April 10th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe
With surprisingly relatively little fanfare, DS SOLIDWORKS last week announced the availability of its long-awaited new product, Mechanical Conceptual (MC for short). Dassault Systemes says that MC is the first SOLIDWORKS application on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform — “that embraces the new realities of today’s world of design in the age of experience: it is more social and conceptual and delivers on the promise of ease-of-collaboration among key contributors.” All of this is something I’m still unclear exactly what it is, what it does, and what it means.
I contacted Kishore Boyalakuntla, Director, Product Management, SOLIDWORKS, who is in charge of managing Mechanical Conceptual for some clarification on what the press release announcing the launch lacked.
Mechanical Conceptual was formally introduced a few months ago at SOLIDWORKS World with the following four basic tenets — conceptual, social (collaboration), connected, and instinctive. The conceptual part I understand, because that’s the primary purpose of MC. It also lends itself to collaborative methods because it’s a cloud-based application, as well as instinctive, because it has direct modeling/editing capabilities. The connected part, though, especially to SOLIDWORKS is still a bit of a mystery.
Although SWMC is initially being aimed at SOLIDWORKS’ traditional strongest industry segment, industrial/production machinery, the demonstration that was presented at SOLIDWORKS World with some simple mechanical assemblies and a plant layout design.
As we had been told before, he said that Mechanical Conceptual has been installed and used in production environments at several customer sites, including Polyrack, Weisser, Karl Schmidt & Associates, and Kennedy Hygiene. Video testimonials from these customers are available here.
Mechanical Conceptual can be purchased through select SOLIDWORKS reseller partners, including GoEngineer and Javelin (who has posted videos of Mechanical Conceptual here). According to Boyalakuntla, the goal is for all SOLIDWORKS resellers to sell Mechanical Conceptual. He said that many resellers have already signed up to sell the product. Resellers like GoEngineer and
From the beginning the company has said that MC would be complementary to SOLIDWORKS software. Boyalakuntla reinforced this statement by saying, “Mechanical Conceptual is complementary in the workflow where conceptual designs are done in SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual and detail design in SOLIDWORKS. SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual opens native SOLIDWORKS data. SOLIDWORKS opens native SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual data, as well, today. Since this is our first release, we have not addressed all the interoperability scenarios. We plan to have the majority of them addressed in the R2015x release by the end of the year. This will be a multi-release effort and since we own both products, we will have the best-in-class interoperability, as well.”
The interoperability statement is interesting because SOLIDWORKS is based on the Parasolid modeling kernel (licensed from competitor, Siemens PLM Software) and MC is based on Dassault’s CATIA modeling kernel. What this means is that there is no native/direct translation between the two applications and, therefore, no associativity between SOLIDWORKS and MC. Previous to the interoperability statement above, I was under the impression that working natively would involve a an additional SOLIDWORKS/Mechanical Conceptual translator that is (or will be) available. I’ll have to check further if the translator is still required.
The native incompatibility of SOLIDWORKS and CATIA has always confounded me, since several competing CAD products have the ability to import and export CATIA modeling data.
Previously, I had been told that the export mechanism and file format back and forth between SOLIDWORKS and MC is 3D XML. What this means is that you export a “dumb” solid from MC and will have to literally recreate it in SOLIDWORKS. This is something else I’ll have clarified and report back.
The company has been careful to position Mechanical Conceptual as a complementary app to SOLIDWORKS, and not competing with or replacing it. DS has also quietly stressed that SOLIDWORKS Standard, Professional, and Premium would continue to be developed and enhanced. Good news to long-time SOLIDWORKS users.
As we have known for some time, Mechanical Conceptual is priced at $249/user/month. That translates to $2,988.00/user/year. Imagine the following scenario. Say you bought the SOLIDWORKS core modeling product for $3,995 and maintenance for $1,295 per year; that’s $5,290. Add to that $2,988/user/year for Mechanical Conceptual and your total is $8,278. Add to that the cost of a SOLIDWORKS/Mechanical Conceptual translator and the cost could potentially top $10,000. The cost alone may give many prospective customers pause on making a purchasing decision.
The formal launch of Mechanical Conceptual finally put to rest and clarified the confusion of the meaning of “conceptual” in the new offering’s name. It is intended for conceptual design of things that move, such as mechanisms and machines, and not concept design in the context of industrial design. Not to worry, though, DS will be introducing a true industrial design product later this year called Industrial Conceptual to address that need. Industrial Conceptual will allow simultaneous surface and solid design, and also will be complementary to SOLIDWORKS. The interoperability issue with SOLIDWORKS remains to be seen.
The cloud-based architecture is a concept that many vendors are embracing and customers are accepting, but not everyone yet has access to Internet bandwidth necessary for using MC effectively, efficiently, or at all, but that alone shouldn’t be a huge hindrance.
Although we have not yet had any hands-on exposure or experience with SWMC because Dassault Systemes, we have requested a license. We hope to give SWMC a test drive with SOLIDWORKS 2014 if and when it becomes available to us.
Admittedly, MC has been a long time coming. Was it worth the wait? Time will tell and it will be interesting to see how Mechanical Conceptual is received, embraced, and adopted by the SOLIDWORKS user community.