Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mechanical concept from the Past

Working Model 2D

In 1996, magazines and journals were common. So, I found myself at the beginning of that year, reading a color issue of a CAD magazine. The cover story focused at the new revolutionary MCAD software that just presented to the public and offered a 3D Solid technology running on top of Microsoft Windows 95. My next step after reading the article was obviously searching the web for the new software. I didn't find SolidWorks online but I did run into simple and exciting software for conceptual mechanical design that allow modeling, adding physical properties and simulation. The software was Working Model and it allows anyone to download for free and experience building a two-dimensional geometric forms, mechanisms, springs, etc. while adding connections and physical properties such as forces, friction, weight and more. You can still find it here

SolidWorks conceptual mechanical
Solidworks conceptual mechanical
Almost twenty years after my experience with Working Model, SolidWorks announced their new software. The software that everyone wait for since 2010.  And for those of you who didn't followed the previous chapters (a solid U-turn, Solidworks's dilemma) - here a short summary: At the beginning of 2010, SolidWorks CEO announced the new upcoming software, code name SolidWorks V6, developed around CATIA geometric kernel and uses cloud and direct editing technology. SolidWorks declared the new software will completely replace the existing software. Announcement caused great uproar among customers. Companies demonstrated their concern for future investment given that it was not clear whether SolidWorks V6 will keep the information was done in the previous version or will run the same applications or provide the full capabilities. Since SolidWorks replaced the CEO, the Director of Research and Development and separated from the founders.

When SolidWorks announced last year that at the beginning of 2013 it will present a new software, we expected conceptual design software with direct editing capabilities based on Catia technology. Last month the company introduced the new software with a short presentation in front of adherent audience. Contrary to expectations and early declarations, the new software, SolidWorks Conceptual Mechanical, is nothing more than SolidWorks interpretation to the old Working Model software and not a direct editing solution like Autodesk Fusion, Solid Edge ST or SpaceClaim
Solidworks conceptual mechanical Vs Catia model
The new software, to be released at the end of the year, will be sold as a separate product, SolidWorks Conceptual Mechanical is able to transfer files to SolidWorks, but not from and, it combines cloud technology and collaborative tools. According to the sites covering the announcement, SolidWorks refused to give further details such as price, or whether the new software is based on the Catia kernel, the GSM. If it is GSM based software, it will reflect in the ability to transfer files between old SolidWorks and the new software. Pictures of new software screen shut, clearly show that it is not based on Siemens Parasolid. The GSM kernel defines a circuit as two overlapping arches so you can see two suture lines at a cylinder. The attached show the deferments between SolidWorks model and the new software model.

SolidWorks inability to innovate and bring new real new capabilities shouldn’t  come from a lack of resources. The company announced they sold over two million licenses. Assuming that at least a quarter of these licenses are commercial licenses, that is 500,000 users who pay at least $ 1,500 annual maintenance fee. Assuming that the company keeps half, it leaves them a fantastic $ 375,000,000 each year only from the annual fee. When customer purchases software, the purchase price is compensation for the investment at development that done so far but, the annual fee should be used for new developments for the benefit of the customer. Luckily I don't have to pay the SolidWorks fee. Otherwise, if that is all they have after 6 years of development, I was very disappointed
An important question left unanswered is why to develop new software for design concept and NOT add these capabilities to good old SolidWorks? Especially given that you can find most of the SolidWorks Conceptual Mechanical capabilities at the competitor's software with no additional charge as part of the base software.
My impression is that  Dassault / SolidWorks stopped using SolidWorks as a development platform. Look at the other next sensation at SolidWorks world last week. eDrawings future planning to release Apple version. When competitors have the ForceEffect / ForceMotion,  a similar to the SW Conceptual Mechanical that run on Android and Iphone for free, it is hard to get exited form the obvious eDarwings iOS version.  

Losing the way?
SolidWorks approach reminds me of Autodesk at the early nineties, The Company has invested resources in the Mechanical Desktop software build on top of the Autocad, instant of developing modern new software. For Autodesk, it took several years to recover and return to the scene with the Inventor. Then they put massive investment in acquisitions and buying the control for the geometry kernel before the Inventor has become a legitimate contestant for best CAD software. Autodesk's Mistakes created the space into which SolidWorks grew, but, in recent years, SolidWorks going the same way Autodesk did at the 90s. The basic code is old; the kernel belongs to a competitor, they lack basic capacities in surfaces, direct editing and performance is poor. Customers complain about quality issues, stability and the high prices for add-ons. Compared to Autodesk 15 years ago, SolidWorks is not in a good position. It relay on one segment of the CAD market, and it is limited by the wishes of the parent company, the  French Dassault Systemes, which prefers to invest in the new  "Design Experience"   lie and keep SolidWorks as a simple solution for simple needs. But today, when direct editing capabilities can make migration from one CAD to another a less painful process, SolidWorks may find that user's loyalty is not so solid.


Gal Raz


  1. Interesting article, I know it's been around for awhile but soon we'll see what came of SW V6 (not to be confused with the Avalanche prototype from your SW Dilemna article). The initial product will likely disappoint, limited features/poor performance. The interface will be the new look for the 'cloud' based Catia/SW suites but won't provide a true 'cloud' experience. Time will tell how DS decision to adapt a 'SW' interface to Enovia/Catia, the latter should fare well but many SW customer's likely will avoid it.

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