February 15, 2010
On The Ground and In The Clouds At SolidWorks World 2010
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| by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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We just returned from SolidWorks World 2010 in Anaheim, California, and as usual, came away with a lot of news concerning the company, its products, and its future.
This year's event began on an up note when Jeff Ray, SolidWorks' CEO announced that attendance was up over the 5,000 mark compared with 4,300 last year. Good news for any industry, much less the MCAD industry.
Early in the first day's general session, Jeff Ray introduced the president and CEO of Dassault Systemes, Bernard Charlès. It's hard to believe that SolidWorks has been a part of the Dassault family since 1997, and this was the first onstage SolidWorks World appearance by Charlès, a mechanical engineer by training who appeared relaxed and dressed for the occasion - business casual and not his typical suit and tie - and that definitely helped with audience acceptance.
He began by naming Dassault's six “Lovemarks” - SolidWorks, SIMULIA, CATIA, ENOVIA, DELMIA, and 3DVIA. I don't know if “lovemarks” was the best choice of words. Brands or product lines might have been a better choice, but regardless of that, Charlès said that Dassault had more than two million customers/users worldwide. He also promoted a new tagline for SolidWorks - “3D for Professionals” - kind of catchy.
He said there would be tighter collaboration between the R&D departments of SolidWorks and Dassault; a good thing and something I think ultimately will allow SolidWorks to break its ties with the Parasolid modeling kernel licensed from arch-rival, Siemens PLM. A tighter integration with Dassault would virtually guarantee (finally) a direct native translation connection with CATIA. Also, I wouldn't be surprised with the tighter link that the next release of SolidWorks would be designated as something like V6 (akin to CATIA), and not necessarily 2011. Not a certainty, but I think a definite possibility.
Charlès concluded his part of the morning's program by demonstrating a 3DVIA iPod Touch app manipulating a SolidWorks model and by saying, “Unlike Autodesk, we do not believe the world is flat [2D].” Most agreed that this was a good first showing for Charlès at SolidWorks World.
Jeff Ray then took the stage and talked about SolidWorks' emphasis on green/sustainable design technology, after which he and Charlès (as navigator) drove a Factory Five '33 electric hot rod onto the stage.
Ray then talked about SolidWorks' Engineering Stimulus Package that saw 60,000 downloads of software, 22,000 participants who took training through resellers, 2,200 who got jobs, and 400 who earned Certified SolidWorks Associate (CSWA) credentials.
He ended by discussing SolidWorks' increased R&D investment, continued focus on performance, and introducing Austin O'Malley, head of R&D.
O'Malley and his team presented a Tech Preview that briefly discussed what they have been working on the past three years or so and might appear in future products. Although no guarantees were made or timetables given, some interesting things were presented.
Some of the highlights of the Tech Preview included:
The availability of SolidWorks products on multiple hardware platforms (yes, including Mac OS), although SolidWorks will become less hardware dependent over time (see cloud computing below)
Touch, as in touch screen, could play a major part in the future UI
Communication and collaboration will be more highly enabled, inspired by the online gaming community
A Google-like search paradigm might be employed for searching on and reusing data
Different modeling techniques will be unified and more flexible through such things as direct modeling and editing, among other possibilities
The likelihood of SolidWorks ultimately providing some or all of its products via the cloud, and beginning to provide cloud computing technologies later in 2010. This will probably take the form of a product called Product Data Sharing (PDS) supported by an ENOVIA backbone.
It's the last point I and a lot of folks in the audience responded with raised eye brows of optimism (“Cool”) and groans of skepticism (“Yeah, right”). In either case, it was some very interesting news with some very interesting implications, as well as some very interesting possibilities.
So, let's take a closer look at some of the possibilities of cloud computing in the context of SolidWorks.
Looking Into the Cloud and (Possible) Future Products
Other companies have ventured into the cloud space and done OK, while others got in and unceremoniously left, notably Oracle and its Network Computer (NC) debacle. Although cloud technologies have tried to simplify things, they actually turn out to be more a lot more complicated than first imagined. In SolidWorks' case, so-called cloud computing will affect many things on different levels, including hardware requirements via the cloud versus residing on a workstation or server, Internet security and bandwidth issues, and compatibility of cloud versions and previous desktop/sever versions of the SolidWorks core and partner products. All these issues add up to a very tough problem to develop
for and deliver on.
The SolidWorks PDS and future offerings will be built upon the ENOVIA V6 framework/ backbone that will provide data storage, sharing access, and workspace control. The cloud computing, software-as-service (SaS) will likely be offered at two different levels over time - one for data sharing through communication/collaboration, and the second being the ability to actually use SolidWorks via the Internet and a browser. SolidWorks' first foray into cloud computing (PDS) will likely affect and ultimately supersede its two currently available PDM offerings - Workgroup and Enterprise.
It will be interesting to see how the business model and pricing shakes out for cloud computing. It's attractive, though, because it is scalable and will probably be easier to administer for most organizations with less associated hardware dependence and overhead.
Will SolidWorks succeed with cloud computing when others have shrugged it off or abandoned it? Based on the preliminary plan, commitment, and historic support of its user community, I would say the odds are ultimately in their favor, although not without some turbulence in the cloud. However, it is a refreshing, new direction for the CAD industry whose time may have finally come.
We were impressed with the number of exhibitors at SolidWorks World this year, as well as the many new and innovative products they showed. Following are just some of the products that caught our eye:
Infinite Z - holographic input device
Solido - desktop 3D printer
keytech PLM - PLM that manages configurations, concurrent practices, and BOMs
ReverseEngineering.com - reverse engineering and inspection software
PLM 360 - document management, workflow, and enterprise project management
We'll be covering each of these and other products that were introduced at SolidWorks World in the upcoming weeks and months.
Customer Requests and the Next SolidWorks Release
The last day (Wednesday's) general session is always the one I most look forward to because the main topics are customer requests for future product as well as what to (possibly) expect in the next release with regard to functionality through new features and enhancements.
Here are (most of) this year's Top Enhancement requests from users:
Clean SolidWorks uninstall (this I gotta see)
Increase SolidWorks stability (no specifics given)
Bi-directional compatibility between versions (no specifics on which versions would be affected)
Equations for calculations available and applied during the design process
More comprehensive and efficient utilization of multiple CPU cores
Expand types of assembly features (no specifics provided)
References displayed graphically
Simplified and straightforward video card requirements
No real surprises there, especially since not many details were provided. Still, interesting, and I would agree with most of them.
So, what can we expect in terms of new and improved functionality in the next version of SolidWorks? Here's some of the features and capabilities that might (and probably will) make it into the next release (whatever it is designated):
For IP protection, a Defeature capability that lets you choose the features to keep and hide for document sharing
Full integration of PhotoView 360. (This is great news since I recently had a bad experience with PhotoWorks)
Customizable RealView that gives models realistic representations without rendering
Planar simulation for running simulation studies on a model slice of a model and applying the results back to the base model.
Feature lock prevents a pre-determined feature tree segment from rebuilding
Dimension spacing improvements and options
Ability to revolve up to a surface
Dual dimension hole tables
Weld tables for drawings and lightweight weldments
Tube/pipe routing enhancements
Walk/fly through for “touring” models virtually, as in virtual world
Performance improvements with better CPU and memory usage (this was also a top customer enhancement request and is an ongoing improvement)
Many of these new features and enhancements will benefit most SolidWorks users and point to SolidWorks' continuing effort to make its software more stable and reliable, instead of just continuing to pile on stuff few customers need or use.
In a move to economize (and who isn't these days), this year there were no offsite events (aka Disneyland) for press members or attendees, but nobody I talked to really seemed to mind, and most agreed it was the appropriate thing to do. Virtually everyone I talked to was just glad to be at the event and made the most of hanging out with other users, SolidWorks employees, partners, and resellers. Overall, I experienced a much more positive/upbeat mood and tone compared with last year. Not that everyone was jumping for joy with the state of things, but more a feeling of having survived and moving on to the future.
All in all, a well-orchestrated and worthwhile event for everyone who attended. We saw and heard a number of very interesting things, some of which might actually make it to market, and we'll stay on top of those in the upcoming months as they unfold and become more tangible.
SolidWorks World 2011 will be held in San Antonio, Texas, January 23-26, 2011 and I'm already looking forward to it.
The Week's Top 5
At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.
PTC announced that Volvo Group has signed an agreement moving PTC from a directional decision to a firm strategic decision to use Windchill for Volvo Group's strategic VPDM (Virtual Product Data Management) program. This decision is the result of a lengthy final validation that demonstrated the value of the Windchill software and PTC´s capability to execute as an organization. Volvo Group is one of the world's leading manufacturers of trucks, buses and construction equipment, drive systems for marine and industrial applications, and aerospace components and services.
Industrial designers are achieving photorealistic imaging results from designs modeled in Solidworks 2010 and visualized in Solidworks PhotoView 360 and Luxology's modo software. PhotoView 360, which is bundled with the SolidWorks Premium and Professional 2010 editions for rapid design visualization while modo offers control over design visualization parameters with features such as animation. SolidWorks users Stuart Brown and Paul McCrorey have recently tapped the capabilities of both PhotoView 360 and modo 401 to improve the quality of client presentations. Brown is the owner of 3D Engineers, a specialty design firm that applies computer visualization tools to the process of classic car
restoration. Stuart's work straddles the worlds of mechanical engineering and design, and was enthusiastic about how the rendering features of PhotoView 360 enhanced his SolidWorks experience. Recently, a client who wanted a custom car asked Stuart to create a virtual wooden render of a buck, which is a wooden rig used to help make automobile bodies. After using Solidworks 2010 and PhotoView 360 to realize the buck, he then used modo 401 for final visualization. Paul McCrorey, also a designer and mechanical engineer runs McCrorey Digital. He recently concluded a project using SolidWorks 2010, PhotoView 360 and modo 401 to create realistic images plus an animation of a unique Merlexi Chair
wheelchair design. Like Stuart, Paul is very pleased with how this new generation of visualization tools has extended his SolidWorks modeling and design capacity.
Bunkspeed has selected iray rendering technology from mental images to power its next generation software to be called Bunkspeed SHOT- the company's real-time photorealistic rendering application. According to the company, Bunkspeed SHOT simplifies the process of 3D object rendering, putting photorealistic imagery directly into the hands of designers, photographers, engineers, architects, creative agencies, and other creators of 3D content. Bunkspeed was the first to offer a "virtual digital camera" in the form of interactive real-time ray tracing with its introduction of HyperShot, whose workflow enabled digital designers to bring their creations to life, in minutes not hours-freeing them
from the complex technical processes so often related to 3D rendering tools. According to the company, Bunkspeed SHOT's ability to use either the CPU, GPU, or both promises to be faster than ever before, scaling on one or more machines to make optimal use of different hardware configurations. Bunkspeed SHOT's integration with mental images' iray rendering technology, fully exploits the powerful parallel processing power of NVIDIA CUDA-enabled GPUs, encouraging more rapid iterations with stunning photorealistic accuracy. The next generation of Bunkspeed SHOT fully integrated with iray rendering technology will be available starting Q2 2010 and will be available as a free 30 day trial, an
upgrade to all current Bunkspeed HyperShot customers, and no charge to all those on maintenance or pre order.
ReverseEngineering.com announced that its newest product, ReverseEngineering.com 2010, measurement-based reverse engineering and inspection software, has been optimized for maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) operations. ReverseEngineering.com supports 64-bit supported CMM hardware under Windows 7. ReverseEngineering.com 2010 is designed for feature measurement, inspection, and CAD-to-part comparison directly in SolidWorks using popular 3D scanners, laser trackers, and portable manual CMM arms. ReverseEngineering.com 2010 is a Certified SolidWorks Gold OEM plug-and-play tool-set integrated with SolidWorks 2010 3D mechanical design software. Engineers and designers use SolidWorks with
ReverseEngineering.com 2010 to capture and measure data from existing parts, while working directly within the SolidWorks environment. ReverseEngineering.com 2010 is designed specifically to support MRO.
SpaceClaim announced strong sales growth and a sharp increase in new global customers in 2009. Compared to 2008, SpaceClaim's sales grew 253%, with new license sales growing more than 188%. New and unique global customers included industry leaders in automotive, aerospace, medical devices, consumer goods, as well as educational engineering institutions. New commercial and educational accounts included Rolls Royce, Cooper Tire, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Bosch, Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, Eaton Corporation, IBM, Herman Miller, 3M, Purdue University, Dresden University, and Saint Petersburg State Polytechnical University. SpaceClaim's development process resulted in two major and three
service pack releases in 2009, all of which delivered new capabilities. New products and capabilities included:
SpaceClaim 2009, the fourth release of the Company's products -- SpaceClaim Engineer and SpaceClaim Style
Service packs that delivered customer-requested enhancements in model repair, preparation for simulation, and surfacing
Strengthened enhancements for model preparation and product design and editing, and an enhanced, seamless bidirectional integration with ANSYS 11, 12.0 and 12.1;
SpaceClaim 2009+, the fifth release of SpaceClaim Engineer and SpaceClaim Style, featuring major enhancements for direct modeling, model preparation for simulation, direct beam and shell modeling, and support for multi-touch user interaction.
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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.