Last year’s SOLIDWORKS World featured a great deal of the CAM features of SOLIDWORKS, but this year focus was more on additive manufacturing, Mark Ruston, Product Portfolio Manager – Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS, told me when we sat down in LA. Rushton organized the Additive Manufacturing Symposium for SWW18, bringing together experts in 3D printing to an event that is annually seeing an uptick in the presence of this manufacturing technology. During the 2017 event, Rushton had noted that rapid prototyping was coming back into the spotlight for 3D printing — and thus for 3D design.
“Speaking about design for additive manufacturing, we need to optimize for that process. Not until then is it viable to use it for production,” he said when we discussed rapid prototyping at SWW17.
For the 2018 event, SWW was looking toward a future integrating more advanced manufacturing technologies and inspirations, really rethinking the entirety of the manufacturing process. Additive manufacturing was a major part of that; non-3D printing-focused journalists I spoke with noted surprise at the prevalance of this particular technology at this event. Rushton, however, noted that this increased focus was a natural progression.
“Last year, it was all SOLIDWORKS CAM; this year, we’re seeing more additive manufacturing. It’s maturing to a stage where it’s a lot more visible in the market, and people are seeing if it’s right for them,” he told me.
“WIth more maturity comes actual disruption. With Desktop Metal and HP, there’s rising visibility — and it keeps me busy as well.”
“We’ve had printer launches at SOLIDWORKS World the last two years,” he continued, touching on last year’s introduction of the Stratasys F123 line of 3D printers. “This shows the respect SOLIDWORKS has from manufacturers. Most 3D printer manufacturers are also our customers; the majority of these machines are designed in SOLIDWORKS as well. 3D printers are special machines themselves, and suited for special synergies with SOLIDWORKS.”
The fact that so many 3D printers are designed using this software leads toward a natural familiarity, which is manifesting in a rising number of partnerships between hardware suppliers and the software giant. Last week, we heard announcements of increased collaborations between SOLIDWORKS and Rize, Nano Dimension, and 3D Systems as well as SOLIDWORKS’ own new offerings, many of which will be put to use in the additive manufacturing workflow.
As SOLIDWORKS continues to bring together its large existing user base with additive manufacturing-enabled design, 3D printing will continue to play a rising role in the company’s strategies. One barrier standing between traditional manufacturers and additive manufacturing adoption is in the form of familiarity; they don’t always know what new technologies have to offer, nor have the resources at hand for appropriate education. Through larger industry efforts to incorporate and educate on 3D printing, though, adoption is rising.
“I recently visited a customer in the Netherlands who was just starting to 3D print. It’s great to see customers with very traditional machinery now start to look at how they might use 3D printing,” Rushton said.
Efforts such as the SWW Additive Manufacturing Symposium provide a platform through which experienced designers can be increasingly exposed to 3D printing and design for additive manufacturing (DfAM), now increasingly integrated with software suites like SOLIDWORKS with which they are already vividly familiar. As Rushton and his colleagues told me over the summer ahead of the full release of SOLIDWORKS 2018, new design features are allowing for an increase in capabilities. The Symposium proved to be a popular addition to this year’s agenda, as the crowd of users flocked to sessions.
“Putting the Symposium together was hard work, and well worth it; it was very well attended. We had to stop letting people in for a few sessions, eventually, after we ran out of even standing room only. It was really engaging, the presenters were really knowledgeable, and there were great questions from the crowd afterward. We had demos and presentations on metal 3D printing, 3DXpert and Live Parts, thoughts on the future and current state of the industry, and on subtractive and additive manufacturing, looks at desktop 3D printing — it was all really good,” Rushton said.
“We’ve made more additive announcements throughout the show, how we’ve been working with 3D Systems for a few months, and more recently with Desktop Metal. We’re making design for additive manufacturing more accessible, and helping people to see if additive is right for them.”
The expertise gathered at the Additive Manufacturing Symposium included familiar names; you can catch a session replay here to hear the breakout on Design for Additive Manufacturing and the Future of 3D Printing.
Relationships are paramount to the success of SOLIDWORKS, and Rushton highlighted their partners throughout our conversation.
“SOLIDWORKS is uniquely based as the CAD tool the majority of 3D printers are designed in — we’re keen to make it more mainstream,” he said of their work with manufacturers.
“There are so many processes, and development needs collaborations. Rules are still being developed for additive manufacturing — which needs partnerships — the 3MF Consortium is a good example of that, and we’re keen to see that grow. Education is very important. We’re focused on education and on accessibility.”
These areas of focus lead the team to work with designers and manufacturers, often fostering relationships between the two. One new partnership announced during the show traces its official orgins to Rushton having seen a documentary featuring a SOLIDWORKS user; when he realized Easton LaChappelle was using a Stratasys J750 3D printer, he quickly got in touch to see how they could help. At SWW18, LaChappelle’s company, Unlimited Tomorrow, announced its work with Stratasys and SOLIDWORKS to further the reach of customized, advanced 3D printed prosthetics.
As 3D printing continues to become a more visible technology, maturing into increasing use, the predicted disruption of manufacturing can begin to truly take shape. Talking again with Rushton last week provided a good look at the place for SOLIDWORKS and DfAM in encouraging the next Industrial Renaissance, featuring advanced manufacturing techniques.
Discuss software, partnerships, integration, and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.[All photos: Sarah Goehrke]