SolidWorks World 2014, Part 2: Trends on Display in the Partner Pavilion

25 Feb, 2014 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

New offerings in the exhibit hall emphasize expanded 3D printing capabilities and tools that move the heavy lifting of design and rendering off the desktop.

On the hardware side, NVIDIA’s General Manager of Manufacturing Industries, Andrew Cresci, affirmed the burgeoning popularity of remoting and virtualization technologies: “Every company you go into is saying, “I’m deploying this.’”

A demonstration at the NVIDIA booth stressed the versatility of virtualization, as a GRID visual computing appliance (VCA) located more than 100 miles away delivered SolidWorks to a MacBook, a Windows 8 Ultrabook, and a Linux-based thin client in the booth. According to Cresci, the experience of accessing the software on a thin client is consistent with that of working at a desktop workstation. “You cannot tell the difference,” he affirmed.

NVIDIA’s GRID is a device that pushes the graphical output from software applications such as SolidWorks over a network to as many as eight clients. Because the graphics-intensive application is running on the GRID, the local client does not need the processing power of a burly workstation. (Read more about GRID here.)

Cresci expects “tens of thousands” of GRID VCAs to be deployed over the next two to three years. He cited the experience of Applied Materials, a shipbuilding machinery company that reported its employees spent 6% more time working once virtualization enabled them to continue their projects at home.

“It’s a huge sea change in IT,” Cresci continued. “You can access the data anywhere, you can design from anywhere.” That provides greater flexibility for CAD users, certainly, but it also extends access to other types of users within a company. “It’s not [just] the CAD guy — it’s the purchasing guy” who is taking advantage of virtualization to access model data, Cresci observed.

Tools Engage More Types of Users

That “purchasing guy” Cresci referred to is emblematic of the widening applicability of many software products, as new developments extend the reach of a tool to less experienced CAD users, or those who have no interaction with CAD.

A new 3DPartFinder application from 3DSemantix integrates with SolidWorks Enterprise PDM and lets non–CAD users in purchasing, quality control, machining, and other departments use the geometric search capability to find CAD files for reference or to locate information about processes, suppliers, costs, CNC programs, etc. “So now, it’s an enterprise solution, rather than just a solution for designers,” said Bertrand Houle, vice-president of sales and marketing.

3DPartFinder v4 is a geometry-based search engine that finds part files similar to a shape input by the user, quickly locating an existing part for reuse, or to serve as the basis of a new design. Image courtesy of 3DSemantix.

Another new option, 3DPartFinder Analytics, analyzes the user’s file database and creates lists of duplicate and similar parts. Users can group them and make plans for reuse, said Houle. A PLM Partner version of 3DPartFinder Analytics will help with cleaning up databases and eliminating redundant files prior to implementation of a PDM or PLM solution.

The Foundry showcased MeshFusion ($395), a new modeling plugin developed by Braid Art Labs for MODO 701, the Foundry’s 3D modeling, animation, and rendering software. The new plugin creates booleans between subdivision surface (SDS) objects, enabling users to add and subtract objects, then blend them together to quickly create a single unified mesh. In most tools, booleans create a hard line, whereas MeshFusion creates smooth edges, explained MODO Product Marketing Manager Shane Griffith. The final mesh can be edited further or exported to STL format for 3D printing.

MeshFusion offers editing modes that give users three ways to visualize their projects: 3D Tree Fusion, Schematic Fusion, and Fusion Strip. “Each gives a different level of control,” said Griffith. “The Tree view is groundbreaking … it shows you the whole ‘assembly line’ [of model components].”

Griffith said the plugin supports users’ “freedom to create,” making the model design process one of “creation rather than construction” — which sounds ideal for those who are more comfortable with the artistic aspects of design than the enabling technology.

SolidWorks World 2015 will be held February 8–11, in Phoenix, Arizona.

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