Lifecycles in two dimensions

The world’s largest CAD vendor remains as committed to draughting as it is to product lifecycle management (PLM). Tom Shelley reports

The largest vendor of CAD software – with 5 million registered users – has just announced a major upgrade to its main suite of draughting software, as well as an increased commitment to product lifecycle management (PLM).

AutoCAD 2004, the latest version of a universally applied CAD package, can produce 3D isometric models, but it remains, in essence, a 2D drawing package.

When Eureka asked Scott Borduin, Autodesk’s chief technology officer, how long the firm would continue to offer 2D tools, he said that he did not envision 2D CAD draughting ever disappearing, and told us that 30% of Autodesk’s manufacturing clients don’t ever expect to do 3D design. Nonetheless, he considered the package would be used increasingly as part of PLM systems, which he regards as "just another branch of information management which requires getting the right data to the right people at the right time".

To assist in this process, the company is offering the latest version of Autodesk Express Viewer as a free 2.5 Mb download, to act as a container for drawings, bills of materials and 3D model assemblies. The company reports 80,000 downloads since its launch in December 2002 and says it is now on 500,000 computers.

John Sanders, VP platform technology group, declared that despite all the advances in web and other electronic-based methods of collaboration, "FedEX and DHL make more money from physically shipping AutoCAD drawings around than Autodesk makes selling AutoCAD". The most common method of electronic data exchange is e-mail, which will be further boosted in the new release by DWF/DWG file password protection, digital signatures and a considerable reduction in file sizes. The same file in Release 14, which occupied 6.5Mb, is said to occupy 5.2 Mb in 2000/200I and 2002 versions, but only 2.9 Mb in 2004. File opening and saving on a network is said to be typically 33 and 66% faster, respectively.

Another enhancement to assist speed is the introduction of a proper, multi-line text box editor that allows the pasting in of Word text without loss of format. A facility has been added to automatically alert other design team members of changes, and users can automatically be notified of drawing standards violations. Other features include customisable tool palettes for storing frequently used blocks and hatches, and a new tab in the DesignCenter that has direct links to millions of symbols in libraries and manufacturer’s content at It’s now possible to apply gradient fills to create presentation drawings directly in AutoCAD and also to print shaded and rendered isometric views using new Shaded Viewport options in the Page Setup and Plot Dialog boxes.

"Qutoe:" PLM is just another branch of information management which requires getting the right data to the right people at the right time – Scott Borduin, Autodesk’s chief technology officer

Tom Shelley

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