SOLIDWORKS Runs On the Cloud, Too
SOLIDWORKS 2016 has officially been released.
During a day filled with engineers from DS SOLIDWORKS explaining the software’s new features, the CEO himself was there to make sure one particular feature was not missed.
During a whirlwind presentation of its new product, Gian Paolo Bassi announced that his company has released a version of SOLIDWORKS 2016 that can be used in a browser.
The 2016 launch build up had made no mention of a cloud-based SOLIDWORKS solution.
Bassi goes on to illustrate that SOLIDWORKS’s cloud version could load complex assemblies quickly and explore intricate kinematic simulations without a hiccup. As the CEO navigates through his presentation (on a $200 Chromebook, no less), it certainly suggested that SOLIDWORKS’s cloud version could be a player in an arena where most of the attention is being focused on startup Onshape and Autodesk’s Fusion 360.
That idea was further compounded by the next speaker, Kishore Boyalakuntla, senior director of product portfolio management at DS SOLIDWORKS, who mentioned that not only had he been modeling in the cloud recently, he’d also been running a stress analysis, flow analysis and plastic flow simulations — all from a browser-based environment.
That all sounds amazing. SOLIDWORKS is an incredible mechanical CAD program with almost universal acceptance. With their new release, they’ve made some major innovations that will make design much easier. Having all of those abilities running from an inexpensive laptop represents a major breakthrough for SOLIDWORKS and its users.
So, what’s the catch?
For the moment, Dassault Systèmes is only offering an “evaluation edition” trial basis. SOLIDWORKS online edition is only available in North America for now, so it will be doled out on a first-come, first-serve basis. Its release is limited to a few thousand users.
While SOLIDWORKS’s browser-based offering is a very limited trial, it’s a further demonstration that CAD work and design, for that matter, needn’t be shackled to a workstation, desk or office.
With today’s cloud resources, CAD is becoming mobile with a quickness. Large companies and startups are beginning to offer full-fledged CAD packages that can be used anywhere, by even on the feeblest Chromebooks.
Beyond CAD on the cloud, Bassi seems to have a vision that his company’s cloud initiative can define an even more powerful product design platform, especially if it’s integrated with mobile technologies.
Tempering his claims, the CEO mentioned, “I’m not advocating that you design an engine block on an iPhone, but perhaps a workflow alert from EPDM could pop up on your phone.”
While that might seem mundane, it’s a profound thought when you think about CAD in a larger sense. If a CAD system could instantly communicate with the next person up in the design lifecycle, tons of time could be saved.
Even more boldly, Bassi insisted that he sees a time when the cloud-based CAD could slash product development times by harnessing the power of predictive computing.
“Today you see the power of predictive computing when you search on Google. Most of the time your phrase is completed automatically. There’s a forward-looking mechanism made possible by a huge farm of computer crunch data and makes your search predictable,” he said. “Now, what if we did the same thing for design? What if [SOLIDWORKS] could suggest a design solution like a vent or a connector or a conforming lattice structure to fill a trench.”
SOLIDWORKS Being Framed
That would truly be a revolution in CAD technology. It would seem that SOLIDWORKS should be on the same map as rich, exciting startups and all their innovation. But before we make the plunge, SOLIDWORKS may need to tackle some questions.
Currently, SOLIDWORKS’s online edition uses a Frame platform. Frame is a startup that has received much attention and funding lately, who is in the business of making desktop tools accessible in the cloud.
Its website mentions Vectorworks, Solid Edge and has added SOLIDWORKS on its website as an example of what its platform can do with desktop apps.
SOLIDWORKS appears to have taken its existing code and ported it using Frame technology to run on remote servers (it’s using Amazon Web Services). This is in contrast to Onshape, which will say it has built its product as a cloud application. What difference this has for the user in terms of performance is not yet known.
Frame isn’t likely hosting SOLIDWORKS for free. I suspect, but can’t confirm, that SOLIDWORKS’s current engagement with Frame might be a limited time offer.
Could Bassi have plans to rewrite the code to make SOLIDWORKS a cloud native application? That would be a massive undertaking and a tremendous upheaval. Or is it sufficient to prove that yes, we can run on a browser — what’s the big deal?
About the Author
Kyle Maxey is a mechanical designer and writer from Austin, TX. He earned a degree in Film at Bard College and has since studied Mechanical and Architectural drafting at Austin Community College. As a designer Kyle has had vast experience with CAD software and rapid prototyping. One day he dreams of becoming a toy designer.