SolidWorks World 2013

This year marked the 15th anniversary of SolidWorks World.

In 1999, when the first SolidWorks World was held in Palm Springs, there were approximately 800 people that attended, 60 partners, and 70 technical sessions.

I was privileged to attend this year’s event held in Orlando, Florida, US from 20 to 23 January where there were over 4500 attendees, over 240 technical sessions held, and over 100 partners exhibited in the Partner Pavillion.

The number of SolidWorks users continues to grow at an amazing rate. It was only four years ago that SolidWorks announced their one-millionth user, and today they have over two million users.

Here’s a quick look at some of the SolidWorks community statistics:

•Total SolidWorks users: 2 million
•SolidWorks resellers: 407
•SolidWorksSolution partners: 800
•Certified SolidWorks users: 61 000
•SolidWorks user groups: 218
•Facebook fans: 525 000
•3D ContentCentral users: 1 million
•DraftSight users: 1.3 million

But the SolidWorks community is not about numbers—it’s about people. It is the company’s mission is to make it easy for you to bring the ideas in your head to life, as well as to help prepare the next generation of engineers and designers for success. SolidWorks is currently being taught in over 25,000 schools worldwide, including 72% of the world’s top universities, as well as a growing number of high schools, and even middle schools.

Over 2.5 million students use SolidWorks every day—some of them as young as nine years old. The SolidWorks Certification Program allows qualified schools to provide Certified SolidWorks Associate (CSWA) exams to their students.



Bernard Charlès, President and Chief Executive Officer Dassault Systèmes, the holding company of SolidWorks Corp. and Bertrand Sicot CEO of SolidWorks Corp.

“We want to help provide qualified students to our commercial customers that require highly trained, skilled young designers and engineers. CSWA certification lets you know that a recent graduate will be ready to work on day one,” said Bertrand Sicot, SolidWorks CEO in his opening address at the first General Session.

Sicot continued, “Last September, we announced the 21st release of SolidWorks with our 2013 update. We’re always excited about all of the new functionality that goes into every release, and you’ve probably heard that over 90% of enhancements are driven by customer requests. That’s true for 2013 as well, but this year our goal was to improve and simplify the core business processes that affect our users on a daily basis. And, we included some new capabilities that customers have been requesting for a while. For example:

•New geometry tools to help you create models faster and easier
•Tools to help you optimize the performance of SolidWorks and maximize productivity
•Tools to help you work and collaborate with other people on your design team, vendors, and other supply chain partners.”

“One of these new features is Previous Release Interoperability. You told us that you needed the ability to open files in SolidWorks 2013 directly with SolidWorks 2012, and we listened. Customers have told us that Previous Release Interoperability has already improved their file exchange rates and reduced delays, while easing the transition to our new release.”

“But in SolidWorks 2013, we did more than just add new features. We also continued our relentless pursuit of stability and performance, and we think we’ve been successful. In fact, our customer satisfaction rates have never been higher. In 2006 we started soliciting feedback from our customers annually with a quantitative, Web-based survey. We ask questions about how customers are using SolidWorks, their satisfaction with the software, our company, and their resellers.”

“Our most recent survey ran this past summer, and we received around 25 000 customer responses. I am extremely happy to report that overall satisfaction is 94% – that’s up from 93% in 2011, and from 89% in 2007. The development team at SolidWorks has done an incredible job over the last few years to make the tools you use every day more reliable, and I believe that these numbers show that those efforts are paying off. But we can still do better, and I’m confident that next year, we’ll get even closer to 100%.”

SolidWorks Electrical, SolidWorks Plastics and eDrawings for the iPad and iPhone
“In addition to SolidWorks 2013, we also released three additional products last year. SolidWorks Electrical makes it possible for you to design products requiring electrical systems for power, control, safety and data acquisition. We also recently introduced SolidWorks Plastics because our users were demanding tools to help predict and avoid manufacturing defects in the earliest stages of plastic part and mould design.”

“We also delivered eDrawings for the iPad and iPhone. Now you can bring your 2D and 3D files to a customer’s site, or to a sales meeting, or to a family member, and share the design concepts quickly and easily. And yes, we have heard all of you who have asked for an Android version, and I’m happy to tell you today that we are currently working on this. It will be available in the coming months, so stay tuned.”

“When we started in 1995, we never dreamed that we would have the largest and most vibrant mechanical CAD community in the world. The SolidWorks community is made up of some of the most creative and innovative people, and when we all work together, there are no limits to what we can achieve.”

“So on behalf of the entire SolidWorks team, I would like to thank all of you for being part of the SolidWorks community. Our connection to the community is what keeps us excited. It’s what fires the passion we all feel when we come to work every day. And it’s also what keeps us grounded, making sure we’re always asking “are we doing the right things for our users?” From our customers to our employees, from our resellers to our partners, we truly are united by design.”



I was privileged to attend this year’s event held in Orlando, Florida, US from 20 to 23 January. There were over 4500 attendees, over 240 technical sessions held, and over 100 partners exhibited in the Partner Pavillion. Here are two exhibits from the Partner Pavillion – both designed in SolidWorks

Introducing SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual, a new way to jumpstart your design process
Conceptual, social, instinctive, and connected — That’s how Fielder Hiss, SolidWorks‘ VP of product development, summed up the new product SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual. The presentation was part of the opening General Session.

“This is what you’ve told us: 31% of all project time is spent on concepts. That’s a lot of time,” said Hiss. “On average, there are six conceptual and four design iterations in a typical project. Three out of four engineers are engaged in that process. There can be more than three internal and two external stakeholder groups involved in the concept phase.”

These and other findings about the company’s core customers, Hiss suggested, were the reasons behind the development of Mechanical Conceptual, a new product based on parent company Dassault Systemes’ 3D Experience philosophy.

The demonstration revealed a software program with 2D sketching, 3D geometry building, and simple dynamic simulation functions. “The underlying modelling engine can facilitate direct, history, and parametric modellings in a single environment,” Hiss explained.

“Today, SolidWorks is the best solution for detail design, but it limits your creativity for this key conceptual step. SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual fills in these gaps and allows you to:

•Capture ideas digitally
•Manage multiple concepts
•Collaborate and communicate

Instinctive design
“Evolving a concept is where SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual really begins to speed the design time. Most systems force you to think about product structure in order to capture ideas. Our single modelling environment is about ease of use, creativity, and ease of change – with amazing flexibility. Capturing concepts digitally is quick and easy with familiar tools and concepts so the focus is on ideas – not on the software.”

“SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual merges the benefits of history, parametrics, and direct editing into a single interface. As a concept evolves, you can make any change necessary to a design while respecting the design intent you previously created. The Single Modeling Environment allows you to evolve from layout sketches to 3D geometry, to separate parts and assemblies, without taking product structure into consideration.”


Dieter Leleu of Mecad Systems, Roche du Toit of Osborn Engineered Products, Robert Pereira of Mecad Systems and Abrie Viljoen of Osborn Engineered Products

“SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual lets you evolve your design’s organisational structure as you evolve the idea and have a better understanding of where the design will go. This eliminates wasted time because you never have to start over or drastically rework designs to make an underlying change.”

“In our single modelling environment, as we evolve our product structure into assemblies we have familiar tools and intelligence that improves with use as components learn how they were used previously. You can also automatically apply previous intent to new designs. And SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual always saves the design, as well as various iterations, so it’s very easy to get back to a previous idea and develop it further.”

“As we get to more of a 3D concept, we can use motion simulation to better understand the real world interaction of parts and identify key concerns early on, before getting to detail design.”

“Because the conceptual phase in modern product development revolves around “social innovation,” the new product will incorporate social media-like collaboration features,” he explained. “What we’re doing is removing the noise in social media and letting all the benefits of it to be applied to engineering,” he said.

Multiple concept management, mobile apps, and tablet support round out the feature set in Mechanical Conceptual.

Social Innovation
“When you feel that sufficient concepts have been captured, then it’s key to be able to engage stakeholders (both internal to the organisation as well as with customers and vendors) to get feedback on the best path forward.”

“SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual has social innovation capabilities built into its foundation. At any point, the designer can engage stakeholders by posting concepts to their private communities. Stakeholders are notified that there is a concept to review and can provide feedback using simple and familiar Web concepts. The world is becoming more social every day, and at SolidWorks we believe in collective intelligence.”

“SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual truly brings these capabilities to concept design. This type of participation will allow you to better engage with your customers and differentiate yourself from the competition. After stakeholders are done, the designer is automatically notified and can continue to evolve the concept with this feedback.”

“SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual is always connected to the design database and to other users. This gives us the ability to secure your data, prevent data loss from any crashes, and automatically save iterations of each concept.”

“You are also connected to other users both working on your project and also in the wider SolidWorks community. You can participate in live chats with other users to get feedback on a question or a design challenge. Users are always working together on the same design so that there is no time wasted, or confusion as to what is the latest version. When a team member makes a change, all users are updated in real time with the latest version so the concepts will always progress forward.”

“Being connected provides access anywhere at any time to your concepts. SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual even allows users to take designs on the go for design reviews, or even for sales and marketing using mobile applications.”


Introducing SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual, a new way to jumpstart your design process

“We are very excited about the progress we have made with SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual. This product will be a great complement to companies using SolidWorks. We believe the product delivers on a new approach to conceptual design by incorporating the flexibility of a single modelling environment, social innovation, and the benefits of being connected online.”

“In May of this year, we will be working with select customers to validate these principles of conceptual design in their production environments. Once we are confident in the benefits these customers are seeing we expect to make SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual available to all users towards the end of 2013.”

The under served market
According to Desktop Engineering report Mechanical CAD software developers have long courted the conceptual design segment, but the legacy of CAD, rooted in detailed production drawings and manufacturing-grade geometry, prevented market leading programs from effectively addressing the early product development phase. It left an opening for consumer-friendly Google SketchUp, newcomer SpaceClaim, and a few others to capture a portion of the market.

The report says that in the last four or five years, leading CAD developers like Autodesk, PTC, and Siemens PLM Software began to pursue the conceptual phase with renewed vigor, using direct-editing programs that are easier to learn and use than typical parametric CAD software. Thus, Autodesk Inventor Fusion, PTC Creo/Direct, Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology, and others emerged. Now SolidWorks has joined the battle with Mechanical Conceptual.

Courting new markets
The report also says some leading MCAD makers like Autodesk have begun courting the prosumer and consumer markets with easier versions of their software. The hobbyists, tinkerers, and maker communities represent new fields, tantalizingly close to the professional 3D modeling market served by CAD. SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual, however, is strictly aimed at the professional design and engineering market — at least, for now.

“Step one is for us to target the professional market with Mechanical Conceptual,” said Bertrand Sicot, SolidWorks CEO, in his meeting with DE editors at the conference. “I’m convinced there’s room for 3D for the prosumer market. But for this first application, we’re not thinking about that.”

Thick local client, augmented by cloud-hosted data
Internally, SolidWorks R&D staff debated over the right architecture for the new software. In the end, they settled on a thick client (a hefty program that runs on your desktop or laptop), connected to cloud-hosted data center.

“When I say ‘Connected,’ I don’t say ‘Cloud,’ ” Sicot clarified. He was well aware that SolidWorks’ rival Autodesk, by contrast, is betting heavily on the cloud.

Assurance for SolidWorks users
In the past, the mention of new products stirred controversies among some loyal fans of SolidWorks, who worried that the company might lose focus or change their beloved software beyond recognition. To prevent a similar outburst online, Sicot issued an assurance from the main stage.
“Development of SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual will not be at the expense of, I shall repeat, will not be at the expense of SolidWorks,” he said with emphasis.

SolidWorks Plastics
SolidWorks Plastics brings easy-to-use injection moulding simulation directly to the designers of plastic parts and injection moulds. It simulates how melted plastic flows during the injection molding process to predict manufacturing related defects on parts and molds. You can quickly evaluate manufacturability while you design, to eliminate costly mould rework, improve part quality, and accelerate time to market. A Results Adviser provides troubleshooting steps and practical design advice to help diagnose and solve potential problems.

SolidWorks Plastics Professional
For plastics part designers, SolidWorks Plastics Professional enables you to optimise parts for manufacturability in the early stages of design. Easy to learn and use, SolidWorks Plastics Professional is fully embedded within the SolidWorks CAD environment so you can analyse and modify designs at the same time you optimise for form, fit, and function.

SolidWorks Plastics Premium
SolidWorks Plastics Premium gives anyone who designs or builds injection moulds an accurate, easy-to-use way to optimise them. You can quickly create and analyse single-cavity, multi-cavity, and family mold layouts, including sprues, runners, and gates. You can even balance runner systems and estimate cycle time, clamp tonnage, and shot size, enabling you to optimise feed system design and avoid costly mold rework.

The SolidWorks World 2013 top 10 list
Every year SolidWorks subscription customers make suggestions for enhancements they would like to see in future versions of SolidWorks. Historically, 70% of these suggestions end up making their way into the software at some point. Here is the list that was unveiled.

Make rebuild time faster
True backward compatibility
Slot mate
Cylindrical mates need an option to lock rotation
Provide a version of the eDrawings mobile app for Android devices
Option for equal spacing on linear patterns
Default concentric mate for axis to cylindrical surface
External thread wizard for all thread types
Draw a line segment starting from the midpoint
Create auxiliary line for dimensioning angles

Art Thompson and Jon Wells of Sage Cheshire, the company involved with Team Red Bull Stratos that had Felix Baumgartner breaking the skydiving world record from the edge of space, rounded off the morning session with an inspiring presentation. SolidWorks left its fingerprint on two of Stratos’ crucial aspects: the craft and the helmet. The whole project took five years to complete with a number of unknowns involved.

Day two and three
The second day general session was exciting as always, with presentations from Dr. Vijay Kumar talking about the future of robotics research and Festo displayed their Bionic Learning Network, where inventions are inspired by nature.

Dr. Vijay Kumar, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, showcased the potential of agile aerial robots flying in a swarm. Dr. Kumar’s Scalable sWarms of Autonomous Robots and Mobile Sensors (SWARMS) project brings together experts in artificial intelligence, control theory, robotics, systems engineering and biology, attempting to understand swarming behaviors in nature and applications of biologically-inspired models of swarm behaviors to large networked groups of autonomous vehicles.


Festo’s presentation on day three featured SmartBird that flew over the audience

Festo’s presentation featured SmartBird that flew over the audience. SmartBird is an ultra-light but powerful flight model with excellent aerodynamic qualities and extreme agility. With SmartBird, Festo has succeeded in deciphering the flight of birds – one of the oldest dreams of humankind. This bionic technology-bearer, which is inspired by the herring gull, can start, fly and land autonomously – with no additional drive mechanism. Its wings not only beat up and down, but also twist at specific angles. This is made possible by an active articulated torsional drive unit, which in combination with a complex control system attains an unprecedented level of efficiency in flight operation. Festo has thus succeeded for the first time in creating an energy-efficient technical adaptation of this model from nature.

In the evening this year’s special event was hosted at the famous Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The amusement park was closed for three hours for SolidWorks World attendees to enjoy. Carnival games, drinks, food, and arcades were all free for our use. White knuckle rides on The Hulk roller coaster and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will always be remembered. Short non-existent lines were a big plus for the 4500 plus attendees.

The final day of SolidWorks World 2013 was wrapped up on the Wednesday. As usual, it was focused more on the future of SolidWorks and what’s coming next, including the popular Top 10 List – see above!

The guest speaker in attendance was Tom Atchinson of Mavericks Civilian Space Foundation who provided us with an inspiring story of a talented group of young students that constructed, launched, and retrieved an actual rocket that reached the edge of space with speeds nearing mach 3!

The one thing I have always learned at SolidWorks World is that the event is way more than just about the product. It’s about the people and the community that are driven by this passion of creating new innovative products and designing without limits.

SolidWorks World 2014 will take place in sunny San Diego, California, January 26 to 29. This year there were four other South Africans, besides myself, that attended – two from the local representatives Mecad and two users.

Special thanks
To Mecad Systems – SolidWorks’ agent in South Africa – for arranging that I attend this conference, and Carola von Wendland, SolidWorks’ EMEA PR Manager for organising all my travel and accommodation arrangements and Kristen Wilson, Senior Manager Public Relations, SolidWorks for all her help in the US.

For the latest news, information, or a live online demonstration, visit the company’s web site

For more information contact Mecad Systems on TEL: 012 665 1400