While the competition focuses on clever modeling, SolidWorks jumps ahead with a focus on next-generation PLM for the mainstream. Tightly integrated CAD and data management is the new competitive standard.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN VEKTORRUM EXECUTIVE REPORT, 18FEB2010
By Randall S. Newton
SolidWorks World 2010 was perhaps the company’s most important user conference since its first one. Every company representative from CEO Jeff Ray on down raved about the new synergy between SolidWorks and all other divisions. And, for the first time, Dassault Systèmes CEO Bernard Charles was in attendance. The message was clear: We are one company now, and the oneness goes all the way to the very code of SolidWorks Professional. In coming weeks this newsletter will explore in more detail much of the information we gained about Dassault and its SolidWorks division from SWW10. But for now we will focus on the future of SolidWorks, which remains the top-selling product by units in mechanical 3D CAD.
SolidWorks + ENOVIA
The political and philosophical arguments inside Dassault Systèmes have been settled; future versions of SolidWorks will quickly gain new features and abilities from several other DS technologies. There is no doubt here that—mostly likely in the 2012 release—SolidWorks will gain native direct translation connections with CATIA as well as other important features including some sort of cloud computing capabilities.
For months now, SolidWorks and CATIA developers have been working together, and they have made enough progress for Dassault to start talking about the possibilities. In the future SolidWorks will use much of the technology that powers the “V6” technology Dassault introduced last year. This means SolidWorks will gain not only from CATIA but also ENOVIA, 3D VIA, SIMULIA, and possibly even DELMIA.
The biggest change will be based in a new depth of integration between CAD authoring and data management. If you look at all the major MCAD products, authoring and data management are controlled by two separate products. The new integration of V6 technology into SolidWorks means that ENOVIA becomes a key SolidWorks component. During SWW10 a new product called “SolidWorks PLM” was shown. Scheduled for release sometime this year, SolidWorks PLM brings data sharing, communication among team members, automatic versioning, and many other features. Flexible workspaces allow teams to change over time. Visualization tools (from 3DVIA) make it easy to share models for review. These models can be exploded and the data visualized (using 3D LIVE technology).
“We have made a commitment to ENOVIA V6 as our backbone,” said Ray. “On Saturday we know what games our friends are playing on Xbox Live; on Monday we don’t know what projects or files our co-workers are using,” said Ray, explaining that the first release of SolidWorks PLM will focus
on communications between team members. SolidWorks PLM will use cloud technology to create secure workspaces from which all data is shared. One of the toughest aspects of selling this technology to existing users won’t be the specific features or benefits, but the cultural hesitation of using cloud technology for engineering. That’s a topic we will explore in detail in a future issue.
The company hasn’t decided on pricing or exact features, but Ray did note it would be “[pricing] familiar to SolidWorks users.”
ENOVIA V6 must be the first V6 technology to ship inside SolidWorks because the future work of sharing CATIA and other Dassault technologies requires the presence of ENOVIA technology. “This won’t be quick and dirty. We are working as a single R&D team to get this done,” said SolidWorks CTO Austin O’Malley.
SolidWorks employees were tight-lipped about the specifics of CATIA technology inside new releases of SolidWorks Professional. But every journalist, analyst, and blogger in attendance came away convinced CATIA technology will appear inside SolidWorks soon.
SolidWorks is built on the Parasolid solid modeling kernel, which is owned by Siemens PLM. There has been speculation that SolidWorks will dump Parasolid for the proprietary solid modeling kernel inside CATIA. But that is unlikely, even if it turns out that Parasolid stays in SolidWorks only for backward compatibility. One way around backward compatibility issues would be to sell a separate translator; we doubt SolidWorks will take this route.
The Final Analysis
The integration of V6 technology into SolidWorks cannot be underestimated. The most popular 3D solid modeler will have enterprise-class capabilities at a mainstream price, tailored for mainstream sensibilities. While the competition has been focusing on clever (and yes, useful) modeling tricks, SolidWorks counters with next-generation PLM technology that will increase productivity at every step in the design/engineering process. §