This week, SolidSmack was out at One Market Street in San Francisco, California for two days. One Market Street is the home of Autodesk corporate where they invited a slew of Press/bloggers out to get waylaid by the news and features of the Autodesk 2013 product line. The updates span the mechanical, construction and entertainment industries and all have one large overarching theme to bring them together.

Connecting you to the Cloud

You may not know it already, but if you’re using an Autodesk product, particularly a suite, you’re connected to the cloud… unless you’re not. Generally, Autodesk’s approach is that the ‘cloud’ (off-site resources – be it storage or computer power), is there to complement and supplement your design workflow – giving you more power to crunch through simulations and renderings or to be a central repository to share, access and collaborate on data. All with the added benefit of not having to worry about upgrade, implementation or maintenance of software they actually do offer over the web, namely Autodesk 360PLM.

How is Autodesk Doing?

Autodesk is doing well, with 1.95 Billion reported for 2011 and an estimate of 2.22 Billion for 2012. They’re spread out across building, entertainment, engineering, construction, infrastructure, product, plant and factory design with 75% of their business happening overseas. To give you an idea of their growth, this year Autodesk turns 30. Over that time, they’ve had 12 million ‘legal’ users. In the last two years, they’ve acquired 7 million AutoCAD WS users – that’s 7 million people that have downloaded the mobile version of AutoCAD. For their deput Mobile app, Sketchbook Mobile, they’ve had 12 million downloads over the past two years with 150,000 downloads per week. Lots of numbers and not all of it’s converting to cash, but it’s certainly showing that people are not opposed to mobile or accessing data from the cloud.

Autodesk 2013 Product Suites

The big news is the 2013 Product design suites. Updates galore, but most will be glad that the interface between programs continues to become more cohesive and the integration between many of the software packages is tighter. This is particularly true for the design and creation suites. If you used Autodesk Cloud in the past, that is now called Autodesk 360. As the press release states,

Autodesk 360 (formerly known as Autodesk Cloud) now provides even more cloud benefits to Autodesk Subscription customers, including additional cloud storage and the ability to access cloud services for rendering, simulation, design optimization and energy analysis. Subscription customers now have up to 25 GB of storage and between 100 and 500 Autodesk Cloud Units per user, based on the suite edition they purchased.

Yep, subscription customers only, but if you’re not, you still get 3GB of storage. If you’re use AutoCAD, Inventor and/or Showcase, those are now integrated with Autodesk 360. The ‘Cloud Units’ mentioned above are a form of currency for cloud services. For example, you can have one 2000×2000 dpi image rendered at the flat rate of one Cloud Unit.

Updates were made to all suites, adding Autodesk 360 capability, but for the Product Design and Factory Design Suites, that most of you will be interested in, there are additional products added to the three editions.

Autodesk Inventor is now included in the Standard edition. AutoCAD Electrical, Inventor Routed Systems and Navisworks Simulate is included in the Premium and Ultimate editions. On top of that, AutoCAD and Inventor are more tightly integrated, making the ability (and excuse) to not use the two together a moot point.

One of the best new features was actually added to the Factory design suite. It features a new cloud-based factory asset resource that allows people to share models of various components needed throughout the plant design process along with Navisworks integration that adds built-in physics-based visualization and automation of the plant design floor. While a bit crude and for subscription customers only, it’s definitely a feature that could be used across other software suites.

Character Generator

It’s a bit outside the product design industry, but perhaps not. Autodesk will be releasing the cloud-based Autodesk 360 Character Generator later this year. While we don’t have many details, Ideally this will be an app that could create anything from hands to body and used in simulation and visualization of products, factories or even interfacing with Reality/Motion capture software. (Image: Deelip Menezes)

Autodesk Design Trends

What does Autodesk see as the upcoming Design Trends?

  • Storytelling
  • Breaking barriers
  • Cloud PLM
  • Reality capture
  • Maker movement

Nothing really surprising here. The first two are philosophies that play into the product design process. You know about Autodesk 360 that connects you to the Cloud, AutoCAD WS that connects you to mobile and Autodesk 360PLM connects your process management to the cloud.

It starts to get more interesting with the Reality Capture. Autodesk Labs introduced 3D geometry generation by stitching 2D photos together with Project Photofly. This became 123D Catch. Brian Matthews who managed Autodesk Labs is now heading up a new Reality Capture division with the aim to 3D capture the entire world (if not the universe.) Really, they have camera-equipped drones. They’ve already been working with some organizations to fully capture historical sites with full city capturing in the works.

And they acquired Eric Wilhelm’s Instructables, one of the largest, fastest growing, evenly distributed male/female communities on the planet… and it turns out they all like to share how to make things.

So, even if they are design trends of their own making, they’re certainly capable, as seen, of putting them into motion, even if they are the only 3D software companies actually involved in the trend.

Disclosure: Autodesk paid for flight and accomodations to and from Autodesk Headquarters. SolidSmack did not receive a Autodesk jacket or a tour of Carl Bass’ workshop.


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.