SolidWorks CEO Gian Paolo Bassi
Google is a pretty sound model to follow. We’ve just had a bit of a move around in the TCT office and I am slightly disappointed I didn’t come in to a Google HQ-style slide to get to my desk or at least some brightly coloured bean bag chairs. A yellow 3D printed dinosaur figurine will suffice.
SolidWorks, a division of leading 3DEXPERIENCE and 3D design software provider Dassault Systemes, is leading the way in the 3D design and engineering stakes across the globe. Beanbag chairs aside, as software solutions move to the cloud and advanced manufacturing and design technologies demand more sophisticated software, newly appointed SolidWorks CEO Gian Paolo Bassi talks about how engineering could benefit from a leaf out of Google’s pages.
“I think times are getting more mature thanks to the cloud,” explained Gian Paolo. “I would like to put the power of predictive computing into CAD. Today when you search on Google, based on your previous search, they suggest the completion of your search or phrase. Why don’t we do that for CAD? Many people may have done the same thing in a different way, why don’t we look at how they solved these problems in the past. There is a lot of re-inventing the wheel in engineering and I believe that a big advance would be if we could invent machines that are smart enough to search not the words or tags but search shapes or design solutions.”
It’s ambition like this which saw Gian Paolo step into the role of CEO at the beginning of this year after a four year reign heading the SolidWorks’ R&D department. Plans to accerlate the growth of future products and technologies, particularly with the cloud, are high up on the agenda but the former President of R&D says he’s certainly not letting his passion take a back seat.
“I want to stay very much connected with this technology. This is my passion, this is my background, this is where I can make a big difference,” Gian Paolo explained. “I have a lot of ideas still in product development. A lot of people that are in charge of brands in SolidWorks come from R&D departments including our President. I am part of that same way of thinking so I will stay very close to the technology for the foreseeable future.”
SolidWorks latest CAD software.
Connectivity is essential in just about every part of modern life. Analysts predict that by 2020, each of us will own an average of 4.3 connected devices. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google are always in our pockets and this is translating over to the business world where the ability to work on the go and connect to information from wherever you are is becoming crucial to maintaining a productive workflow.
“We’ve been doing this for 20 years, this is fine but the world is changing,” explained Gian Paolo. “Nobody works in isolation anymore so there are two things that are happening. One is the collaboration aspect and the other is the social aspect. You are always connected, always tweeting, chatting and this is translating in the professional life of engineers. This is why we have a platform because a platform centrally connects all the dots to make searching, collaboration, anytime, anywhere on any device, possible.”
SolidWorks belongs to the Dassault Systemes’ family, powered by the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, a business solution based on 3D design, analysis, simulation and intelligence software. With this in mind, SolidWorks is motivated by the experience that software can deliver to users. Created for a professional audience, SolidWorks benefits from common social media features and channels that into a business ethos - essentially a social platform made for an industrial environment.
Gian Paolo explained: “What we have in our platform is a component called the SWYM - See What You Mean - it is a component that talks just like Facebook but most importantly it is directly configured in your design tools. If you are designing a part and you want a snapshot of a part to go directly to your social network that you have created directly around your idea, you can do it inside that application. So you’ll take a JPEG, upload and explain what it is. Even if you don’t have the application installed, you can see it, investigate, measure and see properties.”
Gian Paolo Bassi presents at Develop3D Live on the importance of the platform.
Preparing future engineers for the professional digital environment, is important to SolidWorks’ position in the industry. Currently around 83% of the top 200 universities in the world use the software in their curriculum meaning the next generation of makers and inventors will likely transpire to the working world with a background in Solidworks. The company also sponsors the Fab Lab foundation, an extra curricula education initiative designed to teach students about the manufacturing and design process in 3D printing. But perhaps an even more burgeoning audience for SolidWorks is in the start-up sector which currently makes up 40% of SolidWorks installed seats.
“Startups are the best makers ever because you’re making something to make a difference,” Gian Paolo explained. “We want to start a plan for start-ups so they can have easier access to our technologies. We are also creating new categories of products that are good for makers that don’t have a strong background in engineering. People are taught to make things but they have no idea of what CAD is.”
Ensuring new makers understand the fundamentals of CAD design is vital to the future of product design and manufacturing. As advanced technologies like 3D printing come into play, software must provide the foundation for the applications and industries it is already playing a crucial part in. For Gian Paolo, materials are the most important part of what he calls the “3D printing revolution” which will enable the creation of products which feature different properties in the same printed part. These advances in materials are already happening but the software needs to advance with it.
“Today no CAD in the world is able to design taking into account those type of materials because the mathematics behind modern technology makes assumptions that the part is homogenous,” Gian Paolo commented. “This is what we were told in engineering school many years ago. Now this is changing and because of this we need new mathematics and new capabilities for the foundation of future CAD. We are working on that.”
According to Gian Paolo, for 20 years, SolidWorks has been on a mission to make engineers more productive. Now we have reached a pivotal moment where industry leaders are asking for a more conceptual approach to design where engineers are able design by function rather than shape.
“This is not a new concept, it is a very old concept but nobody has been able to do it,” explained Gian Paolo. “The only industry where this is happening is the eCAD industry where to design a circuit board today you just list a series of functions and then you get a PCP with all the components laid out for you. There is no such thing in mechanical engineering because it is much more integrated. There is a lot of thinking that needs to go there to integrate a form and function’s capabilities in the same object. We have some ideas on how to make it happen.”