SolidWorks World Report

19 Jan, 2004 By: Sara Ferris

(01/20/2004) Highlights of the first day of SolidWorks 2004 included a sneak preview of SolidWorks 2005 and the announcement that the total number of SolidWorks licenses sold has reached 300,000. More than 500 users braved the blustery streets of Boston to attend the sixth SolidWorks gathering. Here we cover key points from the opening keynote session and a press briefing.

In his keynote address, CEO John McEleney briefly listed some of the new features in SolidWorks 2005, due out this summer. Those include support for bent structures, automatic isometric views in drawings, automatic cut lists, and spell checking. Mold capabilities include automated side-core creation. The Wednesday keynote session features a SolidWorks 2005 demonstration, so the next report should have more details. The next version of the eDrawings tool for e-mailing models adds support for other applications such as SolidWorks Animator, so you can use the tool to send animated models. Coming soon is eDrawings support for Unigraphics and Mechanical Desktop.

SolidWorks again plans a beta contest for SolidWorks 2005 beginning in May. The beta contest for SolidWorks 2004 produced close to 4,000 bug submissions by 3,600 contestants (1,057 unique bugs were verified). The company says that thanks to this vigilance, the shipping version of SolidWorks 2004 generated 28% fewer bug reports that its predecessor SolidWorks 2003, even though its user base was 35% larger.

The300,000 reported seat total includes educational seats, with the split roughly 50/50. More than 35,000 companies have purchased SolidWorks since its debut eight years ago, and more than 5,000 educational institutions use the program to train students. Texas Instruments Sensors and Controls purchased license 300,000. "We are using SolidWorks not only to design products, but also to design the tooling and production equipment needed to make those products," said Ken Webber, the company’s computer-aided engineering manager.

Keynote speaker Kevin Ashton, executive director of the MIT AutoID Center, discussed the future of computing, specifically RFID (radio frequency identification). He summarized the first 50 years of computing in one sentence: “Computers got smaller and faster and cheaper and got connected together.” The challenge for the next 50 years is to get computers to interact with the world around them. RFID devices essentially turn any manmade object into a computer that can then network with other computers. Today’s RFID devices include an antenna and microchip that measures 300 microns on a side. The key element in RFID design is the antenna, which should be as big as possible to facilitate communication with computers. Because of their small size, each microchip holds only a 96-bit number, or EPC (electronic product code).

RFID can be used in any application that has inventory, retail being an obvious example. Ashton says that Wal-Mart, the largest company in the world, must track 56 billion individual items. The company will require its top 100 suppliers to implement EPC tags by the end of this year and all suppliers to do so by the end of 2006. Ashton expects hospitals to move to RFID to manage equipment and supplies sometime this decade. He also expects it to play a role in service and maintenance of equipment and machinery. The challenge for SolidWorks users is to incorporate RFID tags into their product designs, not always an easy task given the antenna size and location requirements.