After a three-year hiatus, Autodesk University is finally back in person to get users up to speed on all the latest updates to its widely used software, to exchange feedback, and to discuss how to address the challenges of our time, as Claudia Schergna reports
Flexible, device independent, connected: these were the buzzwords of Autodesk 2022. During the first in-person event since the pandemic, designers and engineers from around the world had a chance to find out about Autodesk’s plan to fully embrace the cloud. The software giant aims to facilitate the growing demand for tools to keep remote teams always connected, and to make sure everyone in the supply chain has access to the data they need precisely when they need it.
The aim is to reduce production times, save resources, facilitate the connection between team members and democratise tools, making them accessible on any device.
Another big theme for the three-day event, with the approach of Hurricane Ian towards US shores making it seem ever more urgent, was sustainability.
Autodesk’s big eco announcement was its collaboration with Makersite to develop a plug-in for Fusion 360, which aims to provide designers with the sustainability data they need at any step of the design process.
Makersite is a software company that develops data management tools for the global manufacturing industry, empowering companies to manage product sustainability, cost, and compliance.
Thanks to the plug-in, currently in the trial phase, designers should be able to visualise the environmental impact of every single iteration they make to the project and be provided with options to help them meet cost and emission targets, taking into consideration the entire product lifecycle.
The plug-in has been tested by the British company Pembree Pedals. Its founder Phil Law, joined by Makersite CEO Neil D’Souza and Autodesk sustainability strategy manager Zoé Bezpalko, presented a demo of how it has helped the bicycle part manufacturer develop pedals that are as sustainable as they can possibly be, while at a reasonable cost.
Meanwhile, on the exhibition floor, attendees could try on some of the latest AR, VR and XR technologies, starting with a Varjo headset powered by a Lenovo ThinkStation workstation that attendees could test on a gleaming yellow Aston Martin. Parked next to the physical car, at the very entrance of the exhibition floor, was standing its incredibly realistic digital twin in XR.
Further down the exhibition, Faro was inviting visitors to try its newest 3D scanners, including Faro’s Freestyle 2 and Focus Premium.
In the ‘Factory’ area of the exhibition, Autodesk offered a live demo of how a VR headset can help teams collaborate from their remote locations.
Welcomed by music and dance performances, in proper New Orleans style, the keynote session brought everyone together in the main hall to officially announce what was already in the air. Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost started by thanking all attendees and the city of New Orleans, talking about its troubled history and historical resilience.
The first guest was Meagan William, Urban Water program manager for the city of New Orleans. William, a New Orleans native, was 16 when Katrina happened and clearly remembers the devastation that it brought to her city. Her job aims to safeguard and protect new generations from issues caused by climate change and the rise of sea levels.
Andrew Anagnost took back the microphone to talk about one of the biggest problems that design, engineering, and architecture teams all around the world face daily: dysconnectivity and lost-in-translation data. These are issues that Autodesk is looking to resolve by introducing three industry clouds: Autodesk Fusion (for design and manufacturing) Autodesk Forma (for architecture, engineering and construction) and Autodesk Flow (for media and entertainment).
Given the multitude of industries Autodesk users work within, the keynote sessions were split into three parts. For manufacuring, Jeff Kinder, Autodesk executive VP of product development and manufacturing solutions, took the stage with some exciting news about Fusion 360.
Besides the Autodesk Fusion cloud offering, Kinder announced new Fusion 360 extensions powered by Ansys and ModuleWorks, which aim to unlock advanced product design and manufacturing capabilities.
The integration of Ansys simulation technology looks to provide useful insights about printed circuit board (PCB) signal quality as part of the board design process, while the collaboration with ModuleWorks should offer new capabilities to Fusion’s Machining Extension, to generate higher-performance, collision-free toolpaths for efficient multi-axis milling.
It seemed that all the updates on Fusion 360 are part of a bigger move that aims to build out a complete platform, able to connect all phases of the process, from design to make, going through CAD, CAM, simulation, and rendering, while being device-independent, always connected to other users and applications or, as Kinder defined it, a “click-to-make” tool.
The journey to the cloud
During the media Q&A, Anagnost addressed journalists and analysts, curious to know what the future holds, the purpose of developing three different industry clouds, and how Autodesk is working to make its cloud offering accessible from any location across the globe.
As Anagnost explained, not all of these questions have a definitive answer yet, as the recent announcements are only the beginning of a bigger strategy, which will see more tools connected not only in the cloud but into one single piece of software.
While we might have to wait a little longer to see the final results of this ambitious move, there was plenty to take away from New Orleans, with the chance to be in-person among an international community of users talking positively about how the industry can tackle the world’s most pressing issues.