It’s fall y’all, and that means football, hot wing juice on your keyboard, and a new version of SOLIDWORKS comin’ atcha fast. This month, SOLIDWORKS held their SOLIDWORKS 2020 launch event/sportscast online. And, let me tell ya, SOLIDWORKS 2020 is a shift. Maybe they don’t want you to see it like that, maybe they do, but along with a lot of great features like Large Assembly Drawing acceleration, Assembly Defeature, Faster Sketching and Simulation, there’s a shift in how you will access new features and gain more capabilities. But more on that in a moment. What about SOLIDWORKS 2020?

What’s New in SOLIDWORKS 2020

Just prior to the launch event (If you didn’t catch it, you can watch it here), SOLIDWORKS CEO, Gian Paolo Bassi, reiterated request received from SOLIDWORKS users. He said you want, “full, digital continuity – a seamless process that takes you from design to manufacturing faster, you want the freedom to innovate more, and you want to work with increasingly precise simulation.” For SOLIDWORKS 2020, he says, “it’s all about digitalization and integration, through a connected 3DEXPERIENCE platform.”

I always appreciate how SOLIDWORKS splits the features into specific areas of focus. Without looking over each individual new feature, it sums up the broader development effort and provides some insight into the direction for the software. There are three areas of focus, or themes, for SOLIDWORKS 2020:

  1. Improved Performance (watch video recap)
  2. Streamlined Workflows (watch video recap)
  3. Connected Design Ecosystem in the Cloud (watch video recap)

At only 0:44 seconds, that video is all teaser but at the same time provides a concise look how they address performance, workflow and desire to illustrate the connected ecosystem idea for SOLIDWORKS 2020 and the greater 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Along with the teaser, there are 42 new videos about What’s New in SOLIDWORKS 2020 (YouTube) that break down each feature (with the same videos sorted and searchable with more detail at solidworks.com/whats-new/). During SOLIDWORKS World 2019, the top ten features were broken out into a one-sheeter – you can snag that here (pdf).

So, you can work your way through those videos, but here are my top 3 feature picks from each theme I’d like to draw your attention to:

Performance

  • Large Assembly Drawing Detailing Mode (video)
  • Envelope Publisher (video)
  • Distributed Coupling for Simulation (video)

Workflow

Connected Ecosystem

  • SOLIDWORKS Manage – Dashboard & Web Client (video)
  • SOLIDWORKS PDM – Web2 (video)
  • 3D Printing/Marketplace Make (video)

The teaser video gave a better round-about view of the connected ecosystem bit. There wasn’t anything specifically (that I saw) on the new 3DEXPERIENCE.WORKS platform as a whole or platform apps like, xShape and xDesign, but Suchit Jain, VP of Strategy and Biz Dev at SOLIDWORKS provided some insight about this at SOLIDWORKS World 2019, saying, “the future of SOLIDWORKS is in the platform,” and that we’re, “Going to see much better connection. SOLIDWORKS is starting to get more connections to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform [with] over 2000 apps that are currently connected,” and that they, “Need to figure out the workflows that need that connection.”

Coming back to the SOLIDWORKS 2020 product launch, the panel went into details on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform when Jeremy Regnerus, Senior Product Introduction Manager at SOLIDWORKS asked the question, “I’m a SOLIDWORKS desktop user. How can I take advantage of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform today?” That conversation picks up at the 31:00 mark in the following video:

3DEXPERIENCE Platform – The Shift

Maybe that gives you a better idea of the transition to a wider array of capabilities, but I think it shows more succinctly the shift taking place within SOLIDWORKS for how you will access those new features and capabilities. You’ll still get new features in SOLIDWORKS, of course, but there will be (and are) other products that offer more, much more. “A gateway to a massive amount of tools,” as Jeremy says in the video.

It makes me think back of features we’ve asked for over the years – we’ve seen them added as tools, add-ons, or new products — And the complaints when we didn’t get something that seemed so simple. As you know, Dassault Systemes (DS) has complementary products to SOLIDWORKS but, since acquiring SolidWorks Corp, they operated somewhat independently of each other. By the way… just to provide some context, for all you youngins, DS acquired SolidWorks in 1997 – 22 years ago. (At the time, I had switched the R&D group I worked with from 2D to 3D using SolidWorks, wondering if the acquisition would force a software change. As far as I know, they’re still using SOLIDWORKS.) Over the past year, however, it seems like they finally have a unified strategy for their product line and, if you look at it carefully, it’s easy to see the long-term result of a fully, interconnected product portfolio that delivers capabilities in the blink of an eye, anticipated outcomes and results as quickly as they can be finalized.

Back to the past to trace it out. We all wondered if we’d see some features of other DS software in SOLIDWORKS, whether it would be replaced completely, or turned into a lite version of *ahem* less-friendly software. Then the cloud-based DS 3DEXPERIENCE platform was announced (in Feb 2012). Cloud-based SOLIDWORKS products we’re teased and fears of SOLIDWORKS death came up again. Well, that’s been years ago now, some products have gone away, some are still being teased, there was a weird innovation platform that popped up in there… but somewhere in that time frame, something happened. However, and as we’ve seen, it shows that, for nearly a decade, SOLIDWORKS has been developing programs and thinking about developing programs and capabilities that take advantage of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

It’s hard to ascertain what changed recently – I have a few guesses – but at SOLIDWORKS WORLD 2019, the realization hit me when Manish Kumar, SOLIDWORKS R&D VP, described the consolidation of the separate R&D teams into one. He broke down the numbers thusly: “12 brands – 11 industries – 1 Global R&D – comprised of 6700 Employees – 41% of DS headcount – 64 locations – 21 nations – $0.6 Billion spent… in 2017.” Whatever it was, many R&D teams across many product groups discussing new and existing features were turned into a single R&D team discussing new and existing features in the context of their brands.

That’s quite a change. So now, DS has a consolidated R&D team working on products that work together on a unified platform — an approach that up until now catered to and grew revenue on the Enterprise business side with the idea that a similar approach could be taken for the small and medium-sized business (SMB). And with that, (you would think) there is more clarity about capabilities that exist across brands and their products, including those that have already been developed for the products on the DS cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

There’s the refreshing appearance that DS and SOLIDWORKS, together, are looking at what SOLIDWORKS users want (and more broadly, what SMBs need). They’re answering:

  • What capabilities do SOLIDWORKS users want/SMBs need?
  • Do those capabilities already exist in the DS portfolio?
  • How can we provide those capabilities?

So, if that capability has existed for years in a mature DS product, how can we provide it to our SOLIDWORKS users quickly? If SOLIDWORKS users can get their models onto the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, what possibilities exist? What would their workflow look like?

You got a little taste of that in the video above, but this transformation is described in further detail by Devine Malone, Senior Director Sales, 3DEXPERIENCE-Professional Solutions, in this video from this August highlighting apps, workflow, and reseller/customer strategy. (Devine Malone’s part picks up in 29:30.):

To recap: “Our sole purpose is to support our partners as they begin to transform themeselves to have the skillset to extend the value of our entire DS portfolio to the traditional SOLIDWORKS customer base.

What does he mean by the entire portfolio? “So, Dassault Systemes as most people sh-would know, is over 17,000 people, most, or a large portion of those are involved in product R&D. In fact, at its core, Dassault is really an R&D company… What we’re trying to do is to help support their efforts as they acquire, develop, and integrate all different type of groundbreaking technology — We kind of take the pieces of that technology that we feel will best serve our customer base and get our partners prepared to integrate that into their solution to their customers.”

And is it a select set of tools? “Yeah, there’s so much more to Dassault – there’s the SIMULIA brand, the ENOVIA brand — Being able to take the different types of their pieces of the technology to extend the value above and beyond what we have traditionally allowed our partners, or supported our partners in, is our undertaking and it’s a very exciting transformation that we’ve done.”

They cover 3DEXPERIENCE at a high-level. But, you’ll be interested to know how products will be delivered. If you’re familiar with other DS 3DEXPERINCE products, this will be familiar to you. If not, it’s simple…

Dassault has 12 brands (CATIA, 3DVIA, ENOVIA, SOLIDWORKS, etc.). Each brand contains products, and each product contains roles. For example, CATIA contains over 50 roles. (Think of a role, like a role you have at work – and, oh yeah, you probably have multiple roles regardless of your job title.) Now, each of those roles may have one or multiple apps that provide a specific capability for that role. For example, perhaps you’ve heard of 3D Creator – a role that contains the xDesign App – or 3D Sculptor – a role that contains the xShape app.

There was some confusion, even among resellers, when SOLIDWORKS announced these roles in June since the concept of products, roles, and apps hadn’t been explained and SOLIDWORKS had never outwardly used the concept of roles and apps. Suddenly, you go from one product family you use to design to potentially many product families with multiple roles and apps without any detail describing how to try these new capabilities or their associated pricing. And this is on top of new product announcements with no product availability for years and product/platform name changes. Confusion, understandable. So, in September, SOLIDWORKS published two blog posts on their blog describing, What Happened to xDesign and What Happened to xShape.

Finally some explanation, but still questions on trials, pricing and, coming back to SOLIDWORKS 2020, connectedness. At most, you get that it “complements the parametric workflows of desktop-based SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD” which is nice, but how? Where? What is the extent of the interoperability between SOLIDWORKS and 3DEXPERIENCE roles/apps? Why can’t I connect to 3DEXPERIENCE right now and fire up the ‘plethora of other solutions’?

Interoperability is something I imagine is going to become more apparent as 3DEXPERIENCE becomes more of SOLIDWORKS becomes more of 3DEXPERIENCE. I’m not sure if the pricing will ever be transparent, but the idea is that you purchase the role(s) you need and get access to all the apps within it. Currently, these roles exist for SOLIDWORKS users as 3DEXPERIENCE Design Solutions which I suspect, if plans revealed at SOLIDWORKS World 2019 are correct, will transform into the 3DEXPERIENCE.WORKS sub-platform, or rather, the SMB layer of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, that will support SOLIDWORKS, DELMIAWORKS, ENOVIAWORKS SIMULIAWORKS, and others.

If it doesn’t make sense why the 3DEXPERIENCE platform would be segmented as a business model or a system into a sub-platform of SOLIDWORKS compatible 3DEXPERIENCE roles and apps, it 1) neatly organizes what products/services are developed for the .WORKS platform and 2) helps show you what 3DEXPERIENCE apps you’ll have access to (and what you won’t). With everything focused around 3DEXPERIENCE, will .WORKS remain or is it simply transitional? We’ll see. For now, the full-cap, letter-rich 3DEXPERIENCE.WORKS platform remains, with the latest details in the September 18th SOLIDWORKS 2020 press release.

With SOLIDWORKS 2020, and the 3DEXPERIENCE.WORKS portfolio of solutions, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform provides a growing set of cloud-based solutions that work together to help manage every aspect of developing concepts, designing products, and manufacturing and delivering them. Solutions like 3D Sculptor, which includes the xShape (sub division modeling) application, 3D Creator featuring the xDesign (parametric modeling) application, 3D Component Designer (data management), Project Planner, and Structural Professional Engineer (advanced simulation), enable users to reduce friction in their design to manufacturing process.

As announced at SOLIDWORKS World 2019 earlier this year, all these cloud-based solutions will be part of the 3DEXPERIENCE.WORKS portfolio, bringing the power and breadth of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform together with the simplicity and ease-of-use of SOLIDWORKS.

We might get upset that they’re not slapping certain capability inside SOLIDWORKS straight away, but delivering mature features is a venerable approach — not that I wouldn’t like to see the capabilities united within the software, but united across a platform is a great first step.

Aye yi yi. I’ve gone on quite too much. It seemed warranted given we’re upon a pivotal release for SOLIDWORKS and betwixt what was SOLIDWORKS World and what will be 3DEXPERIENCE World. To Dassault and SOLIDWORKS I would just say, you’ve introduced a new platform to SOLIDWORKS users. To introduce that new platform, a new way of thinking about how products are purchased and used, the explanation needs to be clear and concise. I don’t think it is or has been as clear as it could be. The videos are great. The workflow/process videos are great. With any new software, a user — especially those entrenched in deep methodology and processes — is going to ask, how is this going to fit into my existing workflow so it doesn’t jack everything up. Show more of that. Make it more transparent.

On the Dassault website, they describe the 3DEXPERIENCE platform as, “a BUSINESS EXPERIENCE platform [that] provides software solutions for every organization in your company – from marketing to sales to engineering – that help you, in your value creation process, to create differentiating consumer experiences.” SOLIDWORKS drops the word count saying, “The 3DEXPERIENCE platform is a cloud-based environment that connects your product development process from design through manufacturing and delivery.

That’s it in a sentence. There’s a lot more to it, of course, and both the Dassault and SOLIDWORKS websites have an entire section dedicated to explaining it in detail.

3DEXPERIENCE Platform – Dassault Systèmes
The 3DEXPERIENC Platform | SOLIDWORKS

Those and the videos above will have you understanding the path forward a little better. But don’t worry, there’s more to come on 3DEXPERIENCE. A live broadcast is scheduled for December 2019 and, have you heard? 3DEXPERIENCE World with “0 percent more training sessions” is right around the corner, February 9-12, 2020, in Nashville, TN.

Author

Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.