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9 Posts authored by: Matthew West Employee

Well, Jeremy and the Let's Go Design team are at it again. If you haven't checked in lately, they launched a new project last month. The goal this time? To build a hot-rodded baby buggy, something any dad would proudly drive around the neighborhood. And yes, I said "drive," not "push."


The second installment in the project went live earlier this morning. I sat in on the filming, and at times, I had to remind myself that this a project being run by a software company. I think this picture best sums up what the team was doing that day.



Want to see more? Click over to the Let's Go Design website and watch the full video. And leave a comment for Jeremy and the team while you're there.


And one last thing - be sure to check out our Facebook page regularly for behind-the-scenes shots and other extras.

It's hard to believe that the Let's Go Design series launched a year ago this month. Since then, we've seen Jeremy Luchini and the team design and build an Ultimate CAD Chair, and most recently, design a practice cage for use with multiple sports. There's a new project kicking off today, and I think this just might be the most interesting one so far.


It's not secret to anyone who knows him that Jeremy is a fan of anything with a motor. He regularly drives a retired US Army Jeep to work, he built the motorcycle in the Let's Go Design studio by hand, and I know I've seen him drive at least two or three other things. So naturally, he wanted to build some kind of vehicle for this series.


But the real challenge was to build a vehicle that didn't just take an existing idea and amp it up. It needed to be so off-the-wall that it would leave everyone scratching their heads. Hence the idea of taking perhaps the most pedestrian and non-motorized form of conveyance possible--the baby stroller--and using that as a springboard.


Factory 5



So over the coming months, Jeremy and the Let's Go Design team (with input from the global design community) will be designing and building a hot-rodded baby buggy that's oriented towards all the dads out there, but with safety features that will ensure that both parents are comfortable letting their tiny babies ride in it.


Stroller Interview Design Requirements




So click on over to the Let's Go Design website and check out the project kickoff video, and then vote on the first question--should the person driving the baby buggy be in a seated position like a go-cart, or standing, like one of those industrial-grade lawn mowers (my personal selection).

Let's Go Design!

This month’s edition of  SolidWorks Support Monthly FAQ covers a few of the most common questions and issues handled by the support team over the past month,  as well as recent updates to the SolidWorks Knowledge Base.


Top questions and issues

1.    Is it possible to use the out-of-the-box Enterprise PDM SolidWorks task add-in to convert or print non-SolidWorks file types?


No. The SolidWorks task add-in (SWTaskAddIn) is specifically written to open files in SolidWorks and then perform a "save as" or print operation on the files. It will only process SolidWorks file types (slddrw, sldasm, sldprt).

The Enterprise PDM API, however, gives access to the full task add-in framework. Using VB .Net or C++ programming, it is fully possible to create a custom task add-in that opens and processes other file types in the appropriate application. For example, you can use MS Office to create PDFs from Office files.

Read more about the Enterprise API in the API help. This can be found in the Administration tool by expanding the vault node, then right clicking "Add-ins" and selecting “Programmer’s reference guide.” You can also find task API examples in the SolidWorks forum under SolidWorks Forums --> SolidWorks --> API --> Documents.


2.      Bend lines in lofted bends part are incorrectly displayed in some sheet metal parts. They are either not displayed, or displayed all together.


A general issue with bend lines in lofted bend has been fixed in SolidWorks 2011 SP3. In most cases, unsuppressing the flat pattern will correct the problem. In a small number of cases, the lofted bend must be recreated.



3.      Creating a sheet metal base flange with three or more bends displays a warning message stating “Cannot display bend line for this bend.” 


This issue has also been corrected in SolidWorks 2011 SP3.


4.      SPR 578349: The performance of SolidWorks 2011 x64 slows down after right-clicking files in the Open or Save dialog, then canceling the dialog.

If you are using Windows XP x64 or Windows 7 x64 and SolidWorks 2011 x64 appears to be running slowly from time to time (regardless of session length) for no apparent reason or cause, then you may be experiencing the problem described with SPR 578349.  This SPR will be addressed in SolidWorks 2011 x64 SP3.


The Early Visibility release of SP3 has been available for download on the SolidWorks Customer Portal as of Monday, March 7th, with the final release of SP3 following two weeks later.


To find out more about the Early Visibility program, please go to

New Knowledge Base articles

1.      S-054123: Why isn't RealView available with my brand new Dell, HP or IBM workstation with a new Quadro graphics card?

If you are using a version of SolidWorks prior to 2010 SP4 with one of the new Quadro 600, 2000, 4000, or 6000 graphics cards, a patch is required to allow SolidWorks to take advantage of RealView and the new graphics coding languages required for the new Quadro graphics cards.


The patch can be found at


To find out more, please click here.

2.      S-054357: What could cause Windows Explorer to crash when right-clicking files or folders on a client running Enterprise PDM 2011 SP0-SP2?

Crashes when right-clicking files or folders in an Enterprise PDM 2011 vault view are likely caused by a conflict with an installed third party application adding an Explorer integrated context menu option on the right mouse button menu. When Enterprise PDM builds up the right mouse button (RMB) menu, it can sometimes crash when integrating the third-party context menu entry.


These problems will be addressed in Enterprise PDM 2011 SP3. If you are experiencing similar crashes in 2011 SP0, SP1 or SP2 when right-clicking objects in the vault, you can read more about how to work around the issue in solution S-054357.


3.      S-053648: Since upgrading to eDrawings 2011, why do I now get a warning when opening drawings that "The SolidWorks Document Manager is not installed on your system....?"


The SolidWorks Document Manager is an additional tool that allows non-SolidWorks applications, like eDrawings, to look at the data in a SolidWorks file.  For drawings, the Document Manager will allow eDrawings to review custom properties and automatically update annotations.


To find out more, please go to S-053648.



4.     S-054335: What would be the most likely reason I see a "File already exists" warning when trying to add a file to an Enterprise PDM folder where the file in question is seemingly not present?


The most likely reason the warning “File already exists” would show when adding a file to a vault folder is that a file with the same name already exists in that folder, but the logged-in user does not have sufficient permission to see the file. It is not possible to have two files with same name in same folder. The following solution explains the most common reasons for the warning: S-05335




Thanks for reading this month’s SolidWorks Support Monthly FAQ. If you need additional help with these issues or any others, please contact your SolidWorks Value Added Reseller. You can also visit the SolidWorks website to learn more about SolidWorks Subscription Service.

This month’s edition of  SolidWorks Support Monthly FAQ covers a few of the most common questions and issues handled by the support team over the past month,  as well as recent updates to the SolidWorks Knowledge Base.


Top questions and issues

1.    S-053943: Inserting excel OLE objects does not work (either nothing happens or displays icon) in SolidWorks 2010 or SolidWorks 2011 64-bit on a Windows 7 64 bit operating system when Office 2010 32bit (not 64-bit) is installed.


Microsoft has released hotfix 983396 to correct this issue. A 32-bit OLE object may be displayed as an icon instead of the actual object when you insert it into a 64-bit process on a 64-bit version of Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2. To find out more, please go to


2.     S-052387: Why is the Windows® 7 x64 operating system recommended for SolidWorks 2010 and 2011 according to system requirements?


- Windows 7 x64 is a true 64-bit implementation (Windows XP was originally introduced as a 32-bit operating system)

- Microsoft® removed a crucial threading lock, which allows up to a (approximately) 30% increase in performance on some hardware

- You'll see 20% - 30% improved battery life on laptops with Windows 7

- Windows 7 is smarter about memory handling, and paging is more efficient

- SolidWorks development work is done on Windows 7

- XP is no longer supported by Microsoft


Between Vista and Windows 7, Windows 7 has a smaller memory footprint, and has improved graphics resource handling with multiple windows. Both of these improvements have a positive impact on SolidWorks. To find out more, click here.




New Knowledge Base articles


1.      S-053984: What can cause the warning “The file is checked out on another computer” to show when trying to get a file in a SolidWorks Enterprise PDM file vault view, leaving the option to get the file grayed out and unchecked/disabled?

When a file is checked out in a file vault view, the database will store information about which user, client computer, and file vault view that file is checked out in. When performing a get operation on a file, the file will be matched against this checkout information in the database to ensure that the file is not checked out in the current local vault view. This verification is done to avoiding overwriting the version of the file that is currently checked out and under editing by another user.


A common cause for this warning is when an image containing a file vault view is used to set up multiple PCs. In this scenario, every PC created from the image will have the same local view ID causing the get operation to be disabled for all files checked out to other users with the same local vault view ID.


The workaround in this case is to remove and recreate all local views that have the same vault view ID.  It is not recommended to remove a file vault view if there are files checked out in that particular view. To correctly remove a vault view, you should right-click the file vault root folder and select “Delete file vault view.” A check will be made to ensure that no files are checked out in that view before the removal is allowed.


To further diagnose the problem and verify why the check-out information is mismatched, you can use the PDMWorks Enterprise report file ShowCheckoutInfo.crp. The LockViewID is the column to focus on in this case.


To find out more, please click here.



2.      S-053710: What pre-load value should be entered for 1/2 or 1/4 symmetry bolts?


When defining symmetry bolts (either 1/2 or 1/4), the value of the pre-load entered in the bolt connector's definition should be divided respectively by 1/2 and 1/4. The current behavior of the program (in version 2011 SP1.0) is that the pre-load for the symmetry bolt is taken as-is, and not divided by the factor of symmetry. Therefore, leaving the pre-load for the whole bolt is equivalent to doubling or quadrupling it for the symmetry bolt.


There is an enhancement request to change this behavior, and it is filed under SPR 472791 entitled "Bolts on 1/2 or 1/4 symmetry planes do not properly divide the bolting pre-load (torque) by 1/2 or by 1/4."


To find out more, please click here.




Thanks for reading this month’s SolidWorks Support Monthly FAQ. If you need additional help with these issues or any others, please contact your SolidWorks Value Added Reseller. You can also visit the SolidWorks website to learn more about SolidWorks Subscription Service.

This month’s edition of SolidWorks  Support Monthly FAQ covers a few of the most common questions and  issues handled by the support team over the past month, as well as  recent updates to the SolidWorks Knowledge Base.


Top questions and issues

1.   1.      Is there a good way to compare performance on my computer system with other users?


We included a performance test with the release of SolidWorks 2011 that helps you test your system, compare your score with other users, and share your score on the Share Your Score site. This benchmark was designed to address the question "how fast is my computer compared to other computers?" This gives you tangible metrics due to the fact that the tests are run within SolidWorks, in a repeatable manner across different computers.


For more information on this performance test, refer to this SolidWorks Forum posting or the SolidWorks “Share Your Score” Results page.




2.       Can Microsoft® Office Excel 2010 be used to handle SolidWorks® 2011 design tables ?


Microsoft® Office Excel 2007 and 2010 are both supported to handle SolidWorks® 2011 Design Tables. Note that starting with SolidWorks 2011, Microsoft® Office Excel 2003 is no longer Supported.



3.     The PhotoWorks addin is no longer listed in the Add-Ins Manager with SolidWorks 2011, even though SolidWorks Professional or higher is installed. Why ? 


SolidWorks PhotoView 360 is now the standard photorealistic rendering solution for SolidWorks. SolidWorks PhotoWorks is no longer supported; however, rendering capabilities are the same as in previous releases.   The underlying technology has been updated to enhance the user experience and the final results.


When added in, PhotoView 360 can be accessed from the menu or from theRender Tools tab of the CommandManager.  To find out more, please visit SolidWorks Help Menu >> What’s New?


4.     It is no longer possible to check SolidNetWork License (SNL) usage since upgrading to SolidWorks 2010 SP5. Why?

This is likely due to a version mismatch between the SolidNetWork (SNL) License Manager and the SolidWorks version in use. Always make sure that version and service pack of the server-side SolidNetWork License Manager is equal to or greater than that of all SolidWorks installations on client computers.  In this case, make sure that the server-side SNL Manager is upgraded to SolidWorks 2010 SP5.



New Knowledge Base articles


1.     S-052082 - Is there a compatibility matrix showing SolidWorks compatibility with different versions of Microsoft® Windows® and Microsoft Office??

Yes, a compatibility matrix is available within Knowledge Base Solution ID#S-052082.


To go to this Knowledge Base Solution, please click here


2.      S-053715 - What could cause SolidWorks to display "Warning: You do not have permission to access the database in vault. Certain database operations that require these Enterprise PDM permissions may fail." when opening files on an Enterprise PDM client?

When you open a file in SolidWorks 2010 (or higher) and Enterprise PDM is installed on the system, SolidWorks toolbox will perform a check to see if toolbox is "managed" within the file vault. In order to do this, toolbox tries to read the vault root folder. If the user logged in to the vault lacks read access to the vault root, toolbox will fail reading the folder and display the following message:



Warning: You do not have permission to access the database in vault 'vaultname'.

Certain database operations that require these Enterprise PDM permissions may fail.


To find out more, please click here



3.     S-051892 - Why is the 'Edit…' command missing from right mouse button click menu in Enterprise PDM 2011 for some files?

In Enterprise PDM 2011, the right-click menu has been redesigned to be more compact and not fill up with too many commands. The “Edit…” command that was used in earlier versions to check out and open a file has been merged into the standard Windows Edit command instead. You can define if the Windows Edit (or even Open) should check out the file as well via the user settings in the vault. For some file types however, Windows does not add an Edit option in which case you may have to use the workarounds described in this solution.


To find out more, please click here


4.      S-053108 - What could cause Enterprise PDM 2010 and 2011 to crash on some clients during file retrieval when using get version or checking out many files at the same time?

Starting with Enterprise 2010, when files are transferred from the archive server to the client, the get operation will open up multiple "threads" to speed up the operation when retrieving many files at the same time. That way, smaller files can be transferred at the same time a large file is.


It has been observed, however, that on some client systems (depending on hardware and network settings), this threaded file transfer operation could lead to unstable behavior causing the get operation to become slower than it should be, or even crash. This solution describes how to work around this problem if you think a system is affected by this.


To find out more, please click here.



Thanks for reading this month’s SolidWorks Support Monthly FAQ. If you need additional help with these issues or any others, please contact your SolidWorks Value Added Reseller.

This month’s edition of SolidWorks Support Monthly FAQ covers a few of the most common questions and issues handled by the support team over the past month, as well as recent updates to the SolidWorks Knowledge Base.


Top questions and issues

1.     Can the 2011 SolidNetWork (SNL) License Manager provide licenses for older SolidWorks versions?


The 2011 SNL License Manager can provide licenses for SolidWorks 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, and 2004.



2.     Why do I receive an “Activation Count Exceeded” error when activating the 2011 SolidWorks SNL Manager on the same server that a 2010 SNL Manager was activated on?


This problem is being investigated by development as SPR 581747.  The current workaround is:


  • Uninstall the 2011 SNL Manager (deleting its Program Files installation folder as well)
  • Reinstall the 2010 SNL Manager
  • Run the 2010 SNL Manager and transfer the activation
  • Uninstall the 2010 SNL Manager (deleting its Program Files installation folder as well)
  • Reinstall the 2011 SNL Manager to activate
  • Activate the 2011 SNL Manager


3.     How can I accurately measure the memory usage of SolidWorks?

Having the correct memory usage info is valuable when investigating performance issues or trying to determine if you've outgrown a 32-bit environment. For a 32-bit environment, the default memory limit for an application is 2GB.  If tracking memory use with the method below shows that SolidWorks (sldworks.exe) is frequently hitting the 2GB limit, or is always operating near that limit, consider moving to a 64-bit operating system and 64-bit SolidWorks to avoid application terminations due to insufficient memory.


To find out more, please click here


4.     How long will SolidWorks support Windows XP?

Microsoft officially retired the Windows® XP operating system in April of 2009. SolidWorks 2011 will continue to support Windows XP (32 and 64 bit versions), excluding operating system-related issues or fixes. This level of support will continue through at least one release following SolidWorks 2011. After that, in conjunction with Microsoft’s support policies, only the Windows Vista® and Windows 7 (32 and 64 bit versions) operating systems will be supported.


The SolidWorks operating system support plan outlined above will also apply to the SolidWorks Simulation and SolidWorks Enterprise PDM product lines. Refer to Knowledge Base Solution ID#S-012513 or the SolidWorks Release notes for the latest on this.



New Knowledge Base articles


1.     S-051869 - How does the SolidWorks Rx graphics card check work?

You can now determine whether your graphics card is supported and your driver is up to date by using the Diagnostics tab in SolidWorks Rx.  If your driver is out of date, a new Download driver button allows you to download the latest SolidWorks certified driver. SolidWorks Diagnostic graphics card check connects to our database of certified graphics card and compares PC system, video device, display driver, operating system and release of SolidWorks.


To go to this KB Solution, please click here


2.     S-052165 - After upgrading to SolidWorks 2011, when opening assemblies some of the custom parts OR parts saved out of Toolbox folders are replaced with the standard Toolbox parts. What could be the reason?

A new option was introduced in SolidWorks 2011 under Tools->Options -> System Options -> Hole Wizard/Toolbox: Make this folder the default search location for toolbox components.


When this option is checked, SolidWorks will look for the files only in the Toolbox location that has been defined under the HoleWizard/Toolbox path if you open any assembly that contains some custom parts, or some toolbox  copied parts (even though the parts are located in the same folder of  assembly). The parts will be replaced with native Toolbox parts from the Toolbox folder. Prior to introducing this option, Toolbox files would be inserted from the Toolbox file location when added to an assembly but did not always open from the same location later. This caused confusion in some environments.


Solution S-02518 in the SolidWorks Knowledge Base elaborates on this case.  The new option ensures that files always open from the specified Toolbox location. If you frequently use copied Toolbox parts that exist outside of the Toolbox folders, then this option may be interfering with your setup. Uncheck the option to restore the SolidWorks 2010 behavior.


To go to this KB Solution, please click here




Thanks for reading this month’s SolidWorks Support Monthly FAQ. If you need additional help with these issues or any others, please contact your SolidWorks Value Added Reseller.

I sat down last week with Austin O’Malley, SolidWorks Executive  Vice President of Research and Development. Our conversation ranged from  guitar amps to the new Macbook Air, but for the most part, we talked  about current and future technology, and how it might apply to the  next–generation software his team is working on, including online usage.


Matt: We first announced our plans to start  releasing cloud-based applications back in February at SolidWorks World.  Since then, there’s been a lot of talk about the “cloud” term, and how  it can mean many things. From your perspective, what are people talking  about when they discuss cloud applications?


Austin: In the simplest terms, cloud computing  involves a shift of processing power away from the hardware in front of  you to hardware somewhere else, with commands and responses transmitted  over the Internet. In other words, your desktop or mobile device  essentially becomes a client you use to access data and programs running  remotely.


I think a lot of the confusion comes from the buzz words that tend to  get thrown around, like “public cloud,”  “private cloud,” or “local  cloud.” I tend to think about the different permutations of cloud  computing this way.


First, you have what most people think of, which is the “public  cloud.” These clouds are at the data centers run by companies like  Amazon and Google that many businesses are using these days. Processing  power and storage capacity can be easily rented, and you can scale your  needs up and down on demand. For example, if you’re running a 30-day  free download and you need more bandwidth than your own network can  support, you can rent bandwidth from Amazon for that period. There’s no  need to buy servers that you’ll only need for a month. These companies  also provide great physical and electronic security measures to make  sure your data stays safe and is reliably available.


On the other end of the spectrum is what people call “private  clouds.” This is a cloud-like infrastructure that you set up behind your  firewall. You actually own (or lease) physical hardware. This is great  if you need your data to stay in-house, but it still requires an  investment in equipment, so it’s not so easy to scale up and down  depending on need. But it still gives you centralized computing power  and distributed access to data.


There’s a third term referred to as the “local cloud.” This is sort  of a hybrid of public and private clouds, where you’re primarily working  within a private network, but with the ability to access public cloud  resources when you need additional power or bandwidth. This involves  caching of public cloud data locally.


Matt: A lot of people think of services like when they think of cloud computing, where applications  are hosted and run in a web browser. Is that what you’re looking at in  R&D?


Austin: Sure, that’s definitely interesting, but  it’s not the only thing we’re considering. The great thing about  leveraging online resources is that you can do it in lots of different  ways. I think of the cloud as a great place to handle heavy computing  and data storage.  The device you use to access it should be your  choice, based on what you want to accomplish.  Think of desktop  computers, web browsers, and mobile devices as “windows” to your data  and applications. By removing the dependency on the desktop, you’re able  to create new applications, interfaces and workflows that are more in  line with the way people work today. That’s not to say there’s anything  wrong with the desktop—our success was built on bringing 3D CAD to  Windows after all, and we’re going to remain committed to that  platform.  But there are other viable platforms and interfaces now, and  our customers want the ability to leverage them.


Matt: Jon and I discussed the issue of Internet bandwidth last month, and his comment was that it won’t be an issue soon. What’s your take?


Austin: I was recently at a conference where the CTO  of AT&T said they will service more WiFi connections in the first  week of 2011 than they did in all of 2008. There was also a chart in a recent issue of Wired that showed how video now constitutes 51% of all Internet traffic, with  overall global bandwidth increasing exponentially as well. If there’s  enough bandwidth to carry all of those YouTube and Netflix videos, I’m  confident that the bandwidth will be there in the next 5-10 years to do  design work online.


Ten years ago, most homes were connecting to the Internet with a 56k  modem, with connection speeds around 40kbps. Today, average connection  speed is around 4mbps. That’s a 100x increase over 10 years. In some  countries like Korea, the average connection is 14mbps. People are  already talking about terabit connections. So, do I think that most  businesses have a connection fast enough to do real-time manipulation of  3D data over the Internet right now? Not really, but they will soon.  But, most of our customers could leverage their connections for data  management and sharing designs right now.  We’ll be releasing a product that does this (code-named SolidWorks  Connect) into beta soon.  I also think that we can combine the power of  the cloud and the desktop to provide a better experience for things like  analysis. As you work, analysis could be constantly run using cloud  resources, giving you information on the design choices you‘re making on  your desktop machine.


Matt: So how do you see new SolidWorks technology working when it’s released in the next few years?


Austin: We’re still working on everything, but I  think what you’ll see are applications that rely on a combination of  local and remote resources, at least when it comes to design software.  We’ll use the power of the desktop or mobile device to give you a great  interactive experience, and use cloud resources to give you access to  data anywhere and offline computation of complex tasks (like analysis).  And, while we may have a browser application in the next few years, it  may not be your primary tool, but rather an option you can take  advantage of for some operations, like viewing designs from your home,  or a client’s office.


I think other real advantages of leveraging online resources will  come into play when customers are able to start using purpose-built  applications on mobile devices. When you’re able to access your data  from anywhere on a device that you can carry in your hands, you can take  advantage of workflows that were never possible before. And while  current mobile devices aren’t the best for creating designs, they can be fantastic for accessing and experiencing designs. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to use a tablet to  review a design and approve a change from a taxi, or create a  walkthrough on the fly from the shop floor and share it over a 3G or a  4G network. Perhaps the promise of paperless manufacturing can now be  made a reality with inexpensive tablets coming our way allowing us to  create a “better” drawing.


Matt: Jeff Ray recently said that the team working  on our next-generation tech spent a lot of time looking at gaming  technology. What do you think the engineering world can learn from the  gaming industry?


Austin: Yes, we’ve looked at both gaming and  entertainment thoroughly. I think the gaming software and hardware  companies have done a great job at developing interfaces and process  flows that mirror the way people really think—a lot better than most  enterprise companies. Take something like World of Warcraft, for  example. There’s an environment that operates in real time, where time  has meaning and things don’t stop just because you log off. It’s easy to  join and get up to speed quickly. Compare that to something like WebEx,  where a meeting can’t happen if the person organizing hasn’t shown up,  or you can’t join in if you lose the meeting invitation, or can’t get  the client software to install.


Companies like Nintendo and Microsoft’s Xbox divisions are also doing  great work understanding how people physically interact with hardware,  and they’re creating new experiences that are more natural and  intuitive. SolidWorks probably won’t be developing software that you  control by jumping and swinging your arms around, but we can learn a lot  about how to improve our own interface.


And I’m speculating a little, but Apple’s rumored cloud-based iTunes  service looks to have a lot of possibility. The ability to access your  library from anywhere or stream to a brand new iPhone clearly provides a  lot more flexibility.


Matt: What else are you finding interesting technologically?


Austin: I think there are a lot of interesting ways  that other industries are starting to leverage the Internet. Microsoft  recently launched their Office 365 product, which puts the entire Office  lineup online. A lot of big cities (like Los Angeles) and towns are  contracting out to Google for their email and office applications. The  US government even has its own app store.


Higher education is really getting into the Internet business, with  real-time online learning now being a real possibility for a lot of  people. The medical field is starting to use the Internet to let doctors  and surgeons diagnose patients who live in other parts of the world, or  in remote areas. It’s even possible to use small, connected devices to  take blood samples and connect to remote servers to run complex  biometric tests. They’re using the power of Internet connections to have  a real, positive impact on people’s lives. I think that’s pretty  exciting.

A few weeks ago SolidWorks CEO Jeff Ray posted an update addressing some of the questions that  have come up following the  announcements made back in February at SolidWorks World 2010. One of the  things that Jeff touched on was the commitment SolidWorks made to  supporting three platforms—the desktop, mobile devices, and online.


While  the desktop is the platform used by most SolidWorks customers, online  and mobile are (relatively) new territory for the design software  industry. To get a better perspective on what’s happening in the world  of hardware and software, I sat down to talk with SolidWorks founder Jon  Hirschtick, who has been studying the changing computing landscape for  the past few years.


Matt: Before we start  talking about current and future platforms and technology, let’s go back  in time. What was the situation like when SolidWorks first came out in  1995?


Jon: It’s easy to forget, but the first  version of SolidWorks came out during a major technology shift. The  introduction of the Windows 95 platform and new processor architectures  combined to make the power of 32-bit computing available to 3D CAD users  for the first time. Before that, 3D CAD had to be done on expensive  UNIX workstations. It was new technology that made SolidWorks and other  desktop 3D CAD systems even possible.


Matt: And what do you see happening now?


Jon: We’re  in the middle of another major shift in computing, and how people use  technology. I’m seeing changes in ways people interact with their  devices, with touch and motion becoming more common. Think about devices  like the iPad and iPhone, or gaming systems like the Nintendo Wii. The  way you use those is radically different from the way you use a desktop  computer with a keyboard and mouse.


There’s also a shift to using  online apps and resources. Most people are comfortable doing their  banking online now, and almost everyone has a Gmail account. Lots of  businesses are using for their CRM needs. Adobe has  offered an online version of Photoshop for a few years. Millions of  people are playing videos games online, whether that’s something like  World of Warcraft or Xbox Live.


In a lot of ways, the design  software industry is late to the party, and is only now starting to  catch up. The technology and infrastructure is already there; we just  have to start developing software to take advantage of it.


Matt: One of the weaknesses of hosted or online computing that’s often  pointed out concerns Internet bandwidth and latency. Is the  infrastructure robust enough for most people to go to 100% online  applications?


Jon: Any computing model has  advantages and disadvantages. With desktops, you always have your  software installed locally, but you’re constrained by the processing  power inside your computer, and it’s expensive to upgrade. Your computer  is also vulnerable to viruses, crashes, and data loss. Moving resources  online largely eliminates these problems, but also forces you to change  your expectations about computing in general.


Depending on where  you are in the world, you may have to live with some amount of latency,  but what you lose there will be made up by the increased computing  power you have access to, meaning your models rebuild faster,  simulations are available on demand, and so forth. You’ll also have  access to rendering capabilities far beyond anything available for a  desktop computer. And bandwidth is increasing exponentially at this  point—I regularly stream (not download) full HD movies to my TV. If  that’s possible now, there should be no problem moving design software  online.


Another advantage is that applications can be specially  written for other devices, like tablets or smartphones, and can leverage  the strengths that those devices offer. So your data becomes more  portable, and you’re not confined to just your desktop workstation.


Matt: What about the way people work? How is that affecting the technology?


Jon: Good  question. I’m seeing two major things here. The first is that more and  more companies are outsourcing some amount of their design work, or  building ad hoc teams in different parts of the world. This creates an  increased need for data to be accessible anywhere, at any time.  Leveraging the Internet makes this simpler than emailing files back and  forth, which is something that the upcoming SolidWorks data sharing  application will address.


Secondly, the explosion in social  networking in the last ten years is making people more communicative and  collaborative, and any new applications should be built to take  advantage of team-based design. The days of a single person designing a  product from start to finish are largely over, and we need to make it  easy for teams to communicate and share data.


Matt: One last question—you’ve done a lot of research lately into online data  storage and security. What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of  each?


Jon: When you only store your data  locally, you have complete control over it. But it’s also pretty easy  for someone to steal it using a thumb drive, or even a SIM card from a  cell phone. And unless you’re working somewhere with military-spec  security, your computers are relatively vulnerable to viruses and  attacks. Especially if you’re like many of our customers and don’t have  dedicated IT staff. You’re also vulnerable to data loss if you’re not  adhering to a strict backup protocol.


When you store your data  online, you’re not as vulnerable to local issues, and the security  protocols at companies like Google are better than anything most of our  customers have access to. There’s also a considerable amount of  redundancy that takes place, so if one drive in a data farm goes down,  there’s a backup somewhere else. But on the downside, network congestion  or outages can occasionally prevent you from accessing your data.


It’s  like the difference between keeping your valuables in a bank vault, or a  safe in your closet. Sure, banks can get robbed, but homes get robbed  more often than banks. So, where would you rather keep your  grandmother’s wedding rings?

Earlier this morning, SolidWorks CEO Jeff Ray posted the following to the SolidWorks blog:


Eight months have passed since we took the stage at SolidWorks  World in Anaheim and talked about cloud technology and the benefits it  can bring to the product design process.  As I travel around the world  talking to companies and visiting user groups, I’ve noticed the same  questions keep coming up, and I wanted to address some of them directly.


First, people are asking what this “cloud” thing is all about
In  a nutshell, “cloud computing” leverages the Internet to shift  processor-intensive tasks from the desktop to more-powerful remote  machines.  We’ll talk more about technology later, but if you want to  learn more now, this blog post by Faisal Ghadially does a nice job of exploring the different options.


Second, people are asking if the introduction of cloud applications means the end of installed software.
Rest assured—moving resources online is not an “either/or” decision. In  Anaheim, we committed to supporting three platforms—the desktop,  online, and mobile devices. We will continue to offer locally-installed  desktop CAD, data management and validation solutions, and will allow  our customers to move online only when they are ready.


As an example, our first online offering is code-named SolidWorks  Connect (we originally referred to this as SolidWorks Product Data  Sharing at SolidWorks World).  This online CAD-based collaboration tool  is planned for early 2011 and is specifically designed for smaller  companies and individual users who need to easily upload, organize, and  share designs – many times at a moment’s notice.


While this online service will be available using a credit card and  doesn’t require any on-site equipment or IT support, users will still  have on-premise PDM options with SolidWorks Workgroup and SolidWorks  Enterprise PDM.  You can select the solution that’s right for your  environment and your particular business needs, whether it’s online or  on-site.


Third, I sometimes hear “…why are you looking at online CAD –users aren’t asking for this?!?”
Many  times in the technology development process, users don’t specifically  ask for a feature or technology.  No one asked for a laptop, or iPod, or  digital camera—right?   Rather, users lamented the fact that they were  tied to their desk for computing resources, and/or wanted the ability to  create their own customized mobile “player” of their favorite music.


Similarly, we’ve had a number of users who tell us they want file  sharing and collaboration  capabilities, but can’t make the commitment  to purchasing and maintaining such a solution over time.   SolidWorks  Connect provides great value to these users in helping them take  advantage of the basic collaboration capabilities that PDM systems offer  larger companies, and that they’ve enjoyed for years,  with the result  that smaller users are now able to compete more effectively.


This same idea could potentially apply to our CAD and validation  products. For example, imagine that you’re working on a project that  could really benefit from fluid or airflow analysis, but you only have  occasional use for such capabilities, and can’t justify the purchase of  SolidWorks Flow Simulation.  With an online option, you could  potentially “rent” those capabilities for a short period of time, giving  you access to the tools you need at a cost you can afford.


Security is another concern I keep hearing from the community.
What if someone steals my data? Protection of IP is certainly critical.  This blog entry by Craig Balding discusses seven ways that storing data online is actually beneficial to  businesses, ranging from data centralization to better security and  password protections than most small-to-medium businesses are capable of  on their own, and is worth reading through.  Any hosting partner we  select will need to meet a number of rigid requirements to ensure  customer data is safe.  That said, many times the real threat comes from  disgruntled employees who are already inside the organization or from  employees who leave laptops or other critical assets vulnerable.


I realize that there are other questions and concerns out there that  haven’t been addressed. In the next few weeks, members of the SolidWorks  executive team will talk more about some these topics, such as issues  with Internet bandwidth and outages, ownership of electronic data, and  more.

In the meantime, please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.

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