From SolidWorks CEO Jeff Ray’s opening statements at SolidWorks World 2009, the event managed to create a haven of optimism and excitement amid the economic shadow that loomed over the first quarter of the year. In the months leading up to the annual user event, Ray admitted the company fretted that attendance would fall well below last year’s. He needn’t have worried as more than 4,300 converged in Orlando, Fla., for the three-day event.
“For the next little while, we’re not going to open a newspaper, turn on a television or listen to the radio,” Ray advised. “For the next three days, you are with your best friends from around the world who share your goals and aspirations.”
The company has reason to be optimistic. Unlike others in the MCAD market, SolidWorks’ mainstream 3D revenues were up 11 percent for the year, fuelled largely by maintenance revenue, followed by strong simulation and PDM sales. In contrast, Autodesk posted a fourth-quarter loss of $105.3 million, and PTC experienced a 29 percent decline in license revenue for the first quarter 2009. SolidWorks’ buoyancy is due, at least in part, to the enthusiasm it creates in its user community. At every turn, throughout the general sessions and in the Partner Pavilion, the company presented evidence its users are at the forefront of either creating the coolest projects or helping solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.
For instance, non-profit design company Design that Matters (DtM) used SolidWorks to design an infant incubator for third-world countries made from recycled car parts including using headlights for the heating element, and taillights as warning signals.
Similarly impressive, Kanata, Ont.-based Magenn Power Inc. showed off its SolidWorks-designed Magenn Air Rotor System (MARS), a wind turbine blimp that can be deployed between 400 and 1,000 feet (120 to 300 metres) to catch the constant winds at those altitudes. Flaps around the balloon’s middle cause it to rotate, driving generators on its sides. The power is then transmitted down the blimp’s tether. At the event, Magenn demonstrated its 30 by 57-foot, two-kilowatt prototype, but a 10 or 25-kilowatt version is in the works for 2009.
Of course, the main function of the event (and the biggest draw for attendees) is the opportunity to network with peers and master their software tools. In total, the event hosted approximately 150 technical breakout sessions covering everything from basic 3D modeling to esoteric API programming.