Siemens or SolidWorks? CAD battle gets serious

The ongoing war between 3D CAD heavy weights, Siemens PLM’s SolidEdge and Dassault’s SolidWorks, has reached a new level, with SolidEdge claiming second spot in the highly competitive market. Alan Johnson reports from Boston.

LOOK out SolidWorks; we are coming to get you. This was the key message from Siemens PLM’s recent analyst conference in Boston – with some impressive growth figures to back up those claims.

Kirsten Newbury, Senior VP of Siemens PLM’s Velocity Series, believes he has the product (SolidEdge) and the technology (synchronous technology) to knock SolidWorks off the number-one spot in the CAD market.

"We see many reasons for growth, and for taking business away from SolidWorks. 

"A key element is that SolidEdge, with synchronous technology, is very easy to use," Newbury told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

He said users moving from 2D CAD to 3D CAD was just one example.

"We have found that synchronous technology has played a key role there. SolidEdge is much more intuitive for a 2D user to go to 3D with synchronous technology than going into the whole parametric modelling with a big learning experience.

"SolidEdge has a lot of functionality; you can take 2D sketches and extrude them quickly into 3D."

Newbury said the concern among SolidWork’s users regarding the change of kernel was also boosting sales of SolidEdge. 

"This is an added opportunity for us," he said.

Describing history-free SolidEdge as a new generation of design, Newbury said synchronous technology was a key element.

"Mainstream designer are very passionate about design and spend a lot of time working at it. SolidEdge helps them design better products more efficiently; that’s the key.

"There’s the creation part where synchronous technology can show them how quickly they can create things, and test them. 

"However designers spend a lot of time just editing. If you look at all the difficulties that people have importing other CAD files and getting them ready to make changes, or making changes; users of 3D CAD understand the issues they are facing with the current history based approach.

"That’s why we want people to attend our Edge events and show them how much quicker they can do things; minutes instead of hours, sometime days.

"Time spent on a particular task is one major area of benefit, the other which is equally compelling is the mental bandwidth required with a history tree. A lot of thought needs to go into that," Newbury said.

"With history-based systems, you have to think ahead. If you build a model, what changes can happen, there is a whole discipline art around doing it right, because if you don’t , the moment you try and make a change it can be a nightmare.

"People spend a lot of intelligence and mental bandwidth on that thing. It’s not modelling it’s programming.

"It’s more about thinking about how you need to design it so the end design won’t break rather than the actual design of the product to please customers," Newbury said.

Free offers

To further attract new users to SolidEdge, Siemens PLM has announced a student edition of the software available free of charge to all full or part time students throughout the world at any academic level. 

This no-charge 12-month license is available only to students through an easy, instant download. 

According to Newbury, it contains the latest Solid Edge functionality necessary to create detailed product designs. To register for and download the Student Edition of Solid Edge, students can visit www.siemens.com/plm/solid-edge-student. The license can be renewed each year provided the user remains a qualified student. 

Since the Boston conference, Siemens PLM has now launched a free 45-day trial version of SolidEdge online for all potential users.

Newbury described it as, "a full blown version with no strings attached". 

"The whole idea is to get this great technology out there and make it easily accessible.

"Regarding training we are offering a forum where we can answer questions, plus there are training videos and training slides. That’s what we are starting out with; we think there is a lot more we can do around that.

We fully believe in the power of Synchronous Technology as the future of design and modelling.

"We don’t believe 2D will ever go away, people still like to look at paper, so we support both, but the move from 2D to 3D is a big opportunity for us, especially in Asia," Newbury said.


With consumers and various regulations forcing manufacturers to understand and improve the environmental footprint of their products, Siemens PLM has developed, through a third party, a sustainable product design software package; Solid Edge EcoDesigner.

"In many ways, sustainable product design is about lean engineering and taking waste out of your product’s lifecycle," Newbury said.

"Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) is the science of environmental assessment defined by ISO 14040:2006 and ISO 14044:2006. It specifies rigorous and standardised steps and protocol for an environmental impact assessment over the entire lifecycle of the product. Performing a full LCA can require significant expertise and effort.

"EcoDesigner software allows users to perform a screening or light LCA analysis earlier in the design cycle to evaluate part and assembly designs quickly."

The software is said to be easy to use, with users able to perform sustainability analysis directly in the designers work space. Users can choose from a range of well-known and accepted impact assessment methods and indicators that are most relevant to their industry, geography and product.

Solid Edge EcoDesigner is available in two versions:

A standard standalone version which uses pre-calculated datasets from Eco Invent, USLCI and ELCD (leading providers of lifecycle inventory data), and an enterprise version which connects with and performs real-time analysis with SimaPro the world’s leading LCA Software from PRe’ Consultants (www.pre-sustainability.com). This version is designed for extensive collaboration amongst fellow product designers and sustainability experts.

Image: Siemens PLM’s Kirsten Newbury believes SolidEdge has the superior technology to knock SolidWorks off the number one spot in the 3D CAD market.

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