Last Word

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Hanan Fishman

Delcam, the developer of PartMaker, was recently acquired by Autodesk. Autodesk’s acquisition of Delcam is the largest such transaction in the history of the CAM industry. Autodesk’s stated vision is to help people imagine, design and create a better world.

What is Autodesk?

Many people know Autodesk as the “AutoCAD” people. Yes, Autodesk is the developer of AutoCAD, that venerable Swiss Army knife of a 2D CAD system. However, Autodesk is so much more than AutoCAD. Autodesk sells more than $2 billion worth of software and services a year and has a market capitalization in excess of $10 billion. Autodesk, like Delcam, invests a large percentage of its revenue in R&D. In its last fiscal year, Autodesk invested more than $600 million in R&D, or 27 percent of its revenue. To put that number in perspective, $600 million is significantly larger than the entire market for the PC-based CAM software that many of you use on a daily basis to do your CNC programming.

Autodesk’s business is focused in three core areas, including architectural, manufacturing, media and entertainment. Even before factoring in its acquisition of Delcam, the manufacturing sector comprised a quarter of Autodesk’s revenue. When including Delcam’s revenue, that number begins to approach 30 percent.

Introduction to Digital Prototyping

Autodesk’s acquisition of Delcam fits into its broader strategy of digital prototyping. Digital prototyping allows engineers of all sorts, be they mechanical or manufacturing engineers, to analyze, simulate and visualize a product design using a digital or virtual model rather than a physical one. CAM is a critical element in this process, as it is generally the last piece of software that interacts with a digital model before it becomes a physical part through the machining process. Recognizing the importance of the role of CAM in this process, Autodesk acquired Delcam to ensure it could offer solutions to complete the final link in this work flow.

The Benefits of the Acquisition

What you want to know is this: How will Autodesk’s acquisition of Delcam benefit me?

First off, if you are currently a user of one of Delcam’s CAM products, Autodesk’s acquisition of Delcam will benefit you by allowing the CAM software you currently use to continue to improve at an even more rapid pace, not only with greater R&D investment, but by plugging into an organization with a great depth of technology resources that can improve Delcam’s product offerings.

Also, as the world continues to become more integrated from a digital perspective, the role of CAM in the product development process is going to become even more important. As part of Autodesk, Delcam’s products will play a vital part in the digital prototyping revolution.

While the product teams at Delcam will continue to focus on creating CAM solutions to address the CNC programming challenges you are facing in your shops, they will have the ability to do so in what may well be a “post PC (personal computer)” era, where much of the computing of tomorrow may not actually be occurring on a traditional PC desktop, but rather on a tablet or perhaps in the cloud.

Developing Tomorrow’s Workforce

Based on numerous conversations with my customers, the biggest challenge facing our industry is the ability to attract new talent into CNC manufacturing. Frustrated with the skills gap in manufacturing, Precision Plus’s president, Mike Reader, has made it his personal mission to get young people more involved in manufacturing. As part of this initiative, Mr. Reader has a created a CAD/CAM learning lab in his facility in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, to train his current and future technical staff. To support this initiative, Autodesk and Delcam have donated a number of licenses of their Inventor solid modeling and PartMaker CAM software.

As the saying goes, think global, act local.