SWW09: “Sage”; Engineering and Environmental Impact

SolidWorks Corp has made a giant first step in providing engineers and designers with the ability to quickly determine the environmental impact of any design.  In partnership with PE International, SolidWorks Corp announced today that they are providing a new tool for this purpose that will run within SolidWorks, currently codenamed Sage.  It promises to make sustainability more accessible to engineers and designers.SolidWorks Corp believes that many engineers do not understand the environmental impact of their designs.  This is perhaps because the engineers have little or no access to this information.  But also, many companies still do not have a focus on designing with environmental impact in mind.  Sage will provide this information in an easy fallow report that can be used by the engineer during the design process.

The question is this, why should engineers care about the environmental impact of their designs?  Decisions they make early in the design process have the most influence on the environmental impact of the final product.  Sage not only makes it possible for them to determine the impact of their designs, it also allows them to provide others (who may not be technically inclined) with this information in a clear manner.

The core areas that will be addressed by Sage are carbon footprint, energy consumption of the processes used to make a part (including regional data, transportation, etc), air and water pollution (such as emissions from the manufacturing processes).  It displays this information in several easy to read charts.  As stated by SolidWorks Corp, “Sage is the only CAD-integrated software to provide a comprehensive view of a design’s impact.”  Sage will not only provide the overall impact, but it will allow the engineer to drill down into the design to find out which factors are having particular influence on the product’s environmental impact.

As stated above, Sage will run within SolidWorks.  It is based on PE International’s GaBi software engine.  Sage will use the PE International vetted database which contains extremely comprehensive information about a wide number of variables that are affected by each design.  Though information in this database may be as specialized as a full blown special study conducted by PE International, the results it provides will be of the same quality.  The database used by Sage contains averages for particular areas of impact

Sage will contain the ability to allow engineers to compare design changes, so they can make informed decisions early in the design process.  It will allow them to “see hidden gotchas”, as stated by Rick Chin, Director of Product and Marketing Innovation, SolidWorks.  The reports created by Sage will be standalone (i.e., SolidWorks or SolidWorks experience is not required to see or use the report once it is created).  The reports will contain educational matter that will explain the criteria within the report, and also why the information within the report is important.  This will empower the engineer to explain critical design decisions to upper management.

Though nothing is finalized yet, reports will likely be available in both Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF formats.

Two versions of Sage will be available for SolidWorks 2010.  First is the Xpress version that will allow analysis of individual parts.  The Pro version will provide analysis of assemblies and entire designs.  Also, a downloadable version (presumably an Xpress version for SolidWorks 2009) will be available early from SolidWorks Labs by this summer.

This new tool from PE International and SolidWorks Corp gives the engineer a whole new level of understanding of their designs.  It allows them to make environmentally friendly decisions rapidly based on years of data and experience from the PE International team.  I’m personally looking forward to having a chance to utilize Sage as soon as it is available, not only out of curiosity, but also to write are more detailed review of it’s capabilities in action.

SWW09: Skeletons and Modelling Horizontally (live, nearly)

I’m rudely blogging live from a breakout session.  Of all people, it’s Matt Lombard I’m doing this to.  He will appreciate the ironic nature of this activity.  Will he hate me for it when he finds out?  No, unless my typing annoys him right now.

OK, I’m far enough back in the room where this doesn’t seem to be an issue, though there may be people around me that might be annoyed.  Again, no one seems to care.  (If the person next to me is trying to hint to me to stop by clearing your throat, let me apologize now.  Anyways, here we go!)

Matt says people are error phobic.  They worry if they have errors in a model.  This may cause unnecessary worry about finding errors in models.

Horizontal modelling is taking things to the extreme to protect your modelling data to avoid errors in the model.  Someone interested in this type of modelling approach is interested in trying to solve a problem they are experiencing.  The two methods to address such problems are to 1) ignore them when they crop up, or 2) presumptively stop daisy chaining references.  Link to objects that don’t break, such as sketches and planes.  Don’t link to solid faces, edges and vertices.

He compares a model created through regular practice with the same part modelled with horizontal modeling.  The relationships between features are all over the place with the regular methods, compared with clean results from horizontal modeling.  In the HM model, origin planes form the foundation, when are linked to reference places, then linked to reference sketch, with independent features that are all linked back to the reference sketch; at the end are the fillets.

Design intent is described by the edges.  HM allows one to lay out design intent with a set of sketches.  Features created from this will not fail if they are re-ordered (except for fillets).  Matt then demonstrate that HM doesn’t work quite by accident, so we continue the demonstration “theoretically”.  I think the failure to achieve the desired results shows just how hard it is to implement HM effectively.  Thank god watching Matt is entertaining because this type of issue in any other session would result in very boring dead time.  Matt actively engages the audience, which is now trying to address why SolidWorks created unintended relationships in his demonstration model.  Going through this process is interesting, but distracting.

In a question from Matt about who is using HM, the audience answers.  One person states they use HM for multiple configuration components, but would not bother in a simple single configuration part.  Another individual states it is also useful in in-context model assemblies.  HM may also be useful in 2D drawings.  Of course, now the audience is trying to discuss the demonstration model.  There doesn’t really seem to be a consensus; again pointing back to issues with trying to employ HM.  Of course, maybe that just means there are more than one way to achieve stable HM.

HM models are modelled to live forever through changes.  Concept modelling may not be able to employ HM techniques since the part may not be fully understood at the time when modelling is started.

In an almost conclusionary lament, Matt states that everything in SolidWorks is like a balance between stability versus speed of use.  Using HM modelling techniques is a tool to use at the appropriate situation, such as well understood production items where the design is complete before modelling begins.

OK, just for the record (Matt), the only reason I’m live blogging is because I really do not have the time to get all the articles done that I want to this day.  I promise I will not do this in the future.  Thank you for your presentation.

SolidWorks World 2009 Recap


I flew in Sunday night @ 5 pm and flew out this moring @ 5 am.  A short and sweet visit to SolidWorks World.  (Sorry I missed you Matt)  Even with the economy in the dumps the turn out was huge.  I was extremely excited to visit with the SWUGN and Bloggers unfortunately the the Blogger event was on Saturday and the  SWUGN summit was during my presentation on Monday.  Richard, thanks for introducing me to some of the other SolidWorks instructors in the SWUGN.  Let them know I will be happy to help them out.

 Overall, very excited to see everyone this year.

Looking forward to next year.

SWW09: Tuesday General Session (Part 3: Jon’s customer visits)

I brought two pairs of shoes with me to SolidWorks World, black dressy pair, and sporty comfortable New Balance atheletic shoes.  I wore the dressy pair to the General Session.  I’m wearing New Balance shoes right now, for two reasons.  First, they are more comfortable for all the walking around.  SolidWorks Worlds are expansive, with sessions spread out over the entire site.  Comfortable shoes are a must.  The second reason?  Jon Hirschtick showed us several customer visits he recently conducted.  The first company profiled was New Balance shoe company. 

It was amazing to see the level of integration of SolidWorks within the rapid design process at New Balance.  Since shoes are attached to the fashion industry, quick time to market is essential.  New Balance is able to go from a SolidWorks model to actual shoe prototype in just a couple of days.  Before New Balance used SolidWorks in their design process, it took fifteen days to create 2D drawings in CAD.  With SolidWorks, they are able to produce 3D models in just 5 days.  Their models average about 1300 features, with one model reaching 1800 features.  Speed and accuracy seem to be very important as each design of shoe will eventually require over 1000 different molds and dies to support 176 unique shoe sizes.  During their design process, they use 3D printing to produce rapid prototypes.  It is not uncommon for them to produce a hundred or more 3D printed prototypes per month.

Sony Ericsson was then introduced by Hirschtick.  His visit to their site revealed they used rapid prototyping, both SLA and 3D printing processes.  In fact, they produce 4000 rapid prototype models per year.  It is common for them to produce prototypes for phones after only 2 to 3 hours of SolidWorks modelling time.  In the mid-1990’s, they switched to 3D CAD and have since seen a 75% drop in the design cycle time.  They went from producing 4 designs a year to over 30. 

I am impressed by seeing the type of rapid concept to prototype design processes being employed by Sony Ericsson and New Balance.  I’m also more appreciative of my New Balance shoes, though I already know these are well made and very comfortable shoes.

SWW09: Tuesday General Session (Part 2: Talk about the future)

Jon Hirschtick gave a great presentation today.  As one of the five founders of SolidWorks Corp, he has a unique perspective on the software.  He also has an interesting view point.  He stated that even though SolidWorks has been around for a long time, most of the work for SolidWorks Corp still lies ahead of them.  He expressed confidence in Jeff Ray and the current management time by calling them “the best management team in the history of SolidWorks”.

Hirschtick then discussed some of the possible innovations that are yet to come for SolidWorks.  These technology trends include significant improvements to touch/motion user interface, online applications, inclusion of video gaming technology in 3D CAD applications, and 3D printing.

He mentioned that on the Partner Pavilion floor, there is already one example of Touch/Motion UI involves the use of hands as they are meant to be used.  There’s a prototype of a Microsoft Surface that has an application similar to SolidWorks operated by instruction via human touch and gestures.

Hirschtick then talked about Blueprint Now, which is an online CAD application developed by SolidWorks Labs.  This allows some 2D CAD work to be accomplished via the Internet.  If applied to 3D CAD, the advantage is that resources for CAD applications can be kept in huge server farms, suggesting that users need not require high end computers themselves.  Another advantage to this approach is that it requires no upgrades or installations.  Even another advantage was simplification of data management.  Because everything is online, data can be automatically organized in a vault-like storage system, eliminating current issues file management issues.  Though an online application for 3D CAD seems unlikely soon, Hirschtick suggested it will likely be developed.

Video gaming technology in terms of both hardware and software have exceded that of CAD in some areas.  Hirschtick talked about bringing some of that technology into use within SolidWorks.  He revealed that PhyX (physical simulation software) is already employed within SolidWorks.  He showed one example of Ambient Occlusionas a display option to give parts the look of realism within SolidWorks.

He briefly covered 3D printing before then introducing several companies using SolidWorks in the development of their products.  It turns out this was a segue of sorts.

SWW09: Tuesday General Session (Part 1: Partners)

The General Session today was full of partners and customers of SolidWorks.  There was a parade of well known companies demonstrating how they use SolidWorks in their daily product development.


Fielder Hiss introduced us to Tom Salomone, the World Wide Manager for Mechanical Design and Automation at HP.  He stressed that great companies innovate during the tough times in order to prepare for when the times improve.  This echoed yesterday’s theme set by Sir Richard Branson’s interview.


Jeremy Luchini, the Certification Program Manager at SolidWorks Corp stated that SolidWorks World is a unique chance to celebrate its users and those who have become CSWP’s.  To stress the importance of certification, he introduced us to Yanick Tremblay of Mega Brands Inc.  Mega uses SolidWorks from the early stages of design to create buildable transforming robot toys.  Tremblay wanted to create a strong training SolidWorks program for his designers.  This is when he discovered the CSWP program.  However, Luchini noted that companies such as Mega may not be able to take engineers out of designing for four hours straight (the current length of the CSWP test).   To address this problem, he announced a new program in development that will allow users to take 1 hour of the CSWP test at a time, and allow their employers to track the progress of CSWP training.


It was great to see SolidWorks partners enthusiastically embracing not only the SolidWorks software, but also everything that goes long with it, including SolidWorks World and the CSWP program.  They seem to understand the importance of these events and programs.  They “get it.”


Part 2 of this article to cover real world uses of SolidWorks by several companies during their design process.