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. 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. 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 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.


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.

How Do You Find And KEEP CAM Customers?

Well how do you? If you talk to existing users it is not to hard to do philosophically. You do what you promise, no less and if you do more good. You FIX without undue delay things that are a complaint of a significant portion of your user base. You advance the GUI so unneccessary steps and complications are removed and your product streamlined with ease and speed of use increased. You do not use your customer as an ATM and nickel and dime them to death. You stay current with existing manufacturing technology controls and common use/bought options  like probing or door cycles or coolant types and mist removers being integrated into CAM plans without hassles or problems. High Speed Machining is a must and you can’t rest on your laurels you need to improve it.

Philosophy often meets its demise with cubical programmers who have never cut a chip and or CPA MBA types who do not view customer desires as legitimate expenses of doing business but rather view them as costs to be cut or avoided.

I am looking today at HSM, CAMWorks and Mastercam. I guess in some ways HSM has dramatically affected the CAM market where these three are concerned and I suspect more to but today I am talking about these three. HSM has been eating up market share like no tomorrow for a couple of years now. How this increase will proceed is in question with subscription stupidity but non the less they have been waxing their competition for a while.

I remember conversations with some CAMWorks people about HSM a few years back and if they had considered the simplicity and power of HSM compared to CW. I do believe they perceived and realized the threat but were not sure what to do. In the mean time they were late out the gate with yearly updates for CW for SE and full of really bad problems on top of it all.

Mastercam was famous for why do things on one page and two clicks if the five-page and thirty clicks method you developed years ago still worked. I mean why make things simpler for your customer when what is there will eventually do almost anything and all they have to do is memorize the labyrinth.  Clicks all day keeps boredom away and what fun. Mastercam built the largest single CAM user group presence with this paradigm and I guess felt it was all that was needed.

I think CW and CW4SE and Mastercam looked at HSM though and realized it was time to change the way they operated or lose out. I suppose you really have to have your face shoved deep into it sometimes before revelation strikes and you realize business as usual is going to hurt your company badly. CW in particular is run by a bunch of penny pinchers that regard the expenditure of a dollar as a major  catastrophe to be avoided at all costs. Mastercam is privately owned and getting family to see some things was shall I say difficult? But probable loss of future income can change things.

HSM now is the one with some long-standing issues and promises being made but not upheld. Resting on the laurels of major past achievements it is still perhaps the best three axis milling package out there. But it is not as far ahead of the pack as it was and new features are not keeping them as far ahead as they used to be because they are few and far between or don’t work worth a flip. Plus subscriptions which I think is going to kill their future potential.

Into this steps CW and CW 4 SE. Now understand that I have not used CW4SE for two years now and have never used CW but I can see with CW4SE that they have for two years been on the ball with new year updates. I gather that some problems are being taken care of. Compared to the debacle that was ST7 CW4SE they clearly have made a concerted effort compared to the past. It looks like the pace of complaints for CW with the Tech Data Base and Posts has dwindled on their closed user forum so perhaps those long time problems are easing. Who knows with CW4SE since posts are basically non-existent regarding any topic.

Mastercam has finally really worked over their GUI and has taken care of some problems. People I know who have been involved with Mastercam as contract programmers have very good things to say this year. The few users I speak to locally rate this as the best version update they have seen. Mastercam enters the ribbon bar fewer clicks and pages world for the first time ever and improves some capabilities to boot. Mastercam has always been regarded by the people I personally know as being capable of anything. If you just knew the secret convoluted path to CAM nirvana you could go there. Now not so secret or convoluted. I also see a feature I really like in turning and it is interrupted cuts in Lathe so you can avoid long stringy chips. Something I look at in real envy with my Haas TL2 where long curls can be a significant problem.

Let us not forget to regard one very important thing CW, CW4SE and Mastercam also do. They do not shove you into this subscription only user hell hole and will sell you permanent seats all day long.

I really have to wonder what this says in general. We see two programs threatened with losing market share improve what they do. They have to because each year they have to earn your business or lose you. It amazes me how many Mastercam users are many versions back and don’t renew and still make a living. I do believe these guys are all making a concerted effort to earn your repeat loyalty. To compel you with product advances and timely releases to keep sending money each year.

It was known a year and a half plus ago that HSM all flavors would be subscription only. What we see there now is a great product that suffers from a huge slowdown in new features and issues like Lathe linger unfinished for years. Forget wire and much of the world of five axis or mill turn too. When you put a lot on the table of a finite quantity of programmers and do not also structure increased talent to equal increased demands on talents you get what we have now. Lots of good things on the way and not finished or usable because the few programmers are pulled in to many directions to finish any one single thing. I suspect Marketing has a hand in this. Sales people are notorious for making promises they can’t deliver on just to make a sale. Don’t ask the “factory” what they can really do when you can make promises and print glossy promo stuff about things the factory can’t do.

And of course cost cutting and budgets.  Ask your talented staff of programmers to quadruple their workload and projects, wave your magic wand or stick pins in your Vodoo doll or whatever. A proven method to success. At least it is in the subscription world of forcible pay to play and never stop paying. Heck you get the rubes in there and you don’t HAVE to take care of any business other than invoices and counting dollars.

Today if I was a new prospective CAM buyer I would have to consider Mastercam over the others. Large trained existing user base to hire from. I would say the largest. Will run about anything you may have. This year the evidence is showing they are taking their customers needs seriously for the first time in a long time.  Oh and PERMANENT SEATS.

CW and CW4SE . I have a hard time trying to be non judgemental about these guys after the treatment I suffered under from them. Complicated, nickel and dime you to death and expensive to buy and each year after. If you can make it work for your facility fine. At least they seem to be trying. Permanent seats too if you can afford them.

HSM is my milling program of choice. Limited in what all it can do to best serve 3 axis milling it has the worlds best high-speed machining as far as I can tell. Lathe is crude and has not seen significant improvement for a while. No wire. The big new things this year like Probing and 2D Chamfer are not usable in their current state in this shop for reasons I have stated in past posts.  These things bother me but I would still buy HSM in a heart beat because the basic program is just that good. Except that now it is subscription only so this would rule it out automatically.

Funny to see how HSM stuck it to these guys who would not make things right only to now see the shoe on the other foot. I watch with great interest to see how this is going to end up. People all I can say is only a fool or desperate person would take his manufacturing facility into a must pay forever to use your own data paradigm when to many alternative that do not make you a hostage to extortion exist. You have a bad year and have to watch your money with subscription only CAM software they will have to be paid before your employees the IRS or your light bill. You will pay and pay and pay and over time pay much more than the same software costs legacy permanent seat holders.

IMTS And Autodesk CAM

I have been invited to attend an Autodesk Cam Customer Advisory Meeting  at IMTS this year. Before I get into that though just some reflections on events of the past few years.

Dealing with different companies is an interesting thing and how they interact with customers varies wildly. I remember the days of Solid Edge where bloggers and those fellow travelers of SE who were fans of the product were pretty well ignored. Now I don’t mean important people did not listen and do the right things I mean the corporate money never reached out past the SEU events to the outside world.

After each SE University in years gone by when Karsten was in charge there was a by invite only meeting after all the official events were over. He collected important users to sit in a round table and talk about what was most important with the community and as users regarding the state of the software namely SE.

To the best of my knowledge there was never any aid provided to any SE bloggers to be there although one year a couple of SW bloggers were there with some pretty sad results. And of course people like Ralph Grabowski as industry analysts and commentators were assisted in being there. People who agreed to run a session and after being approved to do so were given a free pass to the University but I don’t know if anything else was covered.

I remember sitting in Kris Kasperzak’s office one day  in Huntsville before he moved on to the NX darkside. I was trying to get him to see the logic in paying the way for friendly voices from the user/blogger community to have their expenses covered if they wished to go. It was not for me as I was paying my own way but it was to try to open the door for others who would presumably write favorable things about SE. I knew some that I had in mind who would have.

Kris was a good litmus test for prevailing mindset and thoughts of Siemens type corporate management. His reply after politely listening was that it was just to expensive to do that. Now I figure by that point in time I had hundreds of hours into promoting SE and the community for which I had never received a penny. I worked out a deal for SE before I was a blogger and paid for it all along out of my pocket. I paid my way to the SEU’s where I spent the majority of my time talking to these industry analyst reporter types and meeting with SE people. I might get to three or four sessions. I did it because I believed in SE and wanted to see it take its proper place in the scheme of things.

His reply was pretty humorous to me later that same year as I find out that out of approximately 500 people who showed up only 174, if I remember right, were actual SE users. The rest were mostly Siemens employees who did nothing and were going to do nothing to promote SE and they did not use the program to earn a living. You SE programmers in Huntsville know I am not talking about you guys. I am not talking about direct SE employees who had a future in part staked out on the success of SE. I am talking about purely wasted dollars spent on Siemens people who were paid to have a good time to fill a room up for publicity purposes. That must have been what the Kasperzak etal mindset considered a wise use of funds.

Perhaps it is a form of benign insanity to do such a thankless thing as blogging out of loyalty and regard for a software program. For some reason CAD CAM software excites people and creates followers and many of us each year look with anticipation to see and use what is new. Some companies get that and others don’t. I do know that over the last five years most bloggers that did so out of their own pockets in regard for a product are gone. Today the vast majority, I mean like 95%+ as far as I can tell, are VAR or software authoring company employees. This result directly parallels the perceived and actual regard software authoring companies have for their users is my guess.


IMTS Meeting

I have no idea what to expect here nor what the potential results may be. I don’t know how assiduously Autodesk pursues responding to customer opinions. For instance the subscription policy now in place is a direct slap in the face of users first, customers first and they choose what they want. It is a repudiation of the idea that quality should sell your product and the installation of a top down CPA MBA dictatorship meant solely to increase unavoidable costs to all who enter into this dark world. It has no regard for users other than as ATM’s.

So it is with some surprise I receive an invite and expenses covered and find out that there are those from as far away as Denmark with the same invite. Apparently someone is serious about finding out what CAM users think. I know some of the invitees and they are loyal users with however some unpleasant things to say. Kind of like me.

I don’t know how successful this subs paradigm is working out for Autodesk and we will never know until time reveals their reported income and from whence it was derived. Of course manipulative CPA MBA dollar experts would never put a spin on anything don’t you know but still truth will eke out.

At the very least I can say that Autodesk CAM is willing to listen and pay to listen to customers. SE would listen but only if you were willing to pay to be listened to.

Hoping for the best and that this is a harbinger of good things to come.

Solid Edge ST9 On The GTAC Site For Customer Downloads

I used to get real excited about this time of year and with great anticipation looked for the latest and greatest from Solid Edge. This is the first year since ST1 that I am not a customer of this great design program so I will have very little to say about its capabilities as an actual user. I have also lost most interest as a blogger in this product so I won’t comment on much else about it insofar as new features above and beyond what I have already said. Namely that genuine game changing innovations appear to be giving way to cutesy marketing gimmick stuff some of which from what I gather in reading on the Siemens forums is only partly done. The pace of transformative innovation regarding pure cad design improvements have slowed down with SE in my opinion but it is the best mid range MCAD program out there as far as I am concerned. To bad it is owned by people who hold it in contempt

In any case if you are a current customer check in to GTAC and get your latest and greatest. If you wish to try SE, and if you never have I recommend you do so, they have a 45 day trial period. We all know how quickly 30 days goes by so 45 is much better.  Solid Edge has not gone subscription only stupid so this is a HUGE plus for them. I intend to use SE ST8 for as long as I can. I try to learn Inventor on occasion but it is so clunky and un-intuitive to me compared to SE that these brief sojourns into masochism quickly end. I see the great work done with Inventor so I know it is capable. The mindset behind how it works is alien to me compared to SE though which just clicked for me right away. I don’t have to learn it and at this time don’t intend to either.

To bad the only  integrated CAM program for SE is such a PITA to use and of course Cam Express which clueless sales droids will sell to you in a heart beat is not integrated at all. Such is life here sadly. Going by the CAMWorks for SE site this week and there has been one post in the last sixteen months. SE users are not amused nor enticed to be there.

Is this a new trend with software companies? To release something to say there is fabulous new stuff you just have to have even though it is not finished and has serious usability problems? Looks like Autodesk Inventor Pro HSM is doing that and Siemens from what I read is too with SE. Just a tip here to software authoring companies. Something actual manufacturing concerns learn very quickly which is sales people will get you in trouble every time with promises just to close a deal and then YOU have to make it work. Or not.

I think with SE and Inventor Pro HSM the sales guys have run ahead of reality and just to let you sales brainiacs  know customers are not amused when their yearly fees produce new features that do not work right or at all. Carts do not pull horses although the cart driver can choose to get on a steep hill and run over the horses. Sales and Marketing or is it  S&M ?

Moral to the story is do not let sales people or Marketing and Publicity off the firmly held short leash of reality if you want happy and satisfied customers.