A few weeks ago, I attended the spectacle that is SolidWorks World in San Diego. It was an impressive event with over 5,500 attendees. But for me, I was struck by the notable lack of news. And that’s not a bad thing necessarily. But just because there might not be any explicitly announced news coming out of the event, doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything to talk about. Quite the contrary in fact.

Normally in a software review post, I give a little background, I talk about capabilities in relative black and white terms and then provide my own commentary and analysis. Well, the discussions coming out of that event doesn’t quite fit the mold. And there’s no reason to force fit a square peg in a round hole. So pardon me if this one is a little unique.

The Boogeyman of Geometry Kernel Change

If there was one topic that many a user was on pins and needles about, it was the potential change from Siemens PLM’s parasolids kernel to Dassault Systémes’ own CGM kernel. Now I’m not going to rehash all of the details, but Roopinder Tara over at Tenlinks has written up a good summary to date on his CAD Inside blog as well has Randall Newton over at GraphicSpeak as part of his longer review of SolidWorks World. Both are very good reviews of the event. Both provide good insight.

But let’s be frank here. Would the folks at SolidWorks force their users to upgrade to a version that might ‘blow up’ their legacy models? Many executives from SolidWorks pointedly said there would be options to switch from one to the other when users felt comfortable with the move, although they did not reference any change in a geometry kernel. But all in all, I believe that Randall Newton is right when he says that there will be separate versions of SolidWorks that will use Parasolids and CGM respectively.

The Undertone of Larger Change

While the conversation around the geometry kernel was interesting, I though there were other very interesting undertones to the event. Tony Fadell, the Founder of CEO of Nest, came on stage the second day to talk about his new product, a learning thermostat. While on stage, he was asked a question about how they went about designing their product. He said that they pointedly did not go to home owners to ask them what they would like to have improved. He said that all too often, they would look at current thermostats and use them as a baseline to suggest incremental improvements. Tony stated that he wanted to make something completely different, so he completely ignored their target community until he wanted to refine an already innovative concept.

I don’t think any other statement during the conference is more appropriate for the Solidworks community.

During the first day of the conference, Bertrand Sicot, the CEO of SolidWorks, hinted at larger changes in SolidWorks 2013. Changes that I, personally, think will range far beyond a simple set of geometry kernel options. The CAD industry is undergoing dramatic change right now. And think about how that happened. Siemens PLM worked on Synchronous Technology for somewhere two to three years before they launched it to the world. By the time they started bringing customers in for a really close look, they were committed to the movement for quite some time. And let’s look at PTC’s dramatic change with Creo. Their plans were essentially set and committed to long before they made their announcement in downtown Boston almost two years ago.

The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes, you need to go lock yourself in an ivory tower. You need to isolate yourself from a chorus of incremental improvements and think bigger thoughts. And that, I think, is what is undergoing right now with SolidWorks. I know. I’ll admit that its pure speculation on my part. However, despite all the new revolution in the CAD industry, there is still quite a bit of room for improvement. And I, for one, am looking forward to something big next year at SolidWorks World. And I expect something more than a couple of geometry kernel options.

While We Wait…

Until then, I don’t think we need to sit on our hands. If you’re familiar with the latest release of SolidWorks, then you know there has been a huge investment in terms of development (press release from Dassault Systémes). The sprawling release runs the gamut from drawing improvements, modeling enhancements, new sustainability and flow analysis capabilities and a good bit more. It’s not like they’re siphoning off resources from SolidWorks like it’s in maintenance mode. Quite the contrary. It seems like they’re almost accelerating their improvements compared to years past. And they’re addressing user enhancements with these development efforts as well.

Conclusions and Questions

Let’s recap.

  • SolidWorks World was devoid of major product announcements beyond revisiting the release of SolidWorks 2012.
  • There was a good amount of background chatter on the change in geometry kernels. However, the leadership at SolidWorks has reassured users time and again that they would not be forced into any change. Users can make a switch when they deem it necessary.
  • Personally, I believe that a larger innovation, or perhaps many, is currently underway at SolidWorks. However, they need to work on breakthrough innovations in more of an environment that is closed off from tight user involvement. This is a good thing.

Well, there you have it. Those are my thoughts on SolidWorks World that aren’t exactly based on facts. I’d love to hear your thoughts. How was the event for you? Does the geometry kernel talk still concern you? Do you believe larger innovations are needed in SolidWorks? Sound off.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.