SOLIDWORKS 2016: A Look Ahead at the Future of Product Design

As we look ahead with excitement at what we’re announcing this year in terms of innovations and improved functionality with the roll-out of SOLIDWORKS 2016, it’s also a good time to reflect on how the role of CAD has changed. No longer just a tool used to create new products, the role of CAD has greatly expanded. Today CAD is about supporting the entire organization and helping companies achieve specific business goals, such as increasing innovation and, in turn, driving revenue. Designing for form and fit simply isn’t good enough anymore.

Today, product design involves a large, complex ecosystem that must seamlessly connect with internal and external value chains. It’s about collaboration. It’s about connecting all the disparate functions that exist to create today’s complex products—electrical, electronic, software and mechanical design, manufacturing, and the downstream disciplines needed to support products. These activities don’t all happen in one place nor do they work in isolation, yet each activity is an important link in the chain of product development and each movement, or activity, creates a positive effect on the next link of the chain. It’s critical to have the tools that unify all these “links.”

So as we look to the future, we realize that CAD must be about more than just features. Product designers live in a complex ecosystem so they need integrated tools that easily connect the efforts of the entire design team. And, all of these tools must work together. SOLIDWORKS tools must mimic the complexity of business today in order to make our customers’ jobs easier.

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Design today is a multi-faceted, complex endeavor, and our wide portfolio of products supports each link in this chain of design. SOLIDWORKS products are designed to be used as a system, not individual tools, because product development is no longer about just the design of manufacturable components. It’s about addressing the inherent challenges of creating and simulating the behavior all of the electrical and mechanical components and sensors that are included in today’s highly complex products.

If you look at “smart” connected devices, like the Nest® thermostat, they are all very complex. The design may look simple, but the Nest includes activity sensors, a Wi-Fi radio, three temperature sensors, and a humidity sensor. All of these components must be designed to work together. You can’t just design a thermostat as a piece of plastic—it has electronics and it needs to breathe so there needs to be air moving around it. Fortunately, we offer a wide range of products that support the complex design needs of these types of smart products—tools for industrial design, electrical and electronic design, air flow and structural simulation, plastics injection molding simulation, data management, manufacturing, quality inspection all the way thru photorealistic rendering for modern digital marketing and technical documentation.

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So our goal is to provide a thriving and growing ecosystem of tools that enable our customers to be more innovative and ultimately more competitive. CAD tools must deliver value to customers by helping provide greater innovation in the products our customers bring to market. We think that SOLIDWORKS 2016 is another great step towards that goal with over 360 new features and enhancements, most of them customer-requested.

While today our customers have chosen the Windows desktop as the preferred platform for engineering software, we see a future in which users will need CAD tools on multiple connected platforms. As we look ahead, we are already leveraging new technologies, such as the cloud, but ultimately it’s about customer choice. Are you ready with your data residing in the cloud? Are you comfortable with the idea of paying for software as you use it—if capital allocation is an issue—or do you like the concept of ownership? We don’t want to make those decisions for our customers.

So looking ahead, we won’t force our customers to adapt to a technology with which they are not yet comfortable. We’re not jumping into the cloud because it’s the “cool” thing or because everyone else is doing it. We’re doing it because performance improvements in the future will be driven by bandwidth and easily accessible shared resource—not desktop computing power. Investing in modern architectures that will improve the productivity and collaboration of our users is what drives our development initiatives now and in the future.

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Gian Paolo Bassi

Gian Paolo Bassi

Gian Paolo is CEO of Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS.