Autodesk Forge: Re-inventing AutoCAD platform?

Autodesk Forge: Re-inventing AutoCAD platform?


Many years ago, I’ve been writing applications for AutoCAD. Back in that days, AutoCAD was a starting point for engineers to do everything. The day usually started from running acad.exe command, your applications, modules, environments, etc. Everything was loaded into AutoCAD. It was providing an environment, user interface, data storage.

Platform is fancy word everyone is using today. In my recent blog I was comparing multiple options to build a future engineering platform – mainstream CAD, special CAD and PLM platforms, full cloud platform like Onshape or horizontal collaboration software like Slack.

Autodesk Through the Interface blog by Kean Walmsley – Stoking the Forge speaks about Forge platform Autodesk is working for the last few years. The comparison with AutoCAD was something that caught my interest and reminded me my almost forgotten experience of building AutoLISP and ARX applications many years ago.

Kean is mentioning platform shift that happens these days with many companies – Amazon, Apple, Google and others. He made a point to compare Amazon’s strategic initiative to build platform and compare it to Autodesk Forge services creation. Read the following passage:

In recent weeks I’ve become convinced it does. Part of this is seeing the energy the company is putting into organising the upcoming Forge DevCon, but a larger part is seeing how our various engineering teams are getting behind the Forge initiative. And not only to deliver services through it, but to use it for their own products.

Something you may not be aware of: Autodesk employees see more services when they log into than external developers do. The delta will hopefully disappear (or at least reduce), over time, but for now there are quite a few services that haven’t yet gone through the process required to make them fully public.

I followed simple steps to register with Autodesk Forge and create an app. The process of setting app was typical for any app supporting Oauth authentication protocol and cloud / web services.


From a brief look, Forge seems to be a set of Web services and APIs to access design data. Quick look into Data API user guide gave me a set of APIs to load, view and access CAD data in multiple formats.


For the next few months, I will be experimenting with Forge platform and APIs in attempt to build an application and integrate variety of web services together with Forge API. I will be also attending Autodesk Forge DevCon in San Francisco in June. I hope to be able to share more of my experience with Forge platform.

What is my conclusion? Internet is a new platform. You probably heard it many times for the past few years. Navigate to some of my articles discussing the role of Internet and web in the future of business platforms. What was in the past PC computer with acad.exe application running, turned into a set of web application and services to access the data running in in the browser and mobile devices. If you develop engineering and manufacturing application to access and store this data is the first application steps you want to do. It seems to be Autodesk is building a platform from ground up by allowing developers to access CAD (design) and other data. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for hardware startups and contract manufacturing.


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