As you may recall from my earlier post, I spent the week of May 23 driving through the southeastern US with SolidWorks User Group Network coordinator Richard Doyle, attending user group meetings and visiting customers. It is always exciting to get out of the office and meet with SolidWorks users, and I learn something new every time. Rather than give you a day-by-day retelling of my trip, I thought I would talk about some of the highlights.
Each of the user group meetings was different and enlightening in different ways. The first meeting was in Atlanta, Georgia, and was held at the Quickparts headquarters. The second meeting in Greenville, South Carolina, was held at Clemson University. At this meeting, several resellers set up a display of 3D printers for the 70 attendees to demo, and SolidWorks customer Redneck Engineering brought out a few custom choppers. Here’s a picture of me sitting on one of them along with Vince “Nobody” Doll, who runs the company.
The third (and final) meeting took place at the [TC]2 facility in Cary, North Carolina. [TC]2 makes some incredible 3D scanners that are capable of scanning entire human bodies for use in the fashion and apparel fields. I hope to talk about them more in the future.
Going into these meetings, there were two things that I hoped to talk about. First, I wanted to thank all of our users for their support, and all of the work they do to help us make our products better. User feedback is critical to our development process, and we value the two-way conversations we have daily with our customers, as well as the comments that come in over the Internet.
I also talked about a few of the trends I see developing. It’s not hard to see that 3D is gaining momentum in the gaming and entertainment worlds, with the availability of 3D televisions and devices like the Nintendo 3DS. It’s only a matter of time before some of these technologies make their way into serious engineering tools. It’s also apparent that people are using more dedicated computing devices than they were five years ago, including smart phones and tablet computers. It will only be a few years until these devices have the computing power needed to run design software reliably, and we’re working today to ensure that we have usable software tools to take advantage of these devices when they are ready.
The users I talked to at these meetings told me they liked knowing that we are thinking about the future, even if we are not ready to show anything yet. I was also very pleased to hear several people tell me that they have seen real improvements in stability in the last two releases of SolidWorks.
At every meeting we attended, Richard Doyle gave a presentation called “What’s Really New in SolidWorks 2011.” Rather than discuss the major improvements in our 2011 release, Richard talked about some of the smaller improvements and enhancements, and it was incredible to hear some of the reactions from user group members seeing new capabilities they did not know existed. While we may focus on the big enhancements, it is often these small enhancements that truly help our users do their jobs quicker and easier.
As I mentioned earlier, I also met with some SolidWorks customers each day while Richard and I were driving from city to city. These included:
- Zike, a young start-up company making what I would best describe as a cross between a bicycle and a step trainer. I think these guys are going to go far, and I hope to talk more about them in the future.
- Michelin, an established customer. We visited their new Michelin on Main store in Greenville, which is a unique space that showcases both Michelin products and the company itself. The store doesn’t appear to have a website, but here is a forum thread I found with many pictures of the store.
- ABCO Automation, who you might recall from the SolidWorks 2011 launch website.
- Hayward Flow Control Systems, another long-time customer. These guys make pumps, filters, valves and other mechanical parts for swimming pools, which I’ve decided must be especially necessary to stay cool in the Southeast.
- ATI Industrial Automation, who make parts for robots used in the automotive industry. These guys asked me for a version of eDrawings for the iPad. I told them I would see what we could do.
I wish I could talk more about all of the users I spoke with and the customers we visited, but that would take many, many more pages. I want to personally thank everyone who came out to these three user group meetings, and I’m looking forward to visiting more groups in other parts of the world. If you’d like me to attend one of you user group meetings, please leave a comment and let me know. And before I go, here is a video of me trying out a Zike Saber.