SWUGN Group Leader Spotlight – Dan Riffell

Dan Riffell – Colorado SOLIDWORKS User Group Leader


I’ve been attending user group meetings for nearly ten years, and I still learn something new every time. Meetings are a great way to see how other professionals are using the software without barging into their office and getting thrown out by security. Lesson learned. We are sure to always allot plenty of time for users to mingle, ask questions and network. Networking alone is worth the price of admission, which of course is free. Plus, the people-watching, free food and swag can be pretty good, too.

Dan Riffell

Dan Riffell is from a small town about 20 miles away from Boulder, Colorado where he has been the leader of the Colorado SOLIDWORKS User Group for about 5 years. “I had been on the board of the user group for a few years when the past president had to abdicate the throne. I was sucked into the vacuum left behind, and have been struggling to keep up since. Initially, I stepped into a board position because I had been attending every meeting and presenting at many of them, so it was a natural transition.”  The average attendance is about 20, but it varies due to the crazy Colorado weather; “You should believe everything about Colorado you see in movies and on television. It’s all bears, jagged mountains, inhospitable terrain, and homicidal hotel caretakers. I am buried under fifteen feet of snow as I type this. Your state is much better”


Dan is a busy guy! When he isn’t leading COSUG (or cracking jokes about his home state), he has a full time job and instructs CAD and manufacturing classes at the University of Colorado. “I have been working with Eltron Research and Development, Inc. for nearly twenty years where I’ve been responsible for the design and construction of apparatus and reactor systems necessary for over 300 projects. Projects range in scale from very small (e.g. bench top fuel cell) to very large (e.g. bioasphalt production facility). I never know what kind of nonsense I’m going to walk into when I get to the office, which keeps me on my toes. Also, I am an instructor for the Mechanical Engineering Department of the University of Colorado Boulder. I teach classes in CAD, manufacturing, and design for manufacturability in addition to mentoring graduate design teams. So, as you can see, I have plenty of free time

When he first started working at Eltron, everything was done in 2d; “That included images for proposals, reports, shop drawings, etc. It was a dark time in history when I had to walk uphill both ways though mountains of printed copies of drawings in order to get to the plotter. Kids today will never know the struggle. I don’t like to talk about it.” Eventually, Dan and Eltron felt it was time to switch to 3D and SOLIDWORKS was the software of choice. “Sixteen years later, and I’m still learning how to bend the software to my will.”

In addition to the SOLIDWORKS Community, Dan is also deeply active in the CrossFit community! In his words: “I wake up at 5AM every day to get beat up so that I’m sore all day. It sounds weird now that I say it out loud.” Also, he of course wouldn’t be a true Coloradan if he didn’t take advantage of all the wonderful natural resources at his fingertips; “Hiking, camping, skiing, running from mountain lions, wrasslin’ grizzlies, waiting for water to boil, and hunting for my next fur hat all top my list.”c476c907e8ad3cdc9ce3be7db6e790da

When we asked Dan who his industry idol was, he responded with: “That’s a tough one. Engineers and designers don’t tend to crave the spotlight, and even if they do many of them are not camera-ready, myself included. In a pinch I’d say Elon Musk, I guess. Kinda hard to beat SpaceX and Tesla for rock star status, and I appreciate his handling of IP. Patents are supposed to be used to disclose information and encourage innovation (which is what he’s done), not obfuscate and hoard it (which is how most corporations treat them). “

Lastly, we asked Dan if there was anything he would like to add; Yes, bacon. Always add bacon. You know who you are.”

Since 1996, SOLIDWORKS User Groups have been a valuable resource for SOLIDWORKS users all over the world.  The SWUGN Committee and DS SOLIDWORKS provide ample support, but the real stars are the SOLIDWORKS User Group Leaders. Every week or so, we’ll spotlight one of our group leaders and the local user group chapter that they are responsible for leading.

Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. offers complete 3D software tools that let you create, simulate, publish, and manage your data. SolidWorks products are easy to learn and use, and work together to help you design products better, faster, and more cost-effectively. The SolidWorks focus on ease-of-use allows more engineers, designers and other technology professionals than ever before to take advantage of 3D in bringing their designs to life.