Wonderbra Marketing: Solid Edge vs. Solidworks

Ok- full disclosure.  I make a living by designing with CAD and teaching CAD.  My primary tool is SolidWorks.  So- I am biased based on my current circumstances and conditions.  
I also have a historical bias as I have been burned.  At my peak, I was a ProE guru.  Back in 2000, I gave presentations at ProE user groups (when they could bring in about 400 people paying $40/plate, instead of about 6 today).  I wrote articles for ProE magazine.   I thought ProE was here to stay, so I invested heavily on them and didn’t look at other software.  I missed that call… now ProE is continuing to flounder and has recently switched their name to Creo in a last ditch effort to save their sinking ship.  It’s too bad- I could have had a great ride with SolidWorks if I had started with them back in 2002 or so.   I’ve only fully-engaged with SolidWorks recently, and it’s too late for easy and lucrative opportunities when SolidWorks saturates the CAD industry.    
On the other side, I’ve worked for companies that have put fake stellar reviews on their own products and scathing reviews of other products.  I’ve seen generated testimonials that are completely ridiculous.   I’ve even kept products that completely under-delivered on their marketed promises.  
So I’m cautious and wary, because I feel that there are 2 battle fronts I need to respect: legitimate significant changes in industry and marketing foo-foo. 
How do I manage it?  What do I look for?  First, I analyze the reasons that ProE failed.   Why did ProE lose so much market share when they had a superior product in 2003?  There are a few theories, but I think they boil down to this:
  1. They didn’t care about their existing user-base.   ProE saw SolidWorks growing because it appealed to non-engineers, inventors and designers due to its ease of use.  So they decided to copy the SolidWorks interface.  This was a HUGE deal for people like me who spend years getting proficient at the existing interface.  It was basically as if I had spent 4 years becoming fluent in French, only to have all-French speaking countries wiped out and now have to speak Russian (if I wanted to engage with those countries).
  2. They didn’t care about their constituents.  PTC (the company that developed ProE) decided to dissolve all their resellers and to sell direct.  This helped put more of the sales dollars into PTC’s pocket.  However, it had in unintended consequence of putting a LOT of very capable and technical salesmen and engineers on the street.  Those guys were passionate… for their own survival AND the injustice of being cut out of a thriving partnership due to greed.
  3. They were arrogant jerks.  I remember one sales guy coming by and showing me an add-on product.  I was the “go-to” ProE user at that particular company.  After the demo, I told him that the add-on would not provide any value.  He said I was making a huge mistake, and asked for my boss’s contact information (implying that he was going to discuss my incompetence w/ the man that controlled my salary and career path).
Why did Solidworks win?
  1. The users didn’t care about market share.  They cared about ease-of-use.
  2. They offered a product with distinct advantages, primarily that the learning curve was low.
  3. They were straight-shooters, fun and actually geeked out on product development.
One thing I’ve read about recently is Synchronous Technology found in SolidEdge released by Siemens. There are many articles on the web about it.  The basic theme seems to be: “SolidWorks has an outdated technology”.  So I decide to take a look.  This is not a trivial matter.  I need to download the program and come up with some way to learn and test it during a 45-day trial period.   It really takes 3 full weeks to start getting the hang of any software.  My work has very busy periods, and periods where I get time to explore.  How do other exploring CAD-users look at all their options, especially if they are new and don’t know what to look for?   It definitely takes a focused effort.        
So I jumped in.  Without further drama, here are my findings:
Synchronous Technology is over-rated.  Like a 14-year old girl buying a wonder-bra, Siemens has something small and insignificant and they are trying to make it look big and beautiful.  What is Synchronous Technology?  It’s the opportunity to make changes to a model without regard to the original design intent.
While Siemens touts this as an “evolution”, it is actually REMOVING intelligence from your model.  It is running over previously defined features.  This can be done a number of different ways using SolidWorks, but I wouldn’t suggest it for a number of reasons.
Will it make you faster?  Nope.  I openly challenge SolidEdge to a part modelling contest (with changes) designed by an independent firm.
SolidEdge has a similar user interface to SolidWorks (they all are about the same these days).  The hot keys aren’t as developed, and it seems to take more clicks to do similar features.   They have copied “mouse gestures”, but made it some sort of double ring.  Surfacing seems to be comparable.  It just seems to be an underdeveloped “me-too” product. 
I like a competitive market.  It makes everyone work harder.  I don’t like companies trying to make a quick buck on marketing-hype. 
So, I wouldn’t recommend doing what I’ve done.  It takes a lot of effort without much payback.  I also wouldn’t trust ANY article (including this one) on the web.  Instead, make a little scorecard to measure different features that you think are important and try to rate them.  Here’s what would be on my scorecard:
  1. Invite the various resellers to your company.  Then, give them a part to create.  Then, tell them to change it.
  2. How easy will it be to get training?
  3. How easy will it be to get technical answers to my questions?
  4. How many people can I hire that have this skill set?
  5. How many companies are hiring people with this skill set (in the eventuality that I lose my job)?
Hey guys @ SolidEdge… no offense- but we need something more to jump ships.  Let me know if you have something more than this.  Or let me know if you think I’m wrong.
Learn How To Pass The CSWE – See The Complete Article Series by Jim Lucas 

Jim is a CSWP and on the road to getting his CSWE.  He works for HawkRidge Systems, an authorized reseller of SolidWorks. Jim also runs i-elf, a product development consulting company.  He can be reached at Jim.Lucas@i-elf.com.


  1. Jim,

    Your comment:
    “Synchronous Technology is over-rated. Like a 14-year old girl buying a wonder-bra, Siemens has something small and insignificant and they are trying to make it look big and beautiful.”

    I think Synchronous Modeling remains very less understood and the CAD industry is not taking the required efforts to realize its full potential. Synchronous technology has arrived ahead of its time in an immature CAD industry, the later being the one I would rather compare with the 14-yr old girl who is not yet ready for the wonder-bra.

  2. I have to agree with Tushar, ST remains very misunderstood. The authors comments reflect this very fact. The “removing intelligence” comment is the clincher! I would ask the author what the SW similar functionality is doing when they apply the SW direct modeling features? Move face is an offset that then is “driven” and it’s part of my history. That is over-riding a feature if I ever saw it.
    Something else to mention ST can be sued to design a part.

    I will say that it is very interesting that the author compares SW to Pro/E. I think a better and current comparison would be the current SW management and activities to the Pro/E story. There are amazing similarities here. The big question is then, what is the new “SolidWorks”?

    Why, oh why, should a users, who has a 3D model staring at them in the face, have to modify 2D geometry to make changes to a 3D model? Why? Where is the logic in that? How do I get parametrics onto an imported model in SW? Do I have to run an add-on (FeatureWorks) from a different company? (GSSL and SW) What level of software do I have to buy to get this functionality.

    Do I have a problem? Sure. I don’t like reviews of products that are based on “features”. As a business owner, I want to know how the software can make my design groups life easier, get my products developed faster and on the store shelves. Show me how SW has a leg over any product based on that criteria and I’ll rescind.

  3. I was sent this link by the NZ SolidWorks rep today I had just told her today that our company had after evaluating Inventor, SolidEdge ST6, SolidWorks, Rhino and ZW3D. Chose SolidEdge. Synchronous technology works great for us. I feel the Author of the article above seems lost when evaluating a product. Siemens license the software kernel (engine) to Solidworks, this is why Solidworks and SolidEdge have familiar aspects. But the Synchronous Tech is not licensed to them. The freedom to choose to design parametrically or in Synchronous mode or even jump between modes when you choose to is a nice aspect of SolidEdge. I have 15 years CAD design experience primarily with Autodesk products. I don’t say one product is better than another. We evaluated each companies software fully and also the support on offer. We have no regrets at all.

  4. I have used 3D CAD for about 25 years now, and have used Pro/E and SolidWorks primarily. Recently I began working for a large company with many, many, licenses of Solid Edge and Teamcenter.

    Synchronous Technology is not new. It is just a rehash of non parametric modeling. Non parametric modelling being the same modelling behavior which drove the masses to convert to Pro/E 20-25 years ago. Non parametric was obsoleted 25 years ago and is now a just marketing ploy to drive sales of a non competitive product.

    Honestly the design for which my group is responsible in Solid Edge, could be done in less time, with less people, if we were using SolidWorks or Pro/E, because then we would actually be able to hire people who know how to use the CAD software efficiently, instead of hunting around for people who are willing to learn something which they consider to be obsolete.

  5. “Synchronous Technology is over-rated. Like a 14-year old girl buying a wonder-bra, Siemens has something small and insignificant and they are trying to make it look big and beautiful”.
    Seriously? OK, full disclosure. I’m a woman. How about you change the analogy to “Synchronous Technology is over-rated. Like a 14-year old boy buying his first jock strap, Siemans has something small and insignificant and they are trying to make it look big and beautiful”, except that analogy is just as rude and sexist as the non-original!

  6. I found Keith Rowell’s question intriguing.
    We’ve been using IronCAD since it was 3D Eye (1990’s). We were using Auto CAD at the time along with MasterCAM & Cimatron for our CAM work. We switched over to IronCAD for the CAD modeling and never looked back.
    When the design intent (or function) is pretty well nailed down but the form & fit are unknown or undecided NOTHING beats IronCAD for flexibility & ease of use. The Triball makes the user interface a breeze to operate. But the real advantage as we see it, is the ability to work with a history/constraint system or to reorder or eliminate it completely.
    For instance, we just completed a project which we inherited from a Pro-E shop that required use boolean addition & subtraction of sub parts that were of both model methods. IronCAD allowed us to retain the editing structure of both systems going forward.
    We did in three weeks what the Pro-E shop could not do in three months.

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