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Autodesk forge platformCAD software maker Autodesk has put $100m on the table and challenged developers create new cloud friendly design automation systems on its Forge development platform.

In an official statement on its web site Autodesk, famous for its AutoCAD computer aided design (CAD) system, explains that it wants the cloud-based Forge system to catalyse a change in the way products are designed made and used. The Forge scheme was announced at Autodesk University the company’s conference in Las Vegas.

The initiative consists of three major components, a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering, a developer programme and a $100 million investment fund.

The Forge Platform is a set of cloud services that span early stage design, engineering, visualization, collaboration, production and operations. It offers open application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) for developers wanting to build cloud powered apps and services. The Forge Developer Program provides training, resources and support and will host an inaugural Forge Developer Conference in June 2016. In addition to financial support for companies that quality for the developer fund, Autodesk will give business and technical support.

The logic of the scheme is that industrial production methods used to design, make and use products is changing and new technologies disrupt every aspect of the product lifecycle. This can make production risky, since investments are poured into the creation of a new product line only for the market to be destroyed by some other invention before the manufacturer can launch their products.

Cloud computing, by creating a more flexible fluid economies of design and manufacture, could help make CAD systems adapt to the new market conditions, according to Amar Hanspal, senior VP of Products at Autodesk. “Autodesk is launching Forge to help developers build new businesses in the changing manufacturing landscape,” said Hanspal, “we are inviting innovators to take advantage of Autodesk’s cloud platform to build services that turn today’s disconnected technologies into highly connected, personalised experiences.”

Autodesk itself has evolved as the manufacturing changed. It started by creating computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) software, which was used by engineers to create parts on screen before manufacturing them. However, in later years it has evolved into product lifecycle management (PLM) systems and offers services such as simulation and modelling. It has taken on a stronger mobile and cloud focus with offerings such as AutoCAD 360, a mobile companion to AutoCAD that engineers can use to call up blueprints while away from their desks.

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