By TenLinks Judge, Deepak Gupta
PHOENIX, AZ (SOLIDWORKS World 2015) —
By TenLinks Judge, Deepak Gupta
PHOENIX, AZ (SOLIDWORKS World 2015) —
|HP: Every year at SOLIDWORKS World, I visit them and they have incredible products to offer for SOLIDWORKS users. Their Z Workstations take performance and productivity to the next level.|
|Dell: Precision workstations from Dell let you compute faster. Their systems are built with multi-core processors, high-end graphics and many more features to help SOLIDWORKS users with their complex work.|
|Intel: With Intel processor power, the desktop workstation/mobile workstation attains the capacity SOLIDWORKS users need.|
|NVIDIA: NVIDIA Quadro professional graphics help boost performance and make for a smoother workflow.|
|AMD FirePro: With a number of GPU-accelerated features, AMD FirePro professional graphics cards are the right choice for great performance.|
|DriveWorks: A simple rule-based tool for your design automation needs. With a free DriveWorksXpress included in every seat of SOLIDWORKS, it is easy to start with a small automation project and then grow it into a wider level with their Solo (a 30-day trial is available) and Pro versions.|
|ATR Soft’s CustomTools: As their tag line says, “Kill your routines before they kill you!” CustomTools helps you save valuable time by automating your day-to-day routine. It makes sure that SOLIDWORKS users are spending time in innovation, not printing files, making reports and other similar activity.|
|The Steel Detailer: My bad for not exploring this product in earlier at SOLIDWORKS World events. TSD from Quadro Design is a nice tool that automates creation of detailed structural models and fabrication drawings, reducing the time from concept to completion. The tool knows what the shop people require, and drawings are done faster than traditional ways.|
|PCBWorks: Looking to bridge gaps between your ECAD and MACD data? PCBWorks is the right choice. If you have both ECAD and MACAD teams, then PCBWorks would be a good way for them to collaborate. The UI is simple to use and instant communication/updates can be done while working on the same project.|
|SolidCam: iMachining technology from SolidCam helps you machine your components 70-80 percent faster. This also extends tool life and lowers cost. I have a friend and SolidCam user who, after seeing a live demonstration of iMachining on a project, opted to go with SolidCAM without a second thought.|
|Rapid Sheet Metal: A one-stop shop for all your metal prototype requirements that provides quality and timely delivery. Their free SOLIDWORKS add-in, SolidQuote, will give you instant quotes for the sheet metal parts.|
|LogoPress: A nice tool for die industry. They also offer a free 123GO copy to every registered SOLIDWORKS user having inbuilt smart library. 123GO helps insert fasteners and related holes in SOLIDWORKS assemblies automatically.|
|Proto Labs: Proto Labs can help you with your plastic part developments. Get the quote with manufacturability analysis after you have uploaded your models to their site. Their online tools also show you where you have issues with your models and will suggest the best way to fix them.|
|The Foundry/Modo: A cool tool for the professional who wants more realistic models while modeling in SOLIDWORKS. With an interface similar to Photview360, it’s really easy to learn.|
|Keyshot: Keyshot helps you make amazing renderings and animations with your SOLIDWORKS model.|
|Stratasys: With their desktop-to-large 3D printers, Stratasys is really helping the world accelerate with 3D printing. And with a variety of colors and materials, the challenges in the product development cycle have been reduced to a great extent.|
|MCor: A 3D printing technology that uses standard sheets of copy paper as the raw material plus binder and color inks. Their 3D printed hammer was able to knock a nail into wood! Yes, a 3D printed paper hammer|
|SolidProfessor: SolidProfessor, an online video tutorial-based learning tool, helps users advance their learning on SOLIDWORKS. And with added-in assessments tests, one can check on the learning progress and improve accordingly.|
|i GET IT: i GET IT is a comprehensive online training tool for designers and engineers. They have more than 230 unique course topics.|
|ExactFlat: ExactFlat is an essential tool for people working on the textile industry. It cuts down the time-to-market by playing an important role from design to finished product. ExactFlat recently released their cloud-based software, ExactFlat Online, which is available as a free public beta. Register and take advantage of flattening your designs for free on the cloud.|
|Coworkshop's Curtain e-locker: Curtain e-locker helps secure your SOLIDWORKS files and hence takes care of your intellectual property. Based on the permission set for the user, one may be able to just view the files but can’t print, save or copy to any external sources. I had been looking for a similar tool for one of my customers and was glad to find Curtain e-locker at SOLIDWORKS World 2015.|
|3DConnexion: 3DConnexion helps to accelerate productivity by offering CadMouse specially designed for the CAD professional. I had a chance to play with the mouse at SOLIDWORKS World 2015 and was amazed with it capabilities.|
|EpiGrid: EpiGrid can help with your data management, which can then be accessed from anywhere. With the affordable solution, small-to-large companies can leverage their services and avoid delays and implementation cost.|
|nPower Software: With nPower Software you can make complex surfacing in SOLIDWORKS as if you were playing with clay. It lets you make models you would not be able to make otherwise.|
Onshape is easily the most anticipated CAD program ever, as it has been created by the same people who hit a home run with the very popular and capable SOLIDWORKS, the current market leader among MCAD programs. Investors are betting on a repeat performance, and have invested $64 million in Onshape.
Jon Hirschtick, a founder of SOLIDWORKS, has brought back John McEleney (CEO), Scott Harris (also a founder of SOLIDWORKS and Onshape VP of User Experience), David Corcoran (VP R&D), Michael Lauer (CTO) and Ilya Mirman (VP Marketing). Dan Shore (CFO) joins Onshape from Harvard University where he was vice president for finance and CFO.
Onshape is a 3D mechanical design application
Onshape can be used to create mechanical parts and assemblies.
Unlike most other MCAD programs:
It is NOT a mature MCAD solution
Onshape cannot match SOLIDWORKS, Inventor, Creo, Solid Edge or similar robust, mature MCAD programs in capabilities and features. These existing solutions have had years to develop. Onshape is only a beta, say its creators. It may have been launched to satisfy a self-imposed deadline. Onshape creators may have realized that coming out with a complete, robust solution would take too long and it was better to show and test viability of its web/cloud/mobile with basic modeling.
What Onshape CAN'T do
What Onshape CAN do
Onshape works only with an Internet connection. If you are not online, Onshape is unusable. There is no offline mode.
Early reports and light use have not had a problem with latency, an annoying characteristic of cloud-based applications. Onshape seems to be snappy, able to keep up with users’ demands. Onshape claims “workstation level performance” and early user reports seem to confirm this.
The most directly competing product is Autodesk Fusion 360 about , which also uses the cloud and operates on various devices. Fusion 360 has more modeling tools than Onshape. Fusion 360 installs on the local device, unlike Onshape, which requires no installation. You can only get Fusion 360 for free if you are in school or in a startup, otherwise it will cost a minimum of $40/month (discounted to $25/month with annual contract).
Onshape has been available since Monday, March 9, 2015. Company says it is a beta release, but product is usable. Official release date has not been announced.
CAD users will wonder what active, private documents are. Some definitions are in order:
A document can be an assembly with many parts. The free plan lets users create any number of documents. Documents can be private (only you can use them) or public (shared with all Onshape users).
For more information
In the CAD world, Jon Hirschtick, chairman of the board at Onshape, hardly needs an introduction. One of the original founders of SOLIDWORKS, he led a team that came out of nowhere in the 1990s and taught a lesson in performance, ease of use and value to reigning market leaders, notably PTC and Autodesk. Dassault bought SOLIDWORKS in 1997 for $318M. But Jon was not done. He left Dassault and reunited many of the original SOLIDWORKS team to create Onshape, raised over $60M, hired sixty people and is again ready to take on the CAD powers — which now includes his old company. On the eve of the much anticipated public unveiling of Onshape, Jon was kind enough to make time for TenLinks.
Do you really need to work? You were having a pretty good life after you sold SOLIDWORKS and left Dassault Systemes.
I was having a pretty good life [laughs]. But I like the CAD business, and I like creating new things. I saw an opportunity that was being shaped by the needs and challenges that modern designers had trying to use traditional CAD in the context of modern distributed design work. These days teams are fragmented and global and changing all the time. I thought that cloud, web and mobile technologies would be exciting technologies to work with. If you build airplanes and someone hands you a carbon fiber part, you say “Wow!” If you are making software and someone hands you cloud-web-mobile you say “Wow! This could solve a lot of problems.” I felt an obligation. Someone had to try! The time was right. It looked like it would be fun. It looked like it would be important.
How long were you at SOLIDWORKS and Dassault Systemes?
I started SOLIDWORKS in 1993 and left Dassault in 2011, so 18 years.
I felt like I wanted to create something new again. I can't say I wanted to build exactly what we are building here at Onshape, but I wanted to build something new. As great a company as SOLIDWORKS had become, it wasn't really an environment — like most big companies — where I could build something new with a clean sheet, the way we had built SOLIDWORKS. I felt the best environment for me would be a small new operation. And I wanted to learn new things, too.
SOLIDWORKS is a pretty well-liked and successful popular product. Are you in the strange position of going up against your own success?
It’s a little awkward. But we’re not just setting up our lemonade stand next to SOLIDWORKS. We are offering a new story based on the trends in the world and the waves of change. We didn’t create these waves of change, we’re just surfing them. We didn't create cloud-web-mobile. We didn't create the problems people are having with file-based CAD. SOLIDWORKS is a great product. They have a great product and they have been rewarded with tremendous business success. I'm proud of that. SOLIDWORKS is not going away. It will be around for a long time. We offer an alternative for the future. We are coming to market with something different that we think needs to be offered. Some users are going to say, “Wow, this is better for me!” and others are going to say, “I’m going to stay with what I have” and some users are going to say, “I'll put both tools in my toolbox and use them both.”
My obligation is to do good things for users. Users are highest in the hierarchy if who I serve. Yeah, SOLIDWORKS may be in among the competitors, but this kind of competition is ultimately good for all users.
Our success will be based on our ability to get in the market and solve enough problems for enough users.
Who is the target user for Onshape?
I see three scenarios. The first is people who need CAD and don't have it. This could be someone who has just graduated or someone starting a new business. They need professional CAD but are asking if they have to buy a high-end computer and $5,000 worth of software. Wouldn’t they like to take the iMac they have at home and start using Onshape? I think for a lot of those people, Onshape is going to be the choice. We already have paying customers who fit this scenario and I expect many more. Another scenario is where they already have CAD and they are collaborating with other people using traditional CAD (could be SOLIDWORKS or another brand) for product A but they have a new product, product B. They will try Onshape because they can collaborate. They can have document management built in. They can use the free version very easily. There’s no hassle. The third scenario is when someone has traditional CAD but they have parts of the project that they can use Onshape for. We have one customer doing a very complex product with traditional CAD but they are using Onshape for the packaging. We’re going to see those three scenarios.
So it seems Onshape will be comfortable in existing with other CAD programs. It can read native MCAD file formats and translate if needed?
Yup. And I would say most of our users do that. It's the rare user who doesn't start with something imported as part of what they are doing.
Onshape will not recognize features or history, correct? Imported parts will be dumb solids?
Yes, and for that we have built in some very powerful direct editing tools. From the beginning we’ve tried to create an artful blend of parametric and direct modeling. It can be subtle. There's really only four direct editing commands, but boy, can you do stuff with them! You have to be fairly skilled with Onshape. You may not be able to use them on your first day. But if you watch the videos, or visit the forums, you will be stunned what they can do.
Onshape is an online application. What happens when a user is not connected? Is Onshape even functional offline?
No. We've built Onshape for online. We don't do offline. There are basically two concerns about connections. One is you don't have a good connection. If so, there is a simple answer: you need to stick with traditional CAD. We’re not trying to help people who don’t have a good Internet connection. The second concern is people who have good Internet connection and are worried about availability. That answer is really easy: we will actually be the most available system. Compared to traditional CAD, we are going to be way more available. If you were to evaluate the percentage of time a CAD system is available to the user, we are going to win that by a landslide. CAD availability is disrupted all the time. Hard drives crash. Electricity goes out. The OS needs reconfiguring. You need to install a service pack. One traditional CAD user couldn’t show me what he was working on because he was reinstalling Windows and asked me to come back in three hours. It’s possible your Internet will go down. Your computer could hang. With Onshape, you can move to different computer. You can use your friend’s computer, or your spouse’s.
Onshape can actually increase availability. We had one user use Onshape on an airplane. His flight had Internet [which is getting more common] but he was most impressed by being able to do CAD on a MacBook Air — not possible with his traditional CAD.
Is there a threshold speed for Onshape’s Internet connection?
We don't recommend an airplane’s Internet connection. That's not going to be the best experience. We run well on cable, fiber or even 4G mobile internet service. Airplanes, dial-ups and DSL are hardly optimum. You can do it. If you are over the Pacific heading to China where they are ready to cut metal and you realize a fillet radius needs to change, you might not be concerned that it takes a few more seconds to open your model. But if you are able to do email and web browsing on a standard connection, you should be fine using Onshape. That’s what we have designed it for.
The big problem with web-based CAD has been latency. How did you guys handle that?
The world hasn’t seen a full cloud CAD system before. So far, there have been semi-cloud systems, which are traditional installed software plus online file storage and various schemes to try to use the cloud. They’re not bad but it reminds me of the early attempts at electric vehicles. They are a little weird. We built from the beginning our systems to a completely different design. We built it from the beginning that it would be full-cloud like Google Maps or Gmail. So we can offer an overall performance experience that is comparable to desktop CAD. Certain kinds of activity we don’t perform as well. Certain kinds of activity we perform better. It depends on what you are doing. It’s not an apple to apples comparison. Many of our users are startled how fast the experience is. Unless you don’t have a high end workstation and are using some old computer, then we are definitely faster [laughs].
Were you thinking of Autodesk Fusion 360 when you said "semi-cloud?"
Not in particular. Autodesk, and other CAD companies, have semi-cloud solutions. SOLIDWORKS users are using Dropbox. They are not bad things but they are different than what we’ve done. I’ll let your readers draw their own conclusions. Many users are better off with those solutions than without them. We just that we have something different, and, I think, better.
Judging by the examples provided of models created, Onshape seems to do a fairly good job with prismatic shapes common to machine parts. How about surfacing and organic shapes?
We support surfaces. I had just carved a part into pieces using surfaces for a customer. Onshape can extrude up to a surface. You can make swept surfaces. But at this moment, we are not the best system to choose for generating organic shapes. Customers who need organic shapes can use Rhino, which is super for organic shapes. We had one user who did part of their job in CATIA that couldn’t be done in Onshape. Organic shapes are something we don't currently address, but remember, we are still in beta. I would say in the future we expect to add more kinds of tools people would need for organic shapes.
I see all the major browsers supported but not Internet Explorer. Why?
It's a graphics issue. But honestly, I haven’t heard a lot of protest from users. We will support IE, but once again, we are still in beta. That is an issue we will fix and are getting closer and closer.
Onshape is free. Is this too good to be true?
Yeah, we’re pretty excited about Onshape for free. This is the first time there has been a true, good, free CAD strategy in this market. This is not a promotion. You don’t have to have a student ID, be in the military, and have it free for only 90 days . . . this is a real deal! It’s the whole product, too. We’re borrowing from leaders in other fields, like GitHub and Dropbox. You can use Onshape for free forever. You get all the CAD features, version control, everything. The only limit is the number of private, or non-shared, documents that are active at one time. With the beta, we set the limit to five. That number may change, but the idea is that you have a limited amount of private documents. Having more than five private, active documents requires the Pro plan.
Private documents are designs that I don’t want to share or make public? How will this work?
Yes, those are designs that no one else can see. You can create a thousand designs of your own for free and you are willing to share them with the rest of our community. If you are willing to contribute intellectual property to the community, you never pay us a nickel.
Onshape introduced the concept of active private documents, which are limited to five with this beta version. That is the number of documents that are “turned on” right now. If you want to use the sixth one, you have to turn off one of the first five. You don’t lose it. It doesn’t get deleted. You don’t lose access to it. You have to manage what you have active at one time, like a library card. It is our scheme that lets Onshape be really useful for not only students and makers, who are the obvious audience, but also for professionals who would use it lightly.
Here’s an example. I send an Onshape part to a machine shop. If this machine shop works on one document a month that I send them, they don’t have to pay anything for Onshape. Now, let’s say the machine shop has 20 customers and each sends them a document a month. Now they ought to pay.
We also wanted to make it so that you can turn off the Pro account and turn it back on. A customer may have two or three slow months and shouldn’t have to pay. When things pick up, they can turn the Pro plan back on and everything will be exactly how they left it. Even if you are on the free plan, you have all your documents . . . you just cannot edit a lot of them at once.
So Onshape is either free, or pay-as-you-go, pay-as-you-need?
If you will be a heavy user with documents you want to keep private — which is the core market for CAD — pay us as you go and as you use Onshape. If you are an occasional user, a student, a maker, the guy in marketing who needs to look at a model, you don’t pay anything. And if I am a paying Onshape user, I can share my model with you. You won’t have to give your credit card number, sign up for a seven-day trial, or any of that nonsense. It will be free and simple for you.
Can I use Onshape freely as a viewer for Onshape files and files from other MCAD applications?
Is the $100/month the top tier of pricing?
We have an Enterprise plan.
It doesn’t have any more modeling features than our Free or Pro plans, but there are capabilities that will appeal to large firms. If you have a large deployment of Onshape, Enterprise gives you tools to manage and monitor it as a group. For example, you can see a map of where your data is being accessed in the world on a map. You can get a report across a group of employees as to who has exported data and to what format, or if they have exported the files outside the company. Enterprise also provides a better service level.
For more information
As an engineer, I can totally specify a part. Concept, shape, material . . . done! I can render in glorious 3D . . . . It almost looks like the real thing. I can tell if it will survive in the field with stress tests, or drop it in an assembly and find interferences or animate it. I have singlehandedly created this part from thin air for someone who didn’t know what they wanted until I made it. I am a god! I am living the dream.
Now, I want the part in my hands. The dream is interrupted. To get the part made, I have to hand my design over, convey the part to mere mortals, in language they understand. Their machines that only they can talk to. I have to wait. And hope they get it right, not butcher it, not change it.
If only I could push a button and get the part!
Push button manufacturing could be the unsung lament of the mechanical design community. But as engineers, we dare not say it, voice it. We are not supposed to believe in magic — that a part can appear from our designs. We defer to our manufacturing counterparts for that. They need to specify the process, pick the right material and place the bits in the machine . . . right?
3D printing promised the dream of push-button manufacturing. We flocked to it, only to discover it usually couldn’t do the job. Materials are limited, plastic is weak, the chemicals are messy, it’s slower than grass growing. And the good 3D printers cost more than cars.
We are desperate. MarkOne stole the show with its composites part printer (see Best of Show). We’d been making composite parts for so long. But here was a chance to push a button to get a composite part — from the computer into my hands. No layups. No messy chemicals. No annoying humans. But Mark One is a one-trick pony. It only makes small carbon fiber parts.
Enter Proto Labs
There is one company with the imagination and purpose to make this push button manufacturing a reality.
Proto Labs, a Minnesota-based firm with multiple locations and thousands of machines (not just 3D printers), says it wants you to push a button and send it 3D part files. You get to select the material, the process, the quantity. The part lands on your desk a few days later. You’ll know upfront what it will cost. You don’t have to deal with anyone. Unless you want to. Proto Labs has manufacturing engineers who can step in to assist. They are like good waiters — invisible, but who pop up when needed.
Proto Labs tries to automate as much of the manufacturing process as it can. Its software will check for typical manufacturing mistakes (thin walls, overdrafts, etc.) and flag your design. You may never have to call on a live manufacturing engineer. As such, it comes closest to putting and manufacturing an engineer’s brain in your computer for a hands-off, rapid part creation — the closest thing to this-is-what-I-want-now-just-make-it push button manufacturing. For all of us Spock-types (RIP, Leonard Nimoy) for whom humans are puzzles, it can be a straight shot, a machine birth without human complications. At least some of the time.
For the design engineer who considers their part totally defined and ready, nothing at this moment would be simpler than sending their 3D part file to Proto Labs. No other company is as far down the road to push button manufacturing.
What about Autodesk and Delcam?
The biggest deal so far in the CAD/CAM world so far has been Autodesk and Delcam. With it came the promise that the worlds of 3D mechanical design would merge with part manufacturing. However, Autodesk remains scattered as to its approach to manufacturing. Delcam continues to exist as a separate manufacturing portfolio, its products operated by those on the manufacturing side, just as before. Though it adds to Autodesk’s top line, Autodesk is making little attempt to automate the manufacturing process from inside Inventor using any its acquired manufacturing software, either Delcam or HSMWorks — to create anything that resembles push button manufacturing. The closest Autodesk comes to push-button manufacturing is its 3D printer, one more in the growing sea of 3D printers available. And as with them all, it is a point solution in the spectrum of manufacturing possibilities.
All major CAD programs are tied up with CAM, somehow. Many are in 3rd party partner programs. Some CAM products are under the roof of CAD companies, yet they continue to be operated as separate camps. Autodesk maintains a third party CAM vendor list, though it has withered after its CAM acquisitions. SOLIDWORKS has its CAM partners, notably MasterCAM, GibbsCAM, CAMWorks, SolidCAM and others. PTC and Siemens also have long-standing, trusted CAM partners.
Despite CAD tie-ins, CAM exists as a specialized discipline. Few design engineers can hope to match knowledge with a manufacturing engineer, or even a machinist. It’s a whole different world, with machine code, speeds and feeds. It’s messy, the cutting fluids, chips are flying . . . . Engineers can scratch the surface of this world, many dabble in it, some even make a hobby of it, but in the end, our day job is at a desk with a workstation with design software.
Let’s Get Together
It’s been a while since we looked at Proto Labs (Get Real - Proto Labs One Off Parts Made with Actual Engineering Materials, Feb 10, 2011).
I am reminded of them at SOLIDWORKS World 2015, where it occurs to me that . . . Proto Labs could be the answer to my dreams! Push button manufacturing comes true!
But for push button manufacturing to happen, there has to be a merger of the companies. Proto Labs was the first SOLIDWORKS manufacturing networks partner (Proto Labs Joins MySolidWorks Manufacturing Network ). (Could this be a dance before that wedding?)
Proto Labs’ functions need to exist in a SOLIDWORKS menu, as SOLIDWORKS commands. SOLIDWORKS is already a common, comfortable interface to more than a million users. It is a trusted design tool. To take a part out of SOLIDWORKS and send it to Proto Labs still seems like throwing it over the wall, with the uncertainty of dealing with a new company, a new process. Getting a new vendor is work. To work inside of SOLIDWORKS, better than one of its Gold Partners, talk in the language of design engineers, not machinists, reduce the number of pop-up warnings one can get in Proto Labs, increase the automations with less back-and-forth . . . . This can only happen if the developers of both companies meet under one roof, with one goal: push button manufacturing from a CAD program.
Buy Proto Labs Already
|Proto Labs||Dassault Systemes|
|Annual Sales (2014)||$185M||$2.7B|
An acquisition by Dassault Systemes (SOLIDWORKS’ parent company) seems doable. Let’s say Proto Labs could be had for 3x revenue,* a very general rule of thumb for acquisition, its price would be $555M. DS is used to deals this size, having just paid $750M earlier this year for Accelrys, maker of molecular modeling software. It bought RTT, maker of visualization software at the end of 2013, which had about the same number of employees as does Proto Labs. It paid $350M for SOLIDWORKS in 1997, which judging from more recent acquisitions and SOLIDWORKS ongoing success, seems to have quite a bargain and its best deal ever.
The dream now has a happy ending. Both sides of the equation are solved. I imagine tens of millions of part orders raining down on Proto Labs from all of the SOLIDWORKS users, who now can go all the way to a physical part, rather than be interrupted by having to deal with a manufacturing process, which only slows them down. It gets better, if you can imagine. Their creativity unleashed, the engineers only too happy to be masters of their own destiny, create more, better designs, more often. Proto Labs can’t keep up and has to increase their capacity, buying more manufacturing machines, more 3D printers to meet demand as it is now handling the production from the vast majority of engineers out there. As Proto Labs has to ship physical parts to customers, it must locate its facilities to avoid borders, taxes and tariffs and reduce shipping costs. Engineers find that their designs are actually being manufactured in their own countries. Manufacturing returns to its own shores, rather than it being sent to cheap labor markets in Asia. It is the manufacturing of today, fast turnaround, one-offs and custom products, small production runs — but all done on a ridiculously large scale, as everyone becomes a manufacturer as manufacturing is suddenly accessible to all who have access to design software.
Will The Marriage Take Place?
Acquisitions are difficult to predict with any certainty. Applying a logic and reason or exposing a crying need is insufficient to close a deal. Companies do secret dances and engage in back room discussions which are never revealed. Often, a deal in the works can be derailed due to “cultural incompatibility,” greed (acquired company execs want to get too rich in the transaction), or some business issue. Even the most obvious matches-made-in-heaven just never happen and we never know why.
Software vendors, even big ones, are in the habit of saying “they are not in the hardware business” and Proto Labs is essentially a hardware company. As if saying that you would not want them to try to make a product they had no experience making, all the time planning acquisitions that lands them smack in an industry they know nothing about. (PTC buys Arbortext, Dassault buys Accelrys, Autodesk buys Socialcam, to name just a few). CAD companies refer to their products as “solutions.” But a real solution solves a problem or fills a need. The picture on the screen, no matter how pretty, is only a means to an end. An engineer needs a part he can hold and use. Design and manufacturing are interlinked to the point that neither can function without the other, yet both exist as pieces of the solution. A true CAD visionary with means needs to lead the way for Proto Labs acquisition — and practically everyone who uses CAD, now or in the future, will thank him.
*Should the CAD CEOs panic at the thought of being left behind, a bidding war for Proto Labs could increase the price well over 3x.
by TenLinks Judge, Alin Vargatu
PHOENIX, AZ (SOLIDWORKS World 2015) — Great cloud-based application offering controlled access of your company files for suppliers, customers and even other departments in your company (CNC, purchasing, planning) that need to see or use your models and drawings. Flatter Files is amazingly simple and can work in conjunction with or without a PDM product.
The files can be released to Flatter Files automatically or manually as part of a PDM workflow. Once they are in the cloud, you can provide various levels of access to other parties: viewing only or even downloading files in SOLIDWORKS, DWG, DXF, PDF, STEP, IGES, STL, Parasolid and other formats, including custom properties from the SOLIDWORKS files. Moreover, Flatter Files remembers that is connected to the SOLIDWORKS data, so if a revision is performed on the original SOLIDWORKS file, the corresponding entity on Flatter Files is updated to the same revision level, while still storing the previous revisions in the database. Even more impressive, it is capable of analyzing and highlighting the differences between one revision and the next when viewing drawings in PDF format!
The data can be accessed on any platform: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android. Basically you just need a browser to access the client. The search is Google-like fast, regardless of the size of the database. The pricing is based on the number of SOLIDWORKS licenses a company owns.
This solution is perfect for all teams, big or small, with or without a PDM system, that need to collaborate with suppliers, customers and other stakeholders while maintaining full control of the type of data that would be made available to third parties.
CETOL 6σ Tolerance Analysis Software by Sigmetrix
Makes SOLIDWORKS' own TolAnalyst look like an Xpress add-in. Compared to TolAnalyst, CETOL is really a 3Dimensional tolerance analysis software that can be used on complex assemblies.
Things that impressed me:
Smap3D: Intelligent 2D/3D Plant and Piping Design
This is like SOLIDWORKS Electrical 2D and 3D for piping: Smap3D P&ID, Smap3D Piping and Smap3D Isometric. If you like SOLIDWORKS Electrical, imagine having the same power for quickly designing 2D piping schematics and parametrically generating 3D models. Really impressive tool.
HandyScan3D from Adaptive Corporation
For more information
About Alin Vargatu
Alin is an Elite AE and an avid contributor to the SolidWorks Community. He has presented at SolidWorks Worlds, Technical Summits, and SWUG meetings, while being very active on the SolidWorks Forum. More...
by TenLinks Judge, Jim Lucas
PHOENIX, AZ (SOLIDWORKS World 2015) — SOLIDWORKS veteran and TenLinks judge, Jim Lucas, has nominated the following products for the SOLIDWORKS World 2015 Best of Show. The following is a list along with his justification.
|ATR Soft: Why have I missed these guys in past shows? Their custom tools for generating Excel reports and batch printing could save me 7+ hours per week. Very reasonably priced. It will pay for itself in my sanity.|
|Wacom Tablets. Perfect timing . . . a super large 27” screen coupled with an alternate magnetic hot-key keyboard remote makes SOLIDWORKS' new Industrial Design package even more attractive.|
|I GET IT. Web-based educational courses meant for working professionals and students. Most cost-effective and time-efficient application in the market.|
|Sigmetrix. Incredible tolerance analysis add-in to SOLIDWORKS. Very intuitive and simple to use. Gives very helpful information to help know where to tighten or loosen tolerances.|
|Mcor Technologies. Faster machine with stronger colors, as well as the ability to make flexible parts, adding substantial excitement to an already innovative machine.|
For more information
About Jim Lucas
Jim has been in product development for more than 20 years. He is a Senior Design Engineer for WET, a company that makes cool high-end fountains around the world. He also teaches, consults and dabbles in a variety of industries including medical, toys and sporting goods. More...
PHOENIX, AZ (SOLIDWORKS World 2015) — SOLIDWORKS' annual user meeting in January was Gian Paolo Bassi's first public appearance as CEO. The former CTO replaces Bertrand Sicot as the head of SOLIDWORKS and now gives the most popular MCAD program an Italian accent. The largely American users (5,500 of them assemble in Phoenix in the wake of the Super Bowl) have had a few years to get used to accents — first French and now Italian — since their beloved American leaders left the stage. They might still be missing founder Jon Hirschtick and chief dynamo John McEleney (both engineers, both American), but they don’t say it. I doubt if it's any big deal. The users are here to learn how to use SOLIDWORKS products better — and drink beer.
|CEO||Length in office|
|Jon McEleney||11 yrs 7 months|
|Jeff Ray||3 yrs 6 months|
|Bertrand Sicot||4 yrs 1 month|
What does the latest CEO bring to an office where the doors now revolve about every presidential election? After operation-centric Jeff Ray, and charming and ever-positive salesman Bertrand Sicot, Dassault's force-to-be-reckoned-with and chief visionary, Bernard Charlès, now sees fit to install a developer. And each successor seems to more embrace Dassault Systèmes.
The hugely likable, ever-approachable Gian Paolo impresses once again with his secure grasp of SOLIDWORKS, its products and its strategy. Deference to Dassault’s leader, Bernard Charlès, is provided. Gian Paolo does not even step on the stage until the avuncular Bernard has stamped his presence and allowed his almost-too-creative marketer, Monica Menghini, to again attempt to prove the importance of "experience" over product to an audience that, for the most part, continues to love the product.
Gian Paolo is just the guy to bring the SOLIDWORKS user to the new kernel, into the cloud, onto mobile devices — or whatever else the chief visionary desires. Gone is any real opposition to defend the userbase, to keep the status quo.
Enter SOLIDWORKS Industrial Design
Can the users in the audience relate to Industrial Design? Gian Paolo tells us that Industrial Design must be considered as part of a mechanical designer's purview. Shape sells. The old software (SOLIDWORKS desktop) didn't do sexy shapes. Good luck making anything curvy, unless you were a top-notch surface guy, unless you poured in blood and sweat.
Sure enough, top-notch surface guys are presented to us who swear by the new product. At the booth where Industrial Design is being shown, a beleaguered product manager, two months on the job, is trying to explain how Industrial Design will help them make the shapes they always wanted to make, that they should be making. A fair number come by, attracted by the leadup from the main stage. One is a from IntegrityWare, maker of Power Surfacing (Best of Show 2014), which has made a business adding subD modeling to SOLIDWORKS, which Industrial Design now offers. Will Industrial Design eat her lunch? I ask. She says not. Industrial Design does not even save to a SOLIDWORKS file. The models are not entirely compatible with SOLIDWORKS, she says. They have to undergo a translation or conversion.
Another user wonders about the cost, which the product manager does not know. It had only just been announced in a press Q&A. When they found out it costs $190/month, they all pause to reflect. Someone figured out that the total is $2,280 a year, every year. Their SOLIDWORKS software costs $4,000, but that is for ever.
It seems like Industrial Design will be a tough sell to the existing users, if this crowd at SOLIDWORKS is any indication. But then, what would you expect? Users, especially power users, tend to favor their current tools in which they have gained expertise. What remains to be seen is how well Industrial Design will be embraced by new users, or users of rival software, or if it will encourage those who still haven’t left the 2D world to use what, at first glance, appears to be much easier to use than SOLIDWORKS for surfaces.
It's probably too early to expect Industrial Designer to as capable as SOLIDWORKS with a surfacing add-on but it may easily justify its higher annual cost if it is able to make the creation of complex surfaces not so complex for the typical design engineer, rather than have to rely on a surfacing expert or hand off a design to an industrial engineer.
by TenLinks Judge, Joe Medieros
PHOENIX, AZ (SOLIDWORKS World 2015) — Sigmetrix Cetol 6 Tolerance Stack-Up answers a need for accurate tolerance stack-up in order to avoid manufacturing errors. Sigmetrix has the only tolerance stack program that is fully integrated into SOLIDWORKS, so there is no need for exporting data from SOLIDWORKS. Changes to tolerances are pushed back to SOLIDWORKS and modeling changes in SOLIDWORKS are flagged in Sigmetrix. Due to this integration, design changes are quicker and less painful
by TenLinks Judge, Joe Medieros
PHOENIX, AZ (SOLIDWORKS World 2015) — SolidPlant by Smap 3D is plant design software that allows seamless 3D piping design and isometric drawings from P&ID 2D flowcharts. While some of this functionality does exist in SOLIDWORKS Routing, the lack of integration between the 2D P&ID and 3D model can make design changes difficult. The integration in Plant Design makes this process seamless. Plant Design also overcomes many of the challenges in SOLIDWORKS Routing, especially when it comes to editing. SolidPlant also makes it simple to generate true, fully labeled, isometric drawings.
About Joe Medieros
Joe Medeiros is a SOLIDWORKS and Enterprise PDM specialist at Canada’s Premier SOLIDWORKS solution partner, Javelin Technologies. He has been helping SOLIDWORKS users with training, mentoring and implementations since 1998. More...
by TenLinks Judge, Joe Medieros
PHOENIX, AZ (SOLIDWORKS World 2015) — Flatter Files uses an installed uploader application to upload data from a local or network drive, file sharing applications such as Dropbox and PDM (Product Data Management) systems such as EPDM and WPDM. Flatter Files has a part and document management system that plugs into the same database as SOLIDWORKS EPDM. This data is uploaded to the Flatter Files cloud, making this data available anywhere in the world without having to grant access (users should be warned if this is sensitive vaulted information).
Additional file formats, such as PDFs, can be automatically generated, thus allowing non-CAD users to view engineering data. Additionally,since Flatter Files uses the same database as EPDM, the data that is being accessed is always up to date. Therefore, customers and suppliers will always be working with the latest data.
Outside of being a viewer, which EPDM also has, Flatter Files has some fantastic reporting capabilities to graphically identify bottlenecks and to more efficiently plan resources.
Flatter Files is priced based only on the number of contributors. The number of viewers is unlimited, saving on the costs of purchasing viewers for all users that need to access information.
For More Information
Flatter Files - company website
Flatter Files Stores Drawings in the Cloud - nominated for Best of Show, Autodesk University 2014
About Joe Medieros
Joe Medeiros is a SOLIDWORKS and Enterprise PDM specialist at Canada’s Premier SOLIDWORKS solution partner, Javelin Technologies. He has been helping SOLIDWORKS users with training, mentoring and implementations since 1998. Mo