Autodesk Visit – Interview with Guillermo Melantoni

Guillermo Melantoni is an AutoCAD Product Manager entrusted with the job of getting more and more 3D features into AutoCAD. He has a blog called “What A Mesh!” where he writes about the new 3D features being added to AutoCAD. I have corresponded with Guillermo in the past by email but have never met him before. I specifically asked to meet Guillermo because I wanted to ask him some very pointed questions. Here is part of our conversation:

Deelip: It was refreshing to see 3D features added to AutoCAD 2010. I am curious to know whether you intend to add analysis features as well.
Guillermo: We have no such plans. There is a lot that can need to be done in 3D.

Deelip: True. But everything modeled in 3D needs to be analyzed before it can be built. Be it a building, a mechanical part or anything else. Now that you are adding more 3D features to AutoCAD, you are only a step away from analysis. Are you saying that you will stop at geometry creation only?
Guillermo: AutoCAD is more of a generic application. For specialized needs we have other products.

Deelip: That’s like saying that AutoCAD is a stepping stone to other products and by itself cannot complete a job.
Guillermo: Not exactly. AutoCAD is quite capable and is used in a variety of industries. Generic applications like AutoCAD are great at flexibility but are not that good at specifics. Similarly, specialized applications like Inventor for MCAD are great at specifics but are not that good at flexibility.

Deelip: Help me understand something here. Autodesk has developed/acquired analysis technologies and have integrated them in its products. But you are saying that you have no plans of adding the same to AutoCAD. So for the next 5 or 10 years are we going to see more ways of geometry creation and nothing else. I find this odd. Pardon me for continuing this line of questioning. But there is a reason for it. There is a view that AutoCAD has reached a point where nothing substantial can be added to it anymore. When you added 2D parametrics, constraints and more 3D features in AutoCAD 2010, you actually opened up a whole new new range of possibilities for AutoCAD. But from what you are saying it seems to me that you are stopping short of taking AutoCAD all the way, when technically I do not see any reason why it cannot be done. For example, why don’t you add FEA analysis to AutoCAD Mechanical? Users of AutoCAD Mechanical can use the 3D features of AutoCAD to design mechanical parts in 3D and then analyze their designs as well. Isn’t that what Digital Prototyping is all about? To me it looks like AutoCAD is being kept outside the sphere of Digital Prototyping.
Guillermo: We have users spread across various industries. We also have specialized products for those industries. But there is a significant amount of users for which the basic AutoCAD features are sufficient. AutoCAD serves that particular class of users perfectly.

Frankly, I am not convinced that this is the right direction. We spoke about other things as well and was shown the new stuff that is being added in AutoCAD 2011. As an ADN member I have access to this stuff but cannot talk about it. Same goes when I put on my press hat as well.

Personally, I get the feeling that AutoCAD is not being pushed enough. I would like to see more stuff added to AutoCAD but not only limited to geometry creation and editing. Giving me a new way to change the color of a layer is a good thing. But that is just more of the same. I would hate to see AutoCAD being treated as some kind of a companion software to be used with something else that actually gets the job done.

There are numerous way to take AutoCAD to another level. What may be lacking is the will. I have used analysis as just one example. There may be other stuff that can be added to AutoCAD. If you are an AutoCAD user I would love to hear what you have to say.

  • Brian Hall

    Where to begin…

    I believe AutoCAD still has it's place in the world and it's not going to change anytime soon. AutoCAD has been around so long that businesses have developed methods, workflows, practices, and lifecycle management around its functionality. It was not designed as a true digital prototyping software package to begin with so to make it into one now would be like putting monster truck tires and a deep water fording kit on a Tata Nano to make it “all-terrain”.

    AutoCAD has found its niche and a lot of people are profitable with it in this niche. In my humble opinion, if Autodesk tried to add a whole bunch of “digital prototyping” functionality to AutoCAD, most likely it wouldn't get used by a very large percentage of its users anyway. Case in point, the 2D parametrics and constraints. I went in there excited to try it only to be bitterly dissapointed by the sheer counter-intuitive workflow. Coming from Inventor, I found it to be just plain clunky. They HAD to set it up that way because it needed to still “feel” like AutoCAD drafting. That kind of approach wouldn't lend itself to promoting wide spread usage if they took AutoCAD to the next level. Besides, the “next level” is a paradigm shift that requires a different mindset. What better way to promote that than by moving to a new software package.

  • Jen

    Maybe, instead of the verticals each being treated as separate programs, they should be like modules instead. Everyone starts out with generic AutoCAD and if they need specialized tools, they can add modules. I'm stuck using AutoCAD because the work I do is so diverse, I'd need 3 or 4 different programs to encompass everything I do and my small company can't afford to spend that much on software. I have Civil 3D for doing sitework, but there's a lot in that program that I don't need. If I could trade what I don't use for some of the tools available in AutoCAD Architecture for example, I'd be happy. It would be great to build my own program, pay only for what I need and not be locked into just one vertical.

  • Mook

    Nice interview, and your questions regarding analysis are particularly relevant given Autodesk's heavy investment in analysis software over the past few years with their purchase of Algor (FEA), Robot (structural analysis and FEA), and Moldflow analysis suite. It's doubtful whether Autodesk has a coherent strategy on what to do with all that analysis software. It's not Autodesk's area of expertise, and their traditional dealer channel is not well-equipped to deal with these analysis software products.