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Autodesk Solutions Provider Debuts New Design for Manufacturability Software
Applied Software, an Atlanta-based Autodesk provider of software and services, recently unveiled new Design for Manufacturability software that enables plastic parts designers to validate a design earlier in the process. The new Autodesk product is compatible with ProE®, SolidWorks®, and Autodesk® Inventor®, and works as a plug-in that fits right into the interface.
The company, which was named the 2011 Autodesk Seller of the Year, aims its products and services at both large corporations and small companies with software and training programs affordable even for four- to five-man job shops. Design2Part Magazine recently spoke with strategic account manager for Applied Software, Trevor Fite, about the company's new offering and what sets them apart from the competition.
Q: As an Autodesk Training Center, can you discuss what your company offers in terms of products and services for manufacturing?
TF: We offer standard traditional training classes for products that vary from three to five days, depending on the product, but we also provide over-the-shoulder consulting, and we customize the environments inside of the products. We provide implementation services [and] we provide traditional training, but we also provide project-based learning as well. Project-based learning is essentially a way for the client to utilize a new tool they've never used before or never had training in before, within the context of an ongoing project. They can build time against that project, as opposed to filling overhead or doing training.
Q: Can you discuss your company's new offering of Design for Manufacturability software?
TF: Basically, Design for Manufacturability (DFM) is a new tool that Autodesk has come out with that allows plastics design manufacturers the ability to very quickly, or early in the design process, test a product for manufacturability, for cost, and for sustainability. Essentially, what that means is that when doing plastic parts design, you very frequently will design the shape and the contour of a plastic part, but you don't know how that part's going to fill, for example. You don't know where the gates are going to be, where there's going to be gaps or leveling that takes place whenever you're designing that part that's being produced. What DFM allows you to do is it allows you to simulate the environment on the front end. It allows you to take different material types and apply those material types based on a set of 8,000 different material types in the catalog.
Q: Why is the new DFM design tool focused on plastic part design?
TF: Plastic parts are frequently having to be redone because of poor designing. You have to do a lot of analysis on plastic parts because it's a part that is filled, as opposed to a sheet metal or steel part that is just cut and shaped for scale. Take, for example, if you were designing a cell phone case. If you were cutting that out of steel or aluminum, there's very little to account for as far as the texture of the material and the stability of the material because it's already formed. With a plastic part, you have to design the outer shell, and that part fills to create the part and give it stability. And that's where the DFM tool really comes into play to help better predict how much that part is going to cost to make, how it's going to fill, and the environmental impact that part will have.
Q: How does DFM relate to Design for Reliability?
TF: If you design a more reliable part, you've also designed one that's more manufacturable, too. With manufacturing a plastic part, you'll have a designer that will come up with a shape and test it only from the perspective of designing around size parameters. He'll pass it down the line to an analyst who will take that shape and apply these different materials and determine, through analysis, which part type or material type that he can use, costs the less, has the least environmental impact, and is best suited for manufacturability, meaning it's not going to fail in the field. What DFM allows you to do is validate a design earlier in the process, so that when it gets to the analyst, instead of him doing four or five iterations or potentially having a physical prototype or 100 or 200 in a production run and have them fail, the analyst is simply giving it one final check. It's earlier validation on the design front.
Q: What makes Autodesk software products so unique and attractive to the manufacturing sector?
TF: AutoCAD is an industry standard, and we're frequently known as the AutoCad company. We have such a diverse set of products that are interoperable with AutoCAD, and that really distinguishes us from the rest of the market. Because at the end of the day, most of our customer's customers are asking for drawing files, they're asking for CAD files. And our product outputs a DWG, which is the format that's unique to Autodesk and is not licensed out to any other vendors.
Q: What sets your company apart?
TF: The 2011 seller of the year award from Autodesk was awarded to us across the reseller channel through the North American region. I know there are hundreds of Autodesk resellers in the channel in the North American region, and we were chosen for primarily two reasons. It was based on customer service and support (the rankings that we received from our customers on surveys), and the second reason was our sales growth. Our company grew at such a fast pace across all of the major verticals (architecture, engineering, construction, education, government, and manufacturing).
Another thing that sets us apart is that our company has been keenly focused on acquiring new technology, integrating it into the product stats, and making it affordable to the masses. Autodesk has a term we use called “democratizing.” They acquire a technology that may be $40,000 to $50,000, and within about a one- to two-year period, they've repackaged it, put the Autodesk name on it, and it comes out at the $4,000 to $5,000 price point. So our product is extremely affordable. They all have, for the most part, an AutoCad foundation and, therefore, sharing data is much smoother and easier with the Autodesk product line because the AutoCAD foundation is there.
Q: Your company seems to focus on customization and giving the customer exactly what they need. Is it important to you to meet exactly what they need at the moment?
TF: We feel like it's the best way to implement any product because training classes only work if you already have a system in place and you're simply plugging in a new employee into that system. Customizing the software and customizing the training environment allows people to bill against a project, but it relates directly to what they're doing and allows us to personalize the software to their work flow.
Q: What do you see as the current trends in manufacturing software?
TF: It's in the cloud with Software as a Service (SaaS). Autodesk has jumped into the cloud with both feet and we're making cloud services available to our clients. For example, we have rendering services where you can take a model, upload it into the cloud, and create renderings while you continue to work on your desktop machine. It's almost like throwing it into a microwave oven because you can just put it up there, let it render, and you can keep on working until you get a notification that the rendering is complete. So the computing power that you're accessing isn't on one PC; it's on potentially hundreds or possibly thousands of PCs that are being employed by Autodesk through the cloud. Our company is promoting and selling it to our clients because as they purchase our software and have that software on a secure site through our maintenance contract, they are getting cloud services from Autodesk.
ProE and PTC are registered trademarks of Parametric Technology Corporation® (PTC®).
SolidWorks is a registered trademark of SolidWorks Corporation.
Inventor is a registered trademark of Autodesk, Inc.
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