I know we’re in the midst of the dog days of summer as far as the season goes, but we’re also in the dog days as far as the MCAD industry goes, as well.
Historically, this time of year things are relatively slow for business in general, and the CAD industry is not immune to this phenomenon.
However, one CAD vendor in particular has been uncharacteristically quiet since well before these dog days of summer — SolidWorks, or more properly, DS SolidWorks.
Most of SolidWorks’ competitors have made announcements the past few weeks — some relatively major, some relatively minor — but they have made at least some announcements. Not so, SolidWorks.
For example, Autodesk announced some new cloud-based offerings, Solid Edge announced ST6, and PTC announced new versions and products in its Creo line. The most significant bit of news coming out of SolidWorks during this time period has been the release of its 2013-2014 Education Edition.
I can remember a time, and not all that long ago, when a virtually continuous stream of news was coming out of SolidWorks — new software products and services, products designed with the software, new customers, and so on. Periodically, a SolidWorks staffer would even reach out to me to see if there was anything I needed from them, or would discuss future developments and industry trends off the record.
I realize that things can’t stay the same forever, and CAD vendors are no exception, but those days of candidness with a relationship that fostered goodwill between a vendor (in this case SolidWorks) and a member of the industry press are no longer. It’s become more of a “What have you done for us lately?”
Not only are a lot of good folks I’ve known over the years gone from SolidWorks, so is much of the excitement within the company that translated into positive energy for customers, as well as members of the media. In years past (starting in 1995), development managers, technical staff, inside and outside PR/communications, and executives were always approachable and available. These days, I can’t get a phone call returned or a response to an email. Things have changed, and in my world, not for the better.
Although not totally groundbreaking technology, check out SolidWorks’ “Next Big Thing” — Mechanical Conceptual — that was announced in January 2013 at SolidWorks World:
Exactly where is SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual that was announced in January? Where does the next version of the SolidWorks product line stand? Where is the old SolidWorks customer and user community excitement? I ask the question, “Where’s SolidWorks?”
Nothing stays the same, but SolidWorks, c’mon back, you’re missed. Get over the dog days and back in the game that for many years and on many levels made you one of the very best players in the game for mechanical design.
Rendering has entered the mainstream of the product development process with this capability being part of many CAD applications. However, there is still plenty of room for specialized products that optimize rendering and take it to a higher level. One of our favorites is Keyshot from Luxion, who just announced KeyShot 4, the next generation of its rendering and animation package.
Luxion continues to develop its rendering technology to bring speed and improvements to KeyShot, making it an integral part of the product development process, from concept through sales and marketing.
KeyShot 4 adds new approaches to features and improved rendering enhancements that make KeyShot an accurate 3D rendering animation system for the product visual workflow.
The new “Live Linking'”capability lets Creo, SolidWorks, and Rhinoceros users maintain all part and feature updates made to their models without having to redo any of their work inside KeyShot. This capability requires a separate plugin that is available free of charge from the KeyShot website.
Keyshot 4 introduces a new method for applying physical lights, with the ability to turn any object in the scene into a point, area, or light source. Improved import options give you more flexibility when importing 3D geometry and the ability to work with the actual units of CAD software.
Check out the Keyshot 4 overview video presentation:
More material options come courtesy of a new partnership with Mold-tech, introducing accurate representations of Mold-Tech textures.
Improved algorithms provide more realism for subsurface light scattering within translucent materials.
KeyShot Pro users now have the ability to apply render layers to objects and create Model or View Sets to explore different configurations of product appearances, camera views, and environments. Pro users will also experience enhanced HDR editing capability with dynamic environment highlighting and options to tilt and blur HDRI’s. The KeyShot user interface now has the ability to dock project, library, and animation windows. Optionally, models can now be viewed in full stereoscopic 3D on supported 3D monitors.
Increased control over the model and environment is provided with the ability to apply rounded edges to sharp corners, multi-select objects in the real-time window and create ground planes.
Speeding the time it takes to add detail to 3D geometry and reducing the files size of imported models has been addressed with the new Rounded edge feature. With this option, you can apply a small radius to sharp edges creating a more realistic look. This option is a a visual enhancement to the rendered graphics without increasing file size or render times.
KeyShot 4 pricing starts at $995. As with previous versions, animation capabilities can be added to KeyShot 4 for $500 and interactive KeyShotVR capabilities can be added for $1000.
We have watched Keyshot evolve and mature as one of the best rendering packages in the marketplace, regardless of price, and Keyshot 4 continues this positive evolution.
Continuing our quick looks at some of the unique exhibiting partners that we spoke with at SolidWorks World 2013, this time around we’ll briefly cover ExactFlat and its forthcoming flagship product — ExactFlat Design Studio.
The ExactFlat suite of software is designed for manufacturers working with fabrics and technical textiles. ExactFlat Design Studio for SolidWorks– the company’s newest product – is the first product to integrate the five essential steps of product development (design, flatten, pattern, nest, cost and document) inside SolidWorks.
Essentially, ExactFlat extends the 3D and 2D capabilities of SolidWorks for manufacturers producing sewn products such as automotive and transportation seating, furniture, apparel, marine, and architectural fabric structures.
“No one else can do this”, said Steven McLendon, Executive VP of ExactFlat. “By leveraging the power of a leading CAD platform like SolidWorks, and extending its capabilities to automate repetitive tasks, reduce manual processes and eliminate duplicate effort, innovative manufacturers are growing their businesses by getting 100% of the result with just 15% of the effort.”
After seven years of development and consulting with over 150 companies that work with industrial fabrics, ExactFlat provides a shift from manual to automated processes in the development of sewn products.
Check out the MCADCafe video interview with ExactFlat’s CEO, Eaton Donald.
Donald summed up the response to ExactFlat Design Studio at SolidWorks World by saying, “We are very encouraged by the strong customer and reseller interest and look forward to a highly productive and mutually beneficially relationship with SolidWorks. Sewn products are a large lucrative market. Moving fast and first to lock out the competition can lead to dominance and ownership of the segment. ExactFlat for SolidWorks seeks to achieve this position.”
When the shipping version of ExactFlat becomes available soon, we will be reviewing it running inside SolidWorks 2013. This promises to be an interesting evaluation because it will be a first for MCADCafe — designing, not with sheet metal or metal stock in mind, but fabric and textile materials.
One of the most eagerly anticipated new product announcements at SolidWorks World 2013 was the SolidWorks “conceptual” application that was eluded to last fall. This announcement was supposed to be one of the highlights of Day 1 of SolidWorks World, but I felt it fell kind of flat. What was presented was SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual. Quite a mouthful, isn’t it?
From its name, I’m sure you can guess that SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual is a conceptual tool for mechanical design that complements SolidWorks for design refinement. It is the first SolidWorks product based on Dassault Systemes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform, something I’m still trying to comprehend – is it a file format, family of products, design philosophy – I don’t really know.
Start the video at 45:00 minutes where the SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual presentation begins with the introduction of Fielder Hiss, SolidWorks’ VP Product Management.
SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual merges history, parametrics, and direct editing into a single interface. Why is this a big deal? As a concept evolves, you can make any change necessary to a design while respecting the design intent that was previously created. The so-called Single Modeling Environment lets you evolve from layout sketches to 3D geometry, to separate parts and assemblies, without taking product structure into consideration. Now this is interesting, but not unique to the industry.
As a 3D concept matures, you can use motion simulation to examine the interaction of parts and identify and addess critical design issues early on, before moving on to detail design in SolidWorks.
Since SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual is cloud based, it is always connected to a design database, as well as to other users. In theory, this provides the ability to secure data, prevent data loss from crashes, and automatically save iterations of concepts. I’m still on the fence on this whole cloud-based thing, but it seems to be inevitable.
Production testing is due to begin in May with general availability coming in October or November of this year.
Unlike most other products introduced at past SolidWorks Worlds, the applause for SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual wasn’t exactly thunderous. If anything, it was polite, but not much more.
I’m reserving major judgment on SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual until it comes out and I can personally check it out, but I am hoping that it proves to offer more of real value than was demonstrated at its coming out party in Orlando.
Was I expecting too much? Maybe, but so was much of the audience.