In this final wrap-up of Develop3D Live, we examine the latest SolidWorks news from Gian Paolo Bassi; contemplate advice on connected products from Microsoft’s Simon Floyd; and finish off with some cool stuff from Naomi Keren and Yowza.

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SolidWorks – Gian Paolo Bassi

Gian Paolo included some huge statistics in his presentation: boasting over 3 million licenses in use, and 5 million people actively involved with SolidWorks products worldwide. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that SolidWorks is now the juggernaut of the 3D CAD world.

And yet – despite the strong market position held by SolidWorks, startups like Onshape (with their flexible, low-priced monthly subscription) are already influencing their traditional CAD pricing plan.

SolidWorks has been resolutely traditional in their pricing plan for a long time – you start with a £5,000 one-off purchase of the software, then you’re asked to pay ‘maintenance’ fees of around £100 per month thereafter. What’s worse, you can’t simply buy the 2016 version, stick with it for a few years, and then get back on board in 2019… Resellers now enforce a percentage of back-payments for any ‘missed’ maintenance money during those intervening years.

Now, thanks to companies like Onshape, things are changing. Gian Paolo introduced a new ‘Term License’ pricing plan that sounds strangely familiar… ‘Lower upfront cost, flexible and scalable licensing options.’ – free market capitalism in action!

SolidWorks are clambering onto another band wagon too: the Internet of Things. Connected products are hot right now, and are set to become ubiquitous over the next few years. Gian Paolo shared his goal for SolidWorks: to become THE single CAD environment people use to develop internet connected products. This means using the PCB design add-on to design both the enclosure and electronic hardware at the same time.

One cool thing that SolidWorks are at the forefront of is ‘Model Based Definition’ – adding dimensions, tolerances and notes right into the 3D file – so you don’t have to produce old fashioned 2D documentation every time you need to get something made. It looks promising, but we’re unsure how it will fit in with ISO BSI 8888 standards.

The rest of the talk concerned SolidWorks’ commitment to mobile apps – there are too many either in the pipeline or already launched to go through in detail. Gian Paolo was most proud of the new 3D design apps for kids, and whilst we are familiar with their focus on getting SolidWorks licenses into universities and schools, this takes ‘getting them hooked while they’re young’ to a new level.

Microsoft – Simon Floyd

It seems as though Simon Floyd eats, sleeps and breathes connected products.

Simon’s core message was one of user-centred design (on steroids). Instead of launching a product, sending out a questionnaire, or talking to your users – we should be automatically improving the design, using vast amounts of data produced by connected products. In 2015 we saw an explosion of ‘The Internet of Things’- and Simon lamented that we aren’t taking advantage of these new, rich sources of data:

“Data is fuel for innovation.”

Increasingly, products are becoming more than their mechanical parts… Simon articulates a neat description of contemporary products: “They are a collection of solutions.” He enthusiastically encouraged industrial designers and mechanical engineers to get more involved in the digital aspects of product design, for example, he’d like us to:

  • Work out what information we need to collect
  • Consider sensor design
  • Learn about data science
  • Start building device partnerships
  • Get interested the UX / UI digital experience
  • Think about apps and platforms

“Connected product data will help us discover those unarticulated problems.”

If we use this data correctly, we have the ability to find the missing needs and problems that users may never have complained about – discoveries that could fuel product improvements on a much deeper level.

Yowza – Dr. Naomi Keren

Something a little more light hearted to end the day – Yowza are developing what amounts to Google’s advanced ‘Search by Image’ but for 3D models. You won’t realise how useful this is until you try searching for something on Thingiverse.

Naomi believes text tags and file names are useless, because they rely on lazy humans entering enough relevant information when they first upload a file. Until Yowza goes live, that’s all we have to go on – and she’s right, it is rubbish. If someone uploads a model of a chair, calls it a chair, and only ever tags it as a ‘chair’, how is someone searching for a ‘seat’ going to find it? And that’s before you consider different languages.

The cool demo that Naomi gave us, shows that Yowza have been working hard on some very useful algorithms – this startup is hot!

Well there you have it – Develop3D Live through the eyes of Think Refine. Keep your eyes peeled for the next show in 2017…


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