SolidWorks World 2013: It’s a wrap!
You sent in a number of questions via twitter and email — thanks! — and a couple of them didn’t get answered at the event, so I’ve been following up with SolidWorks to get answers. First off, you wanted to know what ever happened to SolidWorks’ interest in AEC and Live Buildings, which was announced at SolidWorks World 2011 but which hasn’t really been mentioned since. I spoke with SolidWorks’ Craig Therrien and DS’ Peter Terwilliger who told me that SolidWorks is still excited about the AEC opportunity and plans to start speaking more about Live Buildings later this year. Like Conceptual Mechanical, announced last month, Live Buildings (although it won’t be called that) will be a conceptual authoring solution that’s intended to use equipment, piping or something else designed in SolidWorks in an architectural setting.
Your other questions surrounded SolidWorks’ plans for simulation. You already know about Flow and Plastics but wanted to know what else SolidWorks was thinking about. In the 2013 release, out now, the focus was on improving performance, as simulation sub-modeling made it possible to subdivide models for faster, more precise analysis of specific areas of large or complex models, and incremental meshing reduced the time spent on meshing. You may not know that SolidWorks 2014 will
- link Flow Simulation with CircuitWorks for thermal and other simulations; the linkage should make setup much easier.
- amp up use of symmetry, so that you can set up half of a symmetrical model and view the results of the complete model.
- make SolidWorks Plastics residual stresses available SolidWorks Simulation.
Delphine Genouvrier, SolidWorks product manager for simulation, told me her focus is on creating tools that are intuitive to engineers and boost innovation without getting bogged down in the details of FEA (or CFD or …). She wants to offer advanced simulation technologies that help engineers explore their options in a concurrent design workflow. Her suggestion for someone new to simulation? Work with your reseller to understand the problems you’re trying to solve, then take a training class to learn how to set up simulations and interpret the results. “Not for clicks but for methodology”, as Delphine says.
Finally, I got to spend some time in the Partner Pavilion, where SolidWorks partners showcase their wares. There was lots of cool stuff — from software to devices to training to services — but the two companies that caught my eye were Mcor and zSpace.
A couple of years ago, I was on a plane with Scott Harris, one of the founders of SolidWorks and a former colleague at Computervision. Scott told me all about a new company he was advising, zSpace. It’s come a long way since then: It’s flagship product zSpace is a tablet, pen and glasses combo that creates an immersive environment — but without the vertigo-inducing artifacts or feeling of “falling off the edges”. I disassembled a SolidWorks model and was able to interact with each piece individually, moving it around and rotating it at will. I can definitely see where moving between a traditional CAD environment and zSpace will enable a designer to experience a product much more fully. If making a rapid prototype isn’t possible or desirable, this is a terrific alternative. And at a reasonable price, too. [I'm not sure I'm allowed to say, so ask them.]
Speaking of … I hadn’t heard of Mcor before, so was very interested when their PR team reached out to me before #SWW13 to tell me that Mcor wants to revolutionize 3d printing by drastically reducing operating cost and improving the environmental footprint — by using paper. How cool is that? The skull to the right is made out of layers of paper –one sheet at a time– that are drawn into Iris, scored and colored, before the next is glued on top. When Iris is done, a block of paper spits out and the operator breaks off the extraneous chinks of paper. You can get a sense of it here. The paper prototype is heavier than I expected it to be, feels very solid in the hand and is not as fragile as I thought it would be. Mcor’s go-to-market is interesting too — buy outright, rent-to-own, lease, or work with Staples as a service provicer. Worth a look!
Ok. That’s a wrap. SolidWorks World 2013 was stronger in many ways than last year’s event even though there were fewer attendees: DS did a better job of explaining how the brand fits into its overall vision, the sense of community was again very strong and the SolidWorks team did a great job rallying the base around the new and coming features. SolidWorks lives or dies by its channel partners, and the ones I spoke with are excited by the broader offering and the possibilities this brings for new customers and markets.
Note: DS graciously covered some of the expenses associated with my participation here but did not in any way influence the content of this post.