The Future of Design at 3DEXPERIENCE World 2023

Day Two of 3DEXPERIENCE World dawned. In past conferences, each morning of the event opened with a general session where a collection of speakers covered design and engineering-related topics. Classes and other meet-ups would convene after the general session, so everyone could attend.

Apparently, this year there was too much content to fit into a single general session, so Dassault Systèmes scheduled three general sessions on Tuesday: one on design, one on manufacturing and one on simulation. These sessions were sprinkled throughout the day; the design session was held at 10:00 AM, the simulation session at 11:45 AM and the manufacturing Session at 2:15 PM.  

Because the general session was divided into three segments and classes were being held at the same time, it was a much smaller crowd for the day two sessions.

Since my career focus has always been design, I attended the design session and skipped the other two.

While Tracy B. Wilson continued her role as emcee, Manish Kumar, SOLIDWORKS CEO, was on stage and acted as the interviewer and host for all the speakers. The theme of the session was “The Future of Design.”

The first three guests were Matt Shedlov from Boston Scientific, Ryan Okelberry from House of Design and Brandon Foster from Sealed Air. All three are SOLIDWORKS customers, and they were there to endorse the products they use.

Matt Shedlov, Senior R&D Engineer, kicked things off. Boston Scientific is a huge medical device company with offices worldwide and hundreds of design engineers. Shedlov explained that Boston Scientific regularly buys up other companies and 95 percent of the companies they have acquired are SOLIDWORKS customers. This has made integrating the new acquisitions easier.

As an engineer who has experienced the pain of having to integrate the CAD library of an acquired company and train a team of engineers in the processes of their new overlord, I hadn’t considered using the engineering software being used by a targeted acquisition as a part of the criteria—but this certainly would reduce a lot of the friction when assimilating new data and team members.

Boston Scientific currently uses ePDM, which is the legacy PLM system offered by Dassault Systèmes. This is not a browser-based PLM. Basically, it uses a server owned and maintained by the customer. Users access the server using the company internal network and/or VPN, if they are working remotely. It requires an on-site CAD manager (typically, a senior engineer pulling double-duty) and someone from IT to help with server access. Ideally, you mirror your server to protect your data in the event of data corruption, and regularly back-up your data.

Boston Scientific is looking at switching to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, which would mean they no longer have to manage a server or schedule automatic backups. They would still need to have one of their engineers acting as CAD Manager but the workload would be lightened considerably. This CAD Manager would still need to add and delete team members and control their access as well as organize the CAD library, but the maintenance and software update part of the workload would be eliminated.

The next guest speaker was Ryan Okelberry, co-Founder of House of Design. House of Design fabricates modular housing units as well as developing the assembly lines used to fabricate their products. Their goal is to create a “virtual twin” of their systems.

The term “virtual twin” was used several times during the general session and many attendees were confused by the use of this phrase. Most designers and engineers are familiar with the term “digital twin.” A digital twin, in the simplest sense, can be thought of a CAD model which is identical to an actual physical model.

Apparently, Dassault Systèmes has decided to use “virtual twin” for a CAD model that resides on the cloud.

Since House of Design’s goal is to create and use virtual twins, they rely on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform entirely to design and manage their CAD data. This gives them the greatest flexibility to access their files on any device from any location.

Brandon Foster, senior CAD administrator from Sealed Air, provided the next customer endorsement. Sealed Air manufactures bubble wrap and other packaging solutions. The company holds over 2,800 patents. They have about 200 seats of SOLIDWORKS but about 60 percent of their design is in 2D, using DraftSight. They would like to move everything over to 3D but, like many companies, all that legacy data is a heavy weight.

Bruce Holway, director of product R&D for SOLIDWORKS was invited on the stage to show off some of the latest improvements in SOLIDWORKS.

Highlights included using a filter on bill of materials in drawings and the ability to open a part directly from the bill of materials. Both of these are excellent enhancements that promise to boost productivity.

He also talked about the Top Ten List. The Top Ten List can be found on the 3DEXPERIENCE website in the user forums. Users submit their ideas on how to improve SOLIDWORKS, and other users can then comment and vote on the submissions.

In prior conferences, the Top Ten List was a part of the General Session. SOLIDWORKS employees would announce the winners from the submissions and demonstrate how the enhancements had been added to the next release of SOLIDWORKS. This has always been a popular presentation, so the Top Ten List has now been cut from the general session and instead is now a regular session of its own. You would have to know to look for it in the agenda and then decide if you want to attend that class or some other class.

Next up was Michael Austell, Director of Engineering at Storyteller Overland, A company that converts small vans to recreational vehicles suitable for camping.

Unlike traditional RVs, these campers are geared more towards boondocking. Boondocking means you park on public land, usually Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas, and don’t have access to electricity, water, restrooms or cell service. Because most BLM land is accessed using unpaved dirt roads, a vehicle with 4WD and rugged suspension is preferred.

As someone who boondocks regularly with horses, I can tell you that it takes a special individual to want to spend time in these spaces. The upside is that boondocking is free; the downside is that you usually can’t spend more than one or two days at any given site because you will run out of water. Water is the limiting factor; you can only carry so much water and the closest place to get more is a significant distance away. So far away, in fact, that once you have driven down that bumpy unpaved road, covered your vehicle in dust and mud and refilled your water, you will likely have little or no interest in returning to the boondocking site and decide to just keep going.

Storyteller Overland is a small start-up with a talented team of engineers and designers. The team works remotely and from different locations. Austell said, “A lack of any interest in managing a server” contributed to their decision to opt to use the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. They use 3DEXPERIENCE exclusively, which prevents them from making any “unintentional edits, while allowing each member of the team to contribute in their own in unique and individual way.”

Austell also likes 3DEXPERIENCE’s ability to use controlled access when sharing CAD files with suppliers. You can protect your IP so that when suppliers download the models from 3DEXPERIENCE, they receive a dumb body. This is similar to saving your file as an *.stp file. The vendor can import the file into whatever software they use, and your IP is protected.

This was the perfect segue way for Manish Kumar to demonstrate how an admin invites a team member to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, who can launch SOLIDWORKS from inside the platform and how to get to work immediately.

He also exhibited how to publish a CAD file to the 3D Drive (a cloud-based server) and allow team members to view and markup the file on the cloud without requiring a seat of SOLIDWORKS.

Florian Fischer, CEO of X Custom Engineering, spoke next. They are a small start-up engineering services firm based in Germany. Fischer explained that he wanted his company to be “independent from hardware and location. I wanted to be device independent so that we would have access to the software and files from the cloud. This flexibility and mobility accelerate the design process.” X Custom Engineering is using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and is 100 percent invested in the cloud model.

Kumar then talked about some of the other positives of working 100 percent in the cloud on 3DEXPERIENCE. Because everyone is using the same browser-based software, everyone is using the same version. You don’t need to coordinate upgrades among team members, nor do you have to ask users to save up or save down a release. SOLIDWORKS is rolling out incremental updates every 8-12 weeks. These updates are automatic, and because they are only enhancing a few features at a time, users can adapt quickly and learn the new features easily.

Next up we heard from Amy Hamilton, a middle school teacher and Kirby Downey, a Maker Influencer who has a popular YouTube channel.

Manish Kumar introduced Hamilton, saying, “The most passionate segment of our users are teachers.” There are close to five million students learning SOLIDWORKS today.

Hamilton switched to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform during the pandemic because schools were shut down and she needed to continue supporting her students learning remotely. During the pandemic, she taught XDesign, XShape, XSketch and 3DStory. She liked the benefit of being able to review each student’s work remotely. Even if they didn’t formally submit it, she could see how they were progressing.

Now that she and the students have returned to the classroom, she finds that she is able to transition them into SOLIDWORKS easily because they are already familiar with the user interface.

Two of Hamilton’s students, Elif Gulhan and Kemal Cagin Gul, both 10 years old, are the youngest 3D Creator Certified Users in the world.

Kumar then did a quick demo of HomeByMe and MakeByMe. These are free websites developed by Dassault Systèmes. The HomeByMe website allows you to use a library of furnishings and materials to test-drive virtually.

The MakeByMe website allows you to design the furniture you want to place in your virtual home.

Both of these websites appeal to the DIYer, which was as good a lead-in as any to the next guest: DIY Maker Kirby Downey.

Downey likes to 3D print video game props. He is an influencer with a YouTube channel where he demonstrates how to design and print his models.

He has almost 200 models available for free download from this website. You can download his files and print them as they are or tweak them to make them your own unique design.

Downey uses SOLIDWORKS for Makers, which provides access to XDesign and XShape. You can create the conceptual model in XDesign and then export it for 3D printing.

Dassault Systèmes wants to unleash the creativity for everyone by slashing their prices for a limited time, allowing users to see for themselves how liberating cloud-based design can be.

Romain Perron, a VP from CATIA, came on stage and ran through several different CATIA software flavors from Simulia to Biovia. The demos were so fast, it was hard to see exactly what they were trying to show. Like a lot of reseller demos, the videos make the software look easy to use but I expect that it would take some time to become proficient in any of them.

Tracy B. Wilson returned to the stage to introduce the second installment of “Platform Jones and the Lost Features” saga. While the sketch was entertaining, there were no further peeks at future enhancements in the next release of SOLIDWORKS. We will have to wait for the third and final episode to see what’s in store for SOLIDWORKS and 3DEXPERIENCEWorks. Thankfully, that will be tomorrow – the final day of the conference, so we won’t have to wait too long.

About the Author

Elise Moss has been a SOLIDWORKS user and instructor since 1998. She is a Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional (CSWP) and Certified SOLIDWORKS Educator (CSWE). She is one or two exams away from becoming a Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert (CSWE) but like most things has to figure out when she can make the time to sit for any exams. Elise is currently traveling through the United States on horseback.

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