First Look at SolidWorks Industrial Design
John Hayes posted on February 17, 2015 |

The big news from the SolidWorksWorld 2015 conference was the launch of SolidWorks Industrial Design, a new set of tools that is based on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform from parent company Dassault Systemes. 

Be forewarned, however, that this new functionality is not part of the SolidWorks desktop license.  Like the big news last year about Mechanical Conceptual, SolidWorks Industrial Design is a separate cloud-based service that is available for an additional price, in this case $190 per user per month.

Justin Burton is the product manager responsible for Industrial Design.  He explained how users will get value from the new product.

Sketching for Industrial Designers

In the requirements gathering stage, industrial designers can start with concept tools that allow you to sketch with a mouse or a stylus.  If you aren’t a brilliant artist, the software helps by straightening lines and making arcs where you intend them. The sketching application features tools similar to Photoshop that let you make thicker or thinner lines or use different colours, or turn a line into a spline for a surface.

All of these features are designed to allow you to generate and iterate ideas rapidly, and then share them with your internal team.  If you want quick feedback on a sketched concept, you can do a screen capture and share it with other team members via a cloud-based collaboration environment on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. 

But it won’t be quite as simple as it sounds.  There is some friction in the process.  First, the project leader has to assign licenses and access levels to each of the team members so that they will have permission to view, comment or revise.  For team members who view and comment, they can do so with only a browser.  However, if you want some team members to revise a model or drawing, they will need to download a thick client.   

The upside is that you can capture comments from all team members in the workspace where your design resides, so you will have traceability of requirements from the outset and all the way through the process.  You can also keep the data secure until you are ready to share more broadly by assigning only certain access to selected team members. 

Freeform Design is part of the toolkit

Once the designer has some feedback on the concept, they can proceed to make it a model by using the freeform design tools.  You can start with a simple blob and push and pull it until it resembles the shape that you are actually making. 

At this stage the designer takes the 2D sketch and makes it a 3D model by starting with a geometric shape like a block or a cylinder that they can then morph to the stylized product.  In addition to pushing and pulling the shape, the software also allows you to extrude, cut, etc. 

Dassault Systemes calls its’ beta user program “Lighthouse”.  According to the Lighthouse users of Industrial Design, this new module is fast to learn and easy to use.  They all reported being productive in days rather than weeks.  Ease of use has long been a core strength of SolidWorks, and the development team have delivered in this regard with the new Industrial Design features.


Parametric Modeling is part of the industrial design environment

The users reported that they were able to easily convert the sketch to a model all within the single modeling environment of SolidWorks Industrial Design.  This stage of the design process proved to be the stage when more intensive collaboration was useful.  Colleagues were able to annotate the model, for example, to convey their comments.

That single design environment extends back to the core 3D modeler in SolidWorks.  With 2 clicks a user can open or save changes to their model from within their Industrial Design workspace.  This is not trivial in terms of development, given that the 3DEXPERIENCE platform is a totally different architecture than traditional PDM systems.  However, from a user perspective, it appears to flow smoothly. 

Rendering brings realism to Industrial Design

The next step in the process is rendering, and the toolkit includes the features you would expect, including changing the focus, the light source, shadowing, orientation and scenes.  None of this is revolutionary, but having all of that functionality within a single Industrial Design tool can save a lot of steps.


Why Industrial Design includes cloud-based collaboration

Dassault Systemes new Chief Stratagy Officer, Monica Menghini, reiterated how important it is for product development teams to expand the range of people who they collaborate with.  That means getting feedback from people who are not CAD users. 

Nowhere is that more true than in the earliest stages of industrial design.  To speed that process, the new Industrial Design module will offer a robust set of collaboration tools when it debuts in April 2015.

And what about the licensing model?

Dassault Systemes introduced a subscription-based licensing model for their new cloud-based conceptual design product last year at SolidWorks World 2014.  Many in the press commented that Mechanical Design appeared to be a good product at a bad price.  It was $249 per user per month when it was announced, which has since been lowered to $150 per user per month.   

The new Industrial Design solution is also offered as a cloud-based subscription service.  The list price is $190 per user per month, which is a lot more than the $100 per user per month offered by the competitive product from Autodesk, Fusion360.  The features sets aren’t strictly comparable, so users would do well to investigate both offerings fully to determine the relative value for their needs.  


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