor 2015 to Showcase 2014 import failureMake sure you politely express any frustrations you have with your Reseller, there may be something they can work out with Autodesk. You never know, power to the people & all that. It’s possible they made this decision based on CIP data, how many opt out of that? User interface changes are based on CIP data, so if you want to make sure your input counts, be sure to opt in for CIP.

Most of the Images shown hereon were furnished by Autodesk, Inc.


Autodesk Completes Purchase of Delcam

imageAutodesk announced today that it has completed the purchase of Delcam, the UK based Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) technology developer hosting 700 employees. This follows the announcement in November 2013 that the company intended to do so, but with very little information available. Attempts to get more information at Autodesk University 2013 were met with whispers and secrecy.

The purchase terms include £20.75 per share, which translates to approximately  £172.5 million. The company noted that the purchase, with largely back end administrative alterations will not change Delcam’s processes, and will not disrupt Delcam’s product development. Their reseller and support channels will continue to operate as a separate subsidiary, which should relieve many concerned about the end of a great company.

“Autodesk brings to Delcam increased financial strength, unparalleled expertise in design, and a long history of making technology accessible to broad audiences. Through sharing our technology and expertise, this transaction will transform industries and improve how the world is designed and made,” said Clive Martell, Delcam chief executive officer. “By maintaining the basic structure of Delcam’s business, Autodesk is reflecting its trust in and respect for Delcam’s solutions, leadership and organization, and we are excited to come together and further the vision, development and implementation of technology for digital manufacturing.”

“The acquisition of Delcam is an important step in Autodesk’s continued expansion into manufacturing and fabrication and beyond our roots in design. Together with Delcam we look forward to accelerating the development of a more comprehensive Digital Prototyping solution and delivering a better manufacturing experience,” said Buzz Kross, senior vice president for Design, Lifecycle and Simulation products. “We welcome the Delcam employees, customers, partners and community to Autodesk.”

Purchase Motivations

Carl White, CAM product Manager at Autodesk, and Clive Martell (Delcam) answered questions during a press conference today. The bulk of the discussion centered around the purchase motivation and sharing of technologies. Carl White noted that while Autodesk had recently purchased HSMWorks for their well integrated CAM product, that Delcam had a well established basis in CAM, a foothold in manufacturing of orthotics, a great user base, and new technologies being developed. He went on to say that another very positive aspect of Delcam’s company is their sales and support channel.

“It’s easy to sell CAM products, but it’s not so easy to provide quality support” .

Delcam already has a great customer base and provides its own support in numerous languages.

Clive Martell responded in kind, and went on to note the advantages of their involvement with Autodesk, which were among other things, a very large portfolio, their resources, and broad audience.

Sharing Delcam Technology with Autodesk Products

A very popular question was brought up, about how Autodesk intends on distributing the goods to it’s existing client base. I guess we do all have our arms outstretched and hands wide open – “Please Uncle Carl, may I have another?”. Carl White noted that there is much interest in the topic of distributing some of these technologies. “There are certainly algorithms that could be used to enhance things. Tool libraries are another area of interest, as well as Tri-Brid modeling (Delcam’s CAD modeling based on Solid / Surface / Triangle).” It was further noted that such benefits would happen over the long term, and not the short term.


Press Conference notes


Autodesk Wants Users to Have More Access

Autodesk University 2013 was a successful event, and we got to witness some great presentations about the changes in the world and how Autodesk plans to be part of the transformation. It’s all about access.

Access to Collaborative Influences

Jeff Kowalski delivered a great presentation on looking out. I am not usually fond of the dog-and-pony show presentations (my short attention span / companies glossing over obvious issues, etc.), however Jeff really did a fine job of relating how looking out has benefitted both imbedded and emerging companies across the world.

Jeff Kowalski Discusses Collaboration at Autodesk University

While many companies are trying to protect their investments by hiding their plans and goals, Jeff pointed out how many companies were being somewhat more open with their ideas, and openly inviting new engineers and designers to help solve problems with their internal team members. GrabCAD has been doing that for some time, using contests to attract talent and provide numerous ways to attack problems.

“No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.”

Autodesk continues to introduce new methods of integrating the collaborative effect across their products, especially the 360 cloud initiatives. The new face of Autodesk 360 reflects the direction they are heading. Those changes should provide more access to collaborative efforts for both companies and individuals alike, as well to expand the reach of those using the traditional engineering workflows such as tools like Autodesk Inventor.

Access to New Design Tools and Methods

Autodesk has expanded their pay-as-you-go solutions to include most of their popular products, which ultimately reaches more customers:

  • where the annual fees were cost prohibitive in a single payment
  • where the need for seats of a product could only be justified for a short period of time
  • where the need for the software is sporadic

Additionally the need for more computing power and the cost of a full time hardware investment have been difficult strategies for medium sized companies trying to compete. Autodesk has mitigated that with not only cloud computing services such as SIM 360 and CAM 360, but now offers SIM 360 with both cloud computing as well as local solving options. This gives companies the option to solve locally when the complexity is not too great, or lay the process off to the cloud solvers when the need rises, thus keeping the cost of cloud solving at a minimum. The strategy also allows companies to more confidently attack problems that became too costly during complex setup phases, where numerous partial results are required prior to solving the entire scope of the model.

Sim 360 Thermal Stress

The latter may also permit some companies to offer their employees SIM 360’s services. The learning curve for early design validation is quite short with SIM 360, and with the desktop only option not soaking up cloud credits, many roadblocks associated with adopting the new tool are removed. Let’s face it, if you wanted your teams to have more static type validation early in the design phase, with the least amount of training requirements and intrusiveness, SIM 360 is the way to go.

My Thoughts

Autodesk has really gone to some effort to help connect their subscribers to what they see as the needs of an evolving world:

  • embracing both additive and subtractive manufacturing technologies, and providing access to these for their subscribers
  • giving more people with new ideas access to capable tools that were out of reach for numerous reasons
  • providing better methods of collaboration, encouraging design teams to reach out to people around the globe in search of ideas to solve various problems, and not hide behind their firewall in order to protect their investments.

The latter is likely to spark new technological advancements where lack of collaboration with new people had stifled a potential new avenue of success.

Collaborative connectivity has been a problem for some time. Services have been emerging that embraced the thoughts of the many, but the services have been sporadic in nature and did not connect well to other processes. What seems to be happening is that companies such as Autodesk are looking at how these can be connected as they evolve, in order to prepare a fluid platform for emerging thinkers to solve problems. A platform that is easily adopted, easily used, and worked well with other collaborative and communicative platforms as they grow in popularity is a serious look at the emerging workforce, and puts Autodesk in a very good place to compete in the radically changing design marketplace.

Note: Autodesk, Inc. and Autodesk User Group International graciously covered portions of the expenses associated with my participation at the event, however in no manner did they influence or suggest any content in this article.

CAM 360 Announced at Autodesk University

Autodesk announced CAM 360 at Autodesk University 2013, adding yet another fantastic capability to their cloud based 360 line of design and engineering tools. This addition completes my prediction of the company’s direction with the PLM 360 construct, however it did so a year sooner than I thought would be reasonable.

Autodesk’s CAM offerings are based on the Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) technology purchase of HSMWorks in September 2012. That purchase included 2 products, namely HSMWorks and HSMXpress, specifically designed for SolidWorks users. HSMWorks is a fully functional 5 axis milling and lathe solution, and HSMXpress is a rather well featured 2.5D milling solution that is available free of charge.

Autodesk assimilated the HSMWorks product team, and subsequently updated the HSMWorks product for SolidWorks 2014, reinforcing the company’s statement that they would not stop support for SolidWorks users. They also released Inventor HSM, which is an Inventor port of the HSMXpress product, giving their flagship engineering software a fully integrated a 2.5D milling toolset, again for free.

HSMWorks veteran Anthony Graves, now Autodesk’s CAM product manager, noted that the free HSMXpress software’s complete integration within respective CAD software unexpectedly cornered the 2.5D milling market, and subsequently influenced some users upgrading to 3 and 5 axis operations to invest in HSMWorks. Those factors and the easily ported modular build of the HSM technology helped convince Autodesk to complete the purchase.

Autodesk CAM 360

Autodesk has gone beyond the desktop applications to introduce a great milling solution as part of the Autodesk 360 product set. CAM 360 is the first cloud based CAM solution, and is a fully integrated CAD/CAM environment. Built on the Fusion backbone, it includes the user interface and a limited but useful set of CAD tools. In similar manner to SIM 360, it provides users much needed modeling capabilities required by their respective workflows. This is CAD/CAM integration with a whole new meaning.

“Two years ago, we launched PLM 360, creating a new paradigm for product lifecycle management,” said Robert “Buzz” Kross, senior vice president at Autodesk. “In September 2012, we broke down the barriers to testing and analysis with Sim 360. Last year, we ushered in a new era of cloud-based design with Fusion 360. And now, Autodesk delivers the final piece of the solution—manufacturing—with CAM 360.”

Autodesk CAM 360

The core model in CAM 360 is a Fusion type model, where all imported or created solid models are normalized into a singularly consistent dataset. This allows the same model developed in Fusion 360 to be analyzed in SIM 360, and post processed for manufacturing in CAM 360 without translation operations. This gives the Autodesk 360 family of products a complete, continuously evolving and expanding CAD/CAM/CAE capability that reaches both traditional and next-generation users alike. This paradigm and the convenient cloud accessibility of the new Autodesk 360 collaborative capabilities makes CAM 360 a serious product to watch (and purchase).

CAM 360 Features

Currently, CAM 360 is built on the milling functionality of HSMWorks. The initial released features are expected to include:

  • 2.5D and 3D milling
  • Customizable toolpath solutions
  • Fixture modeling (via CAM 360 modeling and model import)
  • Flexible toolpath simulation
  • Cloud accessiblity and collaboration
  • Model adjustments and simplification capabilities

The company is in full swing development of these features and more. The product is expected to be in Beta testing by January and have a production release in late spring. Future releases are expected to include:

  • 3 and 5 axis milling operation (possible standard and pro versioning)
  • Collision detection

Autodesk CAM 360


I think that CAM 360 has the possibilities to be a serious contender in the new marketplace. Why?

First, CAM 360 sits in the Autodesk 360 suite of products that offer a complete set of tools for many users and perhaps the vast majority of next generation users coming into the marketplace. These are super easy to expand into with flexible subscription options.

Secondly, the cloud basis offers easy access anywhere, and an option that is operating system and CAD vendor independent. This means that no matter what modeling software you use, you can still easily use the great features in CAM 360 to perform your CNC process and post-processing.

Third, the entire 360 product line is being modeled and developed heavily for the next-generation user. Substantial product improvements have been implemented across all the 360 products in the last year, and no slowing of the innovations is expected (many known new features cannot be mentioned here). The cloud improves the ability to add new innovations to the CAM process without hardware limitations as well, freeing the developers to put their efforts to more useful tasks.

Lastly, and perhaps the most important, is the fact that these next generation tools offer people with next-generation ideas, and new ways of thinking without many of the limitations we have today; Not merely user experience teams, but developers that don’t look at where we are for new answers, but where we should be, and could be.

The entire package really offers an inspiring future for the Autodesk 360 phenomenon, and I expect to see a reasonably good adoption of the CAM 360 product.