Automation, Forge API Updates Focus of Autodesk University’s First Day

Autodesk University kicked off its annual event in Las Vegas Tuesday with the company’s Chief Executive Officer Andrew Anagost telling the close to 10,000 attendees how his company plans to address the coming age of automated design.

“We’re reframing automation. It’s not a threat, it’s an opportunity to do more,” Anagost said.

Humans will move toward working alongside robots, often called cobots, and will be employed programming and maintaining robots, for example, Anagost said.

He did acknowledge that what he called the new wave of automation will cause industry disruptions. “But technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics will be far more effective at creating job opportunities and spurring economic growth than many skeptics would have you believe,” he said.

To that end, Hilbrand Katsma production director at Van Wijnen, a Netherlands construction management firm spoke about his company’s move toward automation. The company has developed modular housing concepts by developing modular housing components that also allow customers to personalize their homes.

The move takes home building from a three-month contract down to three weeks, with a three-day build, Katsma said.

The homes can be disassembled and reassembled as homeowner needs change, he added.

Van Wijnen has also moved to a paperless field office.

The company began by piloting the BIM 360 Field construction field management solution on a 13-home residential development. Combining mobile technology and cloud-based collaboration and reporting, BIM 360 Field provided a way for the construction management team to create checklists and more at the point of construction on Apple iPad mobile devices, Katsma said.

A paperless field office offers a time and clarity advantage as compared to writing things down on paper and then entering information into a computer later, he added. It also offers more data about subcontractor performance. The best and fastest subcontractors can be called upon for later jobs.

Anagost told his audience Autodesk will support customers during the move to automation.

“We’ll integrate automation into products you use every day so you can start to get comfortable,” he said.

Examples include the generative design tool that automates design for manufacturing. Engineers and designers input design restrictions and needs and the tool generates a number of designs based on those inputs. The designer than chooses the best design.

Such tools automate the design process but also rely on designer choice and input, Anagost said.

“We’re also automating processes across rest of manufacturing space so you can output to composites, injection molding, casting,” he added.

He also talked of learning tools that will bring “ a learning environment directly into the tools you use.

“At a glance you know what skills you’ve learned and what skills you need to learn next,” he said. “We call it generative learning because it anticipates your needs like generative design does.”

The company also announced a host of new capabilities on its Forge platform, including enhancements to the BIM 360 application program interface (API) and the design automation API, which will soon be available for integration with Autodesk Revit and Autodesk Inventor.

Forge is the vendor’s API platform and supporting materials as well as a community of developers who uses those APIs.

The design automation API, for example, allows users to run scripts on their design files to automate repetitive tasks. The API currently works with DWG files, but Autodesk has plans to expand to file types generated by other design software. This is a good way to publish thousands of drawings to DWF or PDF.

Without this capability, users would have to download all the files, run a script on them in the AutoCAD desktop software, and then potentially upload them all back to the cloud. Efficiency would be bottlenecked by the processing power of your computer and your network bandwidth, and they would have to instrument logging and retry logic in your code to ensure that the entire job completed. With the Design Automation API, that processing to the can be offloaded to the Forge platform, which can process those scripts at a greater scale and efficiency.

Additionally, a new Webhooks API will let Forge users develop third-party applications. The Forge Application Framework Software Development Kit will contain re-usable and modular components including high frequency data management, solid modeling, and web graphics to customize the Forge experience, as well as tools for app building and publishing, Anagost said.

“The ultimate goal with Forge is to turn it into a platform where third parties can build competitive solutions, even competitive solutions on top of Forge itself,” he said. “We’re investing in a vibrant third party ecosystem for Forge and seeding it with Forge funds, which is a few years old and gives dollars to people putting Forge tools in their new product offerings.

Autodesk’s larger customers in particular are using the platform to integrate Autodesk solutions in some of their own custom solutions, he added.

Autodesk University continues in Las Vegas through Thursday.

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