May 29, 2020

Forge Partner Talks: Configurators - Q&A and recording

Thank you for joining us for Forge Partner Talks: Configurators. We are always excited to showcase new and exciting solutions built by our partners and customers, and hope seeing what they built has inspired you to build your own, or leverage existing solutions. We did receive a few questions and were unfortunately unable to get to all of them, so our panelists have answered them for you below.

 

Hear from Forge partners in manufacturing, building, and infrastructure who have increased their customer satisfaction by creating Forge-powered configurators. and see how providing similar customization tools to your customers can help you maintain your competitive edge.

Sandip Jadhav, CEO of CCTech, discusses design and configuration with simulationHub, their CFD simulation application for design engineers.

Thiago Almeida, CTO of Shedmate talks about how they have created a scalable, web-based product configurator that automates the process for customers to design their own sheds.

Tom Angert, Software Development Solutions Manager from IMAGINiT Technologies shared how IMAGINiT is accelerating the design process and time to market for a manufacturer of underground storm-water systems through an online configurator and design automation.

 

Watch the recording

 

Q&A

How long does it take to create an app from concept to development?

It depends on what you are trying to achieve, I have made apps that are in production right now that took a couple of days. The first version of Shedmate, however took 4 months to have something useful for us internally and 10 months to get something that could be shipped, with that being said I was learning a lot along the way.

- Thiago Almeida, CTO at Shedmate

 

After creating these apps with Forge did everyone in your organization start using the tools right away?

As with any new software, it will be readily adopted if it can provide the user some sort of compelling benefit.  If it makes the users life easier or better it will be adopted.  It’s important to keep the needs of the end user in mind…otherwise you are probably just throwing time, effort and dollars away.

- Tom Angert, Software Development Solutions Manager at IMAGINiT Technologies

 

What were some of the most difficult problems you faced when creating your apps? Could you share some advice for others working on their own configurator apps?

Many things impact the development of an app, there are company culture, government regulations and rules, technologies limitations, and also one that is not mentioned as often as it should: There are a lot of different ways to achieve your goal when building an application, different technologies to choose from, approaches to solving problems or even scopes on which you like to solve these problems. Before I do any practical work, I try imagine the easiest and simplest way to achieve that goal as a user, and build solutions based on that. 

Now, the best piece of advice that I can give anyone is: "Don't get yourself trapped on analysis paralysis". With so many different ways to do things we lose ourselves on "How do I do this?", instead focus on your end goals, get your hands dirty as soon as possible, build prototypes, and experiment. The best way to know if something works is to try it yourself. The second one is to attend a "Forge Accelerator Program". In this event, you will get to know people working on different solutions that you can share experiences with. Also an extremely skilled Autodesk team dedicates their entire week to help you get up and running with your prototype for free! This helped us immensely on Shedmate and we made good friends too!

- Thiago Almeida, CTO at Shedmate

 

The biggest challenges in some of our more complex configurators have been needing to recreate CAD functionality in a browser.  There also tends to be a lot of domain specific complexity that a lot of our clients don’t appreciate because they’re dealing with it every day.  My advice would be to recognize that going into a configurator project you’ll want to view it as a multi-phase endeavor.  It’s something that you’ll want to continue developing and evolving over time and you’ll want to plan accordingly.

- Tom Angert, Software Development Solutions Manager at IMAGINiT Technologies

 

I don't have a software development team in my company. Who could I reach out to to develop something like this?

IMAGINiT is an Autodesk Platinum Partner and Certified Forge Systems Integrator that offers custom software development services.  Please feel free to reach out to me directly at tangert@rand.com.

- Tom Angert, Software Development Solutions Manager at IMAGINiT Technologies

 

[For Thiago] It looks like your web interface generates updates in 3D without the use of Forge. Did you create your own custom code to show and update 3D model in the browser?

I have created a relatively simple and lightweight 3d engine on top of three.js / Webgl (https://threejs.org/) which is the same underlaying tech behind Autodesk Viewer. To be more precise, what we do there is we calculate all elements based on the parameters specified, then we pipe that through a geometric layer that uses this engine to render the elements and a data layer that processes all the metadata, then we bind these two layers together. That way we can process everything in the browser in real time. When time comes, we then send that metadata layer to design automation to also produce the Revit model. But that’s a separate process, it usually takes 40 seconds to 3 minutes depending of the complexity of the project.

- Thiago Almeida, CTO at Shedmate

 

What challenges did Forge solve that other services did not?

Forge was the technology that inspired us to start this project. It has a great set of tools to interact with Autodesk products like BIM360, and Revit which are game changers for the whole industry. Having the ability to interact with AutoCAD, Revit and Inventor in a cloud environment for me is something that we are only scratching the surface of wawill be achieved in the next years.

- Thiago Almeida, CTO at Shedmate

 

Scalability, reliability, and freedom from licensing.

- Tom Angert, Software Development Solutions Manager at IMAGINiT Technologies

 

What are the Forge services involved in Shedmate?

Oath (both two and three legged), Data Management, BIM360 and Design Automation for Revit are the ones we are using at the moment , as some people noticed, we are not using Autodesk Viewer for generating the models, I’ll go over the details about that web renderer on question 5, but we intend to use the Viewer to show the output of Design Automation in the future and this also means that we will use Model Derivative along with it.

- Thiago Almeida, CTO at Shedmate

 

What are the technical limitations of Forge env?

Forge is a relatively new platform for Autodesk and there are certainly limitations…but in terms of configurators that platform is really fairly mature.  The Forge Viewer has been around for a number of years and is pretty great.  And for Design Automation all that’s really happening there is wrapping the CAD environment so that it can be spun up and run in the cloud.  All of the actual automation that takes place in that CAD environment is done through things like .NET addins, LISP, iLogic, ARX, etc.  All of those technologies have been around for a long time and are really mature.  What DA really gives you is freedom from licensing and scalability/reliability.

- Tom Angert, Software Development Solutions Manager at IMAGINiT Technologies

 

[re: Shedmate] What technologies were used in your project besides Forge services? 

 

Contact info and more resources

You can find detailed documentation on the Forge website and help with technical questions on Stack Overflow.

Reach out to the panelists:

Tom Angert - tangert@rand.com

Thiago Almeida - thiago@shedmate.com.au

 

Join us in June and July for the next round of Forge Partner Talks! You can find details and the lineup here

 

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