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A Walk in the Cloud, At Your Own Pace

PDM

A Walk in the Cloud, At Your Own Pace

When it comes to SOLIDWORKS, both the company and the brand, you can think of it as being a little bit like Starbucks: offering many flavors to fit your taste. Whether you are a desktop user, web-based user or want the best of both worlds, SOLIDWORKS—like Starbucks—has options.

That’s according to Suchit Jain, VP Strategy & Business Development for Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS, when asked if users were utilizing or interested in the cloud.

Jain explained that though the name of the brand is the same as the company name, the brand SOLIDWORKS offers customers an expanded portfolio of products to fit its customers’ needs. This includes SOLIDWORKS desktop solutions and cloud-based solutions such as 3D Creator and 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS, along with other options to use both, which we’ll discuss below.

Jain made it clear that SOLIDWORKS as a company is ready for the cloud with the offerings mentioned above, but that more importantly, they want their customers to be ready when the time is right for them.

“Not everybody is ready for the cloud,” said Jain, “because they are able to do what they need to do with their products.”

“Our philosophy is very simple,” he continued. “For people who want to work purely on the desktop, we will continue to enhance and maintain SOLIDWORKS desktop. For people who want to use the cloud and are ready to use pure cloud for design, they can do that as well. For people who are ready to move in a hybrid way, where they have locally installed apps and data on the cloud, we support that as well.”

Suchit Jain, VP Strategy & Business Development for Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS.

“We are ready, as of today, to support all these three scenarios. But we are giving our users flexibility. We are not in a rush to push them in one way or the other. They can move at their own speed. We are ready. It’s up to the customer.”

Jain said they are seeing an uptick in companies using cloud solutions, but most are primarily in the early stages of transitioning. Based on Dassault surveys, 30 to 40 percent of respondents have moved to the cloud in some form or are in the process—but most are comfortable with the current design tools they are using, he added.

“Speaking for the market overall, not everybody is ready for the cloud, because they are able to do what they need to do with their current products.”

He said people sticking with their desktop are users that learned on the desktop version, such as people coming out of school and existing users that are comfortable with it. Dassault Systèmes is mainly seeing adoption in smaller companies such as start-ups, for example, who don’t have any legacy data.

He said there is a misconception, however, about what working in the cloud means. “A lot of times the cloud becomes about data. People say, ‘my data is already on the cloud, because I’m hosting my PDM [product data management] vault on Amazon.’”

But what is missing from that scenario—and what the company explains to customers—is that while that type of data can be stored on the cloud, there are more ways to take advantage of the compute power and capabilities of the cloud and do things such as full design, rendering or simulation on the cloud.

Let’s look at some of the current cloud options offered by Dassault Systèmes for SOLIDWORKS users. We have included some interesting tidbits from value-added resellers (VARs) and the SOLIDWORKS blog to help explain some of the options.

Dassault Systèmes offers fully browser-based solutions called “roles,” including 3D Creator (which includes xDesign app) and 3D Sculptor (which includes xShape app), both built on Dassault’s cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Roles are built on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and are basically collections of apps specific to a job function. These are the solutions users can buy and access based on their needs or job role.

The 3D Creator role in Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE.

Both 3D Creator and 3D Sculptor enable users to interact with the SOLIDWORKS desktop solution, so users can navigate between all three solutions in a seamless manner.

VAR Javelin Technologies explained it nicely: “SOLIDWORKS 3D Creator is a browser-based 3D modeling solution that enables designers and engineers to create, review and evaluate 3D models through easy-to-use parametric modeling capabilities. Essentially, 3D Creator is an online version of SOLIDWORKS desktop.”

Furthermore, 3D Creator features direct import and export so that users can easily bring their 3D Creator designs into SOLIDWORKS desktop. Another plus is that when users modify their models in SOLIDWORKS desktop or other 3DEXPERIENCE design tools, their 3D Creator files update automatically, and vice versa.

Similarly, 3D Sculptor works the same as far as offering seamless interchange of data with SOLIDWORKS desktop. However, 3D Sculptor focuses on complex shapes, and gives users the ability to create, review and evaluate organic and ergonomic shapes. It uses subdivision (Sub-D) modeling to create 3D surface geometry and automatically converts subdivision surfaces to geometry when finished.

Users can also transition between 3D Creator and 3D Sculptor, as well as other 3DEXPERIENCE solutions.

Speaking of other 3DEXPERIENCE solutions, the company also offers 3DEXPERIENCE Works Cloud Solutions, which is a portfolio of products that combines SOLIDWORKS with applications connected to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Users can choose from roles that best fit their job such as Designer/Engineer, Manufacturer and Executive, which give them access to various products.

For instance, the Design/Engineer role option includes SOLIDWORKS desktop CAD, 3D Sculptor and 3DEXPERIENCE DraftSight connected through the 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS platform.

In the latest release of SOLIDWORKS 2021, announced last fall, Dassault Systèmes started offering a special edition of SOLIDWORKS connected to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform available in three packages: 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS Standard, Professional and Premium, which they say mirror the desktop versions. This “connected” version of SOLIDWORKS includes cloud-based industrial and mechanical design features optimized for mobile devices and comes with embedded data management. How it works is all users work on the same version and are one click away from applications of the 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS portfolio.  

The most popular choice, the “Professional” offer includes 3D Sculptor, 3D Creator, 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS Professional, Collaborative Industry Innovator and Collaborative Business Innovator. See the datasheet comparing key capabilities of each of the three offers to see what package might best fit your needs, which include simulation, rendering, costing and many other features available in the cloud.

3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS Offers.

We’d suggest reading this article from the SOLIDWORKS blog: “3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS Roles – How are They Similar or Different than SOLIDWORKS Desktop?” to learn more.

We also found this helpful Q & A from Hawk Ridge Systems, “3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS Explained.” The blog post reads, “On July 6, 2020, SOLIDWORKS released 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS, a variant of the SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD software that is connected to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. This new version represents a shift in the delivery and operation of SOLIDWORKS CAD software. A new offering like this often leads to a lot of questions, and we’re going to do our best to answer them.”

The below is excerpted from the blog:

What is 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS?

3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS is a cloud-deployed and cloud-connected version of SOLIDWORKS that is connected to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

Is it the same as regular/desktop SOLIDWORKS?

Well, not quite. The bulk of the core CAD modeling functionality is the same as desktop SOLIDWORKS, with some minor changes to the way configurations and parts within assemblies are handled, which helps align the data structure with how the 3DEXPERIENCE data management system works.

The major difference is that many of the add-in functionalities you may have been using in desktop SOLIDWORKS are not currently supported. Things like the SimXpress and FloXpress products, Toolbox, functions written with the API, and supplementary software tools like Inspection, Electrical, Composer and Motion are not currently available. Additionally, no partner products will run on 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS.

However, with 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS you get access to some pretty exciting new CAD and data management technology. All versions include access to the 3DEXPERIENCE data management tools that are part of the Collaborative Designer for SOLIDWORKS role, as well as the fundamental functionality of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform (dashboards, social collaboration). The Professional and Premium also include 3DEXPERIENCE apps for photo-rendering, industrial design and analysis (Premium only).

I use desktop SOLIDWORKS today. Should I switch?

There are migration paths for existing desktop SOLIDWORKS users to move to 3DEXPEREINCE SOLIDWORKS, but it’s probably not a realistic proposition for the majority of users today. However, if you’re interested in taking advantage of the cloud-connectivity of the platform, and move into cloud data management, the Collaborative Designer for SOLIDWORKS role will give users all the cloud data management functionality of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. It’s a great way to store and manage your data.

At this time, it is not recommended that an organization use a mix of 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS and desktop SOLIDWORKS for the CAD functionality.

What is the Collaborative Designer for SOLIDWORKS Role?

Adding this role to your existing (or newly purchased) license of desktop SOLIDWORKS can give you the best of both worlds. You’ll get access to all the cloud data management functionality built into the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, but you are still able to run SOLIDWORKS locally (not on the cloud). You’ll be able to run SOLIDWORKS without an Internet connection, save files locally (if needed), use network licensing and use add-in software products while still being able to share your data and control your product through the design and release process over the cloud.

Readers may also find this blog post from VAR GSC helpful, on “The Top 10 Questions Users Asked About SOLIDWORKS & 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS 2021.”

Another important option Hawk Ridge Systems mentioned above is Collaborative Designer for SOLIDWORKS. In a nutshell, Collaborative Designer for SOLIDWORKS connects SOLIDWORKS data to the cloud. Moreover, Dassault Systèmes says that Collaborative Designer for SOLIDWORKS offers secure access to the cloud along with additional design, simulation, manufacturing and management tools that can be accessed from anywhere with a browser.

To learn more about Collaborative Designer for SOLIDWORKS, we suggest reading the following articles from the SOLIDWORKS blog: Top 3 Reasons to Connect SOLIDWORKS to the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform.

This article cites the following three reasons:

  1. You can work anywhere.
  2. Data management is built in.
  3. IT overhead is minimized.

Readers might also check out this article from Javelin Technologies, “What Is the Collaborative Designer for SOLIDWORKS?,” to learn more.

Looking back, SOLIDWORKS initially made its leap into the cloud in 2014 with its first solution on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform, SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual.

Also, do you remember when Gian Paolo Bassi, CEO of DS SOLIDWORKS, previewed the SOLIDWORKS Online edition product trial back in 2015? We do. Read Engineering.com’s article by Shawn Wasserman and Roopinder Tara.

Keynote by Gian-Paolo Bassi, SOLIDWORKS CEO, announcing SOLIDWORKS 2016 Online Edition powered by Frame Cloud Platform.

Bassi’s stance on the cloud back then was that it was an overrated buzzword and to not get too hung up on “the cloud.” The article reads, “Unlike other organizations moving their technology online, Bassi stressed that he didn’t want to hear the word ‘cloud’ being tossed around too much. He’s sick of it and believes that the users are as well.

“Customers don’t care about cloud,” joked Bassi. “They care about what makes them more productive. It turns out, however, that the cloud makes them more productive and more involved in many ways. But customers are slightly irritated about the cloud hype. Sure, the tools have better design and collaboration, but they don’t want to be told they have to migrate or be told they are obsolete.”

Bassi believes the cloud is being over-marketed. “We stayed out of the cloud. With others, it’s ‘cloud, cloud, cloud.’ Then you go under the hood and they didn’t change anything. They are just a cloud company now and the stocks rise. We don’t need to impress our customers [with the cloud].”

“We don’t believe cloud means you run everything in the browser,” continued Bassi. “Some say it needs to be 100 percent in the browser to be cloud, but who cares? We want it to be right and usable. We want to adopt all the values of the cloud, but not exclusively running in the browser as there are limitations.”

For Bassi, he envisions the cloud technically starts when you have a portion of the workflow or data collection outside of the desktop’s boundary. “If you connect to a server, become a member of the community and have the option to work on your own or share your work with the community, then you are in the cloud. However, this should not be the selling point in and of itself. What should be the focus is functionality and productivity. At the end of the day, that is what the engineers care about, not buzzwords.”

Today the cloud is more of a reality than a buzzword and Bassi has since changed his tune. At this year’s 3DEXPERIENCE World, during the SOLIDWORKS Top Ten session Bassi mentioned that if companies don’t move to the cloud, they will be left behind.

We asked Jain about this, and he said that what Bassi alluded to was that companies should just be ready, and that there are things in the cloud that companies will want to take advantage of.

Jain explained that, “what Gian Paolo meant simply was look at our lives today and you know, whether it’s our personal life or work life, the cloud is everywhere. And when say cloud, we mean cloud technologies. What he is saying is that if you look in the future, look at artificial intelligence, for example. AI, by its nature has to have access to the data and the access to high performance computing that is not available on the desktop. Tomorrow, if your company moves its processes to the cloud, you will have to move to the cloud. Why not be ready for it.”

Jain gives another example of generative design, “when the computer is coming up with various algorithms and shapes. Yes, you can do some of that on desktop. But the desktop is limiting because you are only using one computer,” he explained.

Jain stressed, however, that it is important that customers start looking at cloud solutions. But he adds, “We’re not even trying to preach this to our customers. It’s actually our customers telling us this. There’s a difference between a company and a user. A user is very familiar with the desktop and they continue to work on the desktop. A company will see that they need to change some of the processes to take advantage of the cloud. The pressure will come from the top down.”

“There are a lot of new things, which we are looking into, which inherently can only be possible because of cloud. It’s not because we want to limit our users, we’re just simply saying that in the future, when these advantages of cloud have to be taken, we will be ready!”

With all the options above, we think DS SOLIDWORKS is ready, and they are enabling their customers to be as well.

To learn more, check out the whitepaper Developing Better Products in the Cloud.