I am watching the beginnings of the shakeout over the acquisition of HSMworks by Autodesk. I see them coming up with a plan to implement a complete manufacturing solution for Inventor as they pursue the MCAD market and ancillary manufacturing that is the only reason for MCAD to exist.
Now I want you to read this again. Manufacturing IS the only reason for MCAD programs to exist. Why this has been such a blind spot for these three mid range MCAD programs for so long is a mystery to me. And furthermore when in doubt remember that CAD when it was born was implemented as a method of feeding the fledgling CNC manufacturing base that had to have a way to talk geometry to machinery. It quickly spread into every area but ALL the areas were and are based upon producing a real thing.
Solidworks for some time has come the closest of the three to realizing the truth of this and has developed partners along the way to cover disciplines they had no interest, for whatever reason, in writing code for. The problem for Solidworks is that they never did more than grant partner certifications for companies that ultimately they did not control with anything more persuasive than a carrot held in front of the vendors. So today we see the fruit that myopic vision harvests. HSMworks is no longer listed as a partner anywhere on the Solidworks site I can see. If I were Solidworks I would be wondering who is next to jump ship since none of the CAM programs out there are owned and therefore truly controlled by SW.
What does this say about customers who have to make things after the design who have been sold down the river here? And they have been. SW is already saying with the removal of HSMworks from their site that the war is on. I fully expect Autodesk to put the squeeze on SW users to switch to Inventor if they want to keep using HSMworks. OK, yeah the promises are out there of support for HSM’s user base with SW but does anyone really think Autodesk bought this company without an eye in part to the peripheral benefit of scavenging SW customers? Users trusted SW when they bought HSM and figured they had a long-term integrated solution.
I like HSMworks and it was on my short list of programs to consider since SE really does not have integrated CAM yet and truthfully when they do next year I have no idea how good it really will be. It was the program I wanted integrated with SE to begin with and I can see now why HSM was not at all interested in SE. They were negotiating to be bought out lock stock and barrel. I have to wonder with Geometric who had a demo version of CAM software integrated with SE at SEU2012 what will happen to them as a Gold partner with SW when Geometric becomes a partner with SE?
Partner integration apparently is not sufficient to protect the interests of CAD companies and their users who wish to make parts and designs. When your time and effort and money can be yanked out from under your feet because your CAD of choice does not truly control your CAM of choice this can be a major problem. This is the lesson to be learned by SE and SW users here. Because SW saw no reason to have their own in-house CAM solution (but at least they did and do have integrated ones) all those who invested in HSMworks are I believe in short order going to be screwed. This Autodesk acquisition demonstrates the jeopardy we as users all face with any CAM program not owned by the CAD company whose products we use. I would not put it past Autodesk to buy out Geometric either and then where would SE be?
SE has never had any CAM partner except for NX Cam Express. Cam Express can be made to work with SE but so can a ton of other programs and the common problem with them all is that NONE are completely integrated with SE on the level that HSMworks is currently with SW. CAM Express is also complicated to learn and I know from personal experience watching shops close by me that HSM was easy to implement and produced pretty decent toolpaths. That is not going to happen with Cam Express and while there is good output it takes gobs of time to learn and program compared to HSM.
I think after all these years SE now understands that they have to be more and offer more than just CAD to their customers if they want to have a chance at knocking SW off of their throne. These ancillary programs are not optional if you want to be Mr. Big. Hope they back Geometric into a corner they can’t be bought back out of by Autodesk. There is sadly not much to say about SE in the integration area except that they know they have to change. But in the mean time multiple years pass swiftly and their competitors are not going to wait for SE to catch up or pass them up. Only concrete actions and not good intentions will take the throne of MCAD king away from SW.
I despise the model that Autodesk’s boss has espoused for the cloud and his comments that they are going to force people there. Look, I did not create the words that came out of his mouth nor did I put them there. You doubters just go and research for his comments earlier this year and see for yourselves. Jeff Ray on Steroids could not have beat this guy.
BUT, I am in admiration of a company that has a plan to produce a manufacturing environment for Inventor, label this as midrange MCAD if you will, that seeks as its goal to control outright the pieces needed to do so and prevent the capability of any external source to interfere. Heck, they did not even have to go through the agony of arguing over endless integration details when they bought HSM. HSM clearly had spent the time to develop a good product and integration while complicated I am sure is a formality that rests on the solid CAM features in HSM and can be adapted to work with any CAD program. So Autodesk removed the headaches of develop from scratch and bought a proven product outright and now it is THEIRS.
I have to admit to being discouraged with having to shop for a CAM program this morning. There are lots of programs out there and they all have problems along with the good. But getting sold down the river is not one I had really considered as a part of planing for what do I buy to replace ZW3D. I had almost requested another trial of HSMworks as I was quite seriously considering how much longer can I wait for SE to get something going. Make no mistake here, my first choice would be something good integrated with SE but I have long-term CAM problems I am getting REALLY tired of having to deal with. At some point in time the wait must end and I will buy something from someone but the choices in CAM are grossly complicated in comparison to the easy choice I had in CAD with SE.
I have a headache just thinking about all this and I think it is a good time to quit this post.
As an additional comment here. Going to the HSMworks forum today is pretty ugly. One poster in particular talking about $20,000 for HSM and somehow all these vacuous promises about the future, none of which I figure will be put in writing and contracts with existing customers, are at all assuring to him and others posting today. I think SW will also lose customers out of this because buyers get tired of smoke and mirrors from corporate bigwigs and negative comments are showing up there about Catia Lite too. People expect to be treated as valued customers for the amount of money they are spending with SW and HSM and they most definitely do not expect to be taken for granted or as CADCAM chattels with no choice but to fork over the dough. It is going to be interesting to watch this unfold and I SURE am glad I did not go further with HSMworks.