SolidWorks 2004 Media Event
reprinted by permission of Ralph Grabowski, editor
July 15, 2003
Are we going retro? SolidWorks flew 25 members of the CAD media to Cambridge, Massachusetts duting the second week of July to show off the 2004 release of its namesake product. Of the 25 present, just one used a notebook computer and one other used a Palm OS device with keyboard; the other 23 wrote notes by hand on paper. Last year, SolidWorks handed out a CD with the presentations; this year, they handed out a 3/4-inch [20mm] stack of papers.
Last week, upFront.eZine reported that SolidWorks 2004 is available now; at the press event, the date was announced as mid-August. When I asked about the discrepancy, several SolidWorks executives puzzled over the wording of their press release - "SolidWorks 2004 is available immediately for purchase in 12 languages worldwide" - and finally decided it should have said that when you pay for SolidWorks 2004 now, you get SW 2003, and then get SW 2004 when it ships in August.
Impressive, however, is that once it ships, there is no six-month wait for international customers: 12 languages ship the same day.
There was some bold talk, blaming Autodesk as the "prime discounter" [selling Inventor cheaply], and of SolidWorks taking the high road: "We chose not to engage in the price war."
With the 250+ new features (by SolidWork's count), one editor asked if there was still a reason for corporations to purchase CATIA. Response: SolidWorks can't do some things CATIA does, and the two are not file-compatible (in fact, SolidWorks is not backward file compatible with itself). File compatibility with CATIA will not happen because the two serve different markets. In fact, SolidWorks declared, the worst thing would be a win of 2,000 SW seats at Boeing, because then the customer would demand file compatibility. "Focusing on compatibility is a waste of programming resources."
Also interesting to me: SolidWorks has no interest in supporting 64-bit CPUs like Itanium, because the current economy is delaying the overall transition to 64-bit desktop computing. "Eventually, 64 bits will be important."
Of great interest to the assemblage of editors was SolidWorks 2004's support for real-time photorealistic rendering - limited, however, to computers using the latest NVIDIA graphics board. You can edit and rotate the model as its shiny plastic exterior reflects environment bitmaps.
A new feature that I think should belong in all CAD packages is "persistent materials." Assign a material (such as aluminum or cast iron) to a part, and the part remembers its material in all situations: rendering, mass properties calculations, 2D hatching, and so on.
Also, I liked the concept of the task scheduler: SolidWorks can create drawings, publish e-drawings, import and export files, print, update itself, and run custom scripts unattended.
Other new features include:
Automatic balloons, automated BOMs [bills of material], and hole tables.
Automated plate welding, and structural member layout.
Pipe routing and automated mold creation.
Minimum and maximum stress identification, automatic thickness checker.
Deform, wrap, delete and fill, and more.
For the release following SolidWorks 2004, the company hopes to add more ease-of-use, increased reliability, faster performance with large assemblies, and graphical hidden-line removal.
Toward the end of the day, Fuyuhiko Usui, head of SolidWorks Japan, gave his opinion of the economic condition in Japan. "I'm tired of talking about a bad economy, but the worst might be over." He notes promising signs, such as the Nikkei index being up 26%, and increasing sales in electronics, precision machinery, and so on. [Perhaps there is hope for my Japanese Opportunity Fund.]
Whereas North American companies keep design functions at home and ship manufacture overseas, Japanese companies do the opposite: design is moving offshore, while manufacturing remains at home. http://www.solidworks.com