It’s odd.You see a crowd of people gathered around an iPhone and you automatically think… head down, ramming speed… and it all goes fairly well, until you run smack dab into cool tech that may very well help you explain away piles of paper.

This week, Autodesk Labs released the Inventor Publisher Tech Preview which allows you to create interactive 3D assembly instruction animations. It’s cool, but tucked behind this is an even cooler iPhone app, pending approval, that brings those interactive 3D bits to the mobile device.

We got the hands-on demonstration from Abhijit Singh, Senior Product Manger on Digital Concepts for the Autodesk Manufacturing Industry Group.

Whatcha think? Cool? Out of all the Autodesk software I would have guessed being pushed to an iPhone app, a a brand new Tech Preview program is the last. However, based on the success of their Sketchbook Mobile app, they’ve got a good foundation to explore moving early-release software to the mobile platform and grow the desktop version along with it.

Inventor Publisher allows you to create interactive 3D assembly animations of 3D data. (desktop version shown)
Inventor Publisher allows you to create interactive 3D assembly animations of 3D data. – desktop version shown – (Click to Enlarge)

Die, drawings, die

It’s obvious, drawings are out, 3D is in. But, before you dangle me over a pit of recycled paper, think about it… How many revisions related to drafting format errors to you make? How many times do you just want to show production the model? How many times do you send Isometric screenshots, a 3D PDF or eDrawing to manufacturing because they don’t understand how to construct a part?

Maybe it’s more a question of what we use drawings for – certification, redlines, scale, etc… we need that. But instead of saying, “We need drawing in order to do so and so,” what about saying, “We need an interactive 3D model in order to do so and so.” Suddenly, your Vietnamese speaking production lead is pulling up 3D models instead of 50 sheet drawings filled with flag notes and detailed instructions he can’t read.

Lookout 3DVia and Adobe

Automating assembly instructions and interactive 3D documents isn’t new. Other companies have seen a need there also. 3DVia has Composer, SolidWorks has eDrawings, Quadrispace has Publisher3D, and Adobe has Acrobat 3D.

What’s immediately different about the Autodesk Inventor Publisher program is 1) how it’s set up to tie into Autodesk Inventor and 2) the iPhone app.

The other companies could feasibly create an iPhone app of their own. Any app like this is not likely to be the most used app out there or even something that engineering and production facilities would latch on to. However, it is an interesting look into where our our efforts in drawing creation are being pushed.

Would you use it?


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.