February 23, 2009
SolidWorks World 2009 Recap – Real Sustainability
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Although SolidWorks World 2009 has concluded, the words of Sir Richard Branson continue to resonate:
“Everybody’s got a dream and it’s good to dream the impossible. With the world’s best engineers working on your dream, you just might transform the impossible into the possible.”
Sir Richard Branson,
Virgin Group founder and philanthropist, was a special guest speaker at SolidWorks World 2009, the largest annual 3D CAD event on the planet. More than 4,000 SolidWorks customers, partners, resellers, and employees attended.
In addition to those poignant comments, this year’s event presented another prime opportunity for designers and engineers to network, learn, and find inspiration with colleagues from around the globe.
“Since I started using SolidWorks in 2004, my VAR
The SolidExperts insisted I should go to SolidWorks World,” said Sara Cheney, director of engineering at
Vault Structures Inc. in Fort Myers, Fla. “After finally attending this week, I regret not coming from year one and discovering all these new ways to improve productivity at my company.”
A few conference highlights included:
Magenn Power. These SolidWorks customers revealed their flying car and next-generation wind turbine, respectively, on the main stage.
Joe Grand and Mike North, co-hosts of the Discovery Channel TV show “Prototype This!,” demonstrating their “Stairbot,” which carries heavy firefighting gear up stairs (and rescue victims down), and their “Gecko Paddles,” which let humans scale walls like the animal for which the devices are named.
For more highlights of SolidWorks World 2009, visit:
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
A user conference is an opportunity for a company to rally all of its troops (customers, employees, and partners) with a look toward the future. This year’s edition of SolidWorks World did exactly that on several different levels. I noticed that this year there was more networking among everybody in attendance (well over 4,000) and that was a very good thing for support and realizing that we’re all in the same boat – economically speaking and otherwise.
I had excellent conversations with several SolidWorks employees ranging from top management to developers to application engineers. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about SolidWorks employees, regardless of job title or level, is how approachable and forthcoming they are when asked direct questions – no shrugging shoulders or convoluted answers as is often the case when dealing with competitors’ personnel, especially executives.
As always there were good general sessions and keynotes, but at this conference, my favorite part is about current and future product, in this case the SolidWorks product line. Another great exposure to products related to SolidWorks happens in the Partner Pavilion, where I saw a broad range of products introduced and demonstrated – everything from reverse engineering to industrial design. We’ll be taking a closer look at several of these partner products over the next few months.
Day 3 of the conference is the highlight for me because probable new features and capabilities for the next version of the flagship product are discussed; mostly sketches and not too much detail, but enlightening nonetheless.
Some of the new stuff that is likely to appear in SolidWorks 2010 include such things as mirroring components, simulation for optimization, new options for reference planes, drawing annotation, balloon, and dimension improvements, And comprehensive electro-mechanical machine simulation that with integrated with National Instruments’ LabView. In SolidWoks 2010 direct editing will also be a more prominent part of the core product that will let you move and modify some types of features in the graphics window. Although not exactly new to SolidWorks, per se, (it’s been around since the 2008 release and called “Instant 3D”), the company is now more loudly touting its direct editing
capabilities that let you push and pull on geometry.
While all of this is significant, I felt the most significant new capability was the ability to know how the products you design will affect the environment. To help provide the answer, Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. introduced software that details the environmental impact of parts, assemblies, and the design decisions that go into them. DS SolidWorks demonstrated an early version of the software.
The software, code-named “Sage,” will be available in two product forms with this fall’s release of SolidWorks 2010 – an “Xpress” version included with every license of SolidWorks, and a “Professional” version. Both the Xpress and Professional products will display a dashboard at the bottom of the SolidWorks user interface that provides information about a design’s prospective carbon footprint, air impact, water impact, and energy consumed in manufacturing. The Professional version will roll up the impact of an entire designed product across its environmental life cycle and also include information on energy consumption throughout a product’s usage phase.
“Sage” CAD-integrated software provides a comprehensive view of a design’s environmental impact. Its analysis, for example, accounts for where the product will be manufactured and used. This determines environmental factors such as: where and how raw material is mined; transportation impacts; energy production (for example coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, etc.); and power consumption. This comprehensive view increases engineers’ confidence that their decisions don’t have hidden negative impacts and that they aren’t overlooking any positive impacts.
“Sage” was developed in collaboration with Germany-based PE International and
PE Americas, its U.S. division. “Sage” is built on PE International’s GaBi software. PE International has performed product life cycle assessments for two decades, gathering detailed data about materials and processes to perfect its impact models.
“Sage” will let designers and engineers create a “baseline” design from which to compare every new design with an eye on reducing environmental impact. As the designer selects a different material, process, or design approach, the impact reflected on the dashboard changes.
Designers and engineers will have the ability to drill into the dashboard data. If the carbon impact is 100 tons, for example, they may learn that 50 percent of that stems from material choice, 40 percent from the manufacturing process, and 10 percent from the end-of-life disposal. A lower-impact material could reduce the carbon footprint. The product will produce comprehensive reports useful throughout the enterprise with senior executives, sales, marketing, procurement, and others.
“Engineers live to solve problems, and they are in a uniquely powerful position to make a positive impact on the environment,” said Rick Chin, director of product and marketing innovation for DS SolidWorks. “The impact of the decisions engineers make can be magnified thousands of times or more, given the number of people that use their products and how long those products are used. We’re providing designers and engineers with valuable information for making good decisions that significantly reduce the environmental impact of the products they create.”
The company announced that the Sage technology would be available on a trial basis starting sometime in June. So, while other CAD companies make noise about being “green” and sustainability, SolidWorks is about to implement something tangible, and I look forward to checking it out for myself.
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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.
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