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From CAD User Mechanical Magazine Vol 22 No 2 - FEBRUARY/MARCH 2009
Autodesk adds Fusion Technology to its Digital Prototyping philosophy
The way I see it, Fusion Technology is not about CAD software developers suddenly discovering the advantages of being able to handle direct modelling the ability to interact and edit 3D shapes without having to worry about the history tree and the way that the model was originally put together. Nor is it a response to the good, lower cost, 3D modellers now coming onto the market.
What has really allowed Autodesk to develop its own software package that combines the advantages of parametric modelling with those of direct modelling, is the ability, once the direct editing has been accomplished, to integrate the modification back within the model's history tree. That's quite an accomplishment, as the logical manipulation that allows it to happen enters the realms of those things that, in the words of Winnie the Pooh, “'make my head hurt”! Hence we see the introduction of Autodesk's Inventor Fusion Technology, which not only unites the power and control of parametric, history-based modelling with the ease of use and productivity advantages of direct, history-free modeling, but which manages to retain the essential parametric structure and knowledge base of the model. All of which falls under Autodesk's philosophy of Digital Prototyping.
EASY CO-EEXISTENCE We can also surmise that the demand for incorporating direct modelling capabilities within the parametric model came from users who download trial versions of the latest low cost direct modeling software, such as Space Claim, and who wonder why the same ease-of-use and flexible modeling features can’t be made available to them in their professional - and far more expensive - CAD tools.
Autodesk has reacted accordingly, acknowledging such a pull-through from its users. "Just as manufacturers need both 3D and 2D design tools, we believe manufacturers need the full power of both parametric, history-based modelling and direct modeling," said Andrew Anagnost, vice president of CAD/CAE for Autodesk Manufacturing Solutions. "Customers shouldn't have to make a choice. Inventor Fusion Technology is a unique approach that enables the coexistence of both these modeling approaches within a single digital model."
According to Autodesk, only Inventor Fusion Technology delivers bidirectional parametric and direct workflows. The advantages are huge, as it provides a powerful solution for companies that need to make rapid changes to a design through direct manipulation, but also have many years worth of feature - and history-based data and design intent that they need to access, use and maintain. This advancement enables design engineers to adopt the modeling approach that is most appropriate to the task at hand. Using Inventor Fusion Technology, they can explore what-if scenarios and make rapid design changes without the limitations of feature order, dependencies or the original 3D CAD system that was used to create the design.
The trick, though, is the extent in which the software can handle the changes being made. To be effective, there is no point in abandoning all parametrics when editing in direct mode. If you do that, you end up making a change to one feature, and then having to manually modify surrounding features to make them conform to the modified geometry. That doesn't save time. It merely adds another layer of complexity to what we are actually trying to do. The software has to make logical assumptions for itself, instead, working out automatically which features are inter- related with the edited features, and modifying those as well. It will, of course, automatically follow constraints and dimensions that govern some of the relationships - but it needs to go beyond this, and enable the user to filter the effects of the edit through the model, yet fall short of changing the underlying concept of the design itself. To do that, the user has to revert back to the history tree, and use that as a basis for continuing modification.
POINT OF ACCESS TOOLS Fusion Technology has other benefits. By
removing unnecessary steps for users to capture and express their design ideas, Inventor Fusion Technology redefines ease of use. Context-sensitive, point-of-access tools present only what is needed right at the cursor, thus moving the user's attention from toolbars and dialog boxes and refocusing it on directly manipulating their digital prototypes.
And, besides that, collaboration is extended and improved, as models can be shared with other designers who have not been involved in earlier stages of the design process. Previously, lack of knowledge of the detailed design history prevented them from working on parametric models. Direct Modeling, by itself, is an effective tool, but one that is geared more towards single product development - i.e., one that would not be produced in a number of variants. Combining both technologies gives design engineers the ability to retain the products design history for use in developing complete series of products, and, as we see above, handing the base model, or component parts, out to other design engineers for modification and use in their own designs.
"Many companies are seeking to take advantage of direct modeling in certain situations," said Anagnost. "Meanwhile, parametric, history-based modeling continues to be relevant and important. Inventor Fusion Technology is an exciting new step in realising the promise of Digital Prototyping, and by combining both tools, bringing a new level of ease of use and productivity gain to an even broader group of manufacturers." Autodesk intends to offer a free download of Inventor Fusion Technology Preview on Autodesk Labs later this year for anyone that wants to try the technology out for themselves.
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