Marie Planchard, the director of Education & Early Engagement, SolidWorks at Dassault Systèmes, is responsible for global development of content and social outreach for SolidWorks’s products across all levels of learning, including educational institutions, fabrication laboratories (Fab Labs) and entrepreneurship.
SolidWorks is a Massachusetts-based organisation owned by the French Dassault Systèmes. It develops 3D software tools that help customers, including engineering college students, create, simulate, publish and manage data. It is a major player in India too, and over 850 engineering institutions use its computer-aided design (CAD) software as part of curriculum. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, Planchard shares how education is at the forefront of SolidWorks’s growth strategy. Excerpts:
About a decade ago, most educators around the world believed that engineering design was 2D, i.e. it was either a pencil and a paper, or a digitised 2D CAD program. However, 3D is one of the biggest things to have happened to engineering, especially the design part. That’s where we step in. In fact, we have worked in countries such as Rwanda, Tunisia and Ireland to bring about a change in how engineering design education is imparted.
Education is at the heart of SolidWorks. We go to schools and teach students about the basics of engineering. For example, our solution called Apps for Kids inspires young thinkers to turn their wildest creations into reality. Using Apps for Kids, children can create, revise and express their ideas. They can use their Smartphone to add content and even 3D-print their creations.
In India, as far as academics are concerned, we are primarily present in the engineering education space. Today, more than 850 engineering institutions use our software, including the IITs, private and government engineering colleges, and polytechnics. The software they primarily use is solid modelling computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided engineering (CAE). It runs on Microsoft Windows. Some universities even have the SolidWorks incubator programme.
There are numerous testimonials of engineering students, especially from the IITs, using our software during their project work and shortening design cycle, decreasing development costs, reducing design errors and cutting prototype costs.
We have other solutions too, such as DraftSight, which is a professional-grade 2D design and drafting solution that lets you create, edit, view and markup any kind of 2D drawing. It is extremely lightweight and can be used on basic machines.
Starting a business from the ground up is not easy. One has to conceive of and design a product, test it, prepare it for manufacturing, and launch a business. All of this has to happen on an often limited budget. Now, for early-stage companies that meet the eligibility criteria, the SolidWorks for Entrepreneurs programme offers software, training and even co-marketing resources to help their idea become a product—this product, if successful, becomes the business.
In one year, we have got over 370 applications globally. We provide early-stage companies with free software and the entire network needed, but with certain eligibility criteria that they have to meet.
These must be early-stage start-ups that have less than $1 million in funding and less than $1 million in aggregate lifetime revenue. They must build a physical product that can be designed in CAD, they must be in the business for less than three years, and must not currently be a SolidWorks customer. In addition, they have to pay a non-refundable application fee of $200.
While not many companies have joined us until now, this year we are hopeful it will become big. SMEs, at the end of the day, require software which is affordable, easy-to-use and easy-to-learn, which we can provide. We are bullish on India when it comes to training and nurturing young start-ups working in the 3D-printing space.
One of the reasons is that software created by the companies you mentioned addresses the mass-market. SolidWorks addresses a focused engineering market—particularly engineering which is related to manufacturing. Go to any IIT, or a mechanical engineering branch in an engineering college, or go to any major engineering forum, and you will get to know how big SolidWorks is. Moreover, when people create things on SolidWorks, they don’t usually talk about the software, they tend to talk about the amazing design they have created. When the tool is not cumbersome, you don’t worry about the tool.
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