Inventor Fusion Technology Preview 2 – Part 10

In this concluding part of the Inventor Fusion Technology Preview 2 series I will make an attempt to compare this technology with the direct editing features offered by SolidWorks through their Instant3D technology. I am doing this because just about every other MCAD vendor has done or is doing something or the other related to direct modeling whereas SolidWorks has publicly stated that it will not go down that path. Instead it will continue to “improve” Instant3D. Moreover, whenever a MCAD vendor comes up with a new direct modeling technology, I often hear SolidWorks users call the technology “nothing new” and say things like “SolidWorks already does that“. So maybe it is a good idea to actually compare the two technologies and see what they are capable of doing.

So as usual let me explain my point of view using a simple example. Lets start with the simple 3″ x 2″ x 1” box I used in Part 6.

I brought the the part into Inventor Fusion and subjected it to a series of direct modeling operations. Throughout this series I have used the word “thrash” when referring to performing direct modeling operations in Inventor Fusion. The following image shows you exactly how much I thrashed the original 3″ x 2″ x 1″ box.

As you can see I used a combination of extrudes, fillets and chamfers and punched holes wherever it pleased me. I created features that depended on other features which in turn depended on other features. Obviously this model is nowhere close to a real life part, but my point was to find out how far I could push Inventor Fusion. In order to understand a technology, I normally play around with simple parts. I guess this is the other extreme.

So lets see what happened when I open this “thrashed” model in Inventor 2010. Remember this was a simple 3″ x 2″ x 1″ box when it started out from Inventor 2010 and now it is basically one big mess. The Change Manager kicked in and showed me a list of 18 changes and recommended treatments for each change.

I was quite surprised to see that Extract Faces was not the default treatment for any of the 18 changes. This meant that the Change Manager actually thought that it could come up with a clean feature tree without any sculpt features. If it actually did, I would consider this to be a miracle. The graphics window showed me all the changes that the Change Manager managed to deduce.

As you can see, a complete train wreck. I clicked the Apply All button to apply all the changes and braced myself for a crash. Imagine my surprise when the Change Manager told me that all treatments had been applied. So did I just witness a miracle? I closed the Change Manager and proceeded to inspect the model in Inventor 2010. This is what it looked like.

Exactly how I left it after thrashing it in Inventor Fusion. But wait. What about the feature tree? This is what the feature tree looked like.

Hallelujah! This was a miracle. Not a single sculpt feature. The feature titled Extrusion1 refers to the original box which was the only item in the feature tree before I took the model to Inventor Fusion. The Change Manager added the 18 features below it.

I started this post by saying that I would compare Inventor Fusion with SolidWorks’ Instant3D. How can I? Instant3D does not add any new features to the feature tree. This is precisely the misconception that people have when they say that SolidWorks already has direct modeling capabilities.

As Matt Lombard so eloquently put it in this blog post:

Instant3D is NOT direct editing. Instant3D is an interface gimmick, using parametric methods on a purely history based model. The fact that it looks like direct editing is entirely coincidental. When you use Instant3D to change a part, you are NOT making direct edit type of edit, you are making a parametric, history based edit.

In Part 4 of this series, I asked Kevin Schneider whether Autodesk and SolidWorks were converging to the same solution but using different directions? I was referring to Instant3D. I had a reason for asking that question. Imagine this. Suppose SolidWorks ties in a technology similar to Fusion’s Change Manager to Instant3D. Then just like how the Change Manager computes changes in underlying parameters and sketches, Instant3D could also carry out similar modifications to the feature tree by either editing existing features and sketches or creating new features, similar to how 18 new features were added to the tree in the experiment above.

So when SolidWorks says that they will continue to “improve” Instant3D, do they mean that they will give it the ability to add new features? And by new features I mean real features, not messy Move Face features appended to the bottom of the feature tree. Or will they simply improve Instant3D’s ability to edit existing features? I don’t know. I guess time will tell.

I hope you enjoyed reading this series as much I did in writing it. New technology is something that interests me a lot. Maybe because I am a programmer first and a user second. I wish the Fusion team at Autodesk all the best and commend them for their efforts. I sincerely hope that they integrate the direct modeling part into Inventor instead of making users do it in another application. If and when they do so, they will then be in a position to let the Change Manager do its magic automatically after every direct modeling operation, something which I believe will greatly reduce its chance of failure.

I look forward to Inventor Fusion Technology Preview 3.