Several presentations stand out in my mind from the Wednesday General Session. This was the session that really got down to the business of talking about the SolidWorks community and the future of the SolidWorks software.
Richard Doyle introduced the SWUGN regional leaders to the General Session. I’m guessing this is the first time many people even heard of this group. This is an important group that is responsible for increasing the number of SolidWorks User Groups nationwide; and worldwide too.
Another memorable presentation was Engineers in Crisis comedy skit used to introduce us to many of the new functions and improvements that will appear in SolidWorks 2009. The skit consisted of a supposed talk show host addressing many frustrations that CAD users (unnamedly SolidWorks users) experienced when using their CAD software. The frustration was collectively referred to as PAS (Performance Addiction Syndrome).
Who isn’t addicted to something that performs well? They showed short videos of some engineers who were going mad because of issues they were having with an unnamed CAD program. To help, three “doctors” presented the videos and then explained the solution offered in SolidWorks 2009. This one particular engineer in one of the stories was vexed by “too many steps.” This was prolly the funniest of the bunch. I remember when they showed him getting out of his co-worker’s car. His co-worker double beeped his remote to lock his car. The engineer (Bill, I think) preceded to yell something like, “You only need to beep it once! Doing it twice is too many steps! Ughh!!!” The interviews with his boss and co-workers were icing on the cake.
Anyway, the point was that SolidWorks 2009 would be adding functionality and simplifying some tasks. Just to name a few:
- Big news is that SolidWorks 2009 will accept negative dimensions when adding dimension values to objects within a sketch!
- Handling of large assemblies has improved substantially.
- Features created at the assembly level will be transferred to the part.
- BOM tables can now be directly added to the Model Assembly.
- Slot tool has finally been added. (In fact, I recently participated in a questionnaire regarding how this feature will be dimensioned on the drawing.)
- In sketch mode, dimensioning for sizes of objects will automatically pop up and ask to be populated when the object is created.
- Routing now supports flat cables, and so on.
This skit was immediately followed by a demonstration of the speed differences we can expect from SolidWorks 2009. They had a side by side comparison between SolidWorks 2008 and 2009. It does appear that performance will indeed be massively improved. This is of course based on the presentation. I will reserve my final judgment for when I get a chance to use 2009 for myself.
Another amazing day at SolidWorks World 2008 started at this day’s General Session. Both keynote speakers are greats in their own time. Dr. Donald A. Norman has a pedigree too long for me to go into here without having to site multiple references and a lengthy list of achievements. He was billed by the SWW8 introduction as being in the ranks of Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Thomas Edison for having been presented with the Benjamin Franklin Medal from the Franklin Institute. His speech was a cleaver. He discussed the design of every day things in the context of what is good design and what is poor design. One point he made was that a good design is intuitive. It doesn’t need signs just so that the user can understand the product. He spent quite a lot of time showing poorly designed products with signs everywhere on them and comparing these to well designed products that are so simple, no explanation is needed, or perhaps it only needs explanation once and then never again. He showed examples of how pointless signs are, especially when their meaning is lost. The irony of this is that I found such a pointless sign within an hour after his presentation right at SolidWorks World 2008. Those of us who saw Dr. Norman’s presentation will likely have a deeper appreciation of this sign, and yet be just as confused by what it could possible mean as anyone else would be.
Seriously, what in the world could this sign mean and why is it taped to the wall, and how come it mentions “Solid Works”? Is this instructions to the SolidWorks software not to hit the wall, or randomly placed instructions for humans not to hit SolidWorks? Or is it that for some reason, the sign’s maker was concerned people attending SWW8 would have sudden and uncontrollable urges to go around hitting this particular spot on the wall? If so, what’s so special about this spot that makes hitting it worse than striking some other spot on the wall? Oh, and why did they spell SolidWorks with a space in the middle as “Solid Works”? So much information is packaged in this meaningless sign.
The other keynote speaker was Dr. Robert Ballard. He is another person with a long laundry list of accomplishments. His most pop culture oriented claim to fame is that he was co-discoverer of the HMS Titanic. Dr. Robert Ballard talked about his program to bring ocean exploration into the class room, literally. This is being accomplished by using the most advanced communications technology available. I think he was almost bragging about the fact that he has I2 access for his many projects. I2? A.K.A. Internet 2. It’s the next generation of the Interest that is much faster and has much higher capacity than our slow old dumpy Internet. DSL vs. Cable? This is nothing and meaningless. I2 is the future. Of course, normal human beings cannot get access to I2 right now, and prolly won’t be able to for many years, but it was fun watching Dr. Ballard go into his many uses of it. How does he use I2? Because of its extremely wide bandwidth, he is able to transmit huge amounts of data. This allows him to send a ship out to sea that can launch an ocean exploring robot. That robot can be controlled from a land based location which is no where near where the exploration is going on. Everything the robot sees is transmitted half-way across the planet where it is also being controlled. This great feat was Dr. Ballard’s goal since the 1970’s and now he has made it happen.
Now, the question of this General Session really is, who is this mysterious female photographer who is silhouetted against the stage backdrop that was taking photos of all of us?
One of the stars that kept popping up all over the place at SWW8 was the famous/infamous Matt Lombard.Â As mentioned, I attended his Hybrid Modeling breakout session.Â Before showing up, I didn’t know what to expect.Â First of all, his breakout session was in one of the large rooms, that could seat possiblyÂ 500 people.Â I don’t really know.Â I know it was pretty full in comparison to other sessions this year.Â I’m not going to go into too much detail about the session’s agenda since I covered that already.Â Instead, there are other items of note.Â
In a moment of surreal quality, right in the middle of an audience member asking him a question, Matt recognizes him and declares something along the line, “I’ve been looking all over for you! I have it right here.”Â He then proceeds to find a copy of his SolidWorks book and brings it down to his faithful attendee.Â At the same time, I see a hand reach out from the front row or so grasping some amount of dollar bills.Â Matt makes the exchange, declaring some self-derogatory statement and continues the presentation.Â
This photo here is of Matt lording over the model he is about to render subservient to his will.
Two other moments came up where he recognized others in the audience (if I remember right, SolidWorksÂ perennials of some sort) Â and declared his complete amazement that they where there listening toÂ little ol’ him.Â Just because you write a highly regarded book about SolidWorks doesn’t preclude you from being in awe of others.
The session was informative and entertaining in the shear unexpected natural phenomenon known as Matt Lombard.Â
Each day of SolidWorks World kicks off with a General Session. Each day had surprises. Of course, to experience all of this requires getting up early enough in the morning. The crowd quickly filled up the area outside of the General Session auditorium of the San Diego Convention Center. Even on the first day, I developed quite the talent of surfing through the crowds to get closer to the doors into the General Session auditorium to get a good seat when the door swung open.
It was standing room only in the General Session. Even with thousands of seats, hundreds of people where left standing. Estimates ranged over 4700 attendees.
On Monday, the surprise guest was Danny Forster, whose trademark is expressing his deep fear of heights. He is the host of Built it Bigger on Discovery Channel, and a prominent architect and engineer. Despite the fact that he did give a rather interesting and engaging presentation that discussed everything from home design to the marriage of architecture and engineering that went into the University of Phoenix Stadium, I am surprised he didn’t get booed off of the stage early on as he made it a point to state that he used AutoCAD to design one of his buildings. SolidWorks users must be a more forgiving bunch than I would’ve thought. I know he did it on purpose; the rat.
KIVA Systems made an interesting presentation where they showed off a robotic system that replaces the need to send people into a factory to retrieve items. Another robot highlighted at the conference in the SolidWorks intro animation was of a robot being designed and built. It turned out that this robot is a built-it-yourself kit and being sold for the ages 10 and up crowd. Included with the robot is SolidWorks Student Edition! Talk about hooking the kids young! More on this later on.
There was another surprise on Monday; one that was both fascinating and a bit scary at the same time. See, there’s this guy named Theo Jansen. He is a kinetic sculptor that builds “Beach Beasts”, based on skeleton like designs that are powered by nothing more than the wind. He’s designed the creatures (as he also called them) to become so sophisticated, they are able to mechanically sense their environment, and mechanically respond to it. For example, if one of these creatures walks up to the ocean’s edge, it knows to start going the other way to avoid the water. It does this without the use of any electronics at all. It’s all plastic tubing. During his presentation, Mr. Jansen appeared to be one of those people that successively balances the line between genius and insanity. However, off stage was a different story. I talked to some of the facilities contractors for SolidWorks World 2008 later that night at one of the local bars. They where the crew that helped Mr. Jansen assembly one of the creatures for an on-stage demonstration. Those fellows couldn’t wait to tell me that they think he had crossed well into the realm of insanity, often talking about his creations as though they where actual pets; and that he wanted his creatures to survive long after he passed on. He was definately the most provocative presenter during the Monday session. The video about him is too long to post here, so check out this YouTube link.
At the end of the General Session, everyone filed out into convention center’s maze of hallways, filtering into the many different Breakout sessions, Hands-on sessions and the Partners Pavilion.
Sunday was beautiful, as I mentioned before.
But did I get to enjoy it? No. Being the dedicated SolidWorks user (geek) that I am, I attended workshops (called Focus Groups) about different functions of the software. The convention center wasn’t all that crowded on the Pre-Day.
Did we change the world in the Focus Groups? Only time will tell. Later in the evening, the Partners Pavilion was opened to us early attendees as a reception. I got to leisurely stroll around. This would be my only chance to do this, as my schedule for the next three days was booked with hella events and things. One of the displays in the Partners Pavilion that struck my fancy at the sheer irony was this item, labelled as a competitive class luxery off-road racing truck. If that isn’t a whole series of oxymorons, I don’t know what is…but hey, I wouldn’t mind having one of these in my garage! (And yes, luxury appeared to be purposefully spelt with an e.)
This truck was completely laid out in 3D before production began. It is called the Luxery Prerunner and made by Stewart’s Raceworks, Inc. Another cool vehicle getting a lot of attention was an Orange County Choppers creation made for SolidWorks World 2005.
I took this picture at just the right angle to catch the star sheen gleaming off the chopper’s chrome, and just in time to avoid yet another person trying to take of shoot of themself sitting on the seat pretending to ride it.
I didn’t go out that evening too late, as I wanted to be well rested for the next day’s activities.