Autodesk, the company that sold more computer aided design software (CAD) then all competitors combined, acquired a small Danish CAM software company. Why now? Why HSMWorks? And what can we conclude about the future of CAD/CAM?
CAM in short
CAM software play different rule then the CAD software. While the CAD refers to computer-aided design, CAM stands for Computer Aided Machining and relate to manufacturing. The CAD software make the model manipulation that creates a machine language commands (G-CODE) translated into a set of manufacturing machine operations that create a physical part by subtracting material. While CAD software is sold ready to use straight out of the box, the CAM software requires the adjustment to the tools and production machine in the factory.
All major CAD vendors also develop CAM solution. Autodesk was the only exception. Customers using Autodesk software needed "third party" add-in CAM solutions such as InventorCam or independent software such as MasterCam or Cimatron that can get information from any 3D CAD software.
Autodesk enter the game
Over the last 30 years, in the Autodesk list of products, the CAM was conspicuously absent. Autodesk's strategy in recent years is heading to a complete solution for all CAD needs, design, simulation, sharing and management. This year we saw the launch of the innovative new PLM (product lifecycle management). Enter into CAM fit with Autodesk's agenda but, rather purchase a small Danish company, HSMWorks, received with great surprise.
Autodesk is a big company with huge resources. HSMWorks is a relatively young and meaningless at the CAM market. It has few customers and one product that work with SolidWorks software only. Their slogan is "the CAM Solution for SolidWorks"
In the past, when looking for solutions to complement its solutions, Autodesk spent the money in purchasing the best in class. For mechanical simulations they acquired Algor, for flow simulations CFDesign and never the less than the MoldFlow for plastic simulation. So, why Autodesk chose to enter the CAM market an acquisition of an unknown player?
The advantage of HSMWorks
At first glance, other than upsetting Dassault / SolidWorks, it is not clear what prompted Autodesk to purchase the small Danish company that sells mostly to SolidWorks customers. Although SolidWorks showed nervousness and pulled the product from the list of solutions partners, Autodesk may actually see the product fit with their future planes. Autodesk recently taken significant steps toward cloud technologies. While many bring doubt if CAD is ready for the cloud, Autodesk is moving towards using cloud resources for storage and to run multiple processors simultaneously allowing better use for local hardware and accelerate solving complex problems. Autodesk already offers its customers cloud technology for render, simulation and optimization. Possibility to transfer the calculations to the cloud, give the user more computing power and allow solving several problems at the same time. .
|Cloud technology, the future of CAM ?|
Unlike other CAM solutions that are based on an ancient code, HSMWorks is a fairly new software design for 64-bit and multi-processor. The company has developed its own kernel with special regard to multicore architecture, subject missing today in must CAD solutions.
HSMWorks technology appealing to Autodesk because a multicore software is suitable for conversion to cloud technologies and to extract the benefits of this technology. So, I don't expect Autodesk soon to turn the existing software to HSM-Inventor as a CAM solution for the popular Inventor CAD software. Because CAM capabilities can appeal to a number of Autodesk software, it would be better to invest in the development of innovative cloud CAM system, like they did recently with simulation. This will provide unparalleled performance for CAM software. As with the simulation, the production of g-code for manufacturing machine is best suited for cloud technology. CAM and simulation are very performance sensitive and in both areas information released to the network are less sensitive than the one stored in the CAD system.
The future of solution partners
Autocad software success is often credited with being an open platform and easy for application development. Similar for today IPhone, from the beginning, Autocad has introduced a wealth of complementary applications which expand the basic capabilities and appeal to more customers. SolidWorks has built a similar model of successful reliance on third-party applications as solutions to extend the capabilities and improve competitiveness especially against the more mature rival such as Pro / e. The last event, where Autodesk acquired software based on SolidWorks raises questions about the future of this model. HSMWorks was SolidWorks Gold Partner and CAM Partner. These partners are promoting by SolidWorks and usually sold by the SolidWorks distribution channel. Immediately after the announcement of the purchase, SolidWorks remove any reference or link to HSMWorks which is not a partner anymore. The customers left wondering what will happen to their large investment in the software.
Tom Mortensen, owner of HSMWorks, notes that the lack of certainty of the future of SolidWorks and the inability to get an answer from the company for the next generation V6 software were among the major reasons that led them to conclude that their future with SolidWorks not sure.
Looks like CAD market matures, the amount of developers who are willing to base their future as a fifth wheel in another company's CAD decreases. Customers prefer to have one provider that can provide a comprehensive solution for design, validate manufacturing and management and ensure the investment for the long-term.