Autodesk shocked the SolidWorks world when it purchased HSMWorks, CAM software that worked only inside SolidWorks. Political reasons aside, Autodesk bought the software for two pieces of technology: (1) HSMWorks is CAD platform independent, despite being integrated into SolidWorks; and (2) it uses distributed computing, useful for Autodesk's cloud aspirations.
Product manager for CAM Anthony Graves talked to me this morning about HSM Express for Inventor, which went into beta this week:
WorldCAD Access: Was it an easy port [from SolidWorks to Inventor]?
Autodesk: It was. We strategized for a while, because we wanted to make sure our CAD-neutral CAM platform was ready for it. Then it took us only two months to integrate it with Inventor. We launched our beta just last Monday, and we are targeting an early fall release of the public version.
WorldCAD Access: Do you see HSMWorks working on other MCAD software?
Autodesk: HSMworks for SolidWorks is still going strong, along with HSMXpress. Our kernel from day 1 has always been multi-core, not just for tool paths but also for simulation and post-processing. We have been working with multi-core CPUs for seven years now and so we know it all very well. [Mr Graves provided me with additional information off-the-record.]
As a result, we have distributed CAM, which lets us offload calculations to a LAN. We can move computing resources to wherever we need: calculations on the LAN, graphics on the desktop.
WorldCAD Access: When we last talked [in upFront.eZine #762], you mentioned HSMWorks working on 123D.
Autodesk: 123D CNC has evolved to the point that it is now generating tool paths and G-code. This has been out for a couple of months.
WorldCAD Access: Microsoft is integrating rapid prototyping in Windows 8.1. How will this affect you?
Autodesk: We feel that if you design something, you should be able to make it. But how you make it is another thing. Microsoft is talking about 3D printers.
From my experience, what happens is inevitable: people make some prototypes on a 3D printer, but then reality hits them: in order to manufacture the product, they have to go to another process -- a CNC [computer numerically controlled] machine to produce the product in wood or metal, such as a lathe or cutter.
When the little hobby grows to a business that needs to make profits, making hundreds or thousands of parts a year, then it becomes more economical to do it in-house. A professional will spend $50,000 on a 3D printer with the speed, resolution, and size he needs -- which is the exact same price as a really-good CNC machine center. Most people who are doing prototyping regularly, they are probably going to own both. Some jobs are better on 3D, some on CNC.
I don't anticipate Microsoft getting into CNC soon, but you never know!
WorldCAD Access: Will both Express and Works be available on both CAD platforms?
Autodesk: Yes, but spelled differently:
- HSMXpress for SolidWorks is free and performs 2.5-axis strategies
- HSMWorks for SolidWorks is $10,000
- Inventor HSM Express (spelled differently) will be free
- Inventor HSM will ship in Spring 2014 with the same price and functions as for SolidWorks
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Apply to join the public beta at https://beta.autodesk.com.