PDM is one of the topics I’m following for many years. CAD files created tons of challenges and to develop technology and solutions to manage them, share them with the team, provide correct access, and manage revisions was a high priority. The need to provide a standard PDM solution became obvious for CAD vendors at the beginning of the 2000s and it was a time when we started to see each CAD coming with its own (vendor) PDM. It was also the time when competition between CAD own PDM solutions and others made the business questionable. Read about it in my article – How CAD vendors murdered PDM business.

It was obvious that CAD files are a root cause of the problems around PDM. The last decade of cloud development demonstrated multiple efforts to make PDM simpler. The solutions such as GrabCAD, Kenesto, and few others focused on hiding the complexity of CAD systems. Cloud CAD such as Onshape offered a radical approach of eliminating files (no CAD files, no problems). Both vendors groups competed with the core CAD business of vendors owning integrated PDM solutions (SOLIDWORKS, Autodesk, Solid Edge and others). DS CATIA V6 was one of the first proposing to use the database to store files. Autodesk Fusion360 was probably one of the first successful approaches to create a hybrid CAD system by storing data in the public cloud while using it transparently in Fusion360 multi-platform desktop clients. The first Autodesk Fusion360 was released back in 2012 and since then, Autodesk collected tons of experience of running hybrid cloud PDM solutions (I will need to write a separate blog to talk about Fusion360 cloud tech to explain what Autodesk does and why it is important).

Yesterday, I attended the virtual SOLIDWORKS 3DEXPERIENCE launch earlier today. If you follow my blog on a regular basis, you probably remember my publications from 3DEXPERIENCE World 2020 in Nashville, TN. It was back in time when travel was still a normal thing. Check this out – 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS.

3DEXPEREINCE SOLIDWORKS is essentially the way to create a hybrid between SOLIDWORKS running on the desktop and cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE platform. In the presentation today was how the 3DEXPERIENCE platform is used in the demo with SOLIDWORKS and plays the role of the PDM system, but without server installs and any additional implementation, databases, and other attributes of PDM. At the same time, it was using a normal installation of SOLIDWORKS on-premise.

The demo was quite cool. I captured a few pictures.

What caught my special attention is a seamless cloud/desktop integration. You can do drag & drop between browser and SOLIDWORKS as well as to seamlessly check-in/out data. The co-existence between the 3DEXPERIENCE cloud environment and Solidworks was demonstrated too.

I was trying to line up possible architectures of different cloud solutions (Onshape – fully browser), Autodesk Fusion360 (installed, but communicating with cloud platform), SOLIDWORKS (with 3DEXPERIENCE) and Solid Edge (with TeamCenter Share). I found it interesting to watch how all these providers lined up with cloud collaboration, but at the same time, use very different architecture and sometimes different features too.

As you can see, the idea of pairing SOLIDWORKS with cloud PDM backend is not new and it has been used by some vendors before. But this is for the first time, it came as a feature provided by Dassault Systemes and SOLIDWORKS. It will be publicly available (the dates to be provided). SOLIDWORKS is a major player and 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS can influence the positions of other vendors.

What is my conclusion?

What 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS means for the market.  CAD vendors are now ready to provide a cloud-based backend to manage data. The solutions are different, but all vendors are coming with cloud PDM agenda. DS SOLIDWORKS is pushing towards cloud products but does it from an existing desktop environment. It can be an interesting comparison with SaaS CAD systems.

The technology really matters in this case and the devil is in the details. How the team will be able to work efficiently with SOLIDWORKS / 3DEXPERIENCE and how it will compare with systems like Autodesk Fusion 360 and Onshape. All of them will need to do basics first – to get the data under control. The second step will be to share data downstream in a variety of forms and functions. CAD files are just a first step.

Many downstream consumers of design information would like to get it in a form of Bill of Materials with connected information, the ability to configure it, provide cost calculations, and many other functions. Which platform will be able to do it in the most efficient way will define how fast these systems will be adopted by companies today relying on emails, files, and spreadsheets. Autodesk Fusion360 has many extensions, Onshape has an app store with applications. What SOLIDWORKS 3DEXPERIENCE will provide is a good question. All together it will open a new page in cloud CAD and PDM competition. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups, and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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