After 20 Years, SolidWorks Still Striving for Improvement

12 Sep, 2013 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

Dassault Systèmes looks to the future while updating its product design portfolio for 2014, but steers clear of the controversial cloud.

  • Enhanced Visualization
    • Assembly explode: "Exploded view visualizations are a great way to understand how something comes apart and goes together," said Schneider.
    • Section view assist: Users can select the components to include in a section view, and can create a graphics-only section immediately.
    • Solar access study: Users can specify a real-world location (latitude and longitude) for a scene, then perform a solar access study using a wizard, and capture an animation.

Baxter, a creation of SolidWorks customer Rethink Robotics, models the section view capability in SolidWorks 2014. Each of Baxter's arms can lift and manipulate loads of up to 5 lbs, and in contrast to many industrial robots, they can sense resistance thanks to custom-designed springs in the joints. Click to see complete image.

Aaron Kelly, vice-president of user experience and product portfolio management, noted that most SolidWorks customers upgrade with every release, meaning each changed feature in a new version has a far-reaching effect. "The amount of people we touch ... grows every year, which is great, but it's also ... an awesome responsibility." Kelly explained that having face-to-face discussions with customers and watching them work are essential parts of the version cycle. "How you build products — great products, relevant products — is to use what your parents gave you: two ears, two eyes."

On the Grid

SolidWorks 2014 is certified for NVIDIA's GRID visual computing appliance (VCA). Designed for small and midsized businesses, GRID VCA provides remote graphics processing unit (GPU) acceleration, sending the graphics output from a software application over a network to be displayed on a client computer.

Up to eight users working with a Windows, Linux, or Mac client can simultaneously run SolidWorks 2014 with NVIDIA Quadro–class graphics performance. They will all experience a standardized interaction with the software, regardless of whether their own computer is a late-model, high-end workstation or just the opposite.

Keeping 2D In Sight

While dedicated to providing 3D design solutions, Dassault Systèmes isn't abandoning 2D. "When someone goes from 2D to 3D, they don't get rid of their 2D product," commented Kelly.

DraftSight, the company's 2D CAD software package, will feature a new range of offerings with the upcoming v4.0 release: Free, Professional ($299), and Enterprise ($335/year) versions. "Big companies don't want free software without support," Kelly explained. "They want to pay for software, and they have expectations of value in return."

2014 and Beyond

Regarding the persistent rumor that SolidWorks might become a cloud-only offering, the answer remains negative. "I apologize if we gave that message at any point," Kelly said. "We are looking at different technologies all the time ... always looking at new things that may never see the light of day," he continued. "The cloud isn't part of the overall picture with our products today."

That's not to say that all trendy technology is off the table, of course. "3D printing is a big deal for us; it's an enabling technology," Kelly commented. "We don't know just where to apply our resources [yet] ... but we are actively investigating."

Next year, the annual SolidWorks World user conference will be held January 26–29 at the San Diego Convention Center in California. Sicot's goal is to announce the general launch of Mechanical Conceptual during the event; the aptly named tool for conceptual mechanical design was previewed during SolidWorks World 2013.

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