Mark Rushton | SolidWorks, AI, and Cloud-Based Product Development

 In Being an Engineer Podcast

Who is Mark Rushton?

Mark Rushton comes from a background in design and engineering. He has been able to bring a lot to the table in his current role as a product portfolio manager at Dassault Systems. Join our discussion surrounding cloud computing, AI and machine learning. We also talk about additive manufacturing features you didn’t even know existed in SolidWorks.


solidworks, design, cad, 3d, people, drawing, customers, software, generative design, designer, machine, sketch, shape, product, engineers, challenges, 3d cad, print, roles, additive manufacturing
Mark Rushton, Aaron Moncur

Aaron Moncur 00:14
Hello, and welcome to the being an engineer podcast. Our guest today is Mark Rushton who is a product portfolio manager with an engineering background at the salt systems better known to most of us as the parent company of SolidWorks. Mark has deep experience working with 3d CAD and 3d printing in several capacities from research to consulting for companies such as Rolls Royce, GE and Dyson, he also has a design background. So, Mark, thank you so much for joining us. And welcome to the show.

Mark Rushton 00:46
Thank you, Aaron. It’s an honor to be invited and a real pleasure to be here.

Aaron Moncur 00:50
Great. So let’s start off with the basics. What’s What’s your story, Mark? How did you get to where you are today?

Mark Rushton 00:58
That’s a very good question. I’ll give you the short version of it. Basically, I was very interested in technology and computers. When I was at school, I was always doing some sort of thing on a PC or even I had a it was it was old at the time, I had a Commodore 64 that I used to play games on. And I was always trying to do different stuff with with those. And wasn’t content with just what you could do on the surface. So it was wanted to kind of dig in and see how things worked and things like that. And I ended up looking at computer science at university. But programming was not something I was really that interested in. And it didn’t seem to have the same sense of satisfaction, it just didn’t give me that. And I ended up looking at different courses. And my father had actually been a design engineer in the past. And I’d never really shown any interest in that. But when it kind of came up in the course prospectus that I was looking through, it seemed like actually, this would be really kind of interesting to look at. And so I went down the kind of design and engineering field a bit more and a little bit further away from computer science. And then after a couple of years of doing some design work, I found myself more interested in the CAD and the software again, so kind of back and forth and ended up kind of in my sweet spot. So now I’m working on how we can solve engineers problems working on CAD software.

Aaron Moncur 02:33
Very cool. I remember when I was in college, my freshman year, I think I took a CAD class, it was the first time I had ever been exposed to CAD. And it was so cool, right? The first time that I’d be able to like create something that had these perfect edges and, you know, prismatic surfaces and all that stuff. And I took a few more CAD classes, I think my sophomore year, I had another one. And one of our projects was we had to model a car, any car that we chose, and we chose the Ferrari Modena. And I remember spending like, all day, Saturday, every weekend in the computer lab, just modeling this thing, not because I had to, but because it was so fun. And it sounds like you had maybe similar experiences.

Mark Rushton 03:23
Absolutely. Yeah. So I was I was never that good at sketching things, which is kind of strange. For someone who’s looking at doing design, I was very good at kind of drawing side profiles of cars when I was really small, and used to do all crazy things with massive kind of wings and things like that. And CAD just meant that I could realize something in 3d. And like you say, it’s so satisfying to go from your imagination and put that into something that you can spin around and then you can manipulate it so with a with a hand sketch, you kind of stuck or you kind of got to start again or erase something. But with the CAD not only is it 3d But you can stretch it you can roll back and change something and it kind of gives you ideas as you’re going I something you thought was the right way to do it. You see it on screen you actually know that that doesn’t look how I imagined. Yeah,

Aaron Moncur 04:28
love is the playing ground. Right? Those those fancy IDs, they can sketch anything and make it look amazing. Now we can come in are these limited engineers with our sketching and take it to the next level in CAD? Absolutely. So your your your role and responsibility right now is as a product portfolio manager. What what all does that entail?

Mark Rushton 04:51
Yeah, so we are so I’m leading the team of our mechanical design engineering products. So there’s a small team of prod As portfolio managers with each their own products to look after. And we basically have to make sure that they are solving design designers and engineers challenges. So what yourself you’re, you’re designing tooling and fixtures, for example. But there’s always something you’re getting stuck on or something just takes you too long or it’s too repetitive. What I want to do is speak to engineers like yourself and figure out what the problem is, I don’t want to necessarily know the solution, I want to find out what what problems you’re having, and kind of prioritize the biggest problems that then we fix them in, in our software just to make things easier. Or sometimes it’s a new product altogether. So anything to solve problems that design engineers have,

Aaron Moncur 05:48
that sounds like a fun job getting to solve problems all day.

Mark Rushton 05:51
It is it’s, I mean, it’s it, like say, I kind of in my sweet spot, because I can relate to what design engineers are trying to solve themselves. And we just want to make it easier. He’s going back to what I was saying before, like, when you are designing something in 3d, you sometimes you just can’t get the same shape or form that you have in your head. And that’s what we want to avoid. We don’t want the CAD software or mine or the user’s knowledge of the CAD software to influence the design, we want the designer to just be able to get into the system, the form that they’re looking for. We don’t want to limit them and say, Well, yeah, you can’t really do that shape. Because you know, you need another piece of software or, or it’s too many clicks, things like that, we just want to get get the design into the system as quickly as possible. At SolidWorks, we’ve had a kind of phrase, a catchphrase or a saying that we want designers to be able to focus on design and not CAD. And that’s kind of been our mantra for a long time. Yeah, we want you to use the, we want you to do design and not worry about the CAD software and how it works. We don’t use hunting for tools, we don’t you know, we don’t want it to be too difficult to find the right workflow.

Aaron Moncur 07:14
Yeah, I think it can be easy to get into the trap where you think of CAD as design. And it’s not CAD as a tool, you know, it’s a screwdriver or a wrench or whatever. But CAD is not designed design is what happens, you know, in your head and in your heart. And cat is just tool to take that out of your brain and realize it in reality. So you mentioned that one of your jobs is to identify problems, and then solve them. How do you go about identifying what the most challenging problems are in the industry?

Mark Rushton 07:53
Mm hmm. That’s a great question. So there’s a number of ways we kind of find problems. And then prioritizing them is is the kind of next challenge. So from my own experience of using CAD have used a lot of different CAD software in my background. So I tend to know the bits where I’ve got stuck and talking to customers, you often find that they have very similar challenges. And they get stuck in the same place. But we also do things like surveys and focus groups and things like that, we try to have customer advisory boards, where we meet with customers and from a range of industries and see if they actually have common challenges. So if we have, you know, a yacht designer, and a conveyor designer in the same room, you’ll probably find that some of them have the same challenges even though the products are completely different. And they’re the things that we want to focus on first, because it affects the most people. So it’s really, we look at the impacts that that the problem is having, and try and focus on those. So yeah, there’s a range of touch points that we have, whether it’s someone on our forum, or we speak to customers directly, or we hear it from resellers. Or just anybody who touches the software in some shape or form we consider a customer whether it’s someone internally who’s using it to create demos, one of our resellers, or, or an end user. And yeah, we just kind of put all the ideas into a funnel effectively and then try and prioritize each one.

Aaron Moncur 09:38
I have an idea for you. I just came up with this. It’s like some ragtag want to be actor chasing down a Hollywood producer here with the script. It would be really cool maybe if SolidWorks had this little group like a skunkworks group internally. That was a group of design engineers. That was As available for hire, you know, to commercial industry. And so you have an opportunity to do real engineering work. And the focus for that group is twofold. One is actually to do commercial work. But the other one is so that you have an internal group that is actually using the product in a way that they can identify those problems themselves. Is there anything like that it’s SolidWorks.

Mark Rushton 10:26
Similar. So the majority of people working on the software have a similar background to me, most people have come from design engineering, or working closely with end users, like from our reseller, reseller network. So we do have people, the people that write the specs for how everything should work, and do use the software on a daily basis for their own projects. We don’t do anything commercially. I think that’s mainly just because we might spend more time doing that than actually writing specs on the software. So we do use it for our own projects, we do have a number of internal challenges. So we have huge, huge number of people working in r&d, that, basically pick a topic. So right now we’re working on, like living in space as a project. So there’s, there’s hundreds of people working on this, how to live in space, kind of right. So it’s kind of like the International Space Station. But like if we were to reimagine it and design our own. So we take on these kind of big challenges to see how the software behaves, and what challenges and we get a lot of enhancement requests from from that as well, though, so

Aaron Moncur 11:40
that’s fantastic. Okay, one of your roles has been as a portfolio manager for the 3d printing or additive manufacturing. What What does SolidWorks do to work with additive manufacturing partners? How is SolidWorks optimizing the software for the 3d printing process?

Mark Rushton 12:02
Yes, that is it’s a very challenging area right now, because it still, although there’s a lot of press around additive manufacturing, there’s still not that many people that are really using it as a full production kind of method. It’s it’s definitely an extra tool that the engineers have in their kind of Arsenal. So SolidWorks has always tried to cater for the mainstream professional designer. And so additive is still kind of in those pockets of specialism. So it’s very difficult for us to really commit the resources but what we’ve done at Diso systems more recently, is a kind of pooled all of our development resources. So within DISA, obviously, we have SolidWorks as a brand, but we also have CATIA, Delmia and Novia and others. And they all have their own specialisms and Delmia is the manufacturing expertise. So what we’ve done now is kind of opened up our portfolio, and we have access to all of the manufacturing expertise there. And they do have a number of additive manufacturing solutions. And also our friends at Catia have very advanced capabilities for like function driven generative design. So rather than us focus on too many different areas, we’ve we’ve kind of broadened the products that we offer, so we can draw on the specialism of those of the brands. But within SolidWorks, we were basically focused on allowing designers to check whether their designs are suitable for additive manufacturing. So one of the big reasons you use 3d CAD is you can do things like interference detection and collision detection. So you can check the design works up front, but there was nothing that really existed for 3d printing, because there’s so many different ways of 3d printing something, how would you know if it’s really suitable. So we have a number of tools that we’ve introduced over the last couple of years where you can literally go to the File menu as if you’re going to do a 2d print, but there’s an option to print 3d. And in there, it will check whether you have any support structures that are required where the overhanging angles are. And you can even get a preview of the layer thickness. So if you’re printing to FDM type machines, you can type in the layer thickness, and it will give you a preview of what those layers will will look like. So that’s

Aaron Moncur 14:38
in SolidWorks. Yes, that’s even know that okay, cool. So

Mark Rushton 14:43
just on the File menu, you’ll see print 3d, kind of gives you an envelope for what size your printer is. And just to make it even easier. We actually partnered with Terry Wallace, who has a library of 3d printer, build envelopes, so you can just pick your print From the Library, and it will preview your model inside that printer. So it’s got all the sizes in there. It’s got hundreds of them.

Aaron Moncur 15:11
already baked in. Yeah. Okay, it’s got

Mark Rushton 15:13
pretty much any printing you can buy. If there’s one that you have that that isn’t there, please let us know. And we’ll we’ll let Terry know to include that.

Aaron Moncur 15:22
I’m gonna sell it after the podcast. Absolutely.

Mark Rushton 15:25
Yes, there’s little free tip for everyone. But yeah, that was one thing we did. So firstly, you can check it fit, you can automatically scale it to fit on your printer. You can see if there’s any overhangs, you can check if there’s going to be any stair stepping. So if you have an angle, where the the layers are just kind of not compatible, you’ll you’ll see it very obviously. And we can even do like real view bump mapping. So you can see the textures in 3d. So you get a really good idea of what the 3d prints going to come out like. Neat. Okay. So yeah, that’s it’s kind of a small thing. It’s not like a big wow. Like, that’s amazing kind of lattice structure II type piece of technology. But I think it’s really useful. And it fits really, really well with what we’re trying to do with SolidWorks.

Aaron Moncur 16:17
Well, we have in our design libraries here, a pipeline, just boxes that we’ve created that are the size of the build platforms of our 3d printers. And so we’ll drag them in and say, yep, fit or no doesn’t fit. And all this time that was already in there. I didn’t even know it.

Mark Rushton 16:34
Yeah, that was introduced. The live I think the library, I get confused with the versions that things came in, in now, because we work so many versions ahead. But I the library came in, I think in SolidWorks, 2018, or 19. But the print 3d capability really evolved in SolidWorks 2017. Okay.

Aaron Moncur 16:54
All right. Well, I’m excited to check that out. What what is this thing called 3d experience? I have read about it here and there. And there’s like x design and 3d creator and 3d sculpture. But I don’t really understand, like, what this thing is, and why I should use it and how I can use it. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Mark Rushton 17:15
Absolutely. So that is a big focus of ours right now. So Diso systems, since I think about 2012, started on the next generation of design products. And it’s it’s really more than just design. It’s, it’s about running a business. So for instance, if you think about CAD, it’s computers aiding the design. But it’s 3d CAD is just creating 3d models, it’s very short, small piece of what you actually do as part of your design, where you probably use things like Excel, and you probably use different tools like email, and Skype, or teams, or slack or something to communicate with the rest of the design team. There’s a whole range of other applications that you probably could say it’s part of your design workflow. And then you’ve got the bigger business. So how you interact with marketing or sales, if you have those departments, or purchasing or service and maintenance, and even manufacturing, and 3d experiences is the platform that contains applications that can do all of these different things. So x design is an app, it’s within a role and what you purchase a roles. And within that role has everything to do a particular job. So we have roles such as 3d creator, which contains the X design app, and that’s our 3d parametric modeling tool. We have 3d sculptor, which has an app called X shape in it where you do subdivision modeling. So just like a sculptor, you kind of push and pull surfaces to get the desired result. So that’s something that’s just not available in SolidWorks. And the the 3d experience platform is where we can do all these kind of new ways of doing design. So we’re trying to make it much more flexible, much, much easier. And all of our app applications that start with an X means it runs completely in a browser. So you can be with a customer on your iPad, or other tablet, or even on your phone and you can start to take down ideas. And built into that is data management. And it’s all on the cloud. So you can be anywhere and still see all of your design data, even you know even on your phone. And it’s it as it says got data management built in. But we’ve also built in all of the collaboration tools. So we kind of have a social media site that we call a community. And you can post ideas in 3d directly from x design or 3d Creator Studio addition to that community, and it’s kind of like a social media page. So you can still rotate the 3d model, but people can review it. So rather than sending emails with like attachments, you can just let them know that it’s in the community. And they can review it. So you can get sign off from lots of different stakeholders. And they just you just go into one place. So you haven’t got a reply all and get different emails back and forth.

Aaron Moncur 20:26
And can you invite like customers to that community also, so customers can log in and see what you’re working on? Absolutely,

Mark Rushton 20:32
yeah. So you can create as many communities as you’d like. So you could have one for our design team or for the sales team or for customers, and they can all contribute. It’s, it’s just like a social media page. So everyone knows how to use it straight away. They can like things. But you can even do things like surveys and ask questions. And there’s an ideas funnel built in. So if if you get an idea from a customer, you can throw it into a funnel and pass things along. So

Aaron Moncur 20:59
so if I, if I have the SolidWorks model, because everything we do is in SolidWorks, and then I open it up in X shape or x design and I make some change, can that be pushed back into SolidWorks? Or is it now forever locked into X shaper X design?

Mark Rushton 21:14
No. So we’ve designed it so that you can work with SolidWorks as well. And you can actually connect SolidWorks to the 3d experience platform. So that way, all of your SolidWorks data is managed on the 3d experience platform. So it’s, it’s basically your cloud PDM system that you just SolidWorks up to. And through that, once it’s on the platform, you can open any of the design data in any of the apps. So if you need to do simulation, we have simulation rolls on on the platform, if you need to do X shape, 3d Sculpt to work on the platform, you can open the SolidWorks data and create a cover around something. If you create something in a 3d sculptor, you can then open it in, in SolidWorks. If you need to make any changes, you do have to go back to the authoring app that you actually created it in, but it will it will update everywhere else.

Aaron Moncur 22:11
And the great thing about these additional applications when 3d experiences as long as you have an active SolidWorks subscription, everything else is free, right?

Mark Rushton 22:24
Everything’s negotiable.

Aaron Moncur 22:27
Okay, everything’s negotiable. I’ll take that. All right. All right. Um, you mentioned generative design. And that kind of segues into something I wanted to talk about, which is AI and its role in product development and CAD. So Autodesk has this thing, right? That were they it’s called generative design. I remember a customer of ours, told me this was probably a couple of years ago, he said, Hey, I found this really cool thing online. And it does all the design work for you. And he was he was kind of hinting at, I’m not sure I need you guys anymore, because I’ve got aI now. And it’s just gonna do all the work. And I was like, I mean, I didn’t say that’s ridiculous to him directly. But I’m thinking, yeah, there’s no way that that’s the case. So I searched for it. And I found it and kind of read a little bit about it and understood what it was. And of course, it’s not doing all the design work for you. But it’s kind of a cool thing, right where it, it takes a block of geometry and you give it some parameters. And it spits out this optimized shape optimized for for strength, and I guess mass of material or volume. And it creates these these crazy, like super organic, almost anatomical shapes, that again, optimizes your geometry for whatever strength parameters you put into it. And it, it’s neat, but it seems like the only way you could manufacture something like that would be probably 3d printing. I mean, there’s no way you’re going to injection mold, something like that. So the utility of it to me is it was kind of limited, I thought, but But it got me thinking about AI and CAD and product product development. Is is SolidWorks doing anything on that front? I’m sure the answer is yes. But so I guess the question is, what what kinds of like machine learning or AI has SolidWorks integrated? Or do we should we expect to see in the future?

Mark Rushton 24:29
Yes. So we do have generative design solutions as a range of them. One is built into the X design app, but of 3d creator, which we call design guidance. So it basically you can start with nothing. You can just start with a couple of sketches and some forces and we even give you hints as to what forces you should be using. So we actually have some references in there like the average weight of a car the average weight of a human kind of average. pushing force, things like that. And it will go off in generate a guidance kind of shape to say, you know, the this is where you want the material to go at the very kind of minimum. And then we have kind of a bigger sibling to that product, which is function driven, generative designer that does generative design. And within that, you can actually specify a manufacturing process. So, if you wanted to 3d print it without support structures, you can say I want to 3d print it, but make sure there’s no overhangs beyond this angle, and it will generate the the shape that that you want that that is still manufacturable. And you can specify whether you want to machine it or cast it. So it’s got a bit more intelligence in there. But that that’s not really kind of machine learning, because we’ve just taught it the rules. So what we’ve done with machine learning is inside 3d creator, and 3d sculptor, when you’re sketching something, it actually looks at the surrounding geometry. So any 3d or other sketches that you’ve done previously, we, we look at the relative position of the last sketch and say, okay, that geometry kind of appears in lots of other places. So there’s a good chance you want to replicate that into other areas. So if you imagine real simple, get a piece of sheet metal, you put in a hole in one of the corners, because it’s a cover, it’s going to be snapped on, you draw a little hole in the corner, there’s a little popup, that’s our design assistant, that’s where we call it you click on that. And the most, the most likely thing it’s going to suggest is that you’ve got a hole in all four corners, because it just looks at the vertex, where that you’ve drawn the sketch close to, and it just replicates the same relation to all of the other corners. So we’re just kind of automating what you’re most likely to do next, in the sketch environment,

Aaron Moncur 27:00
similar to in SolidWorks. If you click on an edge to put a fill it on it, it will suggest other edges on what you might want to put that same fill it right. Yes, yeah. So

Mark Rushton 27:10
we also have that capability for for selection, again, in 3d creator, where, so it works slightly differently in SolidWorks, we are just looking at the geometry and different options for how we can select a group of edges or faces. But what we’re doing in 3d creative, because it’s web based, we can actually use the kind of cloud computing to store all of this machine learning and benefit from it. So we do a little bit more there. If you click on an edge, we actually look at the length of the edge, the direction, whether there’s other edges that are in different directions that are the same length or similar edges. If there’s something on it on a hidden face, and things like that, so we can, we can actually learn from what you’ve done in the past as well. So it gets more intelligent. And if you pick on another edge, it says okay, well, the first edge was this length, but this one’s kind of vertical and completely different. So it refines the suggestions. So it’s just kind of suggesting what you’re likely to do next, based on what you’ve just done.

Aaron Moncur 28:19
So is there a future in which x design and X shape and Solidworks? Are all combined into the same product? Or do you think we’re always going to be kind of bouncing back and forth between these if we want to gain the benefits of the AI the machine learning?

Mark Rushton 28:34
So right, right now we are, it’s just a bit easier to use the machine learning in in the cloud, the way we have it set up. But there’s there’s no reason why we can’t start to include that in in SolidWorks desktop as well. But yeah, so right now that the strategy is really about offering choice. So a lot of people like the fact that SolidWorks is installed, and they can control it, and all the data is on their machine. And you know, they can manage it how they want. But we also want to offer people the choice of cloud, because a lot of the next generation are almost cloud first with things like Google Docs, you know that that’s just what you expect. Yeah, and everything’s stored there. And it means that, you know, you can go to your local Fab Lab, for example, you just log into their, their machine, and all your data is there, you don’t need to carry around memory sticks, which you inevitably lose, or you know, hard drives or all that kind of thing. So,

Aaron Moncur 29:37
will will SolidWorks at some point be in the cloud.

Mark Rushton 29:41
So we do we do offer that as a trial right now. So if you just wanted to try SolidWorks there is a facility you can just go online and use SolidWorks in a virtual machine. And we do have partners that will set that up for you. So if you did want to run it completely on On the web, yeah, that that’s definitely possible. So we don’t offer it directly right now, just because it’s kind of it does make the price more expensive to run it all on on that online. And you tend to want extra products to go alongside it. So SolidWorks does use things like Microsoft Excel, to do design tables and things like that. So we would end up hosting those kinds of services as well. And you know, we’re like, where do we stop? So where do we draw the line? So, so it’s a little bit challenging. So what we’ve done with the new apps like 3d creator, and 3d sculpture is we’ve designed them with the the web in mind. So rather than being limited to having to use other pieces of software, or store the files in a certain way, we save everything into a database, so you don’t have the concept of files. So you can rename things. So if you start doing test dot PRT, and then you decide to change it, it’s not going to affect any of your assemblies, though. So we’re really looking at design afresh. And so what are the challenges that people have? And what’s the best way to overcome it?

Aaron Moncur 31:14
And these these acts, we’ve gone down a rabbit hole on this stuff. But so my last quick question here on that topic, are the x applications? Do they have drawing capabilities 2d drawings, or do you have to go back to SolidWorks for that,

Mark Rushton 31:28
so right now we have a facility to create drawings that’s connected to the platform, it still requires an installed application, but that’s definitely something on our roadmap. So we’re looking more into kind of model based definition. So it’s kind of, it’s not going to be full, like 3d PMI kind of style, we want to help people transition. So we’ll probably have the capability to do something that looks like a drawing, but the workflow will be slightly different. So again, we’re looking at what what our design is trying to achieve. And we need the drawing for kind of regulation purposes. But if we want to manufacture it, the drawing is probably not the best way to do it, you kind of want all the dimensions and tolerances to be on the 3d model, and you want to share the 3d model directly and manufacture from that.

Aaron Moncur 32:21
That’s interesting, we’ve found the opposite to be true that for things like tolerances and you know, material call outs and sort of finishes, the drawing is is the way that we do that. So you’re saying that moving forward, there’s this this future where manufacturers aren’t really looking at the drawings, but are more looking at the 3d model.

Mark Rushton 32:41
So yeah, model based definition has kind of been a promise for maybe even 20 years or so. It’s not really a new concept. But there is a lot of resistance to going in that direction. And I think it’s partly because of regulatory bodies still say they need a 2d drawing. And there’s a lot of people are used to a 2d drawing as being the final deliverable. But 2d drawings can be ambiguous, you know, how would you really know if it’s a boss or a whole, you kind of have to look at different drawing views? And they’re not necessarily correct. It’s easy to put a concentric tolerance on a flat plane, for example, there’s there’s no kind of checking that we can really do on a 2d drawing. So we still want to have that end drawing as a deliverable for people who want that. But we also want the benefits of 3d annotations that can be read by the machine. So if you’ve got a CNC machine that can read these dimensions and tolerances, why do you need someone to kind of translate from the drawing and then essentially create a 3d model again?

Aaron Moncur 33:54
Right, right. Seems like that would simplify things, as long as everyone was on the same page that everything’s in the 3d file.

Mark Rushton 34:00
That’s that seems that seems to be the issue. Yeah. Because it is kind of moving the responsibility from the kind of shop floor from the manufacturer more on to the designer. And the designer doesn’t necessarily want to do that, because it’s now their fault. And the manufacturer is worried that he’s that he or she was not going to have anything to do so. It’s definitely a challenge. And I think that’s why model based definitions been kind of slow to be adopted, but we’re hoping to change that with this best of both worlds approach.

Aaron Moncur 34:33
All right, well, quick break here. The being an engineer podcast is brought to you by pipeline design and engineering, where we work with predominantly medical device engineering teams, who need turnkey custom test fixtures or automated equipment, to assemble, inspect, characterize or perform verification or validation testing on their devices, and you can find us at test fixture We’re speaking with Mark Rushton today at. I think I’m using the ignorant American pronunciation. I’ve always says Dassault. But I noticed that you said was it the so? Is that how you pronounce it?

Mark Rushton 35:11
Yeah, since it’s a French company that yeah, that’s how I pronounce it, but you you’re not alone. So

Aaron Moncur 35:17
my wife always says croissant instead of croissant. And I just can’t bring myself to say, a croissant. So forgive me, I’m gonna keep saying to salt for now. And you say the soy, and, and everything will be fine. Alright, so jumping back into some of the questions here. Design teams are becoming more and more remote even before the whole COVID thing hit our team at pipeline, we have an office where we all come and you know, build stuff and test stuff when we need to. But for the most part, everyone works remotely from a home office. And that’s been the case even before COVID hit what what are some of the solutions that SolidWorks is developing to help specifically with things like revision control, or PDM, in the context of remote teams that that are not sharing some kind of centralized network.

Mark Rushton 36:13
Yes, so that’s, again, where the 3d experience platform comes in. So we connecting SolidWorks to 3d experience platform means that all the data is on the cloud, and you can access it from anywhere with with a secure login. And it does as much data management as you want. So we have is a very scalable solution. And you can just do basic revision control, if you want, you don’t even have to do that. But we do allow things like branching if you if you have an idea, and you’re not sure you want to commit to a new revision necessarily, you can kind of branch off and start a new design idea. And then at any time, you can, you can publish these designs into the community. So whether you want to do a screenshot or have a separate 3d preview and, and put that into a community. And it’s it’s really as if SolidWorks is part of the 3d experience platform once once you’ve got that connection. And there’s, there’s tools in there for even video calling, or audio calling. And those even a kind of instant message kind of facility as well. So there’s it just, it’s a it’s another collaboration tool, but it’s it’s really 3d first. So you can very easily push 3d geometry and into that, that community. And everybody can can see it from any any device. And we actually have a lot of customers that are looking to be cloud first. They don’t want to have the overhead of having to install and update software anymore. Because then you’ve got the issue of mismatched versions, and how do you stay on top of it, everybody has to update at the same time, you’ve got big software to download, although internet speeds again faster, so it’s not too bad to do that. And we tried to make the installation processes as easy as possible. But there’s there’s definitely a lot of benefits that the cloud is opening up to connect people.

Aaron Moncur 38:22
So for a team like ours, where we’re working remotely, we don’t have the central network. The solution to having a PDM or revision control. I mean, we have our own, you know, quote unquote, poor man’s revision control where we just do it manually. But we wanted a more sophisticated solution to that 3d experience. That’s that’s that sounds like that’s the answer.

Mark Rushton 38:46
Yeah, I. So it sounds exact without trying to be a salesperson, it does sound like that would really offer you a lot of benefits. Because, yeah, you don’t need a server, you don’t need any software on a server. And you can, you can just connect SolidWorks to the platform and everything gets saved there. So you would be working locally, until you hit save, and then it sends up a copy sends up the file to the 3d experience platform with a revision. It stores it in a database, so it knows what else it’s connected to. So you can view a nice graph of what’s in an assembly and see all the parts that are connected and where they’re used and things like that, the revision history, and he notes on there. And then if you wanted to share that with someone, we have another application called the 3d drive, where you can put an assembly or a file into the 3d drive, and you can just grab a link and just send someone a link, then click on the link and they can view it in 3d. So it doesn’t have to just be internal to pipeline it can be anybody outside the organization as well.

Aaron Moncur 39:59
Very cool. Okay, let’s talk about computing hardware for a few minutes here. So a pet peeve of mine for a long time has been that to be fully compliant with with, you know, the SolidWorks infrastructure, you need to have this expensive quadro graphics card, that’s 1000s of dollars if you want really, you know, buttery smooth movement on your screen, as opposed to like NVIDIA GeForce the gaming car that’s maybe you know, 500 bucks or something like that. Moving to cloud computing, does that allow us to use some of these less inexpensive yet still very capable gaming cards? Or do we still need the high end quadro cards?

Mark Rushton 40:41
No, that’s, that’s another huge benefit as we do all the graphics processing. So you don’t need any specific graphics, hardware at all on your machine. So like I say, it works really well on an iPad. So you can literally pick up any machine. So we’ve tested it on Chromebooks as well, as it does work better if you have some kind of graphics card, but you can run it like my machine, my my daily driver machine is is not a CAD spec machine, it just has onboard graphics, and it runs it fine. All of the demos that I record are done on on that machine. It’s it’s just a Core i Five processor, it’s not even an i seven. And I get the same graphics, really nice shadows and kind of good performance without needing, you know, a crazy machine. So that’s Yeah, there’s definitely a reason for moving in that direction. And the reason we’ve had that requirement in SolidWorks, is that, rather than kind of dial back the performance, what we tried to do is really utilize the graphics card. So if you’ve got a graphics card that’s certified with the certified driver, it means that the hardware manufacturers actually tested it to a much higher level. So that’s where a lot of the cost comes from, it’s more the driver, because a lot of the time the hardware is actually the same. But they they do a lot more testing on on the graphics drivers. And we test those graphics drivers with our hardware. And we we really tried to squeeze out as much performance out of every graphics card that that you that you have. So rather than say, well, we can be a lot more compatible and just use your CPU. But you’re not going to get good performance, we kind of say, well, if you if you do have a graphics card, we want to really use it as much as possible. Okay.

Aaron Moncur 42:41
Okay, you worked at Siemens for a year and a half or something with their NX platform? Did you see any core fundamental differences between how the software was used, you know, versus SolidWorks? Is there an industry or an environment in which, you know, NX might work better than soft SolidWorks or SolidWorks? might work better than NX? Or are they you know, more or less the same thing? They’re both modern day CAD platforms?

Mark Rushton 43:10
That’s an interesting question. Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of similarities. I think my experience, I tended to work with the larger companies that use that x. So people I probably shouldn’t say too many customer names, but they tended to be kind of larger customers, that data management was was probably more important to them. Because they have so many users, and they tend to be more protective of their IP. And more process driven, I would say. So yeah, the design is, is it’s not less important, I would say. But the connection to the data management is usually what larger companies look for first. So they kind of they’re driven by the data management, and then we’d add on CAD. Whereas a lot of SolidWorks customers are much smaller. So one person operations tend to start we have a lot of startups, I think it’s a little bit easier to get on board with and start, you know, a hardware business or a design business. And they tend to grow kind of organically and then start to look at data management rather than the other way around. So that that’s, that’s kind of the main difference. I think, you know, a lot of the applications that people use the design software for a kind of similar, they probably tend to be slightly more complex, with with Siemens NX, but there’s definitely examples where, you know, the SolidWorks customers do in very complex work as well. So Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of crossover, it tends to be the need for kind of control and data management that that tends to set them apart. Although NX does have some very specialist areas, and that tends to compete with our Catia brand more than it does with with SolidWorks.

Aaron Moncur 45:18
Okay. All right, I have two more questions for you. And then then we can end here. The first one is, you are in charge of the mechanical design and shape and style, at category at at Dassault to sew and what what can we expect to see in the next, you know, two to three years for the course SolidWorks software in terms of you know, mechanical design? And then the follow up to that. The second question is, what is CAD going to look like 20 years from now?

Mark Rushton 45:55
That’s two great questions. So the upcoming release of SolidWorks, it is a very, it’s a very mature product, it is definitely an industry standard, you have very hard pressed to someone that hasn’t heard of it or used it at some point. And so, you know, adding more features is something that that’s definitely becoming harder to do. So there’s definitely going to be a lot more kind of incremental control and a huge focus is performance and reliability. So then the next release, which we’re just in beta phase, at the moment, we’ve we’ve put a huge amount of effort into quality and performance. And that’s really based on what our customers have been telling us. You know, they there’s a lot of features that we’ve added in, in the last few years that that have made a few people happy. One project I was really involved with was 3d textures. And we showed that at SolidWorks world, and the audience just went crazy, because it was like a new innovation had not been in like 3d CAD, like our category of 3d CAD. It’s been in kind of rendering software, but it never really been in 3d CAD. And yeah, the crowd just went crazy. Like they often do it as SolidWorks world. And that was great. But there’s not many people that really benefit from that. I guess it does help if you’re 3d printing. So although it’s a really nice innovation, we really want to help more people. So your performance and reliability benefits, everybody. And so that’s that’s what we’ve been primarily focused on on there. And then to answer the other question of what it will look like, in 20 years time, I think we’re certainly looking at artificial intelligence and machine learning, as really something that can help a lot of design and engineers. Because it’s, it’s just convenience, like there’s a lot of things that we require the user to do, or to at least be aware of right now that we could use machine learning to check for us. So something to give an analogy how a lot of Microsoft products and any kind of word processing application puts the little red squiggle when you’ve spelt something wrong or, or a blue squiggle if it’s like incorrect grammar. But like if we were able to kind of ask the user how something’s going to be manufactured. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a red square squiggle underneath to say, Yeah, you’re not going to injection mold that because because of this wall thickness ratio to the red, so that’s, we’re looking at it. And we call that the design assistant in that sense. So it’s just like someone watching over the shoulder who’s got all this knowledge, where we can just help you with with the design for whether it’s for manufacturability, or, or performance. And I think the role of the design engineers is kind of shifting. So if you go way back before we were, you know, designers, when people were using drawing boards, and things like that, it kind of moved to an electronic drawing board. And then you had a drafts person and a designer, and they were kind of two separate roles. And someone would say it should be like this, and then the draftsperson would kind of put it into CAD and, and they were to set and that’s kind of merged now, because CAD is a bit more accessible and easier. There’s no longer like a drafts person is it’s just a designer. And so right now we tend to throw things over the wall to like a simulation analyst and I think those two roles are going to become merged next. So making this simulation and kind of virtual testing more accessible Well, I think we’re starting to see that with kind of generative design and topology optimization. So I think those roles are going to become a lot more merged. And if we can use machine learning to assist and say, Well, if he were to use this material instead is actually a cheaper material at right, right now, you know, we can draw on the price of an availability of different materials. We can even look at the sustainability of that material, that’s good, definitely going to be more important. So yeah, I think we can we can do a lot more to help the designer dynamically.

Aaron Moncur 50:37
You do you think that again, 20 years from now, are we ever going to get to the point where we have gotten rid of our keyboard and our mouse and our monitor, and we’ve got like a hologram on our desk? Or maybe it’s a VR headset, we’re using our hands to control things. Is that Is that a possibility?

Mark Rushton 50:55
I think it is, I think there’s definitely a challenge of the user experience in the user interface. Right now, I think we would have to look hard at what the best approach is. Yeah. So we often have the so we’re focused a lot on touch touchscreen devices. And I am, I kind of tried to push the team to make it work on a phone. And some of the team are like, no one’s ever going to use a phone because it’s too small. But that’s because the user interface just doesn’t really work on something that’s small. But I almost think it’s, it’s almost generational. Like when I speak to my, my dad, he doesn’t want to watch a movie on on a phone, but I’m quite happy to watch a movie on. So I think it’s kind of what you get used to. And it’s also the user experience. So I’ll give you a watching a movie on your phone. And it took up you know, a tiny piece of the screen because you’ve got like the browser window and, and all that kind of stuff cluttering the screen. And like the play button was on all the time, if you probably wouldn’t want to do it. So I think we can definitely improve the user experience to to work in a kind of hologram attic or virtual reality mode. A lot of people say it’d be tiring if we were kind of sculpting things in 3d and retouching but, you know, people have standup desks. So

Aaron Moncur 52:22
yeah, it’s probably be good for us. Right? Yeah. Everybody’s moving a little bit more. Okay. Well, Mark, thank you so much for for joining us. I really appreciate all of the the insight that you’ve provided into SolidWorks and the 3d experience system. Before we end, if people want to get a hold of you, what’s the best way to do that?

Mark Rushton 52:46
LinkedIn is pretty easy to find me, I should hope. Otherwise, people can drop me an email, it’s just It’s mark with a K, and rush as in rushing around and ton as in weight. So again, just the number 3ds dot com but yeah, LinkedIn, however, if you want to reach me is fine.

Aaron Moncur 53:11
Perfect. All right. Well, Mark, thank you again.

Mark Rushton 53:13
Thanks very much, Aaron. Thanks for having me.

Aaron Moncur 53:18
I’m Aaron Moncur, founder of pipeline design, and engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please leave us a positive review. It really helps other people find the show. To learn how your engineering team can leverage our team’s expertise in developing turnkey custom test fixtures, automated equipment and product design, visit us at test Thanks for listening.

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