CAM. As Jimmy Greaves used to say “It’s a funny old game.” The world of Computer Aided Machining is something that many of the mainstream 3D design tool vendors have consistently dodged.
While the traditional “high-end” players, Siemens with NX, Dassault with Catia and PTC with Pro/Engineer, have always had CAM offering, the mainstream vendors such as SolidWorks, Autodesk and others haven’t. Why?
The reasons are many but there’s a theory that the process of producing G-code for CNC machines is too fraught with issues. Cocking up a 3D model is one thing, but if you’ve got someone that’s just scrapped 25 grand’s worth of tool steel because the toolpaths are wrong is an entirely different game. CAM means investment, knowledge and specialism.
So while many have been talking about it for a while, today’s news that Autodesk has acquired “Certain assets of HSMWorks” is a bit of a surprise. But is it?
The CAM market is one ripe for consolidation. The market is massively fragmented – fragmented in terms of process and industry specialism, but also geographically fragmented as well. Also many of the smaller vendors are owned by one or two people, many of whom are coming up for retirement and presumably want to cash in and disappear onto the golf course (or wherever software execs go to live out their days).
What’s interesting with this move is that HSMWorks isn’t known for working with Inventor: It’s been established on the basis of a SolidWorks integrated CAM approach – the clue is in the name.
The company also has a free (yup. free) product for SolidWorks too. I’d have expected a buy out of SolidCAM (with it’s Inventor CAM product already on the market), rather than this, so this is curious.
One thing puzzles me. The press release states that Autodesk intends to: “integrate the HSMWorks technology with its industry leading software and cloud services for manufacturing, and will make current HSMWorks products available for purchase and HSMXpress available as a free download. Existing SolidWorks customers using HSMWorks will continue to receive support and product updates.”
Now then. There it is. The SolidWorks customers will continue to recieve support and product updates. This isn’t the first time that a SolidWorks-heavy third-party application has been acquired by Autodesk (think t-Splines). But will CAM specialists buy into the future when its owned by a direct competitor? Time will tell.