It is pretty crazy the amount of capabilities they are folding into modern-day CAD programs. It's not just little feature enhancements for productivity or modeling power. There are entire swaths of capabilities, around sheet metal, simulation, product analytics, etc. that are now part and parcel of most CAD vendors' basic offering and definitely a core part of their extended suites.
Beth, I used Solidworks at my previous job, and liked it very much. The addition of an electrical package means it is possible I could use it for my new job.
Cost is going to be an issue; Solidworks is comparable to other packages. It's still expensive. I wouldn't mind so much if it was a typical capital purchase. But it's not, is it? We don't purchase software, we rent the privilege of using it, and if we wish to continue using it we pay an annual license.
TJ: You've really hit on a major issue the CAD guys have been struggling with, particularly in the modern day of software where apps and cloud-based, pay-as-you-go models are gaining traction in other parts of the business outside of engineering. I believe SolidWorks showed off a cloud version of SolidWorks at its big user conference last year and its parent company Dassault has been pretty aggressive with overhauling its architecture to support a cloud-based architecture. My guess is pretty soon you'll see the option to purchase SolidWorks in a more utility-based pricing model--not as a replacement, but as an alternative to the more traditional, albeit costly, annual license fee purchasing strategy.
I would say proprietary CAD systems still dominate, but increasingly they've had to embrace open standards because the reality is there is no homogeneous use of CAD--most companies have several systems in play internally and have to deal with partners and suppliers all of which use an array of CAD systems. At the same time, there are a number of interesting open source CAD efforts, LibreCAD, FreeCAD, and Archimedes, to name a few.
That makes sense, Beth. With all of the collaboration and file sharing involved, it seems there would have to be a move toward interoperability. While that doesn't necessarily suggest a move to open source, it probably does mean the major players would need to make their files easy to convert.
I'm really looking forward to some of the new SolidWorks 2013 capabilities. I'm especially interested in the Plastics module which will help our team analyze moldflow during the design (and before we send to the supplier).
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