Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual: App-ing the Process
Chad Jackson posted on January 30, 2013 | | 4319 views

Walking into the Monday morning general session at Solidworks World 2013 in Orlando FL, I admit that I was expecting something.

After the openly discussing the move of Solidworks to the cloud years earlier, and the subsequent backtracking and sidestepping because of customer outrage, rumors had it that this was the year. This was the time when Solidworks would unveil something big. Ultimately, I think the announcement of Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual falls into that category. I think that it just wasn't what people were expecting.

In this post, we'll take a look at the background of the this new product, the capabilities it provides and my own commentary and analysis. Ready? Let's go.


On Monday, January 21st 2013, Dassault Systèmes announced the launch of a new product called Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual live at Solidworks World as well as via a post on the Solidworks blog. The software is ready for production testing as Solidworks is currently looking for customers to assist in the effort. The software will be available in fall 2013.

Capabilities Provided

There are scads of posts that cover Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual including ones from the horse's mouth, Solidworks, GraphicSpeak, Solidsmack and So I won't regurgitate every single fine detail. But here are the capabilities of Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual that I think are critical.

  • It is a desktop installed client that performs all of the following in the cloud.
  • It offers both parametric and direct approaches for both 2D and 3D modeling.
  • Simulations that are applicable to conceptual design, such as kinematics, are provided.
  • Users can impose a product structure on the model when they are ready. Initially, there is essentially no structure.
  • It automatically tracks and manages different branches and iterations of the design.
  • Social capabilities are provided as well, allowing users to share these designs with other individuals as well as communities, who can comment and provide feedback in live chats or offline fashions.
If it wasn't clear, this is basically CAD in the cloud. Except the focus here is on conceptual design. It includes simulation and product structure capabilities. PDM is inherently baked in and almost invisible. Social capabilities are included too.

Commentary and Analysis

What's my take? In a word, I think this specific offering is brilliant from a number of different perspectives and a harbinger of things to come. Let me explain.

An Admission to the Value of Direct Modeling

Back in 2011, I remember sitting down for a one-on-one with an Solidworks executive. I pointedly asked him if they had plans to incorporate any Direct Modeling capabilities into Solidworks. At that time, it was a fair question, given PTC, Siemens PLM and Autodesk were either aggressively pursuing that approach or experimenting with it. His answer?

"The war between parametrics and direct was fought a long time ago, and parametrics won."

I'm glad to see that Solidworks has adjusted their approach here. Conceptual design in particular lends itself to Direct Modeling approaches. So I think there's a lot of value there. The outstanding question is when and if it will make its way into Solidworks proper. Only time will tell.

App-ing the Process

Back in November, I wrote a post on Dassault Systèmes' strategy across their brands. The basic idea behind the 3DEXPERIENCE vision is to take different pieces of technologies from their various brands (CATIA, SIMULIA, 3DSWYM, etc.) and use them to support industry processes. 

Little did I think I would be writing about it in the context of Solidworks. 

Now this idea at a high level has been played out before. Some years ago, PTC talked about their Product Development System (PDS) and how they would track support of specific processes across their products. However, now that I've seen it in action, I know what Dassault Systèmes is doing differently. All of the capabilities needed to support the concept design process is in one application, not spread across four or five different ones. And that makes a difference with adoption. Kudos to Solidworks for doing it the right way.

The Trojan Horse

When the folks at Solidworks first announced their intent to take CAD to the Cloud, the blowback was palpable. If you follow the industry, you know just how mad, upset and angry many Solidworks customers were, whether it was justified or not. The folks at Solidworks, whether they publicly acknowledge it or not, got the message, loud and clear. Last year, they announced they would not force anyone to move to another application until they were ready. The challenge in front of the leadership of Solidworks was sizable. How would they bring their vision to fruition without an all out revolt of their customers?

Well, in my mind, this new offering is the answer. It does not replace Solidworks. It is complimentary to it. It's a way of adding value without threatening the status quo. It is also a great way to introduce the cloud and the benefits it provides. This is also where customers can be exposed to the 3DEXPERIENCE concept and realize the value associated with it.

Where's the Negatives?

In reviews like this, I always look for the 'gotchas.' But to be honest, I don't see any that seem like major concerns.

There could be an issue in interoperability between Mechanical Conceptual and Solidworks. One sits in the cloud. One sits on the desktop. But I think in general that these concept designs are relatively simple. So we're not talking about downloading gigabytes of data. What about kernel compatibility? I think that will need to play out. But again, I don't see a major concern there yet.

Summary and Questions

OK. Let's recap.

  • On Monday, January 21st 2013, Dassault Systèmes announced the launch of a new product called Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual live at Solidworks World as well as via a post on the Solidworks blog.
  • This new cloud-based product offers the following capabilities:
    • Parametric and Direct approaches for both 2D and 3D modeling.
    • Simulations applicable to conceptual design.
    • Embedded PDM to track and manage branches and iterations.
    • Social capabilities for concept design reviews.
  • In my perspective, I think this move is brilliant by Dassault Systèmes for a number of reasons, including:
    • It incorporates Direct Modeling into their suite, a previously notable absence.
    • It is a great example of the 3DEXPERIENCE vision, where a single app provides capabilities from multiple brands to support a single process.
    • It is a good way to introduce CAD in the Cloud in a non-threatening manner for their existing customers.

Alright, there's my perspective. What do you think? Is it important that all these capabilities are in a single app? Do you feel you need a new solution for concept design? Sound off and let us know what you think.

Take care. Talk soon. Thanks for reading.