SolidWorks Revs Things Up for Media

16 Aug, 2006 By: Sara Ferris

At a press event early this summer, the company showcases cutting-edge car designs as well as its own initiatives.

Early this summer, SolidWorks hosted a press event at its Concord, Massachusetts, headquarters to launch SolidWorks 2007. If the event had a theme, it was "cars." SolidWorks showcased two very different vehicle-related applications: race car design at Skip Barber Racing School and solar car design at MIT.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
Skip Barber Racing School uses SolidWorks to design its race cars. According to lead engineer for operations James Achard, the school maintains a fleet of more than 200 cars used at five base locations as well as various other events. The school's design team is small -- two engineers and one drafter -- and production of all parts is outsourced.

Skip Barber School brought along some of its open-wheel formula-style racing cars and turned the SolidWorks parking lot into a race track for the day.

Cadalyst contributing editor Bill Fane prepares to tear up the track.

Achard says the switch to SolidWorks allowed the team "to vastly increase our efficiency." He reports a 20% reduction in time to market gained from using SolidWorks. "AutoCAD was too much work, and making changes was very cumbersome," he said. "When we design in SolidWorks, the outcome is right the first time, which lets us finish projects faster and save money on expensive track testing time."

The school also uses COSMOSWorks Designer to perform torque and stress studies on designs such as the brake pedal assembly and front suspension components. In the third quarter of this year, Acard plans to add PDMWorks to the mix, with the goal of integrating it with the school's Great Plains MRP system.

Skip Barber Racing School is now in the process of designing a new open-wheeled car to replace its current fleet. The new vehicle features a carbon-fiber tub and embedded data acquisition devices to serve as both learning tools and performance indicators.

Taking Solar to the Streets
Anna Jaffee of MIT's global solar car initiative discussed plans there for a summer gathering of students from around the world, with the goal of making the technology used in the solar car program more feasible for everyday use. SolidWorks is cosponsoring the event and providing 90 seats of SolidWorks Education Edition for use by participants.

MIT students hope to apply lessons learned from building this solar race car to more practical vehicle designs.

Teams at the MIT Vehicle Design Summit spent a month working on five different vehicle designs:

  • Hydrogen fuel cell
  • Biofuel
  • Human/solar hybrid
  • Retrofit
  • Think car ("True innovation cannot be predicted. That's why we're making a design unrestricted by expectations.")
The ultimate goal, according to Jaffe, is to have all five vehicles up and running for a cross-country tour to raise awareness of alternative automotive technology. See the July 13 edition of Cadalyst MCAD Tech News for more on this project.

SolidWorks at School
The MIT project is but one of SolidWorks' educational initiatives, according to Marie Blanchard, Solidworks director of education. For educators, SWEE (SolidWorks Education Edition) is based on SolidWorks Office Premium and also includes various COSMOS analysis tools. The student edition of SolidWorks is sold via a two-year license ($99, or $169 with COSMOS). Its output is watermarked and it lacks product data management capabilities.

The company also offers a 150-day Student Edition that is incorporated into engineering textbooks. In addition, educational institutions can now offer a Certified SolidWorks Associate Exam that covers not only software skills but also knowledge of general engineering principles. To help educators integrate SolidWorks into coursework, SolidWorks maintains the Learn Create Succeed blog. Projects are arranged by categories such as chemistry, mechanical engineering, algebra, geometry and calculus.

On the business side, CEO Jeff Ray reported that SolidWorks now has 520,000 users (228,000 commercial). For the second quarter of 2006, SolidWorks revenue increased by 20% compared with the previous year's second quarter.

About the Author: Sara Ferris

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