Dassault advances Solidworks capabilities with cloud-based 3DExperience Works

Dassault opens its arms to all designers and engineers with new pricing packages.

Everyone is a creator: The 3DExperience Grand Challenge this year enlisted the Solidworks employee community to pick 3DExperience Works tools and participate in the design of a space station with teams given the responsibility to design a 100 m × 72 m × 68 m module using 3D Creator, 3D Sculptor for whatever they wanted—life support, recreation, food support, waste processing, etc. There were over 50 teams who built over 10,000 unique parts. All employees were welcome and many learned to use the tools for the first time.

The lesson for 2021 is that you should have paid attention in 2020. Dassault has spent the past year delivering on the framework it laid out last year at the first 3DExperience World in Nashville. If you didn’t pay so much attention, we attempted to explain it here. Dassault wants to move its largest base of design and engineer professionals to the cloud, which you could say is a heavy lift.

Dassault is a company of big ambitions. With its 3DExperience professional tools, the company sees itself as an enterprise-wide services vendor that could replace other information systems like SAP, Oracle, or Salesforce. It is expanding that vision to Solidworks customers as well. Getting its professional users on 3DExperience Works is the first step to broader implementation in companies.

Luckily—and yes, it is probably pretty insensitive to say luckily—over the last year, the argument for SaaS and cloud-based workflows has gotten much easier to make as Coronavirus has forced everyone to stay indoors. But, in many cases, the communities that have formed around professional design software have had the hardest struggle with remote work when dealing with resource-hungry software and sensitive data. These companies can’t just let workers stay home and check in on Zoom. Some people need their compute environments at home to be as powerful as what they have at work. For the many companies that have on-prem networked researchers, they have needed to rely on their IT departments to extend access to workers at home. In the last year, companies were forced to make decisions they had planned to put off for more than a year and often multiple years.

At this year’s virtual 3DExperience Live conference, Bernard Charlès underlined the point by referencing a McKinsey Report, which found that those companies that have already started enabling cloud-based workflows and remote collaboration fared better during the pandemic than their peers who were still putting their plans for increased digital workflows on napkins. He said the past year has functioned as a wake-up call for those who haven’t started.

And, as usual, the company was very careful to make clear that no one would be forced to move to subscriptions or to the cloud. Solidworks CEO Gian Paolo Bassi, who is an advocate for the Solidworks rank and file, also made it clear this year (and last year) that SaaS workflows are an inevitability. “We’ve started a transformation journey,” he said and quoted Jensen Huang as saying Moore’s Law is dead and saying that it’s no longer possible to squeeze more performance out of processors, instead it’s necessary to go to the cloud.

Bassi said going to the cloud is necessary to feed the demand for new technology and to be able to update tools as soon as possible. But, he said, “we want to do it Solidworks-style.” He promised, Solidworks Desktop, the traditional configuration of the product, “will be available for the foreseeable future,” but he said, the company is expecting the transition to happen in a geometric progression. Based on what he’s already seen in adoptions for 3DExperience Works, a doubling over the year and accelerating adoption month by month, “I think the conversion will be very fast,” he said.

This year, Bassi sought to make the move to the 3DExperience tiers of service as attractive a move as possible. By opting for the platform, he said, users keep Solidworks Desktop but they also get considerably more power and capabilities included with prices that are very close to what they’re paying now. The key to his proposition is that the tools customers depend on to do their job will be updated routinely. Before, he noted, it was up to the customers to upgrade their tools. Now they can be updated regularly and all at the same time, so everyone is working with the same capabilities.

Yes, this is the message of every company moving to subscription, but honestly, it is different for every user. It’s personal.

As Bernard Charlès puts it, Dassault has built a bridge to the cloud for Solidworks users. Solidworks CEO Bassi says, keep Solidworks the way you love it, on the desktop, and take advantage of cool new tools for product data management, collaboration, and advanced modeling.

At the base level of 3DExperience Works, designers get access to 3D Creator; advanced 3D tools based in the cloud and integrated with Solidworks, 3D Sculptor for subdivision modeling that enables stylized organic shapes. In addition, Dassault adds collaborative tools and tools for managing planning, simulation, and manufacture workflows. The tools in the 3DExperience Works cloud have their origins in the high-end Dassault 3DExperience tools including Catia design, Simulia for simulation, Enovia for PDM, and Delmia for manufacturing workflows.

In addition to these tools, Dassault has built point products such as Solidworks 3D SheetMetal which was rolled out in the summer of 2020 to fulfill another promise made in Nashville in February. The company’s Visualize rendering tool has been optimized for new GPUs and has gotten AI-enhanced denoising. There’s more, there’s lots more. To see what all Dassault is building in the cloud space that exists somewhere between Solidworks and Dassault’s high-end 3DExperience tools, check out the growing list of apps on their site.

The only real “news” at 3DExperience World this year was the introduction of new packages and programs for students and makers. In addition to the programs Dassault already has for students in engineering programs and other University settings, 3DExperience Works is being offered to students who may be in community programs, in adjacent creative programs, high school, or otherwise not covered in the typical educational programs. The students’ program is also a program to help students get jobs. It will offer additional training, job fairs, and certifications to help people get started. The programs are very low priced but are watermarked. The Student version is $60 a year and will be available in May 2021. The Marker’s version will be available in the second half of 2021 and will welcome people into the Dassault’s Madein3D community where they can meet other hobbyists and get access to instruction and tips. We wrote more about the programs here.

In both cases, the 3DExperience Works set of tools is being made available at the Professional Level.

Gian Paolo talked a little bit with media attendees about the program. He said, “it’s not a marketing campaign.” It really is an effort to expand the availability of Solidworks. He noted that the programs are not free. “We wanted to make it sustainable to Solidworks.”

In the case of the Makers program, they qualify if they make less than $2000 a year on their projects. If they wind up starting a company, then they’ll have access to Dassault’s startup programs, which also make software available and also introduce people to investors.

‘Everyone is a creator’ is an unofficial motto for Solidworks and for Dassault in general. The company’s greater ambition is to make its tools as widely available as possible. The company widens its net a little more every year, with the aim to also make its software easier to use.

This year, the pandemic helped their goals a bit by making their cloud tools look more attractive to their small business customers than expensive in-house client/server systems. And 3DExperience World was open to many more people by virtue of being virtual and free.

What do we think?

We’re wondering if, after a year of virtual conferences, attendance doesn’t go up for in-person events because more people have gotten a taste of the resources available. But, we’re not even sure there will be many in-person events in 2021 or that many in the first half of 2022. Getting back to normal is a trickier proposition than probably anyone thought at this same time in 2020.