Yesterday Siemens PLM announced the availability of Solid Edge ST4 completely free for students. As far as I know, Siemens PLM had an education program where schools and colleges could get licenses of Solid Edge after paying a nominal fee. Now even that has been removed making it easy for any student to have a full blown license of a robust MCAD system.
Actually, make that “anyone” instead of “any student”. I visited http://www.siemens.com/plm/solid-edge-student and filled up the form to download the student version of Solid Edge ST4. I expected to be asked for my educational email address, something I didn’t have. So I went ahead and entered deelip (at) deelip (dot) com and hit “Submit”. To my surprise I got an email with a license file and a link to download the software, which I promptly did.
Before installing Solid Edge ST4 Student Edition, I had to uninstall the existing Solid Edge ST3 installation from my computer. After installation I fired it up and was greeted by a splash screen containing this message.
It looks like the file incompatibility is the only (or main) difference between the commercial and student edition. Normally, when CAD vendors give away free versions of their product, they cripple them in some way or another. One thing they commonly do is disallow the loading of plug-ins. I tried loading a couple of my Solid Edge data exchange add-ins and they worked perfectly fine in the student edition. Another thing they do is limit the kind of files that you can read and write. I may be wrong, but I cannot seem to find any limitations there either. These are the types of files that can be read by Solid Edge ST4 Student Edition.
Getting data into a CAD system is usually no problem. It’s getting data out of it that is a touchy subject. These are the file formats that can be saved out of Solid Edge ST4 Student Edition.
The CATIA formats need an additional license. But that’s true even for the commercial version. I found it interesting that Solid Edge ST4 Student Edition could also save 3D PDF files. I decided to try it out. I opened a SolidWorks assembly…
… and saved it to a 3D PDF. It showed up perfectly fine in the free Acrobat Reader.
So I guess if not anything else, you can use Solid Edge ST4 Student Edition as a free 3D PDF publisher. 😉
But seriously, I believe Siemens PLM has done the right thing by opening Solid Edge ST4 to every body. The license file is valid for one year, after which I guess you will get a new one.
I know this is meant for students. But I believe Siemens PLM should take this Student Edition or something like it and pitch it hard to people in the DIY and Maker space. Its a no brainer if you ask me. Siemens PLM has added some fantastic direct modeling technology in Solid Edge. Autodesk is trying to increase the MCAD market by introducing people in the DIY and Maker space to free MCAD software like 123D. I don’t see why Siemens PLM shouldn’t do something similar. The concept is similar to one used in the education market. Catch them young and help the grow.