A Closer Look At Autodesk Product Design Suite 2013

Autodesk describes its Product Design Suite as a “comprehensive toolset of design, visualization, simulation and data management software for digital prototyping“. The Suite comes in three flavors – Standard ($4,995), Premium ($6,495) and Ultimate ($9,995). Autodesk PR gave me a review license of the Ultimate version of Product Design Suite which consists of these products.

The items marked by * are new in 2013.

You can see a comparison of all three versions here. I must say, for $10,000 you get a lot of software and negotiating the shortcuts that the installer puts on your desktop can be tricky.

Which is one of the reasons why Autodesk has this thing called the Launchpad for all its suites.



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The launchpad has three tabs – Workflows, Applications and Recent Files. Applications are basically shortcuts to the applications in the suite and recent files list the files you have last worked with. Workflows is the interesting one. This tab contains shortcuts to automated tasks that you do to take advantage of the products in the suite. For example, clicking the “Reuse 2D Data” shortcut pops up a dialog box asking you to select a DWG file, fires up the DWG import wizard of Inventor, imports the DWG file into a 2D sketch in Inventor and sets it up so that you can extrude it to a solid or revolve, etc.

Clicking the Technical Drawing shortcut presents you with these options and takes you down separate paths.

In reality the Product Design Suite has two launchpads. The launchpad image shown above is the one for Machine Design. You can flip to the one for Plastic Parts Design which looks like this.

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Clicking the Photorealistic Rendering shortcut asks you to pick an Inventor part or assembly, fires up 3ds Max Design and loads the model into it.


Unity in Diversity

Autodesk is going to lengths to make its products work better with each other. A lot has been done, especially in the field of data exchange between the different products. However a lot more needs to be done. These products have been built over different platforms often as a result of acquisitions. And for that reason they look and feel different. Take the 3D navigation for example. Here is how you 3D orbit in the Autodesk Product Design Suite products:

  • Inventor/Inventor Fusion/AutoCAD/Showcase/Navisworks: Shift + Middle mouse button
  • Alias: Shift + Alt + Left mouse button
  • 3ds Max/Mudbox: Alt + Left mouse button

If all these products are supposed to be used by the same person on one computer then maybe Autodesk should settle down on a consistent way of doing 3D navigation. But I guess that’s easier said than done.

Here is a tip regarding 3D orbit. If you click left-click and drag the view cube which sits at top right corner of the graphics windows in any Autodesk application the view will 3D orbit. A better tip is just go get a 3D mouse and configure it to work the same way in all products. 😉

As regards the user interface, Autodesk is moving towards the ribbon. However, 3ds Max and Alias still seems to be stuck in their own worlds. Of course, if it ain’t broke, then why fix it. It would be nice if there was consistency in the user interface across all Autodesk products. But I don’t think there is a very strong business case to justify the development cost that will be required to make that happen. Not to mention the inconvenience and disruption that existing customers will face as a result.


Value For Money

There is no doubt in my mind that Autodesk Product Design Suite, and all other Autodesk suites for that matter, are excellent value for money. Here are the prices of the individual products of the Product Design Suite Ultimate if you bought them separately.

  • Autodesk Inventor Professional: $7,295
  • AutoCAD Electrical: $5,545
  • AutoCAD: $4,195
  • Autodesk Navisworks Simulate: $2,095
  • Autodesk Alias Design: $4,195
  • Autodesk 3ds Max Design: $3,675
  • AutoCAD Mechanical: $4,725
  • Autodesk Vault Basic: [only available in Product Design Suite and Factory Design Suite]
  • Autodesk Showcase: $1,045
  • Autodesk Sketchbook Designer: $525
  • Autodesk Mudbox: $795

This adds up to $34,090. If you remove vanilla AutoCAD since Electrical and Mechanical are included it turns out to be $29,895. So the suite amounts to a whopping 67% discount.

Maybe there are companies who would buy licenses of all these products. But few may do it for a single user. Remember that this suite must be installed and activated on one computer only. You cannot install different products of the suite on different computers for different people in your company. Nevertheless, if you are going to need Inventor and another mid-range CAD product it makes far more sense to go in for a suite.

I’ve spent some time analyzing the way Autodesk has priced the Product Design Suite. From what I gather, you don’t save a great deal on the Standard version, which is the version you would normally buy for a user who is trained on one Autodesk platform. You save a ton on the Ultimate version. But for the savings to make complete sense, you would need to buy the suite for someone who is a wizard when it comes to using Autodesk products built on different platforms. To me the sweet spot appears to be the Premium version.

For $6,495 you get Inventor with Routed Systems, AutoCAD Mechanical and Electrical and 3ds Max Design. This version makes perfect sense for someone who would spend most of his time in Inventor and AutoCAD and then take his work to 3ds Max or Showcase. Then maybe Mudbox and Sketchbook Designer would come in handy if he had a creative bone in his body. Its a very cost effective way of improving the skill set of your employees and getting them to do more. If you look at the numbers closely, these other “ancillary” pieces of software essentially come for free.



You can download a 30 day trial of Autodesk Product Design Suite Ultimate from here. The product brochure is here.