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SOLIDWORKS World 2015: Gone are the days of lone engineers

How many engineers does it take to change a light bulb? The old joke echoed in my head as I was attending the annual gathering of super-engineers and designers – SOLIDWORKS World 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. This year there were 5500 attendees from all over the world, who watched presentations, participated in discussions and training and attended the big Mexican-themed party.

Gone are the days of lone engineers

SOLIDWORKS clearly see themselves as the future of product design. The message delivered during general sessions was clear: gone are the days of lone engineers who locked themselves in a garage and created break-through products. Today’s engineers have to be social and collaborate. They save their designs in the cloud and can access them on multiple platforms – why not design on your tablet while sitting on a park bench for example?

An important part of every SOLIDWORKS World are the daily general sessions attended by the great majority of participants. The sessions are amazingly staged with lighting, sound, huge video screens and, of course, the key note speakers. While some speeches turned out to be nothing more than extended company ads, other turned out to be truly interesting, offering insights into possibilities of the digital age.

How to attract more girls to study science, technology, engineering and math

One speech that interested me was delivered by Bettina Chen, a graduate of engineering program at Stanford, who joined forces with another Stanford graduate and embarked on a mission to attract more girls to study science, technology, engineering and math. How? They designed Roominate – a toy aimed at girls of six years and up, which combines hands-on building, circuits, design, crafts, storytelling, and creativity for hours of fun. Kids can build spinning windmills, carousels, lamps, couches, bunk beds, and more. Needless to say, a box of Roominate now rests in my suitcase to be tested on my six year old daughter at home. You can see more on their website www.roominatetoy.com.

Five Senses Theory

Another speaker who caught my attention was designer Jinsop Lee, who discussed a process of industrial design and his (very unscientific) Five Senses Theory. Using this theory, Jinsop searches for a perfect experience by judging how different activities affect each of the five senses. Giving a refreshing perspective, Jinsop concluded that SOLIDWORKS will perhaps eventually design a perfect design tool, but as for now analogue design still affects more senses and is therefore more attractive for him – most of his designs are still done with pencil, or clay. You can see a TED talk hosted by Jinsop Lee here.

Together with Lino in Phoenix

So what did Tacton do in Phoenix? For this year’s event we teamed up with our German partner Lino to present a 3D Layout product built on top of TactonWorks. The product enables non-CAD experts to easily and quickly generate accurate and compelling 3D floor plans to be used for planning and sales of industrial plants. The users simply drag-and-drop plant components onto a plane and assemble them into production lines just as easy as LEGO bricks. The tool manages special rules, makes sure that machines snap to the right points and customizes the machines based on customer requirements. While all this is quite difficult to appreciate by a non-CAD expert like me (the tool simply worked as expected), the visitors to our booth seemed genuinely impressed by how much tedious CAD operations are automated by this tool. Our product seemed to fit well into the theme of experiencing 3D, another one promoted by SOLIDWORKS throughout the event. If you are interested and want to know more, you can see a video demo here (in German).
Next year the SOLIDWORKS World circus moves on to Dallas, Texas. I suppose that the main themes of this year’s event will continue to be discussed next year as well. No matter what SOLIDWORKS shows us, I just do not think that this era of social and collaborative engineering us upon us just yet. But that does not matter. What matters is that SOLIDWORKS World is a big appreciation event for all users of SOLIDWORKS tools and the company does an amazing job of organizing its user community, involving their users in developing the tools and inspiring them to be even better designers and innovators.