SolidWorks Co-founder Predicts Four Key Trends in CAD

DN Staff

February 10, 2009

2 Min Read
SolidWorks Co-founder Predicts Four Key Trends in CAD

Co-founderand Group Executive John Hirschtick mesmerized the 4,300+ attendees at theTuesday General Session of SolidWorks World 2009 with four predictions ranging fromuser interface technology to prototyping.

Althoughhe did start out with a disclaimer that these were not "product announcements,"the company is clearly taking a deeper look at some of these areas, asevidenced by video footage shown during his presentation.

Thefirst trend Hirschtick described was user interfaces using touch and motion -something he said has already been exploited by mobile phone makers andtablet-type displays. Hirschtick said touch-and-motion capabilities based onusing the hands as they were meant have important implications for CADdesigners, as they will allow designers to work more naturally with creatingand viewing models.

Avideo of an active research project of a table-top touch screen computer atSolidWorks showed users creating a line with a simple touch-and-hold function, anarc with a two-finger touch and a spline with three fingers. Even moreimpressive was seeing the user manipulate the view using touch.

Attendeeswill have a chance to experience a live demo of the touch-and-motion technology at the event's Exhibition Hall thisweek.

Withtouch and motion, Hirschtick said CAD will become a hardware businessagain, and users will migrate to more CAD-specific devices. He said SolidWorks was not necessarily going to get into the hardware business, insteadpartnering with others with that core expertise.

Next,Hirschtick said there will be online applications for 3-D CAD in thefuture. While he doesn't think it will happen overnight, he said thisisn't some crazy futuristic trend but is in fact mainstream in otherapplications like email today. "The fact that there is no need for backups ordevice drivers is very compelling," he said.

Hirschtickalso expects CAD in the future to exploit video game technology, which he saidhas the very best standard-mode graphics. The industry has made enormousadvancements in terms of quality and speed, he said, and "we need to payattention to it." He mentioned a capability in Solidworks called "AmbientOcclusion" that currently allows designers to add more realism to theirdrawings, saying it will get even better in the future.

3D printing was the final trend that Hirschtick discussed, saying here that whileit isn't a new concept, it is getting a whole lot better and will in factbecome a key part of the CAD designer's daily experience. "If you haven't seen3D printing lately, you haven't seen it," he said. "There have been amazingimprovements in color, speed and quality of the models, and the cost of modelsis going down."

To wit, Hirschtick then interviewed twoSolidworks customers who use 3D printing extensively in the design process. AtNew Balance, the design team produces dozens of 3D models per month, applyingthem in novel ways such as to produce simple molds to produce running shoeparts for testing. After only a few hours of CAD design work, Sony Ericssonproduces 3D models in order to get mobile phone prototypes into the hands ofdesigners to test for scale and ergonomics.

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