Monday, October 14, 2013

Increase SolidWorks productivity... in four key areas

Rather than charging into the next CAD assignment, take a moment to reflect how your time and effort is being used when managing multiple clients. Have you encountered recent modeling or drawing experiences where you thought to yourself "I know there's an easier / faster way to do this, but I'll set that up later"? Instead of improving the situation however, many just continue with the same tried-n-true mouse clicks they're accustomed to. If that has been your experience, then setting aside a small amount of time to address these four key areas should yield noticeable benefits toward increasing your efficiency and effectiveness with SolidWorks, and especially when managing multiple clients. 

  • Develop Part, Assembly, and Drawing templates specific to a client as soon as you begin a project
  • For these client-based templates, be sure to arrange:
    • the preferred 'Unit System', including number of decimals or whether to use fractions
    • the 'Hide/Show Items' to your preference
    • the Drawing 'Title Blocks' to feature the clients name and/or logo
  • Leave the Custom Properties of Part, Assembly, and Drawing templates blank
  • If not mapped already, ensure the System Options are arranged to include any needed templates in the Default Templates and File Locations > Document Templates settings
Custom Properties
  • Utilize 'Property Tab Builder' to create 'Custom Property' templates for Part, Assembly, and Drawing files
    • separate part templates can be developed for both designed components and for common hardware
    • use the 'Task Manager' pane to easily assign and edit the Custom Properties for each file type
User Interface and Customization
  • Add commonly used 'Command' icons to the 'Main Toolbar' or the 'View (Heads-Up) Toolbar'
    • locate these in positions that minimize mouse travel (i.e.: place a 'close file' icon next to the 'save icon')
  • Utilize 'Context Toolbar'
  • Utilize 'Mouse Gestures'
  • When building assemblies, simply press and hold [Alt] + select entity, then drag to mate model geometry
    • Press [Tab] to flip alignment, if needed
Of course, these are just four of the many aspects of SolidWorks that can aid in improving productivity. Easy to implement into a routine if you haven't done so already, these four areas should yield noticeable improvements toward managing multiple clients efficiently and effectively.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Infinite Skills... video training for SolidWorks

Brushing up or enhancing ones skills in SolidWorks has an inherent value that makes the effort worthwhile.  The difficulty in doing so however, is oftentimes more about having the right time and circumstances than it is about desire.

(c) Infinite Skills, Inc.
Not to be overlooked then is Infinite Skills and their Video Based Training for SolidWorks. Their free YouTube shorts may be just what many are looking for to clarify or build greater understanding on a variety of SolidWorks design and modeling techniques. 

Understandably, these free SolidWorks video tutorials only address the basics associated with each theme, but should be enough to provide a measure of understanding toward a modeling technique that you may not have used before, or bring back to memory what you may have simply forgotten.

Based in Oakville, Ontario Canada, Infinite Skills also carries priced training materials for an impressive and wide array of computer software and IT training needs, including several specific to SolidWorks.  Clearly, Infinite Skills is serious about providing effective visual training, and their SolidWorks YouTube shorts are a fine way to experience this first hand.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sketch quickly and accurately in SolidWorks... with Grid / Snap

Understandably, SolidWorks users generally prefer defined sketches to ensure the stability of their CAD model.  However, when it comes to initially sketching splines for example, oftentimes an early or preliminary sketch may be comprised of both defined and undefined points.  This mixed approach lends itself well to developing a working sketch while still retaining some flexibility to manipulate the sketch as desired.

Another and perhaps more flexible approach toward developing a preliminary sketch however, could be to set SolidWorks System Options and Document Properties to enable Grid and Snap.  An often overlooked carryover from 2D CAD systems, the Snap-to-Grid method provides a convenient means for quickly drawing a sketch with relative accuracy, while also leaving the entire sketch free to manipulate.

The preliminary spline sketch shown here is an example of a sketch type that lends itself well to the Grid / Snap approach.

Spline sketch utilizing SolidWorks Grid / Snap option setting

By setting the Document Properties - Grid/Snap - Major and Minor grid spacing options to a preferred measure of detail, the ability to easily snap sketch points with accuracy and proportion quickly becomes evident.  

So the benefit of using the Grid and Snap options is really during the initial development of a sketch.  Rather than early on, going back and forth editing dimensions simply to tweak coordinates, the Grid and Snap options allow a user to save time and effort before committing to defined dimensions.  

Later, when it becomes readily apparent and prudent, the sketch can be defined with dimensions.  With the sketch then defined, the Grid and Snap options can easily be disabled.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Epigrid... on the forefront of Cloud-Hosted EPDM

Recognition as to the benefits of a product data management (PDM) system is growing among many SolidWorks CAD users.  Higher-end PDM systems such as SolidWorks Enterprise PDM however, are often out of reach for most small businesses or independent CAD users.  In effect adding insult to injury, not only is the high cost of EPDM software an obstacle, just supporting such a system requires a real working knowledge of information technology.   So what solutions are available to bridge the "wants versus needs" gap inherent with current CAD PDM packages?

One company that has addressed this niche is Epigrid.   As to why he started the company, Chief Technical Officer Chad Garrish states "I saw a hole in the market between what engineering wanted, and what IT could really give them."  Founded in 2012, and based in Suwanee, Georgia USA, Epigrid provides affordable cloud-hosted EPDM.  Combining their experience in engineering data management along with server, network and  cloud management, Epigrid has made their services, vault configuration, and support flexible and scale-able to any sized group or budget. 

Notably, Epicure's approach to security reinforces they have a real grasp on what CAD users need in a hosted PDM service.  The importance of security is evident by their arrangement of privately hosted architecture, multiple layers of advanced security methods, constant data protection, HIPAA-compliant data centers, and disaster recovery center.

Epigrid also demonstrates an openness and transparency that is refreshing among young startups.  Chief Information Officer Lewis Halski warmly invites those interested to view their FAQ videos, and to call or email with questions.  With short to-the-point videos that reflect IT sensibility, and all the EPDM cloud-hosting tools one could ask for, Epigrid is on the forefront in providing a unique service that addresses a real need among many CAD users.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The 2012 financials for SolidWorks...

Dassault Systemes North American Headquarters

The 2012 financials for SolidWorks indicate continued growth and momentum

Many SolidWorks users are keenly interested in the goings on of the company and where the software may be going both in the way of further development and new direction.  To gain a sense of the current business health of SolidWorks, it might be helpful to look at the company as it has grown over the years and what the current Dassault Systemes 2012 financials reveal*.  In summary, most will find that SolidWorks is, well... very solid.

History and milestones

A brief review of the history of SolidWorks shows continued growth both from within and from acquisition.
  • 2013  +2M licenses sold @ 26% commercial / 74% educational; Announced upcoming release of SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual
  • 2012  Added SolidWorks Plastics and SolidWorks Electrical to portfolio
  • 2011  Bertrand Sicot as CEO; Added SolidWorks Costing to portfolio; Dassault Systems creates the American Campus in Waltham, MA  USA; Updated logo
  • 2010
  • 2009 +1M licenses sold @ 34% commercial / 66% educational; Added Sustainability to portfolio, Updated product names
  • 2008  Acquired Priware, incorporated CircuitWorks, Significant IU enhancements
  • 2007  Jeff Ray as CEO; Acquired Seemage; Added 3DVIA Composer to portfolio
  • 2006  Acquired Conisio, Added PDMWorks Enterprise to portfolio
  • 2005
  • 2004
  • 2003
  • 2002  Added PDMWorks Workgroup to portfolio from Design Resource Technology, Inc
  • 2001  John McEleney as CEO; +118k licenses sold, Acquired Structural Research and Analysis Corporation; Added Simulation to portfolio, Updated logo
  • 2000
  • 1999
  • 1998
  • 1997  Acquired by Dassault Systems @ $310M
  • 1996
  • 1995  Shipped first seat of SolidWorks; Headquarters in Concord, MA USA
  • 1994
  • 1993  John Hirschtick as CEO; Founded in Waltham, MA USA dba Winchester Design Systems

SolidWorks Licenses

As regards SolidWorks licenses, a notable statistic that stands out is the ever growing percentage of education license sales over commercial, currently at a 2.8:1 ratio.

Another is the software reaching the milestone of 2 million licenses sold. However, this statistic should not be construed as the actual number of current users as SolidWorks infers. It's simply the total number of licenses sold since 1995.  A much better barometer of the health of SolidWorks is the number of licenses or seats sold each year, as this graph indicates.

SolidWorks Revenue

The 2012 key figures delivered by Dassault Systemes indicate that within their total revenue of € 2,083.3M, SolidWorks software provided € 403.2M, or 19.3%.  Generally speaking, SolidWorks has routinely contributed at around 20% over the years since being acquired by Dassault Systemes in 1997.  So not much has changed there.

What has changed is the profitability.  Whereas SolidWorks sales generally mirror the overall economic trends, the revenue generated by SolidWorks is showing a steady increase.

SolidWorks Headcount

An clearer indication of momentum within SolidWorks is the employee headcount.  While it has shown moderate increase over the years, in 2012 it jumped significantly from 848 to 1,015.  One can only speculate as to what all that extra effort is going toward, but SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual would seem to be at least one reasonable choice.

In conclusion, the statistics indicate that SolidWorks continues to provide a viable tool that CAD consumers appreciate.  Certainly, as technology and leadership shape SolidWorks from within, it seems well positioned within the framework of Dassault Systemes 3DEXPERIENCE Platform to continue pressing diligently toward their goal.  A goal of gaining an ever increasing share as the CAD software of choice among the worldwide design community

* data and information derived the Dassault Systemes Annual Report 2012 and SolidWorks Company Fact Sheets

Monday, January 28, 2013

netvibes... CAD web as you want it, and everything else too!

Keeping aware of business trends and managing time effectively are two very important aspects to any CAD entrepreneur, and netvibes addresses both.  Founded in 2005 and acquired by Dassault Systemes in early 2012, netvibes provides a personalized web dashboard that can be tailored to any variety of digital interests and subjects.

Herein lies the tremendous value of netvibes for people and business.  Rather than taking time to routinely peruse the variety of websites and blogs you typically might navigate to stay informed, simply use netvibes as a single, convenient means to view all the latest digital information that is relevant to you.  For example, say you want to keep up to date on topics and blog commentary specific to Solidworks.  Then create a Solidworks dashboard and add RSS feeds from the published web sources of your choice.  It's that simple, and netvibes will do the work for you.

Beyond having a single dashboard, you can also create additional dashboards for other interests too.  Whether for personal or for your CAD business, the apps and widget selections allow you to keep informed of news and even email, all under one netvibe account.

Of the three tiers available, the basic is free and has enough customization to certainly be of value.  Although it was reported that netvibes had its own pains inherit to any growing business, it appears that at least for the present it is here to stay.  Gigaom reported last year that Dassault Systemes purchased netvibes for roughly $26M (US).  Highlighting their commitment to make this a reputable part of the 3DExperience, Bernard Charles (President and CEO of Dassault Systemes) and Freddy Mini (CEO of netvibes) have provided encouragement to look into netvibes, as seen on the Dassault Systemes / netvibes product page and video.  As it is being touted, the dashboard intelligence of netvibes should be a tremendous asset to any CAD entrepreneur looking to be most efficient with their time and efforts at keeping informed.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Certified in Solidworks... to be or not to be?

From its inception, the Certification program for Solidworks has served as "a benchmark to measure your knowledge and competency with Solidworks software".  There have been significant refinements to the program over the years and at present there are a variety of levels and areas of interest as outlined on the Solidworks Certification site.  Each year at Solidworks World, candidates are allowed to take either Certified SolidWorks Associate (CSWA), Certified SolidWorks Professional (CSWPCORE) or any of the Certified SolidWorks Professional Advanced Specialist exams.  The current program then certainly encourages consideration for anyone looking to assess or promote their skill with Solidworks.  Along with the sample exams provided by Solidworks and information found in The Solidworks Blog, searching online can also reveal a number of articles that address general exam content and collectively this information may serve well in preparing for a successful exam.

(c) DS Solidworks
One benefit of Certification in Solidworks is that it demonstrates proficiency due in part to the time constraint imposed by an exam.  While there is certainly nothing new to be found in an exam, a users competency in the software is revealed in the ability to model and navigate through the test criteria decisively.  In this regard, most users could certainly attain the desired results with a good working knowledge of the exam set and given enough time.  A Certification then clearly validates a users ability to attain the desired results effectively and accurately.

Solidworks has a very respectable arrangement to the Certification program, being both accessible and a fair representation of the software.  Whether Certification affords a secular advantage is mixed, as it may for some and may not for others.  Regardless of this, simply by recalling or contemplating your first impression of Solidworks and how it may have affected your secular goals, perhaps the most notable benefit to gaining Certification in Solidworks is the milestone and significance of genuine personal achievement. 

Here are a few recommendations for taking a Solidworks Certification exam:
  • ensure you have a stable internet connection
  • if available, use a dual monitor arrangement to view both the Solidworks program and the VirtualTester Client simultaneously
  • have a folder location already prepared and easily accessible in which to save the models you create, and those you may need to download for an exam
  • ensure you have an adequate window of time and an environment free of distraction
  • endeavor to read questions and view images carefully and thoughtfully