Autodesk Launches Forge Cloud Tools for Devs, Invests in Startups

Autodesk goes public with the first three companies it's invested in as part of a $100 million fund announced last year.

Autodesk Forge cloud tools for developers

Computer-aided-design has come a long way since the days when high-powered workstations were required to run and develop such sophisticated applications. Today, it's more about the cloud and, in the case of Autodesk, its Forge platform.

At a two-day developer conference in San Francisco that kicks off June 15, Autodesk will show off the latest advances in Forge, an online platform that provides services to developers in key areas like construction and manufacturing , and also talk up three companies it's invested in that support the Forge platform.

"For the past 35 years, Autodesk has been creating design tools to help people design the world around us," Scott Reese, vice president of cloud products at Autodesk, told eWEEK. "The last several years, it's been about the cloud, social and mobile that have changed how people work, collaborate and access data. One of the obstacles in design engineering was compute power. The cloud has given us the ability to reimagine what design means and reimagine workflow for manufacturing and construction—two of the big areas for us in the cloud."

Taking center stage at the Forge Devcon conference will be the Autodesk Forge Platform, a set of cloud services designed to connect users to a range of different workflows, including design, engineering, visualization, collaboration, production and operations. Developers can take advantage of the platform's APIs and Autodesk's software development kits (SDKs) to build cloud-powered applications and services.

At the conference, Autodesk will announce a number of enhancements to the platform, including new data management features, support for 3D printing, design automation, 3D model viewing and model processing.

Investing in Startups

Autodesk is also announcing three investments in startups that are relying on the Forge platform to help power their products; these companies are Seebo, 3D Robotics and MakeTime. Autodesk is in "various stages of the vetting process" for other companies in which it plans to invest, Reese said.

Seebo, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform designed to help developers involved with the Internet of things (IoT) and smart, connected products. Seebo's technology connects Autodesk design apps like Fusion 360 and IoT platforms like Fusion Connect so users can drag and drop components (sensors, Bluetooth, accelerometers, GPS, etc.) into a product.

Drone maker 3D Robotics is using the Forge platform to develop what it says will be the industry's most trusted aerial data capture and analytics platform for enterprise field professionals in the infrastructure, construction, survey, mapping, telecom and energy industries.

"Capturing site data today is costly, time-consuming and often dangerous. Drones can easily go where it's inefficient or unsafe for field personnel, making it easier to accurately measure our world so we can better manage it," Chris Anderson, CEO of 3DR, said in a statement. "We're delighted to expand our relationship with Autodesk and the use of the Forge platform to deliver a complete solution for site capture that will help professional customers save time and money, and more importantly take humans out of harm's way."

MakeTime is an on-demand manufacturing platform that serves as a kind of matchmaker between projects from buyers to production hours on computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines from pre-qualified suppliers. MakeTime leverages Autodesk's Fusion 360 to connect designers to MakeTime's virtual machine shop of scalable CNC machining and production services.

"MakeTime is kind of like an AirBnB for the machine shops," said Reese. "It knows all about work being done across the world and what capacity is available and matches supply and demand."

As part of a promo to encourage developers to try Forge, Autodesk is offering unlimited free use of the platform until Sept. 15, 2016.

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...