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AI on Tap at 3DEXPERIENCE World 2024

Artificial intelligence to become the driving force behind SOLIDWORKS.

Artificial intelligence to become the driving force behind SOLIDWORKS.

SOLIDWORKS CEO Manish Kumar outlines his vision for how to integrate AI into the design and simulation products. Image courtesy of Dassault Systemes.

In February, at the annual 3DEXPERIENCE World Conference (February 11-14, Dallas, Texas) hosted by Dassault Systèmes (DS), SOLIDWORKS users came together to trade tips, network, and learn the latest features in their beloved software. The biggest takeaway was that AI would become the backbone of SOLIDWORKS, their market-leading mechanical CAD program, and other DS products. Both Dell Technologies and NVIDIA were also on hand with new professional-grade GPUs and workstations that can handle these AI-driven workloads.

AI-Powered PCB Tools for SOLIDWORKS

During his keynote, SOLIDWORKS CEO Manish Kumar invited Michael Jackson, Corporate VP of EDA (Electronic Design Automation) software maker Cadence Design Systems, to join him on stage. Together, the two announced a partnership, bringing Cadence’s AI-powered PCB (Printed Circuit Board) design tools to SOLIDWORKS users

“SOLIDWORKS users are shifting from product-centric thinking to experience-centric thinking. The change is driving the demand for electromechanical devices. So today, Cadence and DS are unveiling the first cloud-based collaborative electromechanical product, purpose-built for SOLIDWORKS,” said Kumar.

According to the press release, the partnership will enable “collaboration for continuous development across PCB, 3D mechanical design, and simulation. The cloud-enabled integration offers joint customers an easy-to-use, end-to-end solution for next-generation product development, enabling an up-to-5X reduction in design turnaround time.” Jackson said Cadence is launching the new tool in July.

AI as the Backbone of 3DEXPERIENCE

Kumar reminded the attendees that, long before ChatGPT became headline news, SOLIDWORKS had been gradually introducing AI-driven productivity tools, such as Mate Helper, Selection Helper, and Sketch Helper. But going forward, generative AI tools for model creation would take on a greater role in the design workflow.

“Imagine you want to create a bookshelf. All you have to do is provide a bounding box, and the Generative AI will create a bookshelf that fits within that box,” said Kumar. He also revealed, “To the same AI program, we fed models of coffee tables. Now, the program could create coffee tables without manual intervention.”

For SOLIDWORKS and other CAD software makers, the challenge is to teach the AI program manufacturing constraints. Unlike consumer-targeted 2D text-to-image AI programs (such as Midjourney), mechanical CAD programs like SOLIDWORKS need to limit the generated 3D objects to manufacturable topology. 

“There is no company right now that can generate parametric models from picture or text input, and that's what we are focusing on,” said Shrikant Savant, AI and Machine Learning Expert, DS. In the first release of AI-based SOLIDWORKS, “What we want to do is give users a generative AI model that works out of the box, but we also understand that customers would like to further customize the model by training it on their own data. We're keeping it in our mind.”

Purchase options for SOLIDWORKS users are, as Kumar put it, “with the platform, or on the platform.” The platform is DS's 3DEXPERIENCE, which includes complementary apps in the 3DEXPERIENCE Works suite. The platform is activated once a customer begins to use content from the suite.

Kumar said, “Initially, there were customers who purchased SOLIDWORKS but would not activate the platform. Now, we're seeing many of them activating it within two days. It means they're getting more and more value from it.”

The key difference is an “on the platform” license is a cloud-hosted browser-based SOLIDWORKS license, allowing you to save your data to the cloud but not to your local desktop. “With the platform” means 3DEXPERIENCE apps come with a locally installed SOLIDWORKS copy, so you can save your data to both your local drive and the cloud. 

Bernard Charles, DS Executive Chairman of the Board, also made a cameo appearance during the keynote. Charles oversaw DS’s acquisition of SOLIDWORKS in 1997. At the time, SOLIDWORKS was a pioneer in Windows PC-based parametric CAD software. 

“Bringing MODSIM (Modeling and Simulation) and AI together is an unparalleled opportunity to bring life to shapes,” he said. “Generative AI is an intrinsic part of the fabric of the [3DEXPERIENCE] platform.”

The NVIDIA RTX 2000 Ada Generation GPU. Image courtesy of NVIDIA.

GPU Accelerating AI Workloads

At 3DEXPERIENCE World, NVIDIA announced the NVIDIA RTX™ 2000 Ada Generation GPU, designed for AI-enhanced multi-application workflows. This new GPU brings cutting-edge AI, graphics and compute capabilities  in a compact form factor, offering up to 1.5x faster performance compared to the previous-generation RTX A2000 12GB in professional workflows. And packing 16GB of GPU memory, the RTX 2000 Ada allows professionals to handle demanding professional workflows with ease, from using AI-powered tools to driving multi-display setups to creating high-resolution content.

NVIDIA’s benchmark showcases that the RTX GPUs significantly improve performance across a variety of tasks in SOLIDWORKS, including anti-aliasing, immersive collaboration with virtual reality (VR) models, and ray-tracing operations in SOLIDWORKS Visualize. NVIDIA has published the updated SOLIDWORKS benchmarks here: NVIDIA RTX Accelerates SOLIDWORKS.

“The new NVIDIA RTX 2000 —with its higher-efficiency, next-generation architecture, low power consumption, and large frame buffer—will benefit SOLIDWORKS users,” said Olivier Zegdoun, Graphics Applications Research and Development Director for SOLIDWORKS, DS. “It delivers excellent performance for designers and engineers to accelerate the development of innovative product experiences with full-model fidelity, even with larger datasets.”

The Dell Precision 3680. Image courtesy of Dell.


A New Dell Machine 

In the exhibit hall, Dell showcased the Dell Precision 3680 desktop tower, a recently-announced workstation targeting SOLIDWORKS users. Matthew Allard, Director of Alliances and Solutions, Dell, said, “This is a follow-up to our popular Dell Precision 3660. One of the exciting things about this machine is that it includes NVIDIA’s newly released RTX 2000 GPU. With an increase in video RAM (16GBs), you can now load larger assemblies and more complex parts.”

Allard also pointed out, “Increasingly, you’ll see more AI-powered features in CAD programs like SOLIDWORKS. If these features are running locally, they will accelerate on RTX GPUs because they have Tensor processor cores targeting AI features.” 

To learn more about configuring a workstation for SOLIDWORKS, see our guide here.

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