That's Amore. Dassault Systèmes Loves SOLIDWORKS.
Roopinder Tara posted on September 21, 2020 |
The host of enhancements on SOLIDWORKS 2021 to prove company is not abandoning legacy users.
(Photo courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)
(Photo courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)

The media was assembled for an online introduction to SOLIDWORKS 2021 to prove Dassault Systèmes still cared -- no, loved -- SOLIDWORKS. In fact, the word “love” was used no less than seven times during the webcast, not just amore from their passionate CEO Gian Paolo Bassi but also by his non-Italian cohorts. It was a love story summarized in 80 minutes, but we were told the book (a 160-page What’s New PDF) had a lot more juicy details.

What is this COVID-19? CEO Gian Paolo Bassi (left) back in the office to introduce SOLIDWORKS 2021. We are at 75% capacity in Boston, says Bassi. At home are Derek Lane, right, Brian Zias, and Craig Therrien.
What is this COVID-19? CEO Gian Paolo Bassi (left) back in the office to introduce SOLIDWORKS 2021. We are at 75% capacity in Boston, says Bassi. At home are Derek Lane, right, Brian Zias, and Craig Therrien. (Photo courtesy of Engineering.com)

The long-surviving SOLIDWORKS CEO is doing the smart thing by reaffirming his love for a user base that keeps growing (now over 5.1 million users). Bassi is in his 6th year as CEO, longer than two of his predecessors in the post-Dassault Systèmes acquisition era. SOLIDWORKS supplies a big chunk of revenue to the French company, yet users feel like stepchildren to a foreign power whose interest is elsewhere. 

Balancing act. SOLIDWORKS CEO Gian Paolo Bassi balances the needs of a legacy userbase with Dassault Systèmes' desire for migration to 3DEXPERIENCE. (Picture from 3DEXPERIENCE World 2020/ YouTube.)
Balancing act. SOLIDWORKS CEO Gian Paolo Bassi balances the needs of a legacy userbase with Dassault Systèmes' desire for migration to 3DEXPERIENCE. (Picture from 3DEXPERIENCE World 2020/ YouTube.)

Bassi is good at balancing acts, as he showed us at 3DEXPERIENCE World (the new name for SOLIDWORKS World) on an electric wakeboard. He shows up now as he balances the needs of SOLIDWORKS users against the future that Dassault Systèmes has plotted with 3DEXPERIENCE. 

Bassi is masterful as he introduces SOLIDWORKS 2021 while assuring the userbase that SOLIDWORKS is here to stay through media outlets. The program is still being improved, but other products are available should you need them that will help you with SOLIDWORKS. 

"We don’t want to take away your SOLIDWORKS. We know you love it. The new products and technology are additions, not subtractions," said Bassi. 

(Photo courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)
(Photo courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)

Bassi looks to the future with Roles while embracing the past, SOLIDWORKS. Dassault Systèmes introduced Roles last year, which corresponds to the job roles a user may have, for example, Innovator. Each SOLIDWORKS version of the past (Standard, Professional, and Premium) has added 3DEXPERIENCE to its name as well as tools from the 3DEXPERIENCE toolbox. These tools include Creator formerly known as xDdesign, which works in the browser and is cloud-based (like Onshape) as well as 3D Sculptor formerly known as xShape, a subdivision modeler that will let you create organic shapes -- which SOLIDWORKS could not.  

 Why, because it’s good for you. Like a parent insisting their child eat their vegetables, Dassault Systèmes continues their not so subtle push to the cloud and the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on SOLIDWORKS users. (Photo courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)
Why, because it’s good for you. Like a parent insisting their child eat their vegetables, Dassault Systèmes continues their not-so-subtle push to the cloud and the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on SOLIDWORKS users. (Photo courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)

"You’re getting more – not less. Your beloved SOLIDWORKS plus new modeling tools," says Bassi. 

Will the modeling tools be available at no extra cost? It was not certain during the webcast. 

Roles were offered at introductory prices at 3DEXPERIENCE World and may still be in effect. However, these prices are hidden from prying eyes on the SOLIDWORKS website. Pricing was requested but did not arrive in time for this article. 

Users may question why the new modeling tools are not added to SOLIDWORKS (rather than made available as separate standalone tools). We can only assume that big changes to the SOLIDWORKS code are being limited while innovation on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform goes full speed ahead.

(Photo courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)

(Photo courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)

As a proof point to show the 3DEXPERIENCE is for real, DS SOLIDWORKS employees themselves went about creating the unreal, a space station that looked vaguely familiar (Star Wars?). Five hundred employees from far-flung locations used 3D Creator (browser-based design) and 3D Sculptor (organic shapes) to create an assembly with over 10,000 parts.

“They collaborated, and in eight weeks they created what I would say is a fully functional space station, complete with simulated gravity,” says Bassi, very proud of his team.

Sci-fi aside, the space station Grand Challenge was an impressive display of a design software company using its tools on a large-scale project – not just the bolts, beams, and brackets we usually see in demos. 

And with that, Bassi leaves the stage, as it were, and we are set up to hear highlights from a love story.

How to Excel at SOLIDWORKS 

Users can export Excel-based reports from assembly Interference Detection, new in SOLIDWORKS 2020. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)
Users can export Excel-based reports from assembly Interference Detection, new in SOLIDWORKS 2021. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

Users will be able to export an interference report to Excel complete with thumbnail images from SOLIDWORKS. 

"Your spreadsheet reports had no look at the parts before," says Craig Therrien. "Now they do."

When You Don't Need the Detail ... Poof!

First introduced almost 10 years ago, SOLIDWORKS 2021 Defeature allows users to save their defeature results as configurations in addition to separate files. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)
First introduced almost 10 years ago, SOLIDWORKS 2021 Defeature allows users to save their defeatured results as configurations in addition to separate files. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

God is in the detail. And so is the engineer. But sometimes details get in the way. They may bog down a simulation. They may expose too much intellectual property. They can bring your graphics to a crawl. 

"First introduced around 2011, the Defeature feature has proved wildly popular," says Therrien. 

In SOLIDWORKS 2021, you can save the defeatured model as a configuration. So, you can toggle between the simple, faster model (defeatured) and the fully detailed model.

Undo and Redo

SOLIDWORKS' undo and redo tool, what was once available only on 2D sketches, has been extended to over 60 3D features. 

But When You Do Need Detail, We Have It

Introduced in SOLIDWORKS 2020, Detailing Mode for Drawings has been enhanced to support many more everyday tasks in 2021. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)
Introduced in SOLIDWORKS 2020, Detailing Mode for Drawings has been enhanced to support many more everyday tasks in 2021. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

Quite a few enhancements to SOLIDWORKS 2021 are not in 3D but 2D. The 2D drawings once predicted to have disappeared long ago continue to be an area of interest to SOLIDWORKS users – and developers at Dassault Systèmes. For example, Detailing Mode, first introduced in SOLIDWORKS 2020, has been made more capable in 2021. 

"Similar to large design review (LDR) for assemblies, Detailing Mode will bring up complex drawings quickly," explains Therrien. "It's lightweight, almost like a JPEG. Adding dimensions and views is a breeze." 

In 2021, users can do more in Detailing Mode, better editing of dimension, more types of views, and most importantly, users can do hole callouts. Therrien calls Detailing Mode the “most major enhancement we've made in the last two years.”

Faster Graphics

Spin your large assemblies 20 times faster as SOLIDWORKS 2021 exploits the workstation’s GPU. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)
Spin your large assemblies 20 times faster as SOLIDWORKS 2021 exploits the workstation’s GPU. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

SOLIDWORKS seems to have unlocked more of the power available in their workstation graphics card with SOLIDWORKS 2021. Selection pans and zooms are a bit faster. To demonstrate GPU prowess with large assemblies, we see smoothly twirling assemblies that presumably would have been choppy and slow with SOLIDWORKS 2020. 

"It is 20 times faster," says Therrien. "63 frames per second with GPU enabled and only three frames per second when it’s not." 

Silhouette edges, also calculated using the GPU, seem to be created in less time: less than five seconds with the GPU enabled compared to almost three minutes with the GPU disabled.

In SOLIDWORKS 2021, sheet metal edge flanges can be created along non-linear edges (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)
In SOLIDWORKS 2021, sheet metal edge flanges can be created along non-linear edges (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)
Appearance is everything. SOLIDWORKS 2021 has a color picker, the eyedropper familiar to Photoshop users, that lets you pick an exact shade from a photograph. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)
Appearance is everything. SOLIDWORKS 2021 has a color picker, the eyedropper familiar to Photoshop users, that lets you pick an exact shade from a photograph. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

Quality and Reliability

SOLIDWORKS 2021 aimed for a 90% reduction in the most severe and high impact bugs. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)
SOLIDWORKS 2021 aimed for a 90% reduction in the most severe and high impact bugs. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

Quite a bit of effort seems to have gone into making SOLIDWORKS more reliable. While a power shortage will still make you curse and wish you had saved more often, many of the severe faults have been addressed, according to Therrien.

“We hear from our users that they want SOLIDWORKS to be reliable and faster,” says Therrien. “We're putting our focus and a lot of development time into fixing bugs. Our bug rates are coming down. We're also focusing on severe bugs, the ones that will make you crash or hang. Or there might be an issue that affects you, slows you down 50 to a hundred times a day. That would also be high impact even if it’s not severe. Both types of bugs impact your business. We look at both types. We're correcting these problems as soon as they come in and also opening closed case files, some older bug reports, and cleaning those up.”

Many of the above changes would surely have drawn applause from hard-core SOLIDWORKS users had they been in the audience – like the annual users meeting that already seems so long ago. We miss the excitement of the crowd while we appreciated the convenience of the webcast. But both venues must be frustrating for the product creators as they do not provide enough time to reveal all of what’s new. For that, we must refer readers to the 160-page PDF book of What’s New. 

"SOLIDWORKS users will be able to download [the book] as a PDF or see it as an HTML," says Therrien. “On September 22nd, we'll be updating the What's New area of the SOLIDWORKS.com website. You will also find over 90 videos with detailed information.”

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