Apparently, I’ve been going to SolidWorks World for the last 11 years. It said so on my badge. I’ve been there for the major announcements, the major shifts in technology, and I’ve seen the staff change and evolve over the years. But 2010 saw the most dramatic shift for the company in nearly a decade. This was the year that SolidWorks World was ‘Dassaultified’.
With 5,000+ attendees all dedicated to the SolidWorks cause and made up of users, resellers and partners, this is a huge event. As is tradition, things really kick into gear with the first day’s general session, starting off with SolidWorks’ CEO, Jeff Ray, who welcomed the crowd in his usual affable manner.
However, the theme for Ray’s keynote this year was slightly different as he took the attendees through a potted history of SolidWorks’ parent company, Dassault Systèmes – starting with its foundation by Marcel Dassault, and through the evolution of and eventual spin off from Dassault Aviation. While the audience was digesting this break from the norm, as Ray exited stage left I was more than a little surprised to see Bernard Charlès, CEO of Dassault Systèmes, enter stage right.
Charlès stepped the crowd through a Dassault Systèmes roadmap, which was a significantly edited down version of those shown at Dassault events. While this included SolidWorks, it mainly focussed on the core Dassault brands and technology sets of Enovia, Delmia, Simulia, and 3DVia – and was followed up by a quick demo of the 3DVia app for the iPhone.
Next, as Charlès was rejoined by Ray, it quickly became clear that this was going to be a defining moment in the relationship between SolidWorks and Dassault. We were about to see something that’s been speculated on and discussed in hushed tones since Dassault acquired SolidWorks in 1997. We were given a technology preview of a future generation of SolidWorks and while it was never officially stated it didn’t take a genius to work out that it was built on the V6 platform from Dassault, the same technology that underpins Catia, Enovia et al. The software being demoed was even labelled SolidWorks V6. For more on this turn to page 32.
Following the technology preview demonstration, Ray brought out Jeremy Luchini, one of the ever-present SolidWorks team at the event along with Mike North from the Discovery Channel’s Prototype This, who also presented at SolidWorks World in 2009.
With previous events having seen the Orange County Choppers guys bring out a custom motorcycle, the bar had been raised pretty high, but the vehicle they rolled out was incredible. A ’33 Ford Coupe hot rod, built and designed in conjunction with long term SolidWorks user Factory Five racing.
The special thing about this vehicle it that it’s all-electric. While this might sound like milk float, this thing screams with 300BHP in a 1,000kg car. It’s the first project in a new initiative to engage with SolidWorks users, with a series of community led projects in the style of a TV show (details can be found at letsgodesign.tv).
All about The Cameron
The following day’s general session brought the main event – one Mr James Cameron, director of the current CGI movie of the year, Avatar – fortuitous timing as just that morning, Avatar gained 9 Academy award nominations. Former CEO and founder Jon Hirschtick sat down with Cameron to discuss his work in both the movie industry and his exploration projects, from diving to rediscover both the Titanic and the Bismark, as well as future planned projects to take a manned submersible down to the bottom of the Mariana trench.
While Cameron is clearly spearheading these projects, his interest in engineering and design goes way beyond Hollywood clichés, and he discussed just how important simulation is when you’re building a sea vehicle to withstand the 110kPa found at 11 kilometres below sea level.
We were also treated to a look behind the scenes of Avatar and how the immersive environment was combined with live action and motion capture to deliver a film I’m told is breathtaking in its richness (I’ve very little interest in actually seeing it if I’m honest).
2011 Sneak Peak
The Wednesday session is the one that users get the most excited about, as it’s when the SolidWorks team presents a glimpse into what’s coming in the next major release. While there’s all manner of information out there in the blog community (I’d recommend Ricky Jordan’s write up at rickyjordan.com), here’s a snippet of what’s coming.
Revolve up to a surface is a new capability and one that many users have been requesting for some time. There’s also a raft of new assembly features coming including sweeps, fillets and chamfers and a new weld bead tool.
De-feature allows internal components to be removed and the assembly converted to a part file. In other systems this is often called shrink-wrap and assists predominately with removing detail for client/customer communications where you don’t want to give away your IP.
With the original PhotoWorks being phased out in favour of the Luxology-driven PhotoView 360, 2011 should see more control and fine-tuning capabilities for PhotoView 360 and the ability to render motion studies.
One of the most interesting new features is the planar simplification tools for simulation. These allow a cross section of a model to be used as the basis for idealised FEA runs and if used wisely if the conditions are correct (it’s not just about geometric symmetry) could save a lot of time for simulation users.
The single feature that got the biggest cheer was the new feature lock tool, which allows users to lock a feature tree at a specific point and stop those above it from rebuilding. This can make editing of highly complex (read: large feature count) models rebuild more efficiently.
Another new service on show was SolidWorks PLM. This is essentially a subset of what Dassault is working on with Enovia V6 and provides a hosted service through which users can upload 3D models and seemingly conduct collaboration sessions. While details were thin on the ground, it looks to take advantage of Dassault’s 3D Live technology for data exploration, combined with all the community/threaded discussion tools that are collected under the banner “social media.” It’s due for launch later this year and should see the first of the new breed of tools and services come to market as a result of SolidWorks’ greater co-operation with Dassault.
While we’ve barely skimmed the surface of what goes on at SolidWorks World, not covering the huge range of learning and networking sessions that makes up the bulk of the conference, this is the key information for those with an interest in SolidWorks and its future. SolidWorks World is a wonderful event in the 3D design technology event season and one I always look forward to. If there’s a downside, it’s the fact that it’s a US-centric event, when there are a great deal of users outside that region that could benefit from attendance. We can but wish for a SolidWorks World Europe.
This is the year that SolidWorks World was ‘Dassaultified’ writes Al Dean