Further Thoughts On Fusion360, Nothing Online Is Safe

While I have spent some time observing users of Fusion360 there has been no hands on time on my part. So everything has been academic to a large degree and a reflection of observations of people using it and what they have done with it. Certainly still think it is cool insofar as how it is putting tools of Maker mentality into hands that otherwise may never have gone there.

However let us ponder a quote from the latest “Windows Secrets” newsletter from 12-1-16.

“But a recent ransomware event in San Francisco is a reminder that we must stay ever vigilant to threats targeting our digital devices.

A bit of turnaround: An attacker gets hacked

Recently, San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency was a victim of ransomware, and, for short time, it was unable to run any of its toll booths. Over a weekend, all rides were free — a boon for riders, but a could-have-been expensive lesson for Muni. (The agency was able to restore its computers from backups.)

In a rare and interesting twist to this story, a security researcher appears to have hacked the inbox of the attacker, as detailed in a recent KrebsonSecurity post. As noted in this excellent read, the attacker had successfully targeted manufacturing and construction firms, who had to cough up Bitcoins to get their data back.”

http://thehackernews.com/2016/11/hack-google-account.html will take you to an interesting site where you can read of the joys of Android devices and security.

Why does a company decide to become Hell bent upon their own desires and determine that their customers needs and security are so far removed from the companies goals that customers are basically irrelevant? Except for their cash flow of course which apparently is meant to sustain Mr Big Company. But what of the customer? What about what he needs? Well how about a big fat screw you is the answer.

I was interested in Fusion360 until I had a conversation this week. It was my impression that Fusion could work offline for up to two weeks and at that time all you needed to do was check in to verify your license.  I should have known more was involved when I saw an existing Fusion360 user muttering about a lost file and hoping that the Autodesk guys could find it for him. The whole thing was a mystery to me and I asked him why he did not archive all his data locally. No good answer until this week. To be honest I had not pursued the nitty-gritty on Fusion until I was ready to have a look.

What I was told yesterday was that files had to be saved to the Autodesk server, call it the cloud by another name, and so did any editing have to be saved. You could export in a neutral format your data to be archived locally but, if you relied upon Fusion for your CAD and I assume CAM too any changes had to be saved online.

I remember hearing at IMTS Autodesk meeting where the beauty of a connected world was the righteous goal of any forward-looking user. How Bluetooth and your cell phone would connect you seamlessly and you could work anywhere.

So read the above Windows article excerpt and please note the two words “Manufacturing Data”. I am quite certain if this concerns you can Google the topic for more info. Speaking of Google by the way is not the Hacker News article most delicious?

Here let me help you.

With this information in hands, the attackers are able to hijack your Google account and access your sensitive information from Google apps including Gmail, Google Photos, Google Docs, Google Play, Google Drive, and G Suite.”

So you use what you say?  Because you enjoy the untrammeled freedom of cloud based subscription never stop paying for playing power via your cell phone where you save all that silly login and credential stuff you have now become a shopping cart for bad guys.

Oh, and the cloud is secure right?

https://krebsonsecurity.com/2016/01/ransomware-a-threat-to-cloud-services-too/

I have such a hard time believing that Autodesk has deliberately chosen to go down this road of outright deception. They have to know of these problems but still insist it is the way of the future. While peril grows daily and in ways they can never keep you safe from. All online data transfers and what you have on your devices that go there are at the very least subject to ransomware and in all likely hood loss of IP in ways you can’t stop or trace for damage remediation.

At this time it is with regret that due to the completely porous online environment Autodesk makes mandatory as a condition of usage for Fusion that I recommend that no one who earns a living with what they create in CAD or CAM use Fusion. Or Onshape  or any other cloud base intellectual property creating machining tools. They can’t secure you and they will not secure you. They will not reimburse you for ransomware or IP loss. You will not be compensated for lost files. You will however reliably be billed for the privilege of using the software and I bet the claim that hackers stole your billing statement will not stop them from expecting to be paid.

Funny how that one way street works isn’t it. All the risk is on you who can least afford it so those who did not have to go down this path can benefit from it.

Wrote a letter to another well know blogger recently talking about how I am losing my desire to write about CAD CAM. It used to be interesting and cool new things of worth were coming out to talk about. Today it seems to be more and more of give customers the very least we can to keep them on the maintenance hook. Or indeed con them into subscription models where quality of releases becomes irrelevant and you can keep charging them fees that will no doubt go up for quality and improvement rates which are going down. And heaven forbid that you actually FINISH a new feature before releasing it to the public.

I would have renewed with Solid Edge in a heart beat if the pace of improvements I was used to had continued. I intend to continue maintenance with Autodesk Inventor Pro HSM primarily because I hope HSM really improves beyond the top-notch 3axis milling program it is today to top-notch everything milling and turning. I am slowly losing hope here and thinking more and more the emphasis at Autodesk is to Fusion360 and cloud based crap. There will be a day I will step off if things do not improve. It is my money after all and I am the final arbitor to determine what is appropriate value, not Autodesk. If it gets bad enough my money will leave. (Bet their losing sleep over that one eh😉 )

Claims of improvements always abound with PR releases and when you talk to company individuals but somehow we here at the shop level are left wondering where the beef is. Clue to software companies. Your three or four years is a reasonable time for improvements mind-set stinks to shops that have their bottom line impacted each day.  The idea that many customers must also now add complete online jeopardy and then be subject to pay to play is to me repugnant.

Solid Edge Free For New Startup Companies

One of the things I figured that Autodesk would force on the market place is a change in how people were exposed to software. Solid Edge has had a 45 day trial for SE now for some time. However we all know that up to a half a year is more like it to really really find out if a software design program is a good and the right fit for a company in many cases. I think there are exceptions to that at times. Direct editing was such for me years ago when I first saw it in action. A whole new world of freedom from parametric chains was there before my eyes and it took about a half an hour to make the choice for SE.

As a sole proprietor though and the guy who was responsible for it all I could make that choice. For many companies it is not so simple.

I have always advocated for outfits with multiple seats  to get a power user on to SE and see what it could do while leaving the rest of the design department to remain on the primary program. Sadly I have also had to recommend this to companies who have SE but do not model in Synchronous. The very idea that such a powerful tool exists for customers and most blithely ignore it has been a pet peeve for some time.

One of the truly forward-looking things Autodesk has done is making software available to startups and students for free. A whole army of present and future trained users is being created and a ton of startup companies are being accustomed to the usage of Autodesk products because of this. Yes I believe as does Autodesk this will create more market share for them over time.

You don’t think this is important? Have you read the history of Solid Works? Have you ever tried to get an SW user to switch to something else? SW did not have to offer free because at the time they were the first kid on the block to do outreach and community well and had a cutting edge product to boot. Times have changed and now it takes more.

Autodesk has been working on all aspects of this with students and startups and community in the only way left in today’s market which is free to try.

Solid Edge Free to New Start-Up Companies

 

Solid Edge the best software you hardly ever heard of is now entering into this area although you would never know it based on the buffoons in Marketing and Publicity over there. Announced at the SEU2016 convention and subsequently followed up with nothing.

While there are restrictions and some one year time frames you can try it for a year under certain circumstances. I wish they had made the trials as all-encompassing as Autodesk has done but since they haven’t I am pleased they are at least doing this much.

Solid Edge is much better than Inventor in my opinion. It is also better than SW except in some complex modeling areas. Their sheet metal is the best and so is direct editing both of which are mid range MCAD leaders in todays CAD world. Also and very important. My favorite hate it topics are cloud and forced subscription design (and machining) software. SE suffers from neither of these great big no-no’s. With the demise of permanent seats for Inventor Pro HSM this is a critical plus for SE.

It’s just a shame that CAMWorks for SE turned out to be such a dog and expensive to boot. This is the real fly in the oinyment with SE right now and it will cost you $$$ to get started and for SE Classic and CW4SE 3 axis mill and Volumill and 2 axis lathe your cost per year would be more than the subscription fee for Inventor Pro HSM. You can subscribe to SE by the way but not CW4SE as far as I know. I don’t talk much about SE subs because I would never do it and don’t recommend you do it either. You need to OWN it.

Yes you would have a permanent seat and could step off at any time as I have done and still work for years. But you add up the appx $20,000.00 to get the above package, assuming no discount that is the price by the way, and yearly fees more than the whole subs shooting match from Inv Pro HSM and it is another story.

This is another area where Autodesk will make its presence felt with other companies soon in another way. What is the cost of ownership + yearly costs? If you are committed to renewing each year anyway and you can stomach Inventor the subscription model at Autodesk is much cheaper and has that Lovely HSM attached to it. SE has that dog barker CW4SE and much higher total costs to use.

How much value new companies or companies considering changing software will place on the security of permanent seats VS startup and continuing costs remains to be seen.  For existing users of other software Autodesks subs model is not a good deal for sure since the heavy expenses have already been spent. It costs these guys no more or little more to continue with their permanent licenses compared to Autodesks subs and who would be crazy enough to jettison their permanent seats in this case?

I believe though that as Fusion 360 becomes better, and it will, the cost there of $1,500.00 per year for CAD and CAM everything will force the rest of the market to drop prices considerably or be resigned to losing market share until they become in many areas irrelevant. I intend to find out later this year for myself and what I have been told is that Fusion360 is much closer to the way I am used to working in SE than Inventor is.

At the very least and under limited conditions SE is taking a swing at the plate and if you are shopping they deserve your consideration. They are the best mid range MCAD modeller for my world and may well be for yours to. While I am not a current customer of SE it is the only program I use for modeling and I fully recommend it.

People WAKE UP! The Cloud Will Kill Your Company.

I am watching all the hacking going on with Crooked Hillary’s evil empire and the Washington Swamp being exposed. One would think career criminals of her stature and decades of experience would be clever enough to hide the evidence or communicate in secure ways. But this got me to thinking of other things today. Before you go further though something completely entertaining. http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/11/02/bleachbit-mocks-hillary-clintons-cloth-or-something-server-gaffe/

Data that needs to be secure can only be kept secure when it does not go online. There is no doubt about this and anyone who is serious about it knows this to be true. Yes I know the human element can steal data as an inside job but that gets to be much harder to do and the perps run serious risks. Online is a shopping cart for bad guys and I would guess most never face any jail time or risk when doing so. There are a few things I want you to Google here. Try Googling “Chinese build stealth fighter with stolen info”. Now try “Dell made in China server boards have back doors”.  Now try “Huawei backdoor proof”.  Then go to “US military bans Lenovo”.

I know you have an inquiring mind or else you would not be here reading this post. So I want you to go and do some research for yourself to the best of your ability and tell me what you come up with regarding the jeopardy of online exposure to intellectual property. That silly stuff that just happens to make your livelihood  and your companies profits possible.

I want to be on record as stating that I see no way for a company that forces you to work online with a CAD or CAM program as being interested in your security. It is impossible for them to guarantee this and indeed they will not. Read the T&C for anything that forces you online from server farms to your favorite software. Tell me what you see. Do it with your own eyes and don’t accept the words of marketing or corporate officials who have a vested interest in you not knowing how bad it really is.

If you are silly enough to be spoon fed “online is secure” falsehoods and subject your future to it you deserve what you get. For those with a bit more sense it is high time to start looking into doing things in a secure way and make the companies you deal with either keep you off the cloud to work or guarantee your safety and cover any provable damages you may well incur because of what they made you do as a condition of software usage.

If they don’t isn’t it high time you give your money and future to a company that understands your future is more valuable to you than their’s is?

 

Autodesk Opens Doors To Second Pathway

This is the third and final part of the Autodesk And The Future commentary.

I have had to think a while for what exactly should be said about the direction Autodesk has taken. Keep in mind I believe that until forever has passed any existing policy can be changed including the wretched subscription model being foisted on future commercial users who are silly enough to go there. Will they change it without serious decline in income? No and if enough foolish individuals fund them and they think they can prevail with this plantation creating model they will keep going this way. It is all up to the buyers to stop it.

But there is a second group that does not need security, at least not yet. They will in time seek security when they get hacked or someone they know does. Or after depending on cloud backups with no internal self backups created they lose their data. Or for any number of reasons many of which have been talked to death. You either get it or you don’t and the world you live in will treat you accordingly. Funny how people who start generating real wealth begin to worry about protecting it to. This is the future for many of the current adopters of Fusion360.

The greatest fallacy of the existing current educational system is the self promoted idea that a college degree guarantees success. No matter how irrelevant the degree earned is to the real world. Promoted by huge lobbies that buy political favor and then reward themselves with wages (in particular at universities) way beyond their true real world worth. So these kids swallow the promise and get to go someplace cool and hang out with cool people for a while. Spend lots of money they had to borrow to be there and thus create their first real world scenario. Debt that has to be paid back.

Then they find out these educators who are tied into the same group that floods the USA with H-1B and other visas had no intention of using them long-term. The same group that trains CPA’s and MBA’s to send jobs overseas to save money and make better profits at the expense of the future. That world which then lives in rigging numbers for quarterly reports and not the future of the country as a whole. So out of school saddled with debt, brainwashed and then fired as they are forced to train their foreign replacement or the job is shipped overseas. Now they have a bright future as the produce head at the local Walmart and since their training was in a specific field most are mentally tied to that for life. Unless they are willing to walk away from it all and the vast majority will not be.

The system is rigged against these people. But having said all this I get to where I want to be.

The most striking thing I have observed with the adopters of Fusion360 is future proofing. I know these kids have no clue of how profound their choices are for their future. They see cool and cheap and making things. Yes Fusion is not as good as real established long-term CAD. But you know what? It is good enough to do almost everything I have done to date for a living insofar as design goes. I base this upon work I have seen done with it and not hands on yet. I am curious enough about it to seriously consider getting a subscription though. Well make that I am getting a  subscription later this year when I dump sad sack Hagerman as my VAR. It will not replace my true CAD backbone which is on site and offline and has permanent licenses. But it will augment my capabilities in ways I will in time be discussing.

Kids who have not had prior experience see things a bit differently. One of the surprising things I have noted is the desire to create a business and to be independent in doing so in the young people I have seen involved with Fusion. It is not a toy and they can make real life parts. With a Tormach mill and Fusion360 (and to a lesser degree Inventor) which is free for most of them. http://www.autodesk.com/products/fusion-360/try-buy. All of a sudden a real business is created for under $10,000.00 which these guys can do. What they can’t do is $7,000.00 for the mill and then $4,000.00+ for cad and then another $10,000.00 for 3 axis mill. What I am talking about is the creation of a future group of people who are being taught to be independent minded and forward-looking. Who are being taught to be creators of things and ideas instead of being formatted by educators whose only real concern is their own wages. Educators who then send them forth with knowledge and no idea of how to adapt to change it if things don’t go quite right. No not all educators but sadly huge numbers of them today do not care one bit about the success of their products, namely the future of their graduates.

Manufacturing has to return to America in a big way in order for us to survive as we have known life to be to also be so in the future. We have to be innovators and creators and makers. These Fusion guys are just that and even though many of the products I have seen are crude and simple they do exist and these kids ARE learning to put in place the whole mental process of stepping outside a rigid mindset and into one where the question is asked what can I think up to do. Unlike those with formal education who so often look for ways to save their time and money spent to get an education in the same field of endeavor they were trained in. The idea of throwing it all away and starting over is admitting defeat most will not want to acknowledge. So they slog on flogging a dead horse and train yet more H-1B visa replacements.

What the Fusion guys are learning is that if one thing does not work another will. That with tools of creation and cheap price of entry you can experiment until you find the right things to profit by. They are learning that the only limits that should apply are the ones you put on yourself outside of your own innate abilities mentally. Some people become Henry Ford or Bill Gates others peak at just providing a decent living for themselves. But they are learning how to survive and indeed thrive no matter what the economy does because they can adapt quickly to changing circumstances. It boils down to what can I do and not what have they trained me to do or waiting for someone to tell them what to do. The price tag of failure is not so high when the tools for creation and manufacturing can be applied to so many diverse things and merely stepping sideways allows you to reuse what you have for another idea that will work.

It is this whole mindset I am seeing with this group that fascinates me. It is primarily with Autodesk these young individuals are doing this too since Autodesk has gone farther than anyone else in putting these tools in their hands.

So, the second pathway is how to think and create and rise above limitations through developing an independent what can I do for myself attitude. In other words they become makers and free themselves from limits most people impose upon themselves. Lets face it the vast majority of people are terrified of working for themselves and being responsible for their own futures.

I remember when I left Chrysler how this was proven to me. I had been there for 8.5 years and by 1981 it took 13.5 years seniority just to have a job with Chrysler. Out of all the people I knew there only three did not sit on their fat buts and wait the two years out so Chrysler could call them back into their coccoon. One was a lady who went into Radio Shack to work with computers just as the industry was really getting started. One was an idiot who did not want to pay his wife alimony and the other was me. The common refrain was you have too much time in here to walk away from it all.  But these same people would speak in reverence of the tiny group of individuals who HAD left over the years and started businesses. Envy but no desire or ability to have to fend truly for themselves based upon their own desires and abilities.

Fusion is I think creating more than any other product outside of Autodesk a group of people who will be business owners and not business employees. Who will be making opportunities instead of hoping for a raise. Who will be at times perhaps temporarily affected by adverse economic problems but not see it all come crashing down around them. Who before the hands of traditional ways of earning a living got a vice grip upon their minds learned instead to step outside of the box and fend for themselves.

 

Weekly Autodesk CAM Webinars Actually Exist!

Yes I know it is a bit of a snarky title but today I attended my first Autodesk CAM webinar. I had no idea these even existed until I received an invite from Tim Paul who knew I had a keen interest in HSM Probing. Which of course happened to be today’s topic.

It is a mystery to me how good information like this is created but the fact it exists and where and when seem to be arcane lore. To be honest it is the first time I had heard of this. https://cam.autodesk.com/weekly-webinar/ will take you to the web site.

This falls into the category of better documentation as far as I am concerned. Which also leads to how do you make users aware these things exist? On the splash page for Solid Edge is a link to user forums. It is an excellent way to put this information in front of people without flooding them with emails they may not want. How many people use that link is unknown to me but it is a method.

Perhaps with each annual install of Inventor etal there could be a page during install where a user could register for a list of resources one of which could be the webinars or at least indicate interest which Autodesk could follow up on. You know what? If a customer expresses interest it’s not spam is it? If Autodesk is like Solid Edge was they may be too hesitant to contact users for fear of offending them with too many emails. And that is a problem, one that I have had before and resented.

I never had as an end goal in avoiding spam to also cut myself off from useful information though. Today’s webinar was quite useful and I hope the promise that a recording of it will indeed be made available for download. As a matter of policy I would hope all of these would be available.

A sticky link on the well attended CAM forums promoting these resources would also be good. Just some thoughts here and the creation of great resources for users is pretty useless if they don’t know about them. And if Autodesk does not get this information in front of us we will in general only find out by accident.

Autodesk And Their People

This post is going to reflect upon the people I have met in direct employ by CAD and CAM authoring companies who support, write code or manage the outfit. But first some history of where I have been and my experiences. Also keep in mind while Autodesk has a huge range of software offerings my only concern and where my comments are directed to is metal cutting.

My very first bit of software was Surfcam’s 2D Free. A short-lived program for me since right after I got it Surfcam ended it and it became a $4,500.00 buy it to use it cost for basic mill and lathe which I did. In came a fellow by the name of Earl Thornton who was selling VX which was a design and machining all in one program around 2005 or so. The problem was now you have a CNC machine and a CAM program how do you feed the CAM program. Why with CAD of course and to me 3D and working off of shapes made immediate sense. Lots of 2D CAD shops at that time and this shop never entertained the idea of running CAM with 2D.

With the exception of Earl the rest of the VX CADCAM employees were unknowns to me to be able to know what they did as hobbies or for personal entertainment. Earl was good and today has moved on to Powermill at a company that makes auto floor mat molds with endmills so small at times I don’t see how they make them. Earl always had real life practical experience from the first time we met on.

Next got involved with involved with Solid Edge which became my design program of choice from the initial release of ST1 up until this very day where I quite happily use ST8 and intend to do so for some time.

The Solid Edge people were ones that did become familiar to me and it was surprising how many had actually been there since Intergraph days. They were passionate about what they did. Many of them, especially the programmers I met had hobbies on the side. What I saw though was primarily their CAD work done on their own time because they were fascinated with using it. Don’t recall any of them who were machinists though.

One day while running a user group meeting in Huntsville  and Solid Edge and two Var’s who were good at door prizes were also there. Never forgot that as Jeff Walker was handing out prizes I won a Starrett caliper. Turned it down since door prizes needed to go to attendees. His comment was as he handed it out was that I was probably the only one there that knew how to use them.

I also remember things like Dan Staples who was really good at running and developing design software but lived there with tunnel vision. One day I ran into him in Huntsville where he made a derogatory comment about “my” Karsten Newbury basically interfering with the orderly progression of SE. At the time I had been pushing for integrated CAM software with the idea that unless you had an actual manufacturing solution you were just a part of the puzzle. And after all CAD was created solely to feed CAM in the aircraft industry.

Still believe to this day that design software in and of its own is useless stuff until something is made from it. Yes the only real true purpose and end goal of design is to produce something and if that does not happen it is purely an academic endeavor. The focus from Dan on down was in many ways CAD-centric and it was a fight to change that attitude. Karsten Newbury, tip of the hat to him and Don Cooper, both understood the idea of manufacturing. Neither of them work there now and back into obscurity SE goes.

CAMWorks which was the next major bit of software  bought and it was a nightmare. The only one I met from Geometric who was really good was Mark Bissel. He had actual machining time and got it. I was there to see him argue about common sense workflow things with CAMWorks leadership only to be shot down every time. The rest of the CAMWorks people met were part of the problem. I swear cubical CAM software developers who have never cut metal or observed in person the end results of their programming are the bane of a machinists day and the backbone of Geometric’s CAM programmer base. Woe unto you who enter into the world of CAM software where those who author it don’t use it and the company does not own a single piece of equipment to test what they created on. And then add to that ignore you if they possibly can when you come to them with show stopping problems.

Such was the case of CAMWorks almost all the time I was involved in it. We, that is the users, were the problem for why CW did not work right. WE never followed proper modeling procedures and so WE were the reason for our tales of woe. Of course proper modeling was laughable with Solid Edge ST since any way you got there was OK but that statement became CAMWorks end all be all defense against angry customers for some time.

By the way as an aside here. I had current seats of Volumill inside of CW4SE and HSM at the same time a little over a year ago. At that time with same feeds and speeds and machine and material and end mills Volumill never won against Adaptive clearing. Most of the time it lost by a significant margin and at best came merely close to Adaptive. HSM 3D Adaptive is today’s premier high speed machining tool path generator and if you doubt it try it for yourself. Seeing makes a believer out of you. There is no comparison favorable to CW in regards to ease of use either.

Now all this has been a lot of verbiage to get to this point but I want no doubt in anyone’s mind the process and experience traveled through before getting on board with Autodesk because of HSM.

What a breath of fresh air HSM was. In fact it was my original recommendation for integration with Solid Edge https://solidedging.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/solidworks-and-hsm-works-and-why-not-hsm-edge/ until Autodesk screwed that one up. With Intuitive and simple to use and tons of behind the scenes logic built into the program that just worked for all my 3axis milling no matter what the part complexity. Lathe was and is pretty crude compared to other programs but still does the basic things my shop needs. This shops requirements are pretty simple compared to mill turn or four and five or more axis parts. In other words this shop probably represents 80%+ of the job shop metal cutting market. There you go, a number I just created with no way of verifying it but that seems to be the way it is in the shops around here.

Over the two past years where I have become privy to behind the scenes decisions and the people involved in making them at Autodesk and HSM it has been a complete eye opener into what a true manufacturing ecosphere entails. It’s primary requirement is the involvement of those both in charge and as coders and support in actually producing things with the software. Yes I mean with their own hands.

I think I can talk about this little story. If you were with HSM and Carl Bass wanted to meet with you to buy you out what do you think would be his first question to you? Well whatever you think it should have been what it became was a question on HSM 5 axis posts. As it turns out Carl runs and programs himself. I think he picked HSM as Autodesk’s first CAM acquisition based upon personal knowledge of the product and I bet he had a seat and had used it himself on his own equipment. I do not know of any other major corporate software honcho who has his perspective on manufacturing based upon personal hands on experience  to truly understand our maker problems.

Hearing about Carl as a story was great but the advisory meeting was an entirely different animal. Sitting in a room with perhaps sixty or so individuals as we introduced ourselves and what exactly we did I was amazed. Amazed at how many actual Autodesk employees involved in Fusion360 and HSM had desk top or Tormach or metal-cutting something residing in their homes and garages. I thought to myself as people spoke up how unbelievably high was the percentage of Autodesk dudes who were real-time metal cutters.

The talk about Pier 9 and what was coming up. Bass himself has enough CNC equipment to be his own personal test lab and now they have the Pier to add to it. More capabilities coming and testing for how it all works and works with various tools to better refine the CAM programs is ongoing and continuous as far as I can tell.

Yeah that’s right. Gobs of these guys USE what they are a part of creating.

Here is a prime example of what I had run into before HSM with CAMWorks for example. They sent one of their support guys to my shop to cut parts using SE and CW4SE on my brand new VF4 to have video for the upcoming SEU. The first picture I call “Why Carve When You Can Trench”. Their guy shoved a Helical endmill at rapid speeds right through the work piece. Before I could hit the big red button it had flown through four cuts and how it survived is a mystery to me.why-rough-when-you-can-trench

The second one is the famous CW demo car and represents the best finish he came up with before we quit trying. Keep in mind I am watching all this and stunned by what Geometric sent to my shop as expert talent to create video for a new product launch  The third represents his best finish on one of CAMWorks timeless never changed demo models. It took two plus DAYS before I told him we were going to do it my way primarily with a bull nose end mill and not a ball end mill. This was his best finish and of course the bull nose was far superior to the experts ball nose choice. I have kept these pictures because this whole experience was surreal and little did I know at the time indicative of what would also be my future experiences with these clowns.

Attention all you software authoring companies. Don’t make customers who hate you because of how you treat them. They will never forget.

carglasses-gouges-floor-and-top-general-yuck-finish

In contrast all the guys I have met with HSM are sharp. They were I am quite certain fully vetted by people who knew what they were looking at before they were hired. I have never had bad advice. As a matter of fact the only two bad experiences I have had since I have been on board with Autodesk HSM is the garbage support model from Hagerman   (Moving to Selway will solve the support problems and if you cut chips for a living and use HSM or Fusion I recommend you check them or Nexgen out. Selway in particular sells CNC machines and machining software and they get it.) and the advent of subscription only for new customers. (Sorry guys I could have said Inventor HSM Pro but I love HSM and not Inventor which it is attached to.) It has also taken time to get on the ball with some long-term shortfalls but I believe they know what they are and have and are hiring people to fix these problems.

Even Delcam was a disappointment to me. I looked at Featurecam before Delcam was bought out by Autodesk and sad to say the local rep could not do 3axis parts. His comment was they had not trained him yet to do so. My thought was you work on any sort of commission you better darned well learn what you are TRYING to sell.

Of them all in my own personal experience only the Autodesk, HSM and Fusion people have really impressed me as being knowledgeable and hands on with the end goal of a machine shop owner. To make parts and more money per part at the end of the day.

 

Autodesk And The Future

Last week at IMTS it was my privilege to attend the Customer Advisory Board for primarily Autodesk CAM products namely HSM all flavors and Fusion 360 the same. Delcam lives in a bit of a different world and hardly anything regarding them came up and I don’t recall an actual current Delcam user there.

I took three pages of notes on things I found relevant or interesting and still have not settled upon how to word what I saw and heard. The meeting gave me pause though and I find myself rethinking what the future holds and why for CAD and CAM. This will take three posts so bear with me and read them all. If you have not figured it out yet I am not a Twitter type individual and I believe many things can’t be covered in a few paragraphs unless you wish to do so superficially. I want to know and understand and I assume you do too.

There is a dividing set of paths regarding industrial software coming up and two directions people will take. The first which is where I reside and intend to stay is permanent seats for the sake of user control and security. About security. I heard the oft repeated tedious straw man argument that surely since we all do banking and purchasing online, that we trust our money online, the same must hold true with the intellectual property that resides in our designed products. I had to explain yet again why this is most emphatically NOT true. It goes like this.

Every month you receive a consise update on all your online financial activity and you can verify everything that has transpired. If there is fraud and you catch it within a reasonable time frame, and you are given tools to do so with monthly statements, you will be made whole. This week I had to fiddle around with my credit card company while purchasing some stainless steel funnels. Money was going to an unusual place and they wanted to know it was me before they approved the transaction. This happens more than I wish which tells me that financial transactions online are way to porous to threats and this irritation is one of the tools to combat fraud. But you can be made whole here for damages.

Your intellectual property goes away and there is no finite way of auditing what it was and when it was that I know of. Plus what is the value? The cost of R&D plus marketing plus tooling and raw goods and wages and all that stuff needed to bring a product to the end-user. What is the value of something where inspiration may only strike once in a lifetime? Add into that the potential which may not be possible to calculate until there is a history of sales to predict by. Trivial things like Hula Hoops or Pet Rocks sound really stupid until you realize that the person who did it became wealthy off of it. And that in this day and time the Chinese knockoffs can get your product to market quicker than perhaps the original designer could who had to jump through the legal and governmental imposed whatevers whereas the thief in China did not. China is not the only threat they are just by far the worst one.

So once a month or more your financial transactions are comprehensively scrutinized and if you have to go online with your intellectual property it is a crap shoot and the best you can do is best practices to stop hacking. Financial things are covered and not one company involved with online intellectual property from the server farm to the software author your ISP and the internet backbone will do the same for the life blood of your company. Read the EULA or T&C of any one of those outfits and see for yourself. I did and you won’t believe how little faith they have in the online security of the services or products they sell to you.

One of the “exciting” possible future things was the idea of Blue Tooth communication between PC’s, smart phones and CNC equipment. Yes you too can stand in front of your mill with your smart phone and edit your CAM program on the fly and update your workstation file and on and on. Made to appeal to the lazy side of people this wonder would allow instant communication and CAM plan updates blah blah blah. I do that quickly now with my workstation and USB Flash drive which is all of maybe eight feet port to port. We won’t however talk about the little blue tooth receiver planted in the weeds next to your shop that also receives all your lazy man’s time-saving of seconds or a few footsteps. The real-time savings of course accrue to the dude who got your CAD and CAM data and did not have to do anything other than record it. He will surely be excited. But yes I guess the cool factor was there for those who like this sort of stuff.

All that being said though I think that in many ways Fusion 360 and the people who use it are going to be a big influence on the future. Far more profoundly than I thought possible before I met actual users and why they were there and what they were doing with it. I still sit and think of this each day and wonder just how much of what I have taken for granted will reside on one fork of the path and just how much over time will migrate to a way of operation that is wide open to security problems as I see it. Which leads to the question of just how many small guys need that security? That need that security at the permanent seat or full-blown design and machining software price? That would not be able to start a business with really scarce capital unless software was cheap.

The numbers of people who are actually using Fusion360 after downloading and not an aggregate of downloads and not used + downloaded and then used like many report as the valid number is huge. No I am not allowed to state the number we were told but if that number is true it is staggering. I see no reason to doubt it either by the way.  I was impressed with the Autodesk staff present compared to the ones I have met elsewhere with other companies for the no BS blow smoke up your rear attitude they had.

Autodesk is I think the world leader in aiding startups to begin and prosper with relevant software. They generate huge armies of students that know the products and do not have to be trained nearly as much since they have the basics from school. Solid Works (not Dassault’s nightmare Catia however) does this second best but waaaay behind. Siemens UGS has no clue how far behind they are and I think of Solid Edge and how you can’t find anyone to hire 99% of the time already trained. Well maybe only 95% but who cares. Solid Edge is incredible design software compared to Inventor but you would never know it since you can hardly find users of it plus the only integrated CAM product for Solid Edge namely CAMWorks is not user friendly or reasonably priced. UGS and now Siemens are to blame for this. Autodesk lets you use full-blown seats of sadly now subscription only software for FREE if your company makes less than $100,000.00 per year.

The idea that I first had about the Autodesk Juggernaut steamrolling the competition a couple of years ago was most thoroughly reinforced last week.

At IMTS a few things I found of interest. CAMWorks was set up in a smallish sized booth with not much traffic I could see. Gee I wonder why? Mastercam had a TON of sales demo dudes and as far as I could see way to many of them twiddling thumbs. They were quite proud of finally adopting the ribbon bar and organizing their GUI better many years after most of their competition did. The new Mastercam has been well received though by local users I know so this is a good thing for them and their long suffering users. Esprit had a high volume demo stage but I don’t think there were high volume sales being generated. Vero was there and did not look to be a hopping joint. Autodesk had a number of sales guys, maybe to many I don’t know you tell me but they also had lots of constant traffic especially for HSM and Fusion 360. Delcam not so much and since the price of Delcam products can jump up to $80,000.00 at times I can see why not. CAM competitors to HSM and Fusion need to be very afraid for their future.

Haas from what I was told was busy from the beginning to the end. You had to force your way through their booth. I went there Friday afternoon on the last day of the event and was stunned at the traffic. There was no other machine tool builder there I could see with even a reasonable sized crowd to compare with what Haas had. Of course I am a Haas guy and a buy American first guy if possible and love American manufacturing success stories that profile how ingenuity can thrive even in the communist state of California. Hey Haas, get a move on and go to North Carolina where you will be appreciated for the jobs you create instead of being an “enemy of the environment” and “capitalistic swine oppressor of the working class”.  Or Tennessee perhaps near by my shop would also be nice😉 We like jobs here and no state income tax and we Tennessee Deplorables keep the socialists confined to college campuses and liberal newspapers few will read.

Coming up in the next week or so two related topics. The future with Fusion 360 and why it matters and the culture I found associated with the Autodesk employees I met primarily on the CAM side of course.

 

Update 9-23-16

Speaking of security. So today Yahoo is caught and forced to admit that up to 500,000,000 users may have been compromised. No that number is not a typo. This started in 2014 and is just now public knowledge. Unlike financial monthly statements which provide auditing capabilities the intellectual property of all users at Yahoo was jeopardized  for up to two years and none the wiser except for the crooks and perhaps Yahoo since I assume they must have had some knowledge of bad things going on. If they did not that is even worse and this is a prime example of online peril if you are forced to go there.  Can you picture AWS in this situation with your data? They can and that is why their T&C absolves them of any liability where YOUR stuff is concerned. How I love the cloud, let me count the ways.