Autodesk opts for the suite life

It may be early 2011, but Autodesk's 2012 products are already on the way. Paul Fanning offers a preview.

Among Autodesk's 2012 offerings will be 'suites' of software designed specifically for particular market sectors and a version of Inventor developed to be easier to use and deploy, faster and more open. The suites are designed to make it easier for customers across a wide range of industries to adopt and use a broader set of Autodesk's comprehensive and sophisticated design software.

The suites will be available in convenient packages with a range of capabilities that bring together compatible sets of complementary products for entertainment, building, infrastructure, product and visual design that, when used together, help to manage data, workflow and process.

Structured in a 'good/better/best' format the 'Product Design Suite' will contain a 'Standard' package featuring AutoCAD Mechanical, Autodesk Showcase, Autodesk SketchBook Designer, Autodesk Vault and Autodesk Mudbox software. The 'Premium' suite contains Standard edition tools along with Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk 3ds Max Design software, while the 'Ultimate' suite includes the same tools as the Premium edition along with Autodesk Inventor Professional and Autodesk Alias Design software.

Those already signed up to subscriptions to AutoCAD Mechanical, Inventor or Inventor Professional can upgrade to the Standard, Premium and Ultimate suites free of charge for the moment. However, Autodesk has not yet clarified for how long this will be the case or how much it may charge further down the line. However, according to Stephen Hooper, Autodesk's Business Development Manager – EMEA, this development is not simply about charging customers more, but also about offering users increased interoperability.

He says: "We've not just bundled a load of separate products into a box. There is actual integration." This takes the form of workflow integration between the various products. Inventor, for instance, is able to take advantage of the intelligent data in .dwg files without them having to be reworked.

Of course, as Hooper admits, there is an element in the use of design suites of Autodesk seeking to "rationalise" its product offerings somewhat, but he also insists that "It is a way of getting people to adopt new technology…the suites will allow users to leverage the potential of the various assets." Inventor remains at the heart of Autodesk's offerings, however, and here there will be a number of changes in the 2012 version.

Among these is the result of the strategic partnership announced in Oct. 2010, Autodesk and Granta Design have built new design methods into Autodesk Inventor 2012 software that help designers estimate a product's environmental impact and make more sustainable design decisions. The new Eco Materials Adviser in Inventor 2012 addresses sustainable design requirements early in the design process — when it matters most, enabling manufacturers to choose better materials without compromising on cost and performance.

Powered by Granta's extensive materials database, the Eco Materials Adviser helps guide material selection and generates reports so engineers can communicate the benefits of their sustainable design decisions.

In general, the watchwords for Inventor 2012 are 'Easy, Fast and Open', with the software software providing easier ways to interact with 3D mechanical design data, new opportunities for sharing, accepting and updating CAD data regardless of source and complexity and high-impact performance and productivity improvements for both users and IT departments.

Paul Fanning

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