imageRemember this one? Autodesk Manufacturing posted a really nifty add-on for Inventor Stress Analysis that revolutionized Parametric Dimension functionality. The Inventor Optimization Technology Preview on Autodesk Labs. They worked out some bugs, and got it running pretty well. Then they took it away !

It was a really mean thing to do, and I’m still not over it. So I called Bob Williams, Technical Marketing Manager for Autodesk Simulation and said “Give It Back ! “

Inventor Optimization on Autodesk Labs

imageAs you may recall, Autodesk released a number of apps that took processing intensive tasks like Finite Entity Analysis (FEA) and image rendering for example, and stuck it on the cloud. Not a new concept but definitely a new application.

Inventor will perform Stress Analysis in two modes: Single Point, and Parametric Dimension. The first runs one analysis on exactly how the model is delivered. The latter will run an array of analysis based on a list of potential changes to one or more model parameters that you designate. These can be on a single part, or an entire assembly.

One problem is that it takes forever. I mean it’s painful. The next problem is that the analyst has to have specific knowledge of the components, otherwise they have to dig in order to determine which parameters affect which features.

So Autodesk took this process and completely gutted it. They took the cumbersome parameter spreadsheet entry, and replaced it with direct component feature pick and select interface. Then packaged all your criteria, and sent it off to a server that conducted all of the analysis, as many as you wanted, for you.

You went back to work immediately, and the the magic elves sent you an email when it was all done. When you picked the link, the information was downloaded back to Inventor Optimization, which had a report ready to review. Everyone thought it was a great idea so…

I want it back.

The Results of the Labs Tests

Autodesk was concerned with two major factors when Optimization was on Labs. 

  • Security
  • What access to massive computing power would do

Autodesk knew that security was going to be a problem Large organizations with strict IT policies create a hurdle in getting the analysis package up to the magic elves on the cloud. In my case while our policies are not quite so strict, there is an evil router that just does not let some information pass through.


“The value of the cloud is not just optimization….there is also a value to let a number of users just be able to study things that they flat out were unable to study before due to hardware limitations.”

These two situation came up frequently, and Autodesk wrestled the application until the greatest amount of success could be had, with the least amount of IT intervention. Unfortunately some users just could not get through the IT red tape on their end in order to benefit from the application.

Beyond the security and access issues, the cloud computing and analysis features were a huge success. The feedback was as you can imagine quite positive. However there was a twist. One thing that turned out to be a byproduct of all the cloud related optimization previews, was that while the large majority of users were performing Optimization, many users were leveraging the cloud access to  deal with very large models that they did not have the resources to deal with.

The Gem Hiding in Optimization

Bob mentioned one aspect of the cloud application that has been largely overlooked. Results. Having access to the cloud while cool, creates the problem for the analyst who now has to filter through all the results, sometimes thousands, in order to determine which criteria combinations were beneficial, and which were not. 

Optimization not only crunches all the numbers for you, but filters them all into an interactive report that gives you the best results based on the criteria you specified. Users that needed to see more combination than these ‘best results’, can easily do so.

Each result in the report deliver a graphical depiction of the components, key criteria, and the option to push the changes immediately to the model

“The Key thing that gets overlooked is the results”, Bob noted. “It’s not enough to just open up the number crunching to the cloud so that you can do tons of simulations, it’s having that backend… to filter all that data down to only what you should be looking at. …otherwise all we would have done is to create a tool that created yet another bottleneck for human beings”


Planned Improvements

Bob noted that some enhancements should be expected. Specifically feedback, notifications, account setup, and security protocols will be improved to some degree when the application resurfaces. The user experience and making things run smoothly is the focus, however the application that we saw on Labs will be the same application that will return.

When is it Coming Back?

I asked this question, and the response I got was laughter. Like it was an unexpected question..

What Bob did say is that it has moved into the process of commercialization, and that it will not resurface as a Labs offering, but as a part of Inventor. The when was not very specific. Will they post it to subscription users to get the lesser adoption in order to work out any last minute bugs before the masses receive it? Or will they use the time and wait for a major release? No one is willing to be specific, but if I had to guess, I think it will be an Inventor 2013 enhancement.