Autodesk and its drive towards DfMA

Apr 23, 2021

Everybody’s talking about Design for Manufacturing and Assembly. While very few firms are actually doing it, the concept is attracting advanced BIM users, fabricators and software firms to try it out. Martyn Day looks at Autodesk’s efforts and future vision

When it comes down to digitization, it might seem that manufacturing has nearly always been ahead of building and construction. However, this is not strictly true. In the late 70s and 80s, while high-end manufacturing was starting to rapidly adopt 3D modelling, high-end architecture firms were also using mini-computer-based 3D modelling programs such as RUCAPS, Sonata and GDS. The future looked to be 3D for all design systems.

With the advent of PC-based desktop 2D CAD in the late 80s, for some reason development of 3D modelling software for manufacturing exploded with small to-medium-size engineering firms quickly adopting Pro/Engineer, Unigraphics and SDRC I-DEAS and then Solidworks. Unfortunately, the AEC industry opted for the dark ages, mainly regressing to desktop 2D CAD or making low detail 3D models to make 2D drawings.

Meanwhile manufacturing went on to drive the development of G-code, computer numerical control (CNC), 3D printing and robotic assembly and manufacture, as well as driving quality, tolerance controls and supply chain management.

In the manufacturing space, 3D modelling of products and assemblies naturally fed into the digitization of production, where volume of production is key. 3D models didn’t kill 2D drawing as a valid communication format but the 1:1 scale product definition model typically drives the process.

We have become used to being surrounded by beautifully engineered products. From cars and aero planes to Apple devices, we have become a society that is aware of engineering design and assembly. Anyone who is into cars will know how Nissan, Volkswagen, Audi, Renault, Peugeot and many others share common platforms for their cars, saving development time and money but allowing competition on their differentials which they add on top.

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