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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

SolidWorks World 2014 — SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual Finally Takes Center Stage

February 5th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

This year’s edition of SolidWorks World, held in San Diego, CA attracted a crowd of more than 5,600 attendees. I’m sure the location and weather in San Diego helped draw attendees from parts of the country caught in this winter’s the Polar Vortex.

Of course, the first morning of the conference offered the obligatory good news of sales and user (2.3 million+) numbers, as well as a long-awaited new product.

A presentation slide showed all the areas that DS SolidWorks is involved in, including CAD, simulation, electrical design, technical publications, PDM, inspection, etc. Noticeably absent, however, is CAM, but the company has partners willing to take that on. Absent from the Partner Pavilion was Delcam; probably because that company is about to be acquired by Autodesk.

SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual

At long last, on the first morning of the conference, SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual (SWMC) was introduced as an almost ready for primetime product by Aaron Kelly, Vice President, User Experience & Product Portfolio Management. Almost prime time because it won’t be generally available for a couple more months, April 2 to be exact, and will be sold through “selected” VARs. It will also be priced at $249/user/month. That translates to $2,988.00/user/year for SWMC.

Here is a link to the press release on the launch of SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual.

SolidWorks World 2014 General Session and Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual Announcement (start at ~45 minutes)

The introduction of SWMC wasn’t exactly greeted by thunderous applause, but nobody booed either. I’d describe the initial response as polite and contained, but curious.

The company was careful to position SWMC as a complementary app to SolidWorks, and not competing with or replacing it. DS also quietly stressed that SolidWorks Standard, Professional, and Premium would continue to be developed and enhanced. How long this will continue is anybody’s guess, but at least for now, it appears that it’s business as usual for the SolidWorks product family.

SWMC is the first foray into Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE Platform for SolidWorks users, which to many is still unclear exactly what that is and means.

SWMC was introduced with the following four basic tenets — conceptual, social (collaboration), connected, and instinctive. I get the conceptual part, because that’s the purpose of SWMC. It also lends itself to collaborative methods because it’s a cloud-based application, as well as instinctive, because it has direct modeling/editing capabilities. The connected part, though, especially to SolidWorks is still a bit of a mystery that I’ll discuss a little later.

Although SWMC is initially being aimed at SolidWorks’ traditional strongest industry segment, industrial/production machinery, the demonstration that was presented at SolidWorks World with some simple mechanical assemblies and plant layout design.

DS SolidWorks has provided a blog post on its website that explains some things it wants you to know about SWMC — “Eight Things You Need to Know About SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual.”

The formal introduction of SWMC finally put to rest and dispelled the confusion of the meaning of “conceptual” in the new offering’s name. It is intended for conceptual design of things that move, such as mechanisms and machines, and not concept design in the context of industrial design. Not to worry, though, DS will be introducing a true industrial design product later this year called Industrial Conceptual to address that need. It will allow simultaneous surface and solid design, and will be complementary with SolidWorks. The interoperability issue with SolidWorks remains to be seen.

SWMC has some interesting possibilities, but also a few drawbacks:

1. SolidWorks is based on the Parasolid modeling kernel (licensed from competitor, Siemens PLM Software) and SWMC is based on Dassault’s CATIA modeling kernel. What this means is that there is no native/direct translation between the two applications and, therefore, no associativity between SolidWorks and SWMC. I heard that a SW/SWMC translator is (or will be) available — at an additional, yet to be determined cost.

This native incompatibility of SolidWorks and CATIA has always confounded me, since several competing CAD products have the ability to import CATIA modeling data.

2. The export mechanism and file format back and forth between SW and SWMC is 3D XML. What this means is that you export a “dumb” solid from SWMC and will have to literally recreate it in SolidWorks. Not exactly a time saver.

3. Cost. Say you bought the SolidWorks core modeling product for $3,995 and maintenance for $1,295 per year; that’s $5,290. Add to that $2,988/usre/year for SWMC and your total is 8,278. Add to that the cost of a SW/SWMC translator and the cost could potentially top $10,000.

4. The cloud-based architecture is contemporary, but not everyone yet has access to internet bandwidth necessary for using SWMC effectively, efficiently, or at all.

SWMC, admittedly has been a long time coming. Was it worth the wait? Time will tell and it will be interesting to see if and how SWMC will be received, embraced, and adopted by the SolidWorks user community. This is a tough call to make, and I’m not going to make any predictions at this point, but rather, observe what transpires over the coming months.

We have not had any hands-on exposure or experience with SWMC because Dassault Systemes has kept it under wraps until it felt it was ready for general consumption. However, we hope to give SWMC a test drive with SolidWorks 2014 when it becomes available.

SolidWorks World 2015 will be held in Phoenix, AZ, February 8-11, 2015.

At SolidWorks World 2014 we saw a couple outstanding new 3D printer product introductions that will be featured in the next MCADCafe blog post.

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