The Next “MCAD” Revolution

By Kevin Schlack, Posted May 16, 2017

My passion has always been around computer-aided design (CAD) for the manufacturing industry.  It may be an old acronym, but I still like to call it MCAD.  To be honest, the last 5 or so years, things have gotten a bit stale.  Sure, desktop 3D parametric solid-modeling has been advancing consistently with better performance and new bells & whistles, but it’s still a technology that’s been around for years… eek, decades.

Let’s face it; we’re due for some disruption in the MCAD industry!  That thought leads to something I’m really excited about…  The next revolution in our industry is just beginning.  I understand you may be skeptical when you read something like that, but let me explain.

I’ve been in drafting and design since the 80’s.  When I started, most manufacturers were still drafting on the board.  When CAD did finally start to enter the workplace, it was clunky and very expensive.  Honestly, most of us could draft faster on the board.  Many of the old-school board draftsmen were resistant to change and embrace new technology, as they were skeptical it could ever compete with their draftsman craft.  But eventually technology got better, more capable, and cheaper (as it always does), and look where it took us.

Kevin Schlack, Founder & President of D3 1999

Fast forward a few years to the beginning of the 3D parametric design era; about the time I launched D3.  This was another huge revolution in the design world.  The skeptics said, “why do I need a dumb 3D model when I can draw lines and create a drawing in 2D CAD so much quicker?”  But the benefits of the master 3D design became apparent in due time.  The full digital prototype made it so much easier to evaluate the designs before a single piece of metal was cut.  Drafting mistakes became less common, prototype costs were slashed, quality & innovation advanced greatly.

Honestly, parametric modeling is old technology now.  We’ve been in this era for 20+ years already.  So, what is the next revolution in CAD? I believe its real-time access to data, 100% collaborative design, all the time.  It’s the Facebook of Engineering and Design.  You may have heard people say it’s “the cloud,” but that’s just part of what’s enabling it.  The next revolution is so much more.

Hold on a minute, though, why is this happening now?  There are many things converging to fuel this next revolution.  Cloud technology, connectivity, data bandwidth, CAD technology, social networks, to name a few.  Just a few years ago, relying on a network for design and engineering would have been scary or even implausible.  Today, it’s possible.  It’s already happening.  Not just the CAD design, but all the other aspects of an engineering project are pulled together by the tools of the next revolution.  Things like simulation, CAM and additive manufacturing output, visualization and rendering, and open collaboration between all those teams inside & outside the enterprise all on one platform.

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This is why I’m so excited about Fusion.  It’s not just a stand-alone CAD product with add-ons, like you think of today with Inventor and/or SOLIDWORKS.  It’s an entire platform for engineering & design technologies, similar to what you think of as an operating system for your computer.  Autodesk calls it their Product Innovation Platform.  Fusion 360 for design, simulation, CAM.  Fusion Team for collaboration between the design teams and all stakeholders in a project.  Fusion Lifecycle for business process and product lifecycle management.  Even Fusion Connect for IoT services.  Fusion allows you to leverage everyone’s creativity in your projects.  Fusion allows you to take advantage of thousands of servers in the cloud to work on your design.  What is Fusion?  Fusion is not one tool or one part of the design process, Fusion is everything.

With Fusion, it doesn’t matter what software you use for design.  You could use Fusion 360 for design.  You could use any other CAD package + Fusion.  Yes, even SOLIDWORKS or Creo.  Fusion doesn’t ask you to trade in your current design tools, instead it invites you to pull those designs in natively, and they’re instantly connected to the rest of the team and the engineering and manufacturing tools you need.  Fusion is not a CAD package, Fusion is the platform that pulls everything together into the next revolution.

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There was a time that I would ask during job interviews for D3, “Have you ever done board drafting?”  If you hadn’t, it was a strike against you!  Those days are certainly way behind us.  I can imagine a few years from now when kids graduating might even ask, “what’s board drafting?”  I can also see a day when 2D CAD drawings could even become obsolete, when we’re able to seamlessly extract all of the intelligence we need to manufacture our products from a full product innovation platform, like Fusion.  So, the next revolution is here, and the future is now.  I’m sure ready, and so is the rest of Team D3!  

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