MCAD Tech News #138

2 Feb, 2005 By: Jeffrey Rowe

SolidWorks World 2005 Show Report: The many facets of 'The Power of 3D' take the stage in Orlando

Cadalyst MCAD Tech News

SolidWorks World 2005

Show report: The many faceTs
of 'The Power of 3D' take the stage in Orlando

More than 2,200 attendees converged on Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, Florida, this week to get away from winter for a few days and experience first-hand the many facets of SolidWorks. This year's SolidWorks World International User Conference & Exhibition, held January 30-February 2, was attended by SolidWorks users, including 11 members of the Disney design team; resellers; partners; and SolidWorks employees representing most of the departments within the company.

The show was busy and packed with information. To give you a feel for what was happening, I'll include here the highlights from the general sessions that kicked off each day, all of which were based on SolidWorks' conference theme, "The Power of 3D."

The conference kicked off Monday with a general session themed "The Power of the 3D Community." Jeff Ray, SolidWorks COO, said that a great amount of power is associated with the SolidWorks community. In the past year, the company has made good on several customer service initiatives and recently hired a new vice-president of customer service, Richard Welch.

As far as community growth goes, the company has shipped around 385,000 licenses worldwide, and more than 700,000 students per year use SolidWorks. The SolidWorks Manufacturing Network, made up of manufacturing companies that work with native SolidWorks models, now has 1,300 partners, and more than 21,000 people have taken advantage of the company's 3D Skills program, an initiative to teach designers and engineers 3D CAD skills.

User groups, always an important part of the SolidWorks community, now number more than 100 worldwide. The user group effort is headed up by new hire and long-time user group champion Richard Doyle. The community also has influence: In 2004, 32,000 Pro/ENGINEER users signed up for eDrawings, a free viewing and publishing application for sharing and archiving 2D and 3D product design data. The community also has a positive network effect because, Ray said, "SolidWorks customers are our best salespeople."

This closeup shows custom motorcycle features designed using SolidWorks and COSMOSWorks. The chopper was created by Orange County Choppers, made popular by the Discovery Channel show American Chopper.
John McEleney, SolidWorks CEO, then made a grand entrance on a motorcycle created by Orange County Choppers, the custom shop popularized by the Discovery Channel show American Chopper. Orange County Choppers used SolidWorks with COSMOSWorks design validation software to create the motorcycle. Also appearing on-stage were the stars of the show: shop owner Paul Teutul, Sr.; his sons Paul Jr. (also the chief fabricator) and Mikey; and designer Jason Pohl. All in all, it was a loud and impressive sight!

When the smoke cleared after the motorcycle fanfare, McEleney took the stage to discuss the overall CAD industry and the state of SolidWorks. He told attendees that he believes the global economy has stabilized because business in general is picking up and more businesses are committing to long-term projects. Many of these companies are also investing in new tools and processes, he said. And he described a distinct market segmentation he sees developing: process-centric on one side, wherein the PLM mindset rules, and design-centric on the other, where mainstream 3D dominates.

As for SolidWorks specifically, McEleney covered a number of topics, although he emphasized that SolidWorks continues to be committed to and focused on improving the user experience for both current and potential users. One of his main goals is to plan for a million SolidWorks seats in place while keeping the user community and all those associated with it invigorated — a tall order and lofty goal, to be sure!

The theme for the second day was "The Power Of A 3D Future." The main presentation was given by Burt Rutan, founder of Scaled Composites and designer of SpaceShipOne, the first manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 328,000ft (62 miles, or 100km) twice within two weeks to claim the $10 million Ansari X-Prize. Rutan's surprisingly small design team used a variety of CAD applications, including SolidWorks and COSMOSWorks, to design and engineer SpaceShipOne. He gave a great talk on what he hopes will come to pass with privately funded space tourism and travel. (To read more about SpaceShipOne, see the feature from the current issue of Cadalyst magazine, now online.)

There's much more to discuss about this important topic presented by Burt Rutan, so stay tuned for more detail in an upcoming issue of MCAD Tech News.

The third and final day's theme was "The Power Of 3D Software Tools." Guess which product was showcased? Well, it was a first look at the enhancements coming in the second quarter with SolidWorks 2006. For many of the attendees, this preview was the highlight of the conference. Jeff Ray said the company has three main release themes for SolidWorks 2006:
  • Make SolidWorks the workhorse of the industry

  • Make it easier and faster (believe it or not) to go from 3D to 2D — that is, create drawings from models

  • Ensure that SolidWorks 2006 is better suited for consumer product design
The new and enhanced features for SolidWorks 2006 were split into the following categories:
  • General enhancements: display, analysis results advisor, sketch blocks, camera, area fill pattern and annotations

  • Consumer product design: 3D sketcher, functional features, net surfaces and decals that can be used with PhotoWorks

  • Machine design: 3D annotation views, smart components, broken views and physical loading with COSMOSXpress

  • Sheet metal: multiple edge flanges, rip feature, closed corners, gauge tables and bend annotations

  • Overall performance for large assemblies and drawings: the claim was as much as an order of magnitude in some cases
We'll provide more details on SolidWorks 2006 as its launch draws closer in a few months.

Based on what was presented at the conference, 2005 looks to be a very good year for SolidWorks 2006 and the company as a whole.