James Pozzi talks to Autodesk’s manufacturing senior vice-president Buzz Kross about its Fusion 360 product and some of the manufacturing trends coming to the company’s attention.
Where is Autodesk focusing its attentions at present?
We’re focused on the new Fusion 360. We’ve decided to turn it into something bigger than it was. In its earliest instance it was really for cloud based, CAD products. While it’s still that, we’ve increased it to be something bigger so it’s now a complete product development solution. This includes data management, version control, a collaboration system and a manufacturing system. What used to be CAM 360 is now part of the 360 product.
Why was the decision made to overhaul 360?
We did this because it’s become so clear that this next generation of manufacturers is doing the job in a more holistic way. You have people who are doing a lot more of the entire job, particularly in the early phases of product development, and often making the first versions of products themselves. This is certainly prevalent in the entrepreneurial customers we deal with. We’ve turned Fusion into something that ideally suited where it’s a complete single product. Rather than interfacing to our FAA product, which we still do, we embed a very simple product validation system in the fusion. This lets the average engineer or designer to analyse the product in some very simple ways. It’s a very new type of system that’s not been shown before.
As one of the first companies to make this move, do you expect competitors to move into the market?
Right now, being on the cloud is a differentiator and an advantage for us. But in a very short amount of time, it’s something everyone will have. Our competitors are actively talking about it and working on products. I think it’s great to be there first, but it’s not a long lasting differentiator. It’s sort of like in the early days of having a Windows app, which made you different, but no one really talks about that anymore. It’s sort of obvious that everyone does it and I expect this to be the same with the cloud.
From Autodesk’s perspective, what are some of the emerging manufacturing trends you are seeing at present?
Our customer’s environment has changed a lot. I see a lot of design happening in a new way, with a lot more collaborative design with outside firms. And a lot more crowd-based design. A company we work with, Quirky, is a model we see where anyone can contribute. But lot of companies are fundamentally operating in this way today. I think to really efficiently operate, you need to have models and data that multiple people can get access to. People are geographically dispersed and often in different time zones, and you don’t want to be sending files back and forth. Because there are different roles an individual has – you might have an environment where everyone is doing design at some point, but maybe later on, everyone will collaborate over test and measurement environment to see how well the product works. Then maybe later on they’ll be looking at imaging and picking materials.
Which sectors specifically have you seen taking this more customised, local manufacturing approach?
I’ve seen it everywhere. The way we demonstrated this thing, we were showing a very bespoke, manufactured product customised for a specific individual. This meant the manufacturer was able to take their core competence and modify it both in appearance and fit for the individual. I see this happening everywhere from industrial machines to automotive, to consumer products – there is more and more customisation happening. I think it could go beyond this with customers starting to design products. An example of this was Nike’s letting customers design their own shoe. There is a company called Orphanage Guitars which lets customers design their own guitars. While don’t give you infinite choice, the fact is the customer’s can understand exactly how that guitar is going to behave and appear. I expect CAD products are going to be a way for users to interact with companies in the near future.