SolidWorks World Day 3 – Wowed by the cloud

4 Feb 2010: Yesterday, the final day of SWW, SolidWorks demonstrated portions of what’s in SW 2011, but it paled in comparison to what they revealed about PLM in the cloud, called SolidWorks PLM. Of course, with a 20 minute staged demo, only a glimmer of the capability can be seen. Perhaps even less really understood.

I expected this to be another boring demonstration of managing data files, only on a different source. It was anything but. SolidWorkshas gone way beyond just moving PDM data to a cloud operation. They have fundamentally re-thought how such a transition might impact day-to-day engineering collaboration.

In the demonstrated example of their Data Sharing application, based on Enovia V6, a user wanted to collaborate with others. He uploaded the model and shared it with others simply by adding their id’s to a list of users. The cloud app automatically updates revision numbers as required, captures typed comments and instructions, and manages all the messy communications allowing access to anyone with a web browser. Collaborators with SolidWorks can download the files onto their local PC’s and work at a faster speed, uploading when complete. In the event a collaborator does not have SolidWorks they can use 3DLive to view, examine the model history and it’s components, and use other aspects of 3Dlive.

For external users, a new feature of SolidWorks 2011, seems to play well with SolidWorks PLM. It allows defeaturing a model, while preserving key points such as attachments needed for supplier sharing without endangering the IP.

Such cloud collaboration simply means identifying another user and giving her access to the dataset; yielding instantaneous access and no need to install any apps.

SolidWorks hinted that additional PLM apps would be available (no timeframe), adding more function in the future. This got me to thinking about some possibilities. Why not introduce PLM apps sort of like iPhone apps. Charging users for each major function, yet enabling it in the cloud? How about a document creation app, or a functional requirements app, or some mini-simulation apps, or a supplier relations app?

I’ll soon post another blog on the 2011 enhancements demonstrated.


SWW Day 2 – Avatar Director Cameron wows SWW

2 Feb 2010: James Cameron, Avatar director, was the guest speaker during the morning session. He held the audience captive with his descriptions of how he made the file and how his engineering team developed the necessary video camera and other computer technology required to turn his ideas into this fantastic movie. An amazing short video clip showed how his team managed to translate live actor movements and facial expressions onto the avatar cgi’s. What an impressive person!

During a follow-on press conference with him, he evidenced concern about the huge hardware manufacturer push for 3D, with little content available. Nothing like a market to drive demand, as w well know.

A visit to the exhibition hall led me to the booths of 3DSemantix, ElecWorks, and Zuken, the latter two because of my ongoing (and EE background) fascination with Mechatronics.

At 3DSemantix, this new, Montreal based company, has developed a technique for searching geometric databases to search for similar geometry – ideal for reuse of existing parts and saving the time to rebuild already existing parts. PartFinder, officially launched last month works, for now, only on parts. It develops a textual geometry coefficient for existing parts, and compares a part model to existing parts. Fully integrated with SolidWorks, the software costs $1500 per seat. This looks like a great solution to an always vexing problem.

PartFinder search results

The blue part is the base part for the search. The green parts show the potential matches. The closer to the base part, the better the match.

ElecWorks, software from Trace Software, based in Barcelona, Espana, uses electrical control system schematics and their associated data as input to SolidWorks. A shared data environment with the schematic software and ElecWorks allows building the 3D representation in SolidWorks, using the mechanical data associated with the electrical design. Wiring between connectors uses SolidWorks wiring capability. No simulation exists to connect the electrical and mechanical systems. E.g.-to activate switches based on mechanical position or use motors under control to drive mechanical objects. Cost $5.5K for the schematic side and $2K for ElecWorks for SolidWorks.

Zuken, with its E3Wirewoks uses a different approach to transfer the schematics and mechanical representation to SolidWorks. The schematics and a 3D representation are built within its stand-alone software. 3D data is transferred to SW to develop a mechanical model resulting in SW wiring, wiring harness and cut-lengths developed within SW. All data is associative. Cost: $5K to $10K  per seat.

The night’s special event turned out to be not be so special after all for my taste – too dark, too noisy, too many food lines. Must have been due to a big budget cut.

For day 3, I am attending the morning preview of SW 2011, then off to the airport for my flight to Florida.


SolidWorks World – Day 1

1 Feb 2010: Started the day in the main tent. Shockingly, attendance was up by 20% over last year. In several discussions with others in the CAD/PLM community, it appears business was hot during the last quarter and appears to be holding up. Good news for 2010. SW weathered the storm with no layoffs and an increased R&D investment.

For the first time at a SW event, Dassault Systemes CEO, Bernard Charles spoke about his vision for the company and the tightening of the relationship between DS and SW. This became evident in the technology preview introduced by SW CEO, Jeff Ray. Basically, SW previewed their PDM software and their CAD software operating in the cloud, on almost any platform, including MAC’s, and using browsers. My guess is it was a standard browser.

It appears as if the first items to migrate to the cloud will be both PDM apps, which will use ENOVIA V6 as the cloud storage. My opinion – good riddance to local PDM apps, their servers, and the technology and personnel to install and maintain them. No pricing or migration plans were discussed. Expect to see some cloud apps available late this year!

The speaker, James McLurkin, one of the leading robotics researchers in the US, spoke about robotic swarms, his research interest. He investigates how robot algorithms work by building small limited function robots that communicate among themselves to follow goals. Imagine that instead of two costly robots exploring Mars, that there were a hundred smaller ones with specialized skills, kind of like an ant colony.

Other tidbits during the day: A conversation with Richard Allen, PDM Product Manager at SW revealed that only 30% of their customers use PDM systems, a surprisingly (to me) low number. We discussed the state of Mechatronics with Shaun Murphy, and in our opinion, for managing and simulating electro mechanical control systems, SW is far ahead of their usual competitors. We spoke with Jeff Cope, CEO of Extensible CAD about their InspectionXpert and Office2CAD products, both integrated within SW. Inspection:Expert converts drawing inspection data into more useable measurement sheets for use during CMM inspections. Simple, but a real time saver. Cad2Office adds a tab to Office documents allowing direct saves into SW PDM vaults, another useful time saver. Both seem reasonable priced. KeytechPLM, a German based company, offers one of the most comprehensive, independent multiCAD PDM-PLM systems we have seen. Federated vault servers manage worldwide access. It’s a BMW system at Toyota pricing, with typical German engineering.


SolidWorks World 2010-Sunday Anaheim CA

Arrived a few days early for some internal TechniCom meetings. Bumped into a cadre of analysts Sunday in the press room: Evan Yares, Dave Cohn, Ken Wong, Randall Newton, Jeff Rowe. While there Jeff Ray, SolidWorks CEO, stopped by to chat with the group. He dropped a few tidbits. SWW 2010 attendance is UP substantially over 2009. A real shocker given the economy. For the first time SolidWorks will be doing a technology preview on Monday. Speculation is rife about what it could be – new display technology? SW on a MAC?

Jeff Ray was pround of surviving the economy the last 18 months witout any lauoffs – a real feat! He expanded R&D instead. The next few days may reveal what the increase accomplished.

At the exhibition preview some hot vendor booths were Solido and InfiniteZ. Solido displayed a new approach and pricing for RP using autofed plastic rolls, gluing the sheets together and using antiglue (?) where needed. InfiniteZ previewed a stereoscopic display using eye tracking glasses to view an almost holographic image. Wow! 3D displays for 3D work. A great idea.

More to come later today.

Other notables spotted: Jon Hirschtick, Jay Vleeschhouwer, Scott Harris, Aaron Kelly.