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SolidWorks World 2012

February 18, 2012

Filed under: CAD/CAM/CAE,event — Terry Wohlers @ 16:30

I attended SolidWorks World earlier this week and I’m glad I did. It is one of the few CAD events I attend and it’s an excellent opportunity to stay abreast of important advances in SolidWorks. More than 5,600 people from 33 countries traveled to San Diego to attend. I find the special guest speakers, and the press conferences that follow, to be among the most inspiring part of the event each year. These presentations, alone, make it worthwhile. Past speakers include Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson, movie producer James Cameron, and Apollo 13’s Jim Lovell and Gene Krantz. The guest speakers are often kept under wraps, making it a surprise when they appear on stage.

This year, we were treated to Mike Rowe of the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs. Mike has been involved in 300 “dirty jobs” in all 50 states and is an exceptionally bright guy that’s down to earth. He discussed the mounting skills gap and pointed out that we no longer have only white and blue collar workers in the U.S. He stressed that there’s many important “middle ground” positions and addressed the need to recognize them and the people needed to fill them.

Tony Fadell, formerly of Apple, was another special guest speaker. Tony is considered by many as the “father” of the iPod and served as senior vice president of the iPod Division at Apple. He also led the team that developed the iPhone. Tony mentioned the arguments he had with Steve Jobs over making the iPod compatible with Windows. I told him that I was reading the Steve Jobs book and he smiled, signifying that we were both aware of Steve Jobs’ interesting management style at Apple. Tony is surprisingly young (born in 1969), and in 2010, he founded a company named NEST that’s creating a product for consumers. You might be surprised, as I was, to learn that it’s a thermostat for homes, a product that’s more exciting than it sounds.

A third special guest speaker was Ben Kaufman, the founder and head of Quirky. The company is focused on accepting new product ideas from anyone and then taking some of the best to market. Ben said that they receive about 200-300 ideas for new products every day and two of them are selected for development each week. Quirky has a team of people that advance the ideas, along with many others who contribute to the effort. The result is the commercialization of one product every week. I asked Ben how many of the products are successful and how they measure success. He responded by saying that all of them are successful at some level, although only a few of the products find their way into stores such as Walmart or Target, in the case of consumer products.

SolidWorks World 2012, for me, ended before the final day because I had to wing my way to another event near the east coast. I was lucky enough to attend the Tuesday evening Block Party at The Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego. I can’t imagine the total cost of this three-hour party for 5,000+ SolidWorks enthusiasts. SolidWorks Corp. knows how to treat its customers and how to create world-class software that gets them excited. SolidWorks World 2013, set for January 20-23 in Orlando, Florida, was announced by CEO Bertrand Sicot on Wednesday.