The World Series Report – Day 2 of SolidWorks World 2011

Article by Alin Vargatu, CSWE updated February 25, 2011


There was no time for a well deserved R&R timeout after the free-for-all Nerds with Nerfs Wild West style “duels” from the CSWP/CSWE party the previous night. Tuesday morning at 7:00 we headed one more time to the beautiful Henry B Gonzalez Convention Centre, eager to see what new surprises SolidWorks World had in store for us.

The General Session started by bringing the users in the spotlight. SolidWorks has always considered itself a company driven by its customers and, as a result, the SolidWorks Community is one of the most powerful there is. Numerous blogs, forums and other social media venues dedicated to SolidWorks topics enable the users to meet in the virtual space. Meeting in real life is also possible since 1999, when a group of volunteers formed the SolidWorks User Group Network (SWUGN) to facilitate SolidWorks users meeting in person at a local level. Not everybody has the time and money to travel to SolidWorks World, but anybody can join a local group and attend a SWUG meeting four times a year. During these meeting they can find out more about SolidWorks and SolidWorks related products, better educate themselves on how SolidWorks can be used, network with their peers or share experiences and technical presentations to learn valuable, real-world techniques, and methodologies. We have quite a few of these groups in Canada; I, for example, I’m an active member of the Ontario SolidWorks User Group led by Chris White. By the way, our group’s next meeting is just around the corner, on March 9th. The agenda can be found here.

As per Richard Doyle, User Community Manager for SolidWorks, there are 195 local groups in 27 countries and this number is growing.

 The most active group in 2010 was the Chicago User Group.

Another award went to Ed Gebo from Connecticut who was considered the User Group Leader of the Year.

SolidWorks World is also a place to say farewells to good friends who are no longer among us. Last year, Michelle Pillers, a very active SWUG organizer left us.

To insure she will never be forgotten, SWUGN Comittee created the Michelle Pillers SolidWorks User Group Network Community Award to honour SolidWorks users with great merits in the community.  

This year, the award went to Wayne Tiffany.

The second part of the sessionwas absolutely mind blowing. The applications for which designers are using SolidWorks products are just amazing. And who better to present them than Jon Hirschtick, the founder of SolidWorks.

Jon started by taking us back in time all the way to the first days of SolidWorks. We got to meet the first customer Bill Townsend and see the invoice for the first license of SolidWorks ever shipped.

Bill is the Founder and CEO of Barrett Technology and one of the problems SolidWorks helped solve, was reducing the numbers of cables inside a robotic arm from over one hundred to only four. This amazing engineering feat was done by moving the controller right on the arm while reducing it from a refrigerator size to something that you can hold in the palm of your hand.

As per Bill, nesting all those little parts in such a small space was done with SolidWorks.

The next guest was Rony Abovitz, Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of MAKO Surgical.

Most people go through life accepting the status quo, some people are questioning why things are the way they are. Rony is one of the rare people who also are asking “Why not?”

Until this presentation I believed very strongly that the only way to repair an arthritic knee is by doing a knee replacement. 10 years ago, Rony questioned the need for this radical surgery. Why do you need to remove the whole articulation, when the only parts that are damaged are the surfaces in contact (the bone on bone grinding)? MAKO Surgical developed a commercial answer to this question, called MAKOplasty® Partial Knee Resurfacing.

Just imagine avoiding a major surgery like a knee replacement and use instead a sculpting procedure involving 3D scanning of the knee – identifying the affected areas, creating surface patches inserts using SolidWorks, computer assisted sculpting of your articulation with the exact negative of the patches and, finally, placing the inserts in place.

This sounds more like reverse engineering than surgery, does it not? So you scan the articulation and find the areas that are no longer lubricated properly. Send the cloud points produced by the scanner to SolidWorks and develop surfaces defining the areas to be removed. Use the same surfaces to create the inserts to fill these areas.

Next, during the surgery send all these data to a robot that will do pretty much what a CNC milling machine does – remove the excess material. This way the surgeon knows for sure that only the bad parts are cut and also that the cavities would match the inserts 100%.

At the end of the surgery you are like new and can walk in 2 hours. You can play golf at the end of the week. With the standard procedure which replaces the whole articulation you will need at least 6 weeks to walk without a cane and most likely and will never recover 100%.


Samuel Brooks, one of the Rony’s patients demonstrated right on the stage his regained agility after the surgery.

I have a strong feeling that if patients would have a chance to choice between having the whole articulation replaced or just re-plating the existing one, would always chose the second option.

The third customer’s application that Jon presented was about cool cars. More exactly about using Open Source design processes for building cool cars. How is that done?

Mike Pisani from Local Motors explained that open source can be used even in manufacturing without the fear of losing intellectual property. “When innovation is involved and evolution is fast, furious and continuous, there is no danger in getting your ideas stolen. Fast design = fast to market.”

With Local motors you can propose an idea or even a design for a car, judge other designs and also vote on which concepts are the best and merit to be built. In the end you can purchase the car for yourself or get involved in making it.

Jon was so excited about this way of doing things that he mentioned the fact the Dassault/SolidWorks have started opening their development process to the users also. DraftSight was given as the first example of an open source product. He even asked the audience if they think it would be a good idea to open SolidWorks itself more. Wouldn’t that be nice?

The general session was concluded on a high note with Casey Pieretti and Bill Spracher, the Bionic Builders. Their story about how they are using SolidWorks for transforming Casey, an amputee into a superman deserves its own article.

The rest of the day passed very fast. I attended 2 break-out sessions, one about the new HVAC module in SolidWorks and the second one about advanced curves and surfaces. Both were very interesting and extremely well presented. I learnt a lot, not only about the topics presented but I also got valuable pointers for how to deliver my 2 presentations the following day.

The night was again time for party. This time everybody was invited to a Texan event that included a rodeo and a cool band – LC Rocks of Austin, Texas.

During the rodeo, a couple of French people sitting behind me were wondering “when would the cows appear?” That seemed to upset a bit their Texan neighbours who corrected them promptly: “These are not cows, they are bulls!” And bulls they were. From fifteen cowboys only four held on the mandatory eight seconds mounted on their bulls.

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Alin Vargatu, CSWE

Alin is a SOLIDWORKS Elite Applications Engineer and an avid contributor to the SOLIDWORKS Community. Alin has presented multiple times at SOLIDWORKS World, Technical Summits, and User Group Meetings, while being very active on the SOLIDWORKS Forum.