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Connecting the Digital World with Manufacturing

June 21, 2016
What does it take to make something? What tools do you need to take an original idea from the design board to actual physical production?

What does it take to make something? What tools do you need to take an original idea from the design board to actual physical production? These are the questions Autodesk wanted to answer when it launched its first-ever Forge Development Conference. The Forge Platform is a set of cloud services and resources for developers to quickly create data-centric apps, experiences, and services. Forge gives users direct access to their application program interfaces (APIs). They provide users direct access to their code so they can create programs and interfaces for their designs.

This year marks the first-ever Forge DevCon for Autodesk. The Forge Platform provides Autodesk users with a selection of application program interfaces (APIs) to help program their own applications. The image above highlights all the available application interfaces available for users.

As an engineer at the event, I wondered how this applies to my field. The Forge Dev Con gave me the answer with its Internet of Things (IoT) panels and conferences. IoT in its basic definition is the connection of sensors and machines with useful information and data to the end user.

Jim Quanci, senior director of Autodesk Forge Partner Development, told us that hardware startups are up 76%, sensors are more affordable than ever, and there is plenty of cheap and accessible bandwidth for connected devices. The Forge platform wants to be the service to analyze and provide the access to the data collected off of IoT devices. Helping its customers analyze the data is one part of the IoT puzzle that Autodesk looks to fill. In speaking with several of the Autodesk speakers, they are upfront and honest when they say that they only help solve one part of the IoT puzzle. The warning they give attendees is that if anyone approaches you with an entire IoT solution, they are lying. Autodesk pairs up with Verizon for the connectivity and a variety of boutique system integrators for sensor implementation.

Some of the best examples here for IoT data collection were presented by 3D Robotics. Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics and founder of DIY Drones, started his work in drones as an exploration into Lego drone construction and his company has now become a leader in aerial data collection. Their drones can fly over an area and collect geographical information that will later be analyzed using the Autodesk Forge platform. The data becomes elevation plans, heat mapping, and clearance areas, to name just a few.

Robert Bodor, vice president and general manager of Proto Labs, demonstrated how his company is using the Forge APIs to provide customers a submittal process for their designs. They can upload their models and obtain a quote for parts to be made.  

3D Robotics highlights how drones can be used for geographical surveying purposes in conjunction with Autodesk program interfaces.

Lastly, Mark Stocks, director of information architecture from JE Dunn Construction, demonstrated how the Forge Cloud Services provide up-to-date access for construction plans. The interconnected devices from the design office to the construction site through the Forge cloud allow for last-minute design changes and constant monitoring of the construction progress.

The same Forge platform introduces online collaboration through Autodesk 360 which we have mentioned before on Machine Design ( Autodesk 360 provides collaboration access with end users to work on similar files, provide layout updates for building construction, and last-minute design changes. The Autodesk PLM 360 platform offers security by providing login IP addresses and the location of those logins. The Autodesk ID works with existing browsers and the Cloud App Security can log the rate of active users and rules can setup to control access.

For more on DevCon and the speakers’ presentations, check out the video at

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