Knoxville SolidWorks User Group Meeting

October 28, 2008 13 Comments »
Knoxville SolidWorks User Group Meeting
From Left to Right:  Jon Hirschtick, Rodney Hall, Ricky Jordan, & Jeff Bohanan

From Left to Right: Jon Hirschtick, Rodney Hall, Ricky Jordan, & Jeff Bohanan

Tonight I had the privilege of attending the Knoxville SolidWorks User Group meeting which featured SolidWorks founder Jon Hirschtick.  I’ve been hearing LOTS of great things about this group and their new leader, Jeff Bohanan.  I was not in the least disappointed.  It was evident that Jeff had meticulously planned EVERYTHING in detail for the event which resulted in a smoothly run meeting.  Jeff even went to the trouble to setup the serving table with a spot for each type of pizza and the spot was labeled!  The crowd was well fed with 31 pizzas from Papa John’s plus a couple of boxes of wings!

The meeting was held at the Technology 2020 building which is a joint venture between many companies in the area to help promote start up businesses.  The presentation room was large enough to hold quite a few folks.  All total 75 people were in attendance there tonight!

Jeff kicked off the meeting with some prize giveaways from SolidWorks.  After that he reminded those in attendance that SolidWorks World will be coming up in February 2009 and that registration is now open.

Jeff then handed over the meeting to SolidWorks founder Jon Hirschtick.  Jon’s presentation outlined the History and Future of CAD.  The origins of today’s CAD systems had roots in the 1960s with Dr. Ivan Sutherland’s PhD thesis on “Sketchpad” which used a light pen to draw lines on a computer monitor.   The early 1980s saw the first breakthroughs in variational geometry (which led to parameter driven 3D models) by Dr. David Gossard in MIT’s CADlab.  Dr. Gossard was a mentor to Jon who was a student at MIT during this time.  It is amazing how much of Dr. Gossard’s visions of 3D modeling became reality as the 1980s progressed.

Jon also discussed his thoughts on the Future of CAD.  His thoughts included the advancement of more Hosted Applications.  He did say that he thinks that SolidWorks running as a hosted app is still pretty far down the road.  He did feel that in the near future you could see more 2D applications like DWGeditor running as hosted applications.  (An example of this is BluePrint Now which is available at SolidWorks Labs.) Open Source was also a major topic discussed.  Jon pointed out that Open Source Applications are gaining in popularity and use these days and that there could be inroads into the CAD Industry in the future.

At the end of the meeting Jon fielded questions from the users in attendance.  By far the most popular question brought up by multiple users was if backward compatibility would ever be built into SolidWorks.  Jon said that he has heard this request quite a bit lately and that he definitely can see the benefits of it from the user’s perspective.  Jon promised to pass the feedback along to the folks at SolidWorks.  If you are a user of SolidWorks and would like to see this functionality I HIGHLY encourage you to visit the Customer Portal and fill out an enhancement request.

I was happy to see fellow User Group leader Rodney Hall of the Catawba Valley SolidWorks User Group at the meeting tonight.  I’ve seen Rodney several times at SolidWorks World but we never have had much time to talk.  It was nice to have some time to get to know Rodney a little better and hear about the exciting things he is doing with his User Group.  Like me, Rodney took personal time off work and drove 4 hours to attend the meeting tonight.  Rodney had a much better camera than I did and will be e-mailing me some pictures from tonight.  I’ll make sure to post them later so you can check them out.

I’d like to thank Jeff Bohanan and the entire Knoxville Group for a great meeting tonight.  One of my favorite things to do is visit other SolidWorks User Groups and I hope to do it more in the future.

That’s all for now….stay tuned….more to come!

UPDATE 1: 10-29-08

I have corrected the attendance count and posted a picture sent to me by Rodney Hall.

UPDATE 2: 10-29-08

I was so wrapped up in the presentation last night, I didn’t take notes very well and did leave out a few other things that Jon discussed in regards to the Future of CAD.  Thanks to Rodney Hall, who sent me some PICTURES of the event (along with some snapshots of the slides), I remembered a few other points that Jon made that I feel are very noteworthy and should be added to the notes from the meeting.

In addition to the Future Trends of Hosted Applications & Open Source which were mentioned above, Jon discussed three other trends which he thinks will impact CAD in the future.  Those items were, Video Games, Touch Interfaces, & 3D Printing.

Jon made a very good point with Video Games.  In the past if you wanted to see the “best” high end graphics, you would look to models and renderings produced on CAD workstations.  Today if you want to see the best graphics, you look to video games.  If you own an XBox 360 or PS3 you know what I’m talking about.  If you don’t, just take a look at some of the screen shots on the web of the games being released for these consoles.  The images are beyond amazing.  Video games have already had a direct effect on SolidWorks.  The enhancements to RealView and addition of the PhysX engine to SolidWorks 2008.  Another feature that had direct roots from Video Games is the Ambient Occlusion option.  Since the DISPLAY of 3D models in SolidWorks in the graphics area is actually a tessellated mesh, one could wonder if more technology could be leveraged from the gaming industry to enhance the performance of 3D model display in the future.

As Neil pointed out in his comments to this post earlier today, Direct3D rules the gaming world and there are more and more users that are calling for this graphics technology to be implemented in SolidWorks vs. the current OpenGL setup.  One of the key advantages of Direct3D is that you can successfully use less expense “gaming video cards” in place of the high priced workstation grade graphics cards.  Other CAD companies are already making the switch.  Perhaps the influence of Video Games will lead SolidWorks down this path as well.  Time will tell.

Jon also talked about Touch Interfaces.  This is an area that is of keen interest to me.  If you ever have played with an iPhone, you can get a taste of what perhaps we will see in the future.  There are many companies working on this technology and I can see many applications that could be implemented in 3D CAD software.

The last Trend that Jon discussed was 3D Printing.  Jon believes that we will one day treat 3D prints in a similar manner to paper coming off a printer.  If you are not satisfied with it, throw it away and print another one.  In the present day you hopefully wouldn’t dream of throwing away the 3D print you just paid $1,000 for, so it will definitely take some time to get to that point.  With the advances in the 3D printing industry over the last several years, perhaps we will get to that point sooner than most think.

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  • I highly doubt that backward capability will see the light of day. And if it does come to fruition, I think it will be clunky, as not all features will be able to be saved back. I may be proven wrong (and I hope I am), but I just feel that's the reality of it.

    I also think that there is a tremendous disincentive for a 3D CAD company to attempt this, both from a financial and programmatic standpoint.

  • Neil

    honestly I would rather have SW able to run on std graphics cards first.
    openGL has become a rip off for hardware makers.
    if you corner Jon again somewhere please impress this on him.

  • Nice Post Ricky. I always like hearing about the future of CAD. Did you know Dr. Sutherland also did some things with the start of VR and Virtual Worlds? I wish we could have given that guy faster computers back then.

  • Brian,

    I'm skeptical as well as to whether backward compatibility would or could ever make it into future releases. Obviously there are business related impacts with a move such as this. This enhancement request has been at or near the top of the list at SolidWorks World for many years. One of the ideas floated by some of the users last night was the possibility of only saving back to the previous version. This is an interesting idea in that it would allow some flexibility to those shops lagging behind a bit, yet still keep everyone on track to eventually align to the same version.

    This enhancement would be WILDLY popular among most if not ALL users. If it can be worked out to where all parties benefit, then think of the positive response this enhancement would get across the CAD industry.

    I am hopeful that maybe with some more creative thinking this long time enhancement request might become a reality. Time will tell. The best thing we can do for now is to keep submitting this as an enhancement request.


  • You know Neil, I almost asked about this last night. There were so many things being discussed I was mindful to make sure that the members of the Knoxville group got all their questions answered without me interjecting.

    I plan to bring this up with some of the SolidWorks folks at SolidWorks World. I think this is another one of those things that really needs to be addressed.

  • Neil

    Please follow it up.
    Here in New Zealand I can buy 10 Nvidia GTX260 for the price I am expected to pay for 1 Quadro FX5600 !!
    The 5600 is like 99% based on a 8800 Ultra for goodness sake.

    I have had expensive CAD cards die on me just after 3yr the warranty ran out.
    Having learned that lesson I will only buy lower cost cards now that are only adequate for the task at hand.
    According to the benchmarks a humble FX570 runs pretty darn decently for SW in comparison to a high end card anyway so the performance ratio doesnt pan out either.
    It certainlty isnt 10x – more like 1.01

    Whilst I might be Ok with paying a premium of say 2x for application honed drivers and certification 10x is just obscene.
    People should not be reduced to buying cards for SW that are a couple of generations behind commonly available gaming ones because the asking price doesnt make any practical sense.
    SW needs to stop playing its part in allowing hardware makers to exploit the Pro niche for all the market can stand and then some.
    I am sure openGL is a fine thing but not if the hardware for it is a rip off.
    If SW can run on common old DirectX like Inventor can at least give us the option to decide for ourselves which card we want to utilise.
    Even if using DirectX for SW results in a performance drop to half in comparison to openGL I would rather spend my money on a shiny GTX260 and know it will run everything else I might have on my computer at a rapid clip.


  • Now THAT seems a little more realistic to me! Limiting it to one version back would seem to simplify the task, however slightly as it may be (at least in my mind).

    I agree that this would be a very nice feature to have, but I just have trouble seeing how they could save some features back that didn't exist in previous versions without having a kludge of dumb geometry. Maybe make an option to prompt (ala Microsoft Office) about features that may not translate back and disallow certain files to be pushed back would work.

    Hopefully this is something we will see in the future; if it CAN be done, I am confident that SolidWorks will make it happen…

    Who knows, maybe something along the lines of what Matt has been talking about with no feature history will be the key. A version of SolidWorks ST? You would still be limited in what you could save back to, but going forward, who knows?

  • I talk to Fielder Hiss about this in Barcelona. He mentioned that they are always looking at the different technologies, but that right now they felt that OpenGL was still the best path.

    I would like to see more discussion and interaction from SolidWorks on this issue myself…

  • Neil

    You know I am not so sure SW arent being a little self serving with that 'feeling' because it means they dont won't have to redo their graphics to suit = avoid direct cost to the company.
    Also I suspect that they either have agreements or obligations to Nvidia having had close association with them in the development of Realview.
    If 500,000 users stop using Quadros then thats a hole in Nvidias wallet
    However surely if Autodesk can do DirectX, SW can.
    I suspect too there are advantages in using DirectX with MS Windows that may make integration of new technology easier
    If SWare paying close attention to their user base opinion and the competition they really should be picking up on this and running with it.
    I wouldnt like to think the reason we have attained the CAD nivana of a 'blank screen on every desktop' is because no one has a graphics card : either because they couldnt afford one, or the technology died out and you cant buy them any more.
    Perhaps we should buy pc with 2 PCI slots in the future – one for a 'proper' card based on DirectX and one for legacy openGL CAD support.
    Why would SW, the company that pioneered easy to use moderate cost CAD on Windows penalise its customer base by making them pay a price for graphics hardware that belongs in the high end exclusive box era?
    Given the amazing performance of todays graphics cards I very much doubt that DirectX would be inadequate for CAD even if it was less than ideal.
    Time to take another step forward
    Unfortunately because SW never speak about anything of real interest to users in preference to pumping out feel good messages I wouldnt hope for too much meaningful interaction but yeah it would be good to hear from the boffins at Concord.
    They might also like to talk about how much of their program is multi core as well, and other closely guarded secrets that users have no right to know or be interested in

  • Neil

    PS. sorry for writing too much about the graphics issue on your blog Ricky ;)

    More on topic of the post – I havent really understood what the role of Jon H is now that he isnt in the CEO seat anymore.
    Is he an advisor on direction setting and new technology for SW? or does he just have a general interest in keeping up re his old job?

  • Neil

    In the news today: The Quadro FX 5800 is available now at an MSRP of US$3,499.

    Yeah right!!
    This is a GTX280 based card but with 4gb ram
    Whats it worth? well maybe ~$600 as a gamer
    Lets double it for cert drivers,support etc = $1200

    ok so lets say this card is over priced by $2300
    Many people could buy a decent workstn for that difference
    Why should SW users pay a ridiculous premium for openGL hardware if directx will do the job and the card is 99% the same
    Bring on the revolution!

  • Neil

    In the news today: The Quadro FX 5800 is available now at an MSRP of US$3,499.

    Yeah right!!
    This is a GTX280 based card but with 4gb ram
    Whats it worth? well maybe ~$600 as a gamer
    Lets double it for cert drivers,support etc = $1200

    ok so lets say this card is over priced by $2300
    Many people could buy a decent workstn for that difference
    Why should SW users pay a ridiculous premium for openGL hardware if directx will do the job and the card is 99% the same
    Bring on the revolution!

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