The current suite of SolidWorks programs was recently launched. Brent Balinski spoke to the company’s Sharon Toh and to the innovators at Forcite Helmet Systems about what’s new and why it matters.
For the ubiquitous software firm SolidWorks, its community is vitally important to success: and not just theirs, but of their 3.2 million-strong user community too.
“We understand that today companies don’t work alone, you work with your suppliers, you work with your customers, so you need to actually have collaboration tools, so that they can bring the product out faster,” explained Sharon Toh, Dassault Systemes SolidWorks’ senior director, Professional Channel, AP South.
“And also, we know that there’s a lot of information out there and also with suppliers and partners, and how we actually integrate all that information together so that as a designer, when you make a product you have the best product, because you consider all the possible information available to you.”
The 17-year-old company, owned by France’s Dassault Systemes, held a lunch in Sydney, detailing its 2015 suite of programs, last week.
As with the 2014 edition, the company says that nine-tenths of the enhancements in the edition have been driven by the demands of its users, tracked through channels including Value Added Resellers (VARs) and surveys.
It’s an approach that not only sounds warm, fuzzy and inclusive, but keeps what’s produced for end users relevant and keeps things consistent with the company’s beginnings.
“Our biggest success is our community,” Toh said at the launch.
“Because when our founders started this company they only had one vision in mind, to make a tool so easy everybody can use it. That’s the only thing we wanted to do: make 3D tools available to any engineers that [need them].”
There are now some 26 products in the SolidWorks portfolio, and some of the big changes in the 2015 edition include collaborative, cloud-based sharing (on Dassault’s 3D Experience Platform), the drawing-less Model-Based Definition offering, and great savings in file sizes (between 50 and 80 per cent for a typical assembly) and sketch time for users.
For smart helmet maker Forcite – about to release its Alpine range of integrated communications and recording helmets – the new sketch features are particularly attractive, said co-founder Julian Chow.
“Our design process always begins… with a little sketch,” he told Manufacturers’ Monthly.
“We start planning out what features are required, how the fixtures are put together, how every single component interacts with each other, how everything that we do in the process requires really intensive – [this is] something to streamline all that.”
Founder Alfred Boyadgis, who, like Chow, is a native SolidWorks user, agreed – adding that the new surfacing tool in the current edition would be a massive time-saver, as would material cost calculations.
“Right now we have to use a third party surfacing tool, import it into SolidWorks, and then turn it into a solid and add it into a part,” Boyadgis told Manufacturers’ Monthly of what he was most impressed by.
“And also being able to get a cost analysis for parts really quickly. If we have an investor and they ask ‘How much is this going to cost now?’ Instead of talking to a guy in Taiwan for two weeks about different moulding techniques I can just send it through, get a quote, get how much it’ll cost, say ‘we’ve made a cost reduction of this much, and this is how much it’s going to cost’. And part of industrial design which is huge is part reduction.”
Forcite Helmet Systems, a small business of about a dozen people based in Waterloo, began creating its products for law enforcement. It has identified a niche in ski helmets, where the current popular option of strapping a GoPro to a user’s head to film alpine adventures is limited in its effectiveness, as well as clumsy and even dangerous.
Forcite’s upcoming range (to be available in three differently-priced options) includes 1080p recording, a communication system, fog lights and an impact sensor, which can alert rescuers if there is an accident.
For Boyadgis and Chow, the integrated nature of SolidWorks’ programs means every step of design to manufacturing – including assessing structural integrity, impact resistance and the impact of incorporating novel lightweight materials (such as forged carbon fibre to offset the added weight of electronics in the helmets) – can be modelled easily.
“Finding out how things click together and fit into here and absorb and distribute impact: it’s all done in SolidWorks,” explained Boyadgis.
For more on SolidWorks 2015, click here.
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