What will Autodesk buy next? It's a game CAD insiders play: pondering the next move of a cash-rich market leader.
Oh, it would have to be company that has great technology and a bright future. If you've been listening to CEO Carl Bass, Autodesk would have to be looking for a company that would help the future generations, kids or their adult(ish) counterparts, the makers. The company, lock-step behind their leader, is embracing new business models. Design apps, not monolithic software on archaic workstations, but apps for their mobile devices. Cloud based, preferably. And helping design was just getting started. Let's make things, they say. But in a new way. Let's make what you (the consumer) wants to make, be it a copy of a sculpture you like, some furniture, something frivolous, a replacement for the knob that fell off you oven and broke...The company with an overabundance of design tools seemed itching to help the entire population be able to hold in their hands whatever may have popped into their heads but may have lacked the design/engineering/manufacturing/financial skills/resources/expertise. No worries, Autodesk was going to make it happen. Mass customization. The very democratization of creation. It had to be simple enough for the person off the street.
Autodesk would just have to buy a 3D printing company, right?
On November 6, Autodesk announced it would be buying Delcam (see press release). Old school CAM at its finest. Picture metal shavings on shop floors and skilled machinists running hulking metal cutting machines. Delcam, a market leader in mainstream CAM. Even with the fanciest multi-axis CNC set up, the state of the art in subtractive machining, is basically the way things were made. Metal gives way to plastic. More parts are made from composites for which no surface machining is required. But the latest generation doesn't even want/need any of that. They want to hit a button and have the part come out.
Even 5 years ago, it would have surprised no one if big CAD bought big CAM. But now, a different way of making things had all of us in rapt attention. 3D printing everything from guns to livers has certainly captured the public attention, but the advancements show promise of 3D printing in manufacturing.
It is a promise from which Autodesk seems to have diverted.