Nanosoft, already a familiar name in the Russian-speaking regions, is joining the collective forces that hope to topple AutoCAD’s dominance. Its weapon to conquer the North American territories is a 2D CAD program, nanoCAD. Like IMSI/Design’s DoubleCAD XT and Dassault Systemes’ DraftSight, nanoCAD comes with a tempting price tag: it’s free.
In its FAQ, Nanosoft states, “There are no catches, gotchas, or tricks. If you install [nanoCAD] without registering and activating it, you may only use it for educational and evaluation purposes. But, once you have registered and activated it, you may use it for commercial, professional, for-profit, or non-profit purposes, as an individual or a business.” Continue reading
AutoCAD 2011 marked the software’s return to the Apple community’s bosom after an 18-year absence. Today’s new releases, AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT 2014 for Mac, are the company’s continuing commitment to Mac users, a platform not all 3D design software developers have fully embraced yet. Continue reading
Could your AutoCAD files be going to an email address in China without your knowledge? They may be, according to security software developer ESET. The firm announced, “Recently the worm, ACAD/Medre.A, showed a big spike in Peru on ESET’s LiveGrid (a cloud-based malware collection system utilizing data from ESET users worldwide). ESET’s research shows that the worm steals files and sends them to email accounts located in China.”
ESET senior research fellow Righard Zwienenberg characterized the malware as “a serious case of suspected industrial espionage.” He explained, “After some configuration, ACAD/Medre.A sends opened AutoCAD drawings by email to a recipient with an e-mail account at the Chinese 163.com internet provider. It will try to do this using 22 other accounts at 163.com and 21 accounts at qq.com, another Chinese internet provider.” Continue reading
A year after the release of AutoCAD for Mac, Autodesk decided to take a bigger bite of the Apple market. This week, the company is releasing not only an updated version of AutoCAD for Mac but also AutoCAD LT for Mac and AutoCAD WS for Mac.
“Since the release of AutoCAD for Mac last year, customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, further validating the need for professional design and engineering software on the Mac platform,” said Amar Hanspal, senior vice president, Autodesk Platform Solutions and Emerging Business. “Bringing AutoCAD LT and AutoCAD WS to the Mac shows our continued commitment to making design more accessible for an ever-greater number of people to shape the world around them.”
According to the announcement, “AutoCAD LT for Mac follows common native Mac application user interface guidelines, with a familiar Apple menu bar together with a number of workflow-based palettes. AutoCAD LT for Mac also supports native Mac OS X behavior, including Cover Flow navigation and Multi-Touch gestures.”
Licensing options for AutoCAD for Mac now includes network licensing. AutoCAD LT is not available for network licensing.
Venturing Beyond Professional Market
Whereas the company’s flagship drafting and drawing program AutoCAD remains a professional title, its lighter, nimbler cousins AutoCAD LT and AutoCAD WS can comfortably fit into the prosumer market (which straddles the consumer and professional markets). AutoCAD WS, the company’s DGW viewing and markup app, has been available for some time for Apple iPhone and iPad users and Android users. The latest version released is intended for Mac machines running Apple OS X Lion. The software is free.
The company continues to distribute AutoCAD for Mac through its reseller channel, but it is also experimenting with selling products through Apple app store. Autodesk has been selling its free and modestly priced products, such as AutoCAD WS for iPhone and iPad and Autodesk SketchBook Mobile, through the App Store for some time. However, distributing AutoCAD LT (priced $899) through App Store is a gamble for the company, as App Store buyers are more accustomed to purchasing products with micro-pricing (for instance, $1.99 for a song, $4.99 for a game). Depending on the success of its experiment with AutoCAD LT on App Store, the company is expected to push more semi-professional and consumer-usable software titles through this venue. In addition, Autodesk plans to offer Mac-compatible titles through Amazon.com, starting September 1.
Offering its titles through Apple App Store and Amazon.com may be an educational experience, both for buyers and for Autodesk. Apple App Store, for instance, doesn’t support software subscription — a method Autodesk has been using to peddle some of its most popular titles. For the version of AutoCAD for Mac offered through Amazon.com (available for subscription licensing), Autodesk can’t rely on resellers to provide technical support, so buyers will need to use a mix of resources (Autodesk technical support, online training center, blogs, and discussion groups) to master the software and troubleshoot.
The move to go beyond its traditional distribution channel (Autodesk authorized resellers) and venture into consumer-friendly territories reflects the company’s aspiration to explore the outskirts of professional market. A few months ago, Autodesk released 123D, a lightweight 3D design program based on its direct-editing technology Inventor Fusion. The product targets tinkerers, hobbyists, craft makers, and homegrown inventors — all part of the do-it-yourself movement fueling online commerce at sites like Etsy and attendance at trade shows like Maker Faire. This month, Autodesk acquired Instructables, an online portal where ordinary people share project ideas and collaborate.
“Passionate, creative people want communities to support and encourage their endeavors,” said Samir Hanna, vice president of Consumer Products at Autodesk. “As a result of this acquisition, Autodesk will host a unique ecosystem that combines inspiration, accessible 3D software tools and fabrication services so anyone can be empowered to express themselves creatively.”
Looking to Merge Windows and Mac Versions
In the long run, the company plans to reduce the distinction between Windows and Mac versions of AutoCAD, making them much more interchangeable. Laying the groundwork for this vision, the company now allows you to activate a copy of AutoCAD for Mac using the same licensing key on a Windows version. (In other words, if you have purchased a Windows version of AutoCAD, you can download a Mac version, then use the same key code printed on your Windows product box to activate the Mac version.)
In addition to selling AutoCAD as an independent title, Autodesk also includes the product with many of its industry-specific suites, such as Autodesk Design Suite (for general design), Autodesk Product Design Suite (for mechanical engineering and industrial design), and Autodesk Building Design Suite (for architecture and construction). By default, buyers get a Windows version of AutoCAD. However, the new dual-platform activation method will give suite buyers access a Mac version of AutoCAD without having to purchase another license.
When you were a kid, you probably designed and built a number of warehouses and factories in LEGO sets (like I did). Can you imagine designing a real factory in a similar fashion? Just pick standard factory components (like conveyer belts, guardrails, rollers, and so on) from a box, snap them onto a gridded floor, link the pieces together, and see your assembly lines and machines take shape right before your eyes. That’s more or less how you’d build a virtual factory in Autodesk Factory Design Suite 2012, a bundle that includes Autodesk Inventor, AutoCAD, 3ds Max, and more.
With the suite, you can create standard factory components from AutoCAD blocks, or you can start with ready-made components included with Autodesk Inventor. The version of Inventor in Factory Design Suite is slightly different from standard versions. It has a Factory tab, which lets you easily insert blocks, overlay DWG floor plans, and export DWG drawings of your layout.
You can start your layout with an empty factory floor in 3D view or a 2D DWG layout that serves as guide. If you’re starting from a DGW sheet, you can specify in your snapping options to snap dropped items to the sketch. The factory pieces you place on the floor will automatically snap and orient themselves in a way that makes sense. (You won’t, for instance, find two conveyer belts snapping to each other at a 90-degree angle, because that won’t permit a smooth material flow. As logic dictates, they’ll fit into a straight line, or they must be joined by an arc-shape segment.)
In some cases, you’ll see a component thumbnail, but the component is marked as a cloud item. That means the component is not in your hard drive yet; you’ll have to download it from a remote Autodesk server. One reason Autodesk has decided on this approach may be to keep the installed library at a manageable size. This way, only people who need these less-commonly used items will download them. And even then, they’ll download only the specific pieces they need, not the entire catalog or library.
You can also insert machines, custom-equipment, structural frames, rigs, and other items you’ve designed as part of your factory. Even if they’re assemblies, you can drop them, move them, rotate them, and position them as if they’re individual pieces. While in Factory mode (mostly for layout), you can easily move into the Edit mode (for geometry edit) so you can modify a particular piece. Once your edit is done, a single click will return you to the Factory mode with the updated part. If you’re happy with the layout, you can produce a DWG file, or update one you’ve been using as guide. The operation will automatically launch AutoCAD Architecture.
Inventor gives you the option to visualize your working view in realistically rendered mode, complete with ray-tracing and environment maps. This allows you to see how the mockup will look once installed in physical space. If you need to impress a client with a sophisticated fly-through, animation, or glossy image, you may use Autodesk Showcase or Autodesk 3ds Max to create them (both included in the suite). For advanced studies, you may use Autodesk Navisworks (included with the Ultimate edition of the suite) to layer 2D sketches, 3D models, and point cloud data into a single environment for clash detection and movement simulation.
Factory Design Suite is a bundle consisting anywhere from five to eight titles (priced $5,495 for Standard, $6,495 for Premium, and $9,995 for Ultimate). But the pack is much more than a collection of programs. It contains thoughtful, specialized features (like the Factory tab and ready-made factory components in Inventor) that address the entire factory design workflow, from 2D plan and 3D layout to stylized visualization. It also offers something you may not be accustomed to getting in a professional software suite — the ease and delight of a LEGO set.
A Note on the Hardware Used for Testing Autodesk Factory Design Suite: The suite was tested on a system on loan from HP. It consists of a HP Z600 workstation and a HP ZR30w display. The system comes with dual 3.2 GHz Intel Xeon 5672 processors with 24 GB RAM, reinforced with a NVIDIA Quadro 4000 GPU. The desktop tower is housed in a tool-less chassis. If you need to swap out graphics cards or add expansion cards, you can easily remove the side panel without using screw drivers. When adjustments are done, you can snap the panel back into place.
In Factory Design Suite, you may simultaneously work in CPU-intense engineering apps and graphics-rich rendering programs, often passing data back and forth among several open programs. Z600′s multicore CPU structure (a total of six computing channels available) is powerful enough to handle multiple programs with no significant performance degradation. In rendering operations with Autodesk Showcase or 3ds Max, NVIDIA’s graphics boost speeds up preview updates and cuts down rendering times.
Z600 comes with HP Performance Adviser, an app that scans your system, identifies the software installed, and recommends the best configuration for each program. If your drivers are outdated or incompatible with an app, Performance Adviser will issue alerts and prompts. The application also gives you a visual view of system resource and memory use.
The ZR30w display is mounted on a rotatable arm with easy tilt, allowing you to connect monitor and power cables without strain or discomfort. The 30-inch screen gives you a lot of display space. It makes a difference when you’re looking at detailed, ray-traced renderings or juggling a series of programs, each showing large clusters of factory components.
HP Z600′s price starts at $1,599. High-end configurations can get up $13,700 or more.
For more, watch the video review below: