SolidWorks Live Buildings

To me the big news at SolidWorks World 2011 was the announcement of SolidWorks Live Buildings, a SolidWorks offering for the AEC industry. Last June Dassault Systemes showed an early preview of the technology. This video shows a more mature product.

Contrary to what some people (including me) initially thought, Live Buildings is being branded as a SolidWorks product and not a Dassault Systemes product. This makes sense as SolidWorks has more experience selling software to professionals and small companies as compared to Dassault Systemes. SolidWorks now has a new Sales Director for the AEC industry.

Live Buildings is an online product and based on the V6 platform. As can be seen in the video above, it is an initial conceptual design tool, like a SketchUp on steroids. It will have the ability to exchange data with DraftSight, the 2D AutoCAD clone from Dassault Systemes. And speaking of DraftSight, today SolidWorks showed DraftSight running on the iPad, which will be released later this year. So not only does the Dassault Systemes/SolidWorks combo have a clone for AutoCAD, they have a clone for AutoCAD WS as well.

Looks like the Dassault Systemes and SolidWorks are just getting started with AEC. It will be interesting to see where all this leads and how Autodesk reacts.

  • Kevin Quigley

    The problem is Deelip, how do they get from that conceptual design to production documentation? Export to DraftSight, DWG, IFC?

    The demo was less than impressive I have to say. Maybe this is because I’ve been working with architects for years and seen developments in apps like VectorWorks, Revit, Archicad, even SketchUp and Bonzai3D. Modelling a flat openplan office and populating it with stock items can be done now in SketchUp or any AEC design tool. What architects want to know is how they create new forms and can explore shape – model terrain, and roof forms to maximise internal space.

    Tools like Bentley’s Generative Modelling and Rhino’s Grasshopper and TSplines are pushing the boundaries and are actually quite widely used by Architects. The time is coming when architects are starting to design in 3D and pushing the edges of the modelling technologies to create complex forms from simple core components.

    I’ll pass judgement when it is released, and see how they are going to charge for this.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    SolidWorks 2011 can export to IFC. I guess that shows the direction they are headed. Their work with Gehry shows that they can do the high-end complex architectural stuff you are talking about. So I am more curious to know whether this is a first step to get into the AEC sector and then add more complex functionality as they progress.

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  • http://twitter.com/kabab3d babak sanayei

    Well if its built on the V6 platform its sitting on the same geometry kernel used to model some of the most complex manufactured items in the world, so i highly doubt the ability to design complex shapes is going to be a barrier..

    Just look at Gehry as Deelip mentioned that is built around Catia V5, some of the most complex buildings in terms of form(the birds nest, disney hall etc) where designed on it… So i don’t think its Dassault that needs to prove anything in that area, in fact i’d go as far as to say the big players in the AEC field are lagging on that aspect from a technology perspective.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    You make some very good points. I believe there will be a lot of adjustments made to the product and the go-to-market strategies in the initial stages based on feedback. This is a relatively new market to them.

    Indeed, Live Buildings running on Mac for conceptual AEC will be an excellent idea.

  • Martyn

    DS is ultimately going after Revit. The SW brand is their volume brand. They could not do this until they had their cloud tech as they dont have a channel to sell it. I suspect that SW dealers may be tempted to push it, although it’s a web service.

    As it stands, it’s like a parametric SketchUp that actually works when you edit it. And millions of copies of that have been given away and sold. If architects get a hold of this, and use it for early design, they can export the IFCs and have Revit or Autocad detail it – of DesignSight.

    The next stage of the BIM market is low cost tools to get 2D laggards into 3D. Revit is too complex and expensive for many of these small firms. ArchiCAD has a version called SE which is only £999. Rhinbo is popular and about £800, SketchUp basic is free and now this.

    This is a battle of the entry level of 3D in architecture. Bernard spelt it out back in 2008

    http://develop3d.com/interviews/communicating-via-3d

  • Kevin Quigley

    Martyn, you hit the nail on the head – price. You know the UK AEC market so you know the “reluctance” to part with cash! Problem I see is that if architects are looking for a souped up SketchUp, they already have it.

    There is a clear trend in new versions of revit, Archicad, Autocad, VectorWorks to have a more SketchUp interface for modelling – but with more power. A year or two back Auto-des-sys introduced Bonzai 3D – which is probably the closest app to SketchUp, but with a hell of a lot more power (NURBS, smart objects etc). Bonzai3D sells for around £400 I think.

    If SolidWorks Live Buildings is sub £1000 I think it might have a market. If they try to push it out at SolidWorks prices, no way. But, being a cloud system, it will no doubt be a monthly rental – and that is even more risky!

  • Mats

    SketchUp on steroids?
    It is the second time they go after the sketchUp market, first with 3DVia Shape (worst SUp clone ever IMO) They recently announced Shape 4. I quote from their site (Work Offline or “Nomad Mode”: Working offline without having to login to the 3DVIA site has always been a major request from our users. You asked, we listened. ) and I bet that’s is gonna be the most requested feature for SolidWorks Live Buildings also.

    Oh look how you apply materials at CATIA V6 Live Shape (looks familiar, is not it?) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-B5s2uZNzM4
    I think Dassault Systemes over the year has developed/acquired some really cool technologies BUT that is not enough, what the end user sees is not the engine driving the app but the workflow and how this app can fit into their pipeline.
    Also one of the main reasons why the most creative minds out there use SketchUp, Rhino is because there are open for anyone to wright scripts/plugins. That’s note the case for Dassault’s products.
    Dassault keeps bragging about how great Gehry Technologies’ Digital Project is BUT Guess What? Rhino/ OpenNURBS is what they use to wright their magic custom tools ;)

    Anyway competition is good and I hope they stay focus on things that count and not gimmicks likes game engines etc.

  • Mats

    SketchUp on steroids?
    It is the second time they go after the sketchUp market, first with 3DVia Shape (worst SUp clone ever IMO) They recently announced Shape 4. I quote from their site (Work Offline or “Nomad Mode”: Working offline without having to login to the 3DVIA site has always been a major request from our users. You asked, we listened. ) and I bet that’s is gonna be the most requested feature for SolidWorks Live Buildings also.

    Oh look how you apply materials at CATIA V6 Live Shape (looks familiar, is not it?) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-B5s2uZNzM4
    I think Dassault Systemes over the year has developed/acquired some really cool technologies BUT that is not enough, what the end user sees is not the engine driving the app but the workflow and how this app can fit into their pipeline.
    Also one of the main reasons why the most creative minds out there use SketchUp, Rhino is because there are open for anyone to wright scripts/plugins. That’s note the case for Dassault’s products.
    Dassault keeps bragging about how great Gehry Technologies’ Digital Project is BUT Guess What? Rhino/ OpenNURBS is what they use to wright their magic custom tools ;)

    Anyway competition is good and I hope they stay focus on things that count and not gimmicks likes game engines etc.

  • Martyn

    DS upside- It will be cheap (not CATIA or SW price), it will be easy to use, it has one of the best modelling kernels underneath it, it’s models can be sent to Catia for analysis and fabrication, Enovia provides teamwork (something Autodesk has failed to solve), as it’s on the cloud it can create huge files and it will not slow down (here revit fails again), it’s in the cloud you can still use last year’s PC… there are a lot of things to get excited about the potential….It’s not as bonkers as it sounds.

    Bonzai and SketchUp aren’t BIM. they are dumb but complex geometry. This is BIM with potentially powerful geometry, analysis.

    Sure there are risks. DS is trying out lots of shit here all at once which is never a great idea. But if the price is right and version 1 is like SketchUp on steroids that will be enough to penetrate.

    Architects have moved from using one application to using 10. They can easily use this for what its good at and then move on to their other apps with IFCs to do other jobs.

    This is a good wake up call to the existing AEC vendors.

  • Dnelson

    I am excited to see another big software player trying to get into the AEC market, but am also skeptical on the product. The biggest downside of the current BIM (Revit, Archicad,Vectorworks) packages is they are all based on modeling from a 2D environment with the 3rd dimension as kind of secondary dimension. This lends to great documentation tools, but not very a good 3D modeling environment. An issue we run into all the time is roof framing. These elements are usually never flat, so it’s much easy to model them from a 3D environment.

    Also another downside is that they are all good at modeling in generalities and not very good at modeling to a high level of detail. Look at the wall components in each of them. Very easy to create multiple material layered wall, which are very easy to calculate quantities from, but in all of them it’s not very easy to start added detail to them. For instance sloped top of walls, steps, beam pockets ect…

    So I am excited about the ability to work 3D environment, but looks like they are relying on more standard 3D components which is fine for standard conditions, but makes it more complicated when trying to do something custom.

  • frederic Herbere

    This is very interesting to see the rebranding of Live Building from DS to SW. I think it make a lot more sense as SW is a brand that a lot of people (at least sub-contractor) are familiar with in comparison to Dassault that no one know in the AEC industry.
    I had the chance so far to work with Catia for the Aerospace and Automotive Industry, Digital Project for Gehry and now with Revit in the AEC industry.
    It will be very challenging for DS to get in this industry with this product. So far it look “nice” but i don’t see what change it is bringing to the AEC market.
    For me to be successful DS will need to:
    - have a very low entry price…a free limited version?
    - if they want to be appealing to Architect and Planer, they need to focus on facilitating the management of Program requirement on the go as the model is generated in a very simple interface (excel if possible) to generate reports.
    - if they want to make it a Sketchup on steroid, they need to add an important feature to facilitate the Code check requirement on the go (check the software Solibri)
    -Now when it come to Deliverable most owner request 2D documents…to over come this issue, they need to work with Municipalities to provide a solution where the 3D model would be use to finalize the Building Permit….otherwise they will end-up with a similar solution as Revit, which i refer as a 2.5D software. and in this case why a Revit user would change to a program which will not provide them with added value and result with the creation with 2D document.
    so far this is my 2 cents.
    Also i would like to comments about few things which have been say in the comments above.
    Mats say:…”Dassault keeps bragging about how great Gehry Technologies’ Digital Project is BUT Guess What? Rhino/ OpenNURBS is what they use to wright their magic custom tools ;)” Rhino was use at some point by Gehry as a Modeling tool or very few project 5 or 6 years ago. I can tell you that most if not all project are model in DP/Catia. All script are VBscript.
    Kevin Q. Say: “The general, bulk, AEC market does no design concert halls, or clad structures in freeform stainless steel panels. They work in simpler materials and simpler forms.” I agree with you but i would feel more comfortable using a software who has this capabilities rather then being limited with what i can do, because of the software limitation.there is a lot of things that i could do “easily” in DP/Catia that would take me days to get doe in Revit for example. At the end it will come up to the cost….a lot of Architect accept the limitation of the technology they use because of the software cost and it’s one of the primary reason it has been VERY difficult for Gehry Technologies to enter the AEC market as a big player against Autodesk.

  • Anonymous

    I would say that it would be much usefull for SolidWorks dev team to spent some extra time on cleaning up their production surface geometry (i.e trimmed surface output for CAM) before diving into this deep and cold (for them) waters. Or, mayde this is an intor to their new V6 advanture …?

  • Martyn

    bdinev – this is being developed by DS in Lyon and has nothing to do with the SW development team at the moment. So they are not wasting resources from Mech development

  • Jay

    Martyn, you are right on the spot. Few more things to consider:

    1) Since this is on the cloud, no worries about file format changes. Older files can be upgraded over night and the user will never even notice.

    2) Second advantage of being on the cloud is that new features can be added anytime without waiting for another release cycle (new version like most other products)

  • Alfred

    Kevin,

    These products are shit (Revit, Autocad, ArchiCAD, Microstation).  They cannot handle complex shape. Their core engine is corrupted with bugs. I would go DS if I was you.

    Cheers,

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