I sat down with execs from SOLIDWORKS to chat about 3D printing and the popular CAD software.
In part one, we looked at some of SOLIDWORKS’ initiatives and integrations with Mark Rushton, Product Portfolio Manager, SOLIDWORKS.
Now a chat with SOLIDWORKS’ Suchit Jain, VP of Strategy and Business Development.
We looked first to 3D printing present at SWW 19. Effectively all of the 3D printing companies in the Partner Pavilion found the setting aptly named, as they are “partners not only in using SOLIDWORKS to design their printers, but also their designs,” Jain said.
The question, he said, is always: “What’s next?”
As Jain’s title indicates, strategy is his focus, so it made sense to look into that ‘what’s next’ for SOLIDWORKS as it relates to 3D printing.
A major piece of news dropped at SWW was Dassault Systèmes’ role in Rize’s $15M Series B funding round — a first in terms of 3D printing hardware investment for the company. This represents then a new branch of the company’s strategic approach to 3D printing. We’ve taken a look at some of Jain’s targeted comments in the context of this investment; now, looking bigger picture, we can see more of how that fits into overall strategies.
“We do believe in [Rize’s] technology. The future is about materials, and they also offer differentiation in color, in safe-to-use materials. We see opportunity. And these are friends we know well, and we believe in what they’re doing. They’ll put SOLIDWORKS with every printer now, as we are going hand-in-hand together,” he said.
Importantly, of the investment, he continued:
“As far as I know, this is the first time Dassault Systèmes has invested in a 3D printer company. Dassault Systèmes is very careful; all investments are very strategic; it’s not a venture capital company.”
3D printing is, then, strategic for SOLIDWORKS and its parent company.
We’ve known this, of course, but it’s nice to just have that laid on the table.
Additive manufacturing is growing as a focus for SOLIDWORKS and for broader software development and usage. Most design software is intended for traditional, subtractive means of production. Design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) is a new way of thinking, harnessing new capabilities and leveraging the unique properties of additive and thinking that necessarily has to accompany it.
Jain noted that different companies working with different technologies need different levels of support due to the different challenges they face. Integrating design parameters for additive is great, but not all additive processes have the same design needs.
The close relationship with Rize is indicative of the drive at SOLIDWORKS to really understand those design needs. And we can expect to see more like this.
While the relationship with Rize is not an exclusive one in 3D printing, it is so far unique for the software company. Many 3D printing users already use SOLIDWORKS — Jain cited a figure that about 80% of companies say the designs they’re 3D printing are made using this software — but a key point of the announcement with Rize was that new purchasers of the Rize One 3D printer also receive a license for SOLIDWORKS. Encouraging users to embrace SOLIDWORKS by including access with a hardware purchase removes a potential barrier (the software is not known for its low cost) and gets the product into more hands.
We may not see closeness to the point of outright investment in further partnerships, but should anticipate more strategic relationships. SOLIDWORKS also sees a “good partner” in Ultimaker, for example, and such relationships mark a way both for the software to fit into the additive ecosystem and for more 3D printing users to gain access to the software. In the course of our chat, Jain also noted the promise of companies like Desktop Metal that are newer participants, and the ongoing presence of strong names in the desktop space like Ultimaker, Prusa, and MakerBot.
SOLIDWORKS is embracing 3D printing as part of the future of design. And it’s going about this strategically.