SOLIDWORKS World, the biggest MCAD user meeting in the world (5,500 attendees), was preceded by the announcement that the congenial, ever-positive Frenchman, Bertrand Sicot, was to be replaced by Italian, Gian Paolo Bassi, the company’s CTO.
GP, as Gian Paulo is known by his people, wasted little time in introducing Industrial Design, the latest SOLIDWORKS product that enables design of smooth, organic, curvy, natural shapes — like never before. Whereas SOLIDWORKS may have been the industry standard for prismatic shapes (machined parts), SOLIDWORKS Industrial Design promises hand sketches (or their mouse-motion produced movements) to be a vital part of the design process. Industrial designers, responsible for the "look" of a product, will resort to swoopy, smooth shapes. Everything from baby seats to blenders to bottles on the store shelf have more to do with aesthetically pleasing surfaces than the straight and true, extrude and revolve, shapes that SOLIDWORKS users had been used to making. Unless they spent hundreds of hours with complex surfacing.
One user of the beta of Industrial Design said he tried for seven years to make a shape in SOLIDWORKS. With SOLIDWORKS Industrial Design, he made it in a few minutes.
SOLIDWORKS Industrial Design uses subdivision modeling. SD, as it is known, has been a mainstay of T-Splines (previously a favorite of SOLIDWORKS users, but bought by Autodesk), Rhino (an industrial designer favorite) and also formZ (though mostly for AEC modeling). With SD, SOLIDWORKS Industrial Design is able to push and pull on a point on surface and create a mathematically accurate version of the changed surface — which is how you would make an ever-so-boring prismatic design into some swoopy, streamlined design that would fly off the shelf or out of the showroom.
Or, you can create your swoopy, streamlined design from the very beginning. Use a Wacom tablet to start sketching. Industrial Design will change your sketches into curves, your almost-straight lines into lines.
With Industrial Design comes a whole different way to create a part. You don't have to be limited to shapes that can be approximated with extrusions, revolutions. You can start with what is in your mind and trust Industrial Design to represent it accurately.
It is the ability to transform initial conceptual design from hand sketches on paper, and a promise to allow "natural" shapes, that makes Industrial Design potentially a game changer in the MCAD world. It's possible that Rhino may be doing this already, but what is done with Rhino may be happening on the fringe. SOLIDWORKS Industrial Design brings SD into the mainstream of mechanical design.
It remains to be seen if SOLIDWORKS Industrial Design lives up to its promise. One CAD insider said it crashed repeatedly in a demo. I've heard varying reports on whether it is even available as I write this. We don't know how much it costs. But the sheer potential of a tool such as this to mechanical designers is sufficient to nominate it for a Best of Show.