Live blog from SolidWorks World 2013

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Good morning from SolidWorks World – one of those massive user-centric events that you’ve always found the idea of highly exciting/slightly bemusing.

As your man on the ground I’ll be trying to shake this hangover and bring you all the latest news with regular updates from what’s going on here in this massive Disney Orlando hotel and conference centre (with limited wifi) – other stuff will just appear via our Twitter account @develop3d and my slightly less professional musings at @swearstoomuch.


We’re back for day three. I say we, there’s noticeably fewer people here this morning.

This might be as a result of it being the last day, or the consequences of last night’s fun trip out: A free bar + unlimited rides in a theme park. What could possibly have gone wrong?

8.30 – The thumping French electro intro is back and deafening the press pen, accompanied by some video footage of yesterday’s keynotes and the less wasted people at the theme park last night.
8.31 – Fielder Hiss is up on stage to get things going with a brief recap of yesterday.

8.33 – A note from our sponsors: A lady in a polka-dot tank top is saying generic words.


8.39 – Mark Schneider is talking about the Model Mania competition, where competitors get 20 mins to design a set part and run simulation on it. Some big Nvidia graphics card prizes.

There’s lots of winners and placed people. The whooping and cheering seems at a solid level today.

We’re now getting a run through of the fastest way to model the part – the winning times were 8 minutes plus. I hope this footage is speeded up.

8.49 – Education: 2.5 million students are using SW. Marie Planchard, director of education community is up on stage.

8.53 – A video from the Mavericks Civilian Space Foundation making rocket scientists out of kids. Founder and CEO Tom Atchinson features in a video with the best quote: “They’re going to be drinking out of a fire hose”

I think this could be a longer version:

8.57 – Tom’s up on stage talking about the desire to build something and how it inspires children to participate in STEM education.

He states how having an inspirational D&T teacher influenced him at high school – the same one as Steve Jobs.

Looks like a cool project. Tom’s wanting to take it to 28 schools worldwide.

9.06 – SW have surprised everyone and are going to sponsor his next mission.

9.08 – A note from our sponsors: Up pops Nvidia. He’s got eDrawings on an Android device. An Android device that uses Nvidia graphics.

9.20 – It’s the SWW top ten most requested changes by SW users polled online. Number one on its list is ‘Make rebuild time faster’. The crowd goes wild.

9.25 – Jeremy Regnerus is presenting some kind of shopping channel spoof as a means of showing off some of the new SW 2014 features, none of which will make any sense if I try to explain it on here. I’m cleaning out old receipts from my wallet.

9.35 – It’s still going on. I’m filing my expenses for the month.

9.38 – This all seems to be at least partly the creation of some Brits. I’m attempting to set fire to my passport in protest.

9.59 – Bert’s back! I’ve never been so glad to see him.

10.00 – He’s wrapping up the event – I almost expect this to be playing in the background – SWW 2014 is going to be in San Diego, California next year, 26 – 29 January.

14.00 – Had an interview with SW product manager Craig Therrien who is very happy with the improvements made in the forthcoming SW 2014 release.

He has some great things to say about the new style splines for control over organic shape design, stating that this release had an overriding theme of organic plastics design.

There’s no one big change, but multiple minute tweaks that are there to help speed up the workflow – most of today’s top 10 requests listed in the morning session have been achieved either in the 2013 release or the new version.

What wasn’t mentioned today was the amount of work that has gone into SW Costing, which we should expect to see some big improvements in. He couldn’t tell me exactly, but users should be happy.

14.30 – Right, that’s me finished. I’m about to hit the fake beach around the fake pond outside my hotel before I trek back to DEVELOP3D Towers.

Thanks for reading and check out what you missed on the previous two days just below.


That’s right Barry, our journey is not complete, as we set off to day two of SolidWorks World. What a power-suited trio that would be: Barry, Bernie and Bert. Triple B.

There’s no internet in the main hall, so this is popping up soon after the morning general session has ended. Not exactly live, but I’m trying – on reflection we’ve seen some very exciting product designers and a lot of robots.
8.30 – Someone managed to show up early for once, so we’re front and centre in the press pen having some generic American pop music blasted at us.

Thankfully DS is in charge and we’re launched into the first speaker with a big visual on the main screen accompanied by some nice, thumping French electro. Much better.

Fielder Hiss takes to the stage to introduce the general session, and despite some jaded faces from the bar last night there is much hollering and whooping.

8.35 – A word from our sponsors: We’ve got Intel on stage talking about SSDs and advancing hardware capabilities for SW solutions.

8.45 – Beta Awards, a user named Masanobu Higashino has won everything in the customer awards, a triple crown you could call it. This is apparently unusual.

8.46 – SolidWorks User Group stuff now, this massive network of people “taking time away from their families to learn more about SolidWorks”. There’s a community award for people who are very, very, very, very passionate about SW. A lady in a green shirt called Anna Wood has won it. Group of the year was won by New York

8.52 – Wayne Tiffany was a big part of the user groups and a fan of SWW but has sadly passed away. His two lads are up on stage giving a passionate speech about how much the event meant to him. An award for the user group leader of the year is being named in his honour – nice touch. Peter Fischer won it in case you want to send him some congratulatory flowers or something.

8.58 – Today is much more about SW than yesterday’s DS-fest.

8.59 – A word from our sponsors: Lenovo’s time in the spotlight now.

9.07 – Hiss is back – 3.5 million questions have been answered in SW’s online certification exams. Segwaying nicely into the certification program people to take to the stage.

Announcement about the new Advanced Drawing certification. Now some firms that support it:

Kvichak Marine – they produce aluminium vessels like hovercraft and small work boats. They’re a fan

Ride and Show Engineering at the Disney Parks (otherwise known as the Imagineers) are fans too, using SW to upgrade a lot of the older rides. Must get a feature on these guys.

9.16 – Vijay Kumar steps up onto the stage, who with his students at the University of Pennsylvania’s applied mechanics GRASP lab design and build little agile flying robots that have multiple uses.

A lot of this is based on mathematical equations that i don’t understand, but now we’re seeing videos of the little craft flipping and zipping around. It’s some mad stuff. I want one. Or a pack of them.

9.20 – My pack dream comes true as cooperation is a fundamental part of this. Similar to ants carrying stuff or a swarm of migrating birds – theres no boss calling the shots.

The uses are brilliant, equipped with grippers they have the ability to assemble parts using magnetically connected rods, all of which they do themselves (no human controlling it).

Equipped with a Xbox Kinect controller and laser scanner they can then take on new surroundings, and by mapping them can not only feedback the data but navigate themselves around it. This skill set was aimed at producing rescue robots for the Japanese earthquake.

9.35 – They can even play the Bond theme using adapted musical instruments.

9.38 – It’s all designed using SW used to model it all, with 3D printed frames and parts..

They’re now working on autonomous charging so they can go further and work longer.

Vijay sees three challenges to increase how mankind can create better designs and innovative products :
– Creating the infrastructure for innovation
– Co-design of hardware and software
– Open architecture platforms and systems (make it more accessible)

Not sure DS will like the latter.

Vijay did a similar talk for TED, which you can see here.

9.43 – Rick Chin has appeared on stage to introduce German design company Festo, continuing with the theme of biomimicry.

9.45 – Festo typically create industrial parts industrial automation – grippers and the like – but they have a super creative division, the Bionic Learning Network, working on future concepts inspired by nature.

Its chief designer Elias Knubben talks first about the Robotino, and autonomous arm based on an elephant trunk. Designed in SW parts were laser sintered attached to a drivable robotic platform that students can program. A design based on the way fish fins react and move to water pressures helps the end grippers to clasp objects delicately, all 3D printed in a single part.

9.50 – Exohand – a high accuracy human hand with all the same movement, but increasing grip. Can twin with a robotic version, while user views an interface – you get feedback too. The idea can help the elderly or those with motor neurone failures in limbs to grasp objects. Rather chillingly an example of this is so the elderly can work on factory production lines.

9.58 – They’ve taken on flying objects too, although not in the same way as the rotor craft Vijay was showing us, but helium-filled balloons with animal shaping. It reminded me of the old Orange mobile phone advertisements, but had moving wings to propel them, some like a stingray, others like a penguin, all using efficient, low energy flapping mechanisms.

10.00 – Which leads to the Smart Bird, doesn’t even need helium anymore. They brought one with them, it’s huge (Bert and Bernie and now Big Bird…). They’ve set it off around the auditorium – it’s properly flying like a real bird!! Everyone’s got a look of school kids on their faces. Very impressive. Much (deserved) whooping.

Here’s what it looks like:

And it lands without a hitch. They’re launching more cool stuff on 7 April.

10.10 – That’s the end of the general session. Now it’s time to hit the exhibition floor, grab some interviews and check out some of the conference sessions – I’m aiming to be at the 2.45pm ‘Consumer products for four-legged consumers – Dog toy design”

13.00 – Enough time has passed for me to refuel on coffee, just in time to be a jittering mess for my interview with Rick Chin SW director of product innovation. Thankfully Rick had magically preempted all my questions by producing an iPad loaded with the latest version of eDrawings.

In two week’s time the latest update will be available, giving users the magical new Augmented Reality (AR) ability. AR has long been a gimmicky technology, but in the case of eDrawings the model is placed down on the surface in front of you, to scale.

By adding in a digital shadow, the model ‘respects the floor’, meaning the new part design you’ve been working on and be sat next to an existing model.

The innovation with the product probably won’t stop there, as Rick admits if the take-up and feedback is good there’s a lot more that can be worked on (render quality to photorealistic? Realtime lighting and shadows?) and it all looks promising, like a first pass. Already in the pipeline is a version for Android devices.

14.00 – Just had a presentation of Share3D from Quadrispace. A great way for sharing instructions for manufacture/servicing of a part, with data hosted on the cloud.

Built along similar line as tools for the construction industry, it is available via the web or a nice mobile device App, and has assembly workflow click throughs or, in the App, animated actions. Both can have text instructions, the ability to do simple mark-up of models and bill of materials info – so its good as a collaborative tool.

The amount of professions that could benefit from it is also interesting – everyone from designers sending products to be manufactured to the mechanics servicing them further down the lifecycle.

Personally I’d like to see Ikea take it up for wardrobe building instructions.

15.00 – Finally found time to cut back to my three o’clock meeting with the odd mix of sustainability and social media team.

It’s latest initiative is project Leapfrog, with the aim to get developing countries to ‘leapfrog’ middling technologies and cut straight to the latest (ignoring landline phones to skip straight to mobile phones would be an example).

Working with Sustainable Product Innovation (SPIN) this EU funded project is helping Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to redesign 1,000 consumer products (furniture, food processing) to make them more sustainable. DS are providing SW Sustainability and it’s social media vehicle SwYm to help connect the projects with knowledge banks such as the University of Delft in Holland.

The education program will then be able to create Vietnamese help guides to continue the good work and help more people to use SolidWorks to design a cleaner future.

Or if you’re a cynic that’s extremely hungry and a bit tired, you might just think it’s a very clever way of building a user base for a software in South East Asia and having that community build all the education structure in the domestic language for you…

You can learn more via this video.

15.40 – KeyShot 4 got a sneaky little launch today.

I shovelled a greasy pretzel into my face and sat back to watch the demo of the new features, which read kind of like this: Live linking allows users to maintain all part and feature updates made to models without having to redo any of their work inside KeyShot.

There’s new lights, new colours (including some mysterious LAB colours); mouldtec plastic textures; export to .OBJ files; assignment of up to 10 different layers within the render tree and some neat rounding off of edges within KeyShot without having to add the radius in the CAD model.

In the Pro version the HDRI lighting gets some great timesaving tricks with some simple click-and-place highlighting.

Add to this the increased speed, stability, and availability of further pretzels near their stand, and I was a fan.

– That should be all from me today, stay tuned for more from the final day tomorrow or check out what you missed yesterday just below.


– So far so good – some general basking in glory and a look back at the last 12 months. Dassault Systèmes has been pumping money into SolidWorks and quelle surprise it’s looking better than ever.

– I’m going to christen this part of the event as the Bernie and Bert show, as both DS President and CEO Bernard Charlès and SolidWorks CEO Bertrand Sicot take to the stage for much Gallic backslapping. The result was a great deal of American whooping. As an Englishman I felt like the only loser in the room – like the war of independence all over again…

– The biggest news so far has been the launch of Mechanical Conceptual, which does pretty much as it says on the tin, but with added social media capabilities. DS are clearly expecting everything to be designed by committee in the future so best to get in there early, no? It gives the user the ability to design, test and even analyse designs before moving it into the design process proper, which looks like a nice bonus for mech engineers that have been left with only napkins, beer mats and fag packets for the last few decades. It’s got a hashtag and everything: #SWMC. Like mechanical engineers use hashtags…

– Welcome to the stage FELIX BAUMGARTNER!! Not really, but there are instead some nice chaps that designed the Stratos capsule for him to pop up to the edge of the earth’s atmosphere. This obviously engaged using SolidWorks for its design, although I was more interested in how much effort it took them to get the pressurised suits to freefall in. It’s all a question of liability (goddamn no win no fee lawyers), but the David Clark company relented – making the dreams of a crazy Austrian and a soft drinks company come true.

Truly heart warming stuff.

– It’s time for Bernie and Bert to take to the press conference podium.

– V6 is a platform to “enrich SolidWorks”. Bert takes a question about a possible rebranding, he’s a suave one Bert and he skips around it nicely, stating that the 3D Experience platform is great and advancements won’t be at the expense of SolidWorks as a product.

– Collection of Apps – SolidWorks is one of them.

– Bernie’s whipped out an iPad and is doing some simple ‘live’ editing. The proper press are going wild to photograph this – I’ll give it a go…

– Everything seems driven by the aim to ‘simplify’ everything. Curious how simple they need it to be – who are they expecting to take it up?

– Cloud system is being hosted by DS – Mech Concept App is available through this. Bernie is now telling us how big it is [the cloud].

Here’s that picture, somehow focussed on a man with a big tripod and nice boat shoes:

– They have to look at two things when moving forward: integration and new products – most SW users are using connecting applications, these are new products that a design company has never looked at before (for crowd sourcing etc) so they want to be the leaders in providing this shizzle.

– Man suggests that DS marketing might be a little vague about things. Bert and Bernie grin politely.

– According to Bernie, DS is not a software company but a scientific company.

– Sustainability: SW Sustainability is now three years old, designers and engineers are more interested in SW Costing so take up isn’t amazing, but that’s business.

Gian Paolo Bassi has just popped up to add that things are changing with regards to sustainability, so more will develop in time.

– Sales news: Indirect channels will grow faster apparently. Adding in all these new Apps should account for a lot of this. Gripping stuff.

– Someone accidentally activated Siri on their iPhone. Everyone knew because we heard the beep. That my friend is clear marketing.

– Back to jiggling the Mech Concept App on the iPad. Looks nice, but no idea how much muscle it actually has.

– Pricing for cloud business model is based on a private cloud, as compared to a public one.

– Industrial equipment is their prime industry – a little less than 60 per cent – they’re not about to abandon it.

Well that was lovely, time to find some lunch.

– This afternoon we had some time around a table with Bernie. Sadly no candles or mood music, but he was very happy to tell us that they’re hoping to double DS revenue from $2.5 billion to $5 billion in the next few years.

– “When people look at Dassault Systèmes now they need to come back to ‘who are the users we serve?’ to understand why we do what we do. I am more than ever convinced that SolidWorks has an incredible space in front of it in terms of market size,” says Bernie.

– Awkward question about stretching the business too far met with an answer that, in summary, says that in the next 30 years they expect to changes industries as much as they have in the past 30. Customers are no longer just users or managers, they’re the CEOs and they want to transform their companies

– There’s a whiff of world domination in what we’ve heard today. The evolution of SolidWorks seems to be at the forefront of this with its ‘simplify’ mantra and Apps to cover as many different industries as possible. I expect DS to be ran from a new headquarters in a hollowed out volcano soon.

– A lot of people don’t realise how big DS is – it’s the seventh largest software company in the world apparently – and this seems to be keeping them awake at night. He does have a point, especially with some of the world’s most powerful companies relying on it, hence why they did an advertising campaign including the iceberg-towing thingy.

– V6 is an architecture, not a product name. You hear?!!

– That’s me done for the day, time to go cause some havoc – I’ll be back tomorrow with some more news, cool customer stuff and a gleaming, brand new hangover.

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