Direct Modeling In AutoCAD 2012

In a post titled “AutoCAD 2010” published over two years ago I wrote:

“It is my prediction that a version of AutoCAD in the not so distant future will have 3D direct modeling capabilities equivalent to (or probably better than) what we see today in SpaceClaim and Solid Edge ST.”

Six months later I reiterated my prediction. In a post titled “AutoCAD Fusion” I wrote:

“The underlying logic of my prediction is based on the simple assumption that if you give AutoCAD customers direct modeling capability right inside AutoCAD itself, a software that they have learned to trust and are quite familiar with, Autodesk actually ensures that their customers stay with them. Obviously some AutoCAD users may move to Inventor for the Digital Prototyping features, but the ones who simply want to model in 3D will not find the need to look elsewhere. Moreover, this way Autodesk can effectively market AutoCAD and Inventor with Digital Prototyping as an explosive combination that can make a huge mark in the MCAD space. Right now, AutoCAD and Inventor look and feel like two opposites sides of two different coins.”

By shipping Inventor Fusion with AutoCAD 2012 my prediction has finally come true… kind of.  I am not entirely happy with the way it has been implemented. Here is the reason why. The direct modeling in AutoCAD 2012 does not happen in AutoCAD. Rather it happens outside in Inventor Fusion which is a completely separate application. Moreover the workflow is quite awkward. You first need to create your basic 3D shape in AutoCAD, select it and click a button called “Edit in Fusion“.

This freezes up AutoCAD and starts Fusion which takes about half a minute to load the first time you do this. The AutoCAD solid model is then taken to Fusion where you do your direct modeling.

After you are done you click the “Return to AutoCAD” button, Fusion goes away and you are taken back to AutoCAD. The original solid model in AutoCAD is replaced by the updated one that came from Fusion.

The time needed to close Fusion and revive AutoCAD is about 5 seconds. However, every subsequent “Edit in Fusion” operation take about 15 seconds for Fusion to start up. And this is for a simple box model. For large complex models the time will obviously increase.

Another thing I don’t like is that while you are doing your direct modeling in Fusion, you cannot go back to AutoCAD to look at your drawing and maybe take a measurement or something. Also, when you click the “Edit in Fusion” button you can select only solid objects. If you want to push and pull faces with reference to some other type of geometry you cannot do that because that geometry is not available to you in Fusion. You need to work with the solid models is complete isolation within Fusion itself.

I think users may be able to live with some or all these limitations. But the one thing that pisses me off to no end and I’m pretty sure will piss off many others is the 15 seconds of lost time every time I click the “Edit in Fusion” button. That’s just crazy. I can’t see why Autodesk doesn’t let the Fusion application sit idle in the background when it is not required. The “Inventor Fusion.exe” process is actually killed every time you click “Return to AutoCAD” and restarted when you click “Edit in Fusion“. By no means is Fusion a light weight application. The installation folder has 280 MB of DLL’s and the application needs around 300 MB of RAM just to idle. And I am running a Dell Precision M6400 mobile workstation. Although it’s a bit old, I would still consider it to be a pretty decent workstation.

This is definitely not the kind of direct modeling I envisioned for AutoCAD. I wonder how many AutoCAD users will find it usable. I know I wouldn’t. I don’t have 15 seconds to waste every time I decide to perform a direct modeling operation on a solid object in AutoCAD. I don’t like this AutoCAD-Fusion integration one bit and I believe this will be a huge barrier to adoption. As it is, AutoCAD users are pretty much wired up to their familiar 2D interface. I am not sure taking them outside to a totally different application is the best way to get them started on direct modeling in 3D.

The optimist in me says that this is just the beginning. I hope that in subsequent releases of AutoCAD, Autodesk does away with this Fusion nonsense and puts direct modeling right into the AutoCAD application itself. Some how I get the feeling that Autodesk does not do a good job packaging its new technologies. If you remember, they did the same thing with Inventor as well. They decided to let Inventor be a strict history based parametric modeling system and make users do the direct modeling outside in Fusion. Then take the model back to Inventor, pass it through the Change Manager and have it update the history tree. For simple changes it works fine. For complicated changes or simple but bulk changes it does not always yield the desired result. And this is one thing where anything less than 100% accuracy will not do.

Autodesk has used the same two application approach with AutoCAD as well. And I don’t like it.

  • Adam

    This is the biggest issue I had with Fusion, to me making it into a separate program and switching back and forth doesn’t encourage the use of direct modeling. It is slow and don’t mention with Inventor, the chances of the conversion process failing is very likely. I even emailed Autodesk about this during Fusion beta testing, I hope in the future they’ll integrate it into the software and with a more reliable direct to history conversion.

    Actually this caused me to look at SE ST3 seriously because the work I do, makes it hard to be pre-planned and editing the model with history based modeling becomes a chore. Giving ST3 a shot with my personal projects and shall see how it works out.

    • Adam can you share a model of what you are doing?

  • I don’t really see this the same way you do Deelip, I see this as an AutoCAD user bringing the newer imports available like Catia and then performing the changes on that one model. For traditional 3D in AutoCAD, there are still enough robust and meshing tools in there for that purpose. I do not think it is intended to replace those tools, merely augment them with an additional tool for those imported models. I would never have envisioned Fusion to work in the exact way you describe a simple box with AutoCAD, if all the 3D tools in AutoCAD were gone with this release and this was the replacement, then I would have as big of a problem with it as you do, but I do not see this as the intended workflow for the inclusion of the free Inventor Fusion 2012 product.

    • I used the box to keep things simple. I could very well have used a CATIA model. Its the same thing.

      AutoCAD has had solid modeling tools for years. I simply want the direct modeling tools to be added to those. Not separated into a different application.

      Whichever way you look at it, things are not always designed in isolation.

      • I would agree with this comment about the inclusion of direct modeling in AutoCAD Deelip with a variation. AutoCAD has not only had modeling tools for years it has had direct modeling also; albeit limited.

        I said in an earlier posting of yours, about Fusion, it should be included in AutoCAD extending AutoCAD’s existing functionality.
        As it stand AutoCAD can solid model and direct edit. It can combine the use of AutoCAD solids and surfaces for more complex 3D modeling. It has parametric dimensioning: but only for 2D shape generations (lost/consumed when profile becomes a solid.
        AutoCAD has a method of getting drawing documents from its 3D models in a piecemeal way and now it has link to Fusion. What a dogs breakfast!!!!! and with all this it is still not possible to do what could/can be done with AutoCAD Mechanical Desktop.

        If Autodesk had just continued the development of MDT alongside Inventor – AS THEY PROMMISED THEY WOULD – we would have all been much better off and had paid a LOT less for the rubbish ad hock software development on our way to being I the same spot we could have been 5+ years ago.

        Again Autodesk preach advancement and productivity improvement for customers using their software but, in reality, they are simply MILKING $s their customer base with no real consideration to the real world consequences it has for their customers.

        Furthermore, it matter not which type or system of modeling (direct, history, dumb etc.) one person prefers over another. What matters is that every body understands they all have there advantages and disadvantages; the person (company) that works out how to combine the variations in one place or in a seamless manner and maintain their direct link to 2D documentation will be the ‘winner’ of customers and their customers will be THE winners!

        Autodesk still sits in the box seat but I doubt (after paddling around for so long) they have the what it takes and is needed in the way of foresight to pull it together and this implementation of Fusion is another demonstration showing just how willing Autodesk are to mess with their customers profitability!

  • bcbenton

    I think you are right. But what it could do is introduce them to direct modeling and peak their interest enough to try out Inventor. I think Fusion is has the potential to be a “gateway drug” from AutoCAD to Inventor. Maybe that’s what Autodesk has in mind. First hit is free (Fusion).

  • d3print

    Don`t really understand these two technigues ideology, keep it simple.

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  • Well try to make the same model in autocad without fusions, it will take more then the modeling time in fusion +15 seconds. For most 3D modeling it is worth to wait 15 seconds.
    But if you need to use Fusion your in fact working on the wrong software. And autodesk does a good job in letting those users get a feel of how easy it could be.(in fact I would have pressed my ex-boss face into my screen and shout to him “YOU SEE THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE!”, but Fusion was atm half working beta…) Lot of users that use Fusion will switch to inventor because they get autocad with it, so bad luck to other cad-players.

    • d3print

      I think I would choose an other software where you don`t have to play with these switch back and forward commands.

  • I think Autodesk want to test customers response to direct modeling and stop AutoCAD users from switching to other direct modeling systems.

  • Jeuron Winser


    you can check the Direct Edit in ZW3D 2011, simply better.

  • To compare with products from the competition, in the AEC market: You can do a similar thing between ArchiCAD and Cinema4D (now both from Nemetschek).

    You create your BIM model as usual in ArchiCAD, but when you need a freeform design, not supported by the ArchiCAD modeling tools, you can select a source object (or start from scratch) and launch Cinema4D. This also takes sometime and ArchiCAD freezes. So far quite similar as Fusion in AutoCAD.

    What they do provide is a reference copy of the rest of the model inside Cinema4D. So you get into the new interface (which is a pain if you are not used to it), but at least you can model in a context! You can snap to points, you can see the model in relation to the rest of the scene. When you update, the new geometry becomes a library object inside ArchiCAD (roughly the equivalent of a static block inside AutoCAD). You can still update this library object and return to the (alien) modeling environment.

    See image (old ArchiCAD 10 + MaxonForm, was a limited Cinema4D) where the roof is the freeform object and the walls are the reference from the regular model.

    I would say that this context is what you would miss mostly, provided you can get over a different interface and modeling approach. In the case of ArchiCAD and Cinema4D, the interfaces are completely different. At least, with AutoCAD and Fusion, they both have the Ribbon 😉

  • This two app approach is too much work for users, Autodesk should have merged the Fusion abilities into the AutoCAD UI. But I suppose I’m just stating the obvious.

    • Yes you are Iron Kevin but it needs to be said more often particulaly given this now mean there are two (2) ways of doing direct modeling with AutoCAD. One using the existing methods and the other using Fusion.
      Just be thankful those of us who use these products don’t apply the same stupidity to product design. Partly because we have more pride in our work and another reason is, OUR customers would not allow us to waste their money the way Autodesk customers – as a collective – allow Autodesk’s managment to milk its customer base!

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