SOLIDWORKS Offers Makers a Deal

SOLIDWORKS, long the tool of choice for professional mechanical design, is expanding its reach to include makers with an ambitious and far-reaching initiative that launched this summer.

Dassault Systèmes has launched a bold initiative to draw in makers, offering them the company’s professional mainstream solid modeler as the main component of a special offering called 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS for Makers. We sought out Suchit Jain, SOLIDWORKS 3DEXPERIENCE Works Strategy and Business Development VP, to find out what type of makers SOLIDWORKS plans to add to their SOLIDWORKS maker community.

A model of a motorcycle dragster fits over a child’s wheelchair. Costume designers, such as Magic Wheelchair, and other makers, will be able to get 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS for Makers for $99 a year. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

“The makers that we are targeting with 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS for Makers is a subset of all the makers,” explained Jain. “We are not going after makers of arts and crafts. Our makers will have some digital content, whether it be 2D design files or 3D print files.”

What kind of people are these? Woodworkers who work in 2D. Cosplay (costume play) designers [we remember Christine Getman and Magic Wheelchair who we last saw at a SOLIDWORKS user conference], garage mechanics and hot rodders—all those that have a need for 3D design but have found the cost of SOLIDWORKS prohibitive.

Riding the dragon. Jason Pohl on an OCC custom made chopper. (Picture courtesy of

Jason Pohl Carries the Maker Flag

The poster child for 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS for Makers may be maker-extraordinaire Jason Pohl. Pohl is so glad that makers have access to professional 3D design software at an affordable price that he has signed up as the initiative’s “brand ambassador.”

Low price is #1 for makers, says Pohl. Never before have makers had access to professional 3D design software.

“You can rake leaves and make $99 bucks,” says Pohl.

Pohl is a SOLIDWORKS user favorite. Many saw Pohl first on the hit reality show Orange County Chopper, designing the super-stylized Harley Davidson powered motorbikes. They were delighted to see Pohl, along with the Teutuls—the volatile father and son team that led the OCC business—on stage at the 2005 SOLIDWORKS World in Orlando. Preceding them was John McEleney, then VP of Marketing, making what to this day remains the most memorable—and loudest—entrance ever after he fired up an OCC creation and rode it on to the main stage. The SOLIDWORKS chopper is currently displayed at Dassault Systèmes North America headquarters in Waltham. Many companies followed suit, commissioning OCC for their very own branded chopper.

Pohl, a classically trained artist (Bachelor in Fine Arts from the Illinois Institute of Art – Schaumberg) working as an animator in his home state, leapt at the chance to move to upstate New York to work with the Teutuls. To render art on macho metal machines with the world watching—what a dream job.

A Design Business is Born

But the volatility of the Teutuls was too much; the family flameouts spectacular and Orange County Chopper burnt out. From its ashes emerged Jason Pohl’s own design business. (The spirit of Orange County Chopper was revived to live on in Paul Teutul, Sr.’s motorcycle-themed OCC Roadhouse and Museum in Clearwater, Florida.)

SOLIDWORKS users relate to Pohl and vice versa. Pohl is like them in many respects. He uses math, works with metal and big engines on machines that go fast. But Pohl’s work is—let’s face it—better looking than most SOLIDWORKS creations.

“You want the best possible outcome when you design and aesthetics is a big part of that,” says Pohl, who nevertheless understands that our circumstances may dictate otherwise. “Okay, if it is something no one will see, it’s under the hood, it holds a hose, then go ahead, let it rip, who cares how it looks. But if is out there in the open, why not make it look good?”

While the rest of Pohl’s graduating class from the Illinois Institute of Art may paint and sculpt, frequent museums and galleries, wine and cheese parties and jazz clubs, Pohl prefers his garage and workshop.

“I’m in my own lane,” says Pohl. Indeed, his style and his chosen media defies classification. What could you call his futuristic concept cars, customized Harleys, knives, an axe or two and the dragon’s head on display in his gallery? American Male Modernist, perhaps.

Pohl’s choice of media being steel, fiberglass and rubber grants him easier entry into the world of engineers than the world of artists. It is the entry of a Trojan horse, with an artistic flair that engineers can relate to and with a beauty we can’t admit to wanting. Beautiful, elegant, flowing, sexy shapes that make our designs seem so primitive, all cut square and straight, banged into place with hammers. Pohl’s designs are so seductive we stretch to justify them. They have to be more aerodynamic, right?

xShape the Most Welcome Concepting Tool

Pohl has become a fan of xShape, which lets him push and pull on a rectangular solid (it’s a sub-D modeler) until it becomes a gas tank, a swoopy headlight holder, or whatever else. Any organic shape he might have once made in clay in art school—the shapes of OCC’s custom designs, shapes that would be complex in SOLIDWORKS—are child’s play with xShape, which lets you work the shape until you get the shape you want.

A seventeen-year veteran of SOLIDWORKS, Pohl tried valiantly to use SOLIDWORKS for everything, wrestling it to make it give him the shapes he imagined. He used surfacing tools in SOLIDWORKS, mastering complex guide curves, lofting and with heroic measures, he was able to achieve C2 continuity.  

“With the right people using the right tools, you will get the right results,” says Pohl, quite charitably. “There really is no easy button.”

But he was to find that “easy button” in xShape, which he claims to be the perfect tool for the curvaceous shapes he specializes in.

“xShape is amazing,” he says. “It just makes it so much easier. C1 and C2 continuity is built in.”

The xShape app is included in 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS for Makers offer for $99/year.

Making a Happier World

Jason Pohl turns a power tool into a motorcycle. (Picture courtesy of

Pohl’s advice to young makers is make something they want to make. It is now easier to make than ever before.

“You used to have something called a library,” he says. “But now all that information is at your fingertips.”

Being creative and making things will make the world a better place. If we were all to make things, we’d be happier, more satisfied… and kinder.

“We’d help the old lady across the street, not flip off the old lady,” says Pohl.

Pohl sees the Internet as somewhat of a dark place, full of trolls, everyone is a critic and no-one a creator. Pohl had to abandon social media during his time at Orange County Chopper, tiring of the unforgiving scrutiny of the masses.

“I didn’t want to hear that green was not someone’s favorite color,” he says.

Pohl is glad to be able to make what he wants to make. He doesn’t have to confine his art to two wheels.

Pohl is a father of four, with children of “6, 4, 3 years and one 5 months.” Working in his home workshop allows him time with the kids, his wife and a design business that has bloomed.

Doing the Math

It was a riot, says Pohl, recalling his days at Orange County Chopper in the most favorable way. He got to work with Fortune 500 companies, he learned a lot about how a hit show is produced and OCC provided Jason some measure of fame. There’s a lot to making a show, he says, not all of it pure art.

“It was a lot about ad sales and product placement,” he says.

However, from the show, he made connections at SOLIDWORKS, the design software company. After mastering the design software, he is able to satisfy his inner engineer.

“I had a battle with math,” says Pohl of his days as a student. He couldn’t relate to abstract mathematics, math without context, devoid of practical application, i.e., the math engineers are forced to learn.

“But I find I am surrounded by math,” says Pohl, and to his surprise, he is good at it.

All it took was the application of math to something he loved to create, like calculating the volume of a teardrop shaped motorcycle gas tank.

“I can do that.”

Still, Pohl respects the role of engineers and is careful to not represent himself as a degreed engineer.

“I’m an artist,” he insists. “I only pretend to be an engineer.”

The Business of Making

For every product designer and design engineer, the core audience for SOLIDWORKS users, many more are makers. For one reason or another, makers take a different, non-traditional or part-time path to making things compared to engineers. You might end up as a maker after being filtered out of the engineering profession by math classes. Engineering schools use math classes like the military uses bootcamp and end up filtering out much needed talent. Creative genius does not always carry an engineering degree. For example, Leonardo da Vinci, Elon Musk… Jason Pohl.

After 26 years of existence, SOLIDWORKS may have saturated the available pool of professional users in its main markets. Everyone who could be using SOLIDWORKS full time already is. How many will buy another license for personal use is something Dassault Systèmes is certainly exploring to expand the addressable market. At the same time, why not try to reach the infrequent user, the younger and/or budget-conscious user, offering them a professional grade design tool that previously they could only have dreamt of using?

“We recognize that even SOLIDWORKS users by day would have projects in their off-time that could benefit from SOLIDWORKS,” says Jain.

Therefore, an engineer could make furniture in his garage workshop after designing them in the software they are familiar with – at a greatly reduced price.

“It does not make sense for them to buy another license of SOLIDWORKS,” says Suchit Jain, adding that 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS for Makers will keep them from having to use unfamiliar, inferior tools just to save money.

Preventing a Runaway Hit

All 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS for Makers models and drawings will be digitally watermarked. The files produced by the Maker platform will display with a gear icon (shown above). These files cannot be brought into a commercial SOLIDWORKS program but can be imported though neutral files such as .stp or .iges. Other than that, 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS for Makers will have all the bells and whistles of the commercial product.

Files created with 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS for Makers will show up a with an icon of a gear with an “m” in it.

“We are enabling the learning of SOLIDWORKS,” says Jain, by making a lot of product available to makers that costs professionals several thousand dollars.  

“We still have our business with professionals who use our products during the day,” says Jain. “But we don’t want to charge a high price to those who want to learn our software and those who make no money with what they make. Like the hobbyist.”

The maker offering is not meant for those earning more than $2,000 a year from their creations.

A Little Help

SOLIDWORKS, not the type of application you can pick up in one day and use it the next, makes us wonder how users will be helped or trained to use 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS for Makers.

Communities will be formed to help with software onboarding, says Jain. User champions have been enlisted. In addition to Jason Pohl, other maker champions include Joel Telling, who runs the popular 3D Printing Nerd YouTube channel.

Goal Keeping

Is the 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS for Maker initiative to lure users in and convert them into commercial users? “We expect some may do that, but that is not the goal,” says Jain.

“Our goal is to have 50,000 makers as part of our SOLIDWORKS Maker community in the first year,” says Jain. “After three years, we hope to have 300,000. We may have to ramp users up from the initial $99/year, like we do with the Start Up program, in which start-ups pay 25 percent more each year, but for now, that is not definite.”

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