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autodesk_header_logo_140x23When you’re a company as large, established and successful as Autodesk, you can afford to make ambitious ventures. Last year, the software company launched their new Spark 3D printing platform, which was backed by a $100 million investment.

This week, Autodesk has announced a new $100 million project, which they are calling the Forge Initiative. At the center of the project is the new Forge Platform, a cloud-based platform that will encourage collaborative development to build what the company calls “a connected ecosystem for product development.”

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To facilitate the building of this ecosystem, Autodesk will be investing $100 million via the Forge Fund over the next several years in 3D developers and companies willing to build services and solutions on or connected to the Forge Platform. The company is particularly interested in startups, which they will offer technical and business support in addition to financial backing.

“The way we design, make and use products is rapidly changing. New technologies are disrupting every aspect of the product lifecycle,” said Amar Hanspal, senior vice president, Products at Autodesk. “Autodesk is launching Forge to help developers build new businesses in the changing manufacturing landscape. We are inviting innovators to take advantage of Autodesk’s cloud platform to build services that turn today’s disconnected technologies into highly connected, personalized experiences.”

The Forge Platform will offer open application programming interfaces (APIs) and and software development kits (SDKs) for developers to build cloud powered apps and services. Currently, Autodesk has 4,000 desktop developers, and they hope to draw many of them into the cloud in addition to attracting new ones.

“Our customers have historically done amazing things on desktop,” Scott Reese, VP of cloud platforms, told TechCrunch. “But the desktop has finite compute resources available and the cloud has been able to solve these [limitations] with elastic resources.”

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The initiative also includes a partner program, which invites companies to work with Autodesk to create intuitive services for manufacturers through the cloud. So far, BriteHub, Proto LabsFATHOM, 100kGarages, MakeTime and HWTrek have signed on as partners. To further bring together the developer community, Autodesk will host a Forge Developer Conference the week of June 13, 2016.

The Forge Initiative is another indicator of the way the manufacturing landscape is changing. The maker movement and hacker culture are examples of how product development is becoming a much more collaborative process, and Autodesk’s new program shows that large corporations are beginning to recognize that. Rather than keeping new products tightly wrapped within a single company, more partnerships are emerging, and both new and established companies are being encouraged to share ideas. Not only that, but customers are having more say in product development, as technologies like 3D printing allow for easy custom manufacturing. The Internet of Things is another example of how communication and feedback are changing product development, and Autodesk’s recent purchase of IoT cloud service SeeControl further shows that they are committed to the new landscape.

“It’s not about extending applications,” continued Reese, “but leveraging core technology around visualizations, relationships in data and making them accessible to millions of people.”

Let’s hear your thoughts on this initiative in the Autodesk Forge forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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