Robots. Robots. Robots.

Another year, another great conference. Autodesk University 2015 continued the tradition of bringing tens of thousands of like-minded CAD/CAE/CAM individuals to a learning and exhibiting extravaganza. There seemed like there were almost as many robots as people! Small car-like robots, arm-hand robots building a man-sized bee hive, and even bartending robots. The hit of the show were two automated bartending robots that quickly (once you could get to the ordering podium) mixed your favorite drink based on your selection, however crazy you wanted to mix it up. Martinis made from rum, no problem. Image by photographer Shaan Hurley.

The Exhibit Hall provided the hub for conversation, new product demonstration, and most importantly food (including deserts and libations). eQuorum presented its next generation DMS Software with its new Java-less user interface (which looked brilliant on a 50” screen) along with its app-less mobile application. The demonstration of eQuorum’s ImageSite Mobile access fit in perfectly with one of the conference’s major themes: collaboration.

Collaboration was represented in several areas, including Autodesk’s touting of its 360 cloud products. Use of tablets and hybrid PCs is gaining traction and getting information and CAD drawings to individuals in the field and on the production floor is becoming more popular. Also, use of social media as a means of communicating was reinforced to us when a winner of one of the Apple Watches we raffled off found out he was a winner when a friend tagged an Autodesk University 2015 app tweet we set out.

The Apple Watches were a hit! Brian Binkley of Gephart Electric and Aaron James of Ludvik Electric were the winners. Way to go guys! Now you can track how far you walk and how little you sleep at AU2016. If you are interested in technology on the go you should check out ImageSite Mobile. You can view your drawings anywhere, anytime.
Other major themes at the conference included:

3D printing

Additive manufacturing was everywhere, from the manufacture of small parts, to large parts, to entire building models. It seems everyone either has a system for 3D printing or software to integrate with Autodesk products to create 3D printing files.

Learning systems

The ability to incorporate lots of data (“big data”) from many sources, including equipment and machines (Internet of Things) was on display. With many systems offering analytics of the data, and some even touting Artificial Intelligence in their products. All this data somehow gets back into the product design world to improve product development and increase reliability.

Virtualization and 3D visualization

If you can walk into it or touch it there are systems now that will let you virtualize and visualize it without actually having it. Whether you driving on a virtual race track, walking in, out, and around a building or vehicle, or creating a part. Put on some goggles and you’re instantly transported to the environment that speaks to all your senses. Walk into the Project Primordial exhibit and you are surrounded on five sides (up, down, left, right, and forward) with integrated screens allowing you to transverse the cosmos or just race around a formula one track.

We all heard about Autodesk’s coming move to subscription pricing in January where you can subscribe to all AutoDesk products for one price on any machine or platform. Similar to the move to the cloud, subscription pricing is generating major interest among many of the larger software providers. I think users might take a while to get used to this like they did when many software companies moved to named user pricing from concurrent. It definitely fits better with a cloud application and DMS Software companies can better forecast revenue with subscription based pricing. It is here to stay.

Most of the attendees we talked to were interested in tools to make their job easier, including: integrated applications with AutoDesk products to help users search, collaborate, design and share CAD models and other documents. Most AutoDesk users had a plan to move to Revit and embrace BIM. Users were going at varying degrees of speed but we noted a lot of people still in the 2D world. As with all CAD applications, a very small percentage of users utilize the advanced functionality of their systems. It takes disruptive or game changing technology to wake these users up to what is available. As we see more collaboration and creative use of these tools, we will see growing adoption.

We are continually impressed by the various technologies and applications that all come together under the one roof that is Autodesk University 2015. The information was great; the food was super; and the conversation extremely stimulating. Thanks to Autodesk for putting on one of the best run conferences there is and to The Venetian for their Vegas hospitality.