Big announcement at Autodesk University AEC keynote today about integration of BIM 360 platform and its collaboration extension to other platforms: Civil 3D and AutoCAD included. This is a significant change from "BIM 360" being a collection of cloud products, some on different clouds, to a single cloud infrastructure running all the BIM 360 functions. New capabilities stemming from this include insight into cloud and project data, a unified development & services platform, and integration of other design platforms (beyond Revit) for collaboration. This creates a true common data environment living in a single cloud infrastructure with the Forge platform for customisation, AI enhancements and extension to other services and data sources.Huge innovations to a platform that is already powdering thousands of projects.
About twenty years ago I read a 'brain dump' from Jim Awe about the next generation of AEC design. It described a world of object design, model properties and display management that was realised in Architectural Desktop and, later, Revit.
Today at Autodesk University he did it again presenting the emerging Quantum AEC platform. It's not an application, more a system, a playing field, for managing data flow in design projects at a fundamental level applicable to all applications, cloud and desktop.
The Quantum leap: forget about applications, files, even data transfer and think about how your entire project life cycle and the needs of each participant. Think about what they need, when they need it, and a platform that delivers just that: Simply, rapidly, anywhere.
It was quite an impulsive decision which resulted in me attending Autodesk University 2017. I had been thinking about it for a while, but not seriously, and was browsing the session catalogue one evening when I saw:
I immediately clicked Register, then grabbed a seat in this one hour session. Eleven thousand Kilometres is quite a long way to go for a 60 minute meeting and it wasn’t even part of the main AU event!
The Quantum session was part of Forge DevCon which ran the Monday before AU2017. It was a day aimed at developers using, or interested in, the emerging Autodesk Forge cloud development environment. I’m not a developer but the small additional cost of the extra day was well worth the investment.
Forge DevCon Keynote
Jim Quanci (Senior Director, Software Partner Development) kicked off the keynote and, perhaps, had the best explanation of what Forge is about: ‘Forge - The Lego box to connect your designs’.
He then introduced Duleesha Kulasooriya (Deloitte Center for the Edge) who took a look at why you might use Forge, rather than how to use it or what it is.
Duleesha spoke about the social, industrial and economic changes that are driving transformation. The ‘Pace of innovation’, ‘Nature of demand’ and ‘Economics of distribution’ are impacting everyone. It was an interesting view of the reasons for change, and how you might respond… with Forge of course!
Brian Roepke (Head of Product Management for the Autodesk Forge Developer Platform) talked about the new API developments for Forge focused on process integration, reality capture, webhook notifications and design automation for Revit and Inventor.
Brian also announced Forge Fund support for companies developing Forge based solutions. This included Smartvid.io who use Forge integration with BIM 360 Docs and their own AI to analyse Video and Photos from building projects. This automatically highlights site activity with the emphasis on improving safety, quality and productivity. Interesting to see ‘design’ systems and information capture being used to optimise behaviour on site.
The keynote also introduced me to a brilliant humanitarian use of cloud design technology: www.limbforge.org
They make 3d printed upper limb prosthetics for those who can't afford them. Their system enables scanning of limbs, configuration of designs (modelled in fusion from typed in dimensions entered in fields with AI design automation) and the best solution is manufactured in the field.
Patient feedback and evaluative case studies are also incorporated for even better results. It is an impressive demonstration of advanced technology bringing, formerly impossible, life changing results.
The event concluded with a ‘fireside chat’ (without fire!) including Scott Reese (Senior Vice President, Manufacturing & Construction Products) & Brian Mathews (VP Platform Engineering) —who I’d meet with later. Some outtakes from that:
51% of Autodesk employees come from acquisitions
Make data, process and workflows the centre of what you do
How do you connect to your team via data, AI and workflows, not tool centric solutions.
Autodesk’s future is being built on Forge
Although just an hour this session was a great introduction on how BIM, Forge and web services could transform project workflows. It demo’ed Forge use of High-Frequency Data Management (HFDM) technology to put "data at the center" of a project. Quantum isn’t an application, more a platform enabling applications (cloud and desktop) to work better together. That is a taste of Quantum, more on this in future posts!
BIM 360 API for Construction Ecosystems
This session outlined the current and (near) future developments in the Forge API. This included improvements in document management, (user) account admin, markup and checklists. It didn’t mention some big changes to 360 which would be announced later in the event, but looking back there were plenty of clues here!
Demystifying the BIM 360 and Forge APIs
‘Autodesk 360’ is really a mix of ‘clouds’ and ‘applications’, some built, some acquired. This session outlined the history of how they came together and how they differ. It went a long way to help understand how the various components interact, or don’t. An announcement later in AU2017 would foreshadow how this will change, for the better.
Industry 4.0: AI and the future of manufacturing
Tom "Elvis" Jones (Solutions Architect at AWS) outlined the AWS infrastructure which is powering a large proportion of ‘the cloud’ and how it applies to design, process delivery and storage.
University research and start-up development with Forge
Forge was seen in action in these impressive university startup projects from around the world.
Applications included eyewear design and manufacture, 3D printing (even a drink!), visualizing progress tracking on BIM construction models and Forge for FM (with Hololens and Cortana integration). Some really impressive work!
Revit 2016 R2 brings bunch of enhancements and new features. Haven’t had a chance to play with them yet but from the intro videos ‘draw visible elements’, ‘global parameters’ and ‘enhanced Revit Links’ look the most useful of the improvements. Check these, and 17 other updates, out in this series of short videos (below) and blog post from Autodesk.
What's New in Revit 2016 R2 by Autodesk Building Solutions
The videos in this playlist covers the new features in Autodesk® Revit® 2016 R2, Autodesk® Revit® Architecture 2016 R2 and Autodesk® Revit® MEP 2016 R2. The videos cover platform, architecture and MEP features and enhancements.
While there are lots of examples of using point clouds for modelling reference I thought this example using them to avoid modelling was impressive. Why model if it isn’t needed?
Hear from SSOE Group how they are using ReCap for breaking up scans in order to simplify projects and to utilize the scans as the sole basis of truth for existing conditions. Project strategy will be discussed to highlight how projects also use the ReCap web service to share the project data with key stakeholders and project leadership across multiple office locations. Software shown in this demo will be Autodesk ReCap
Often the Revit product team is asked how the Revit product line takes advantage of multiple processors and the workstation GPU, so we thought we'd provide a list for your reference, and a video that shows a new feature of Revit 2016 that uses multiple processors to accelerate model navigation to speeds comparable to the Navisworks 2016 model.
This post has some useful comparisons between 2014, 2015 and 2016 with the same file;
I’ve been doing a few software installs recently; updates to Autodesk Building Design Suite 2015 at the previous workplace and a fresh install at the new one. As a result I’ve come to really appreciate Autodesk Application Manager; one of the best support applications Autodesk have ever made.
Remember the pain?
Install an app — or more like a dozen for the Design Suites — then spend hours finding which have been updated, downloading patches and installing (or updating deployments) on the machine. That is history as Autodesk Application Manager makes it a one click process, well nearly. You still do have to select which updates and click install but that is trivial compared to the alternative!
Updates tailored to your device:
The Application Manager looks at the software installed (not just the software in the suite), the user subscription rights, the device and existing patches to decide what is needed. I was impressed that the same Design Suite installed on my Tablet (where had just picked AutoCAD Architecture & Revit) only got a those updates, my desktop picking up the full set for all the installed applications.
Download overhead shared:
If you have multiple machines to update Application Manager can eliminate duplicated download overhead and time.
In Settings>Files tick the “Use shared storage or content downloads” and set the path to a common network folder all your PCs can access.
The first machine to encounter a new update will download the install file to the shared folder. Other machines will check the folder first and install from the existing download. With some updates being up to a gigabyte (Recap) you can save a lot of download data and time.
You can export and import Application Manager settings to easily configure multiple machines.
First phase of a cloud delivery framework:
The Application Manager framework currently delivers:
For the User:
Desktop notification of update availability
Delivery and install of updates: 'The best experience is no experience', not to get in the way of productivity
For Administrators/CAD Managers:
Discover and download updates
Manage updates distribution
Manage users access to notification updates and install
There are still some limitations — local user rights may need admin permission, users can ignore notifications — but the system is a vast improvement.
Updates are just the start:
Autodesk have put in place the framework to support a far more comprehensive solution. The future could include full installs and possibly even Microsoft Office 365’like click to run. In that case you can start using the core software almost immediately while the rest of it installs in the background.
And using Autodesk PLM 360 to do it!
It was interesting to hear the data source for the system is a case of Autodesk ‘eating its own dog food’. The Product Data Master, a complex mesh of products, applications and applicable updates is being managed with Autodesk PLM 360. The only glitch I’ve seen was Navisworks wanting to install a language update for a language pack I hadn’t installed. This disappeared off the list after a couple of days, presumably after the Product Data Master was updated.
As the complexity of software increases it is nice some attention is being given to making it easier to manage.