Pick and Choose Purpose-built Bundles

Vendors assemble curated collections of engineering software to attract SMBs.

Vendors assemble curated collections of engineering software to attract SMBs.

Generative design and additive manufacturing design are part of Autodesk Inventor, part of the Product Design and Manufacturing Collection. Image courtesy of Autodesk.


Hidden in many design and data management bundles is a brief history of the design software industry’s consolidations. As larger product lifecycle management (PLM) vendors swallowed up independent CAD developers, the CAD-and-PLM combo became the standard. The pairing of SolidWorks with collaboration products from Dassault Systèmes is the natural result of Dassault’s acquisition of SolidWorks in 1997. Likewise, the pairing of Siemens PLM Software’s Teamcenter with Solid Edge resulted from the double acquisition, first of UGS’ acquisition of Solid Edge in 1998; later of Siemens AG’s acquisition of UGS in 2007.

Over time, some of these pairings proved to be less than ideal. The larger PLM firms historically catered to the aerospace and automotive giants. The smaller CAD vendors counted five- to 10-person design and engineer shops as their core clients. The former’s hefty enterprise solutions are often a poor fit for the latter’s needs—too much software for the tight-knit workgroups.

A correction seems to be taking place, triggering a shift in the pairings to suit the needs of manufacturers of different sizes.

Announcing 3DEXPERIENCE.WORKS

This February, as he delivered his keynote at SolidWorks World (in February 2019 in Dallas), SolidWorks CEO Gian Paolo Bassi revealed a new offering, dubbed 3DEXPERIENCE.WORKS “Platform is the new thinking. The entire world is heading in that direction. We want to offer you this amazing concentration of knowledge, technology and know-how,” he said. “We call this 3DEXPERIENCE.WORKS.”

At SolidWorks World 2019 (February 2019), Dassault Systèmes executives discuss the upcoming offering, 3DEXPERIENCE.WORKS. Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.

The collection is made possible in large part by the company’s acquisition of IQMS, which describes its flagship product as “manufacturing-specific ERP [enterprise resource management].” Not only is the software tailor-made for manufacturing, but it also targets small and midsized businesses (SMBs). These two characteristics make IQMS a good fit for the SolidWorks crowd. IQMS is now rebranded as DELMIAWORKS, after the DELMIA collaboration platform from Dassault Systèmes.

Bassi further clarified that 3DEXPERIENCE.WORKS is a suite of software to plan, design, simulate and manufacture. “The idea behind 3DEXPERIENCE.WORKS is to connect the SolidWorks desktop users to other products from Dassault Systèmes through the Dot-Works platform,” explains Stephen Endersby, director of product portfolio, SolidWorks. “The point is, we won’t shoehorn an Airbus-type solution into a small company’s workflow. We’re coming up with something that fits their needs.”

That acknowledgment is significant. Although similar in nature, the scope and functions of a data management system for long-time customer Airbus, for example, may be overkill for a discrete manufacturing shop with five to 10 employees.

The company hasn’t released a lot of details about 3DEXPERIENCE.WORKS, but the four executives who introduced the product at the show offered some clues to the areas covered by the collection: Gary Nemmers, CEO of DELMIAWORKS (formerly CEO of IQMS); Stephane Declee, CEO of ENOVIA; David Holman, SIMULIA brand lead; and Florence Hu-Aubigny, senior VP, platform and marketplace. The lineup represents ERP, PLM, simulation and marketplace for on-demand services.

The 3DEXPERIENCE.WORKS collection is expected to augment SolidWorks CAD software users’ workflow. It also requires a separate license in addition to the SolidWorks license.

The Latest Rental Option

The price for SolidWorks has remained consistent. Standard SolidWorks is $3,995, as listed by reseller Computer Aided Technology. The software usually comes with an annual subscription (for access to support and upgrade), priced at $1,295.

The software also comes as Pro and Premium versions, with additional simulation, data management and parts libraries. Computed Aided Technology offers three options for the CAD package with annual support bundles:

  • SolidWorks Standard and one-year subscription: $5,290
  • SolidWorks Professional and one-year subscription: $6,985
  • SolidWorks Premium and one-year subscription: $9,990

The software is traditionally offered under perpetual licenses, but two years ago, SolidWorks began testing the waters with the introduction of short-term contract options, as well.

The Multi-tiered Approach

Solid Edge (SE) is the mainstream CAD software from Siemens PLM Software. SE subscriptions range from $75 to $230 a month, and are billed annually. Subscriptions such as SE Design and Drafting and SE Foundation cover the basic 2D and 3D modeling features. SE Classic comes with generative design, standard parts library, basic simulation and rendering. SE Premium comes with electrical routing, thermal simulation, optimization, collaboration and built-in data management.

For those with more comprehensive data management demands, the company offers Teamcenter integration, a direct link to Siemens PLM Software’s Teamcenter PLM through a SE-embedded client.

In contrast to Siemens NX, the higher end CAD-CAM-CAE suite, Solid Edge is a better fit for SMBs. The multi-tiered subscription structure allows budget-conscious SMBs to pick and choose the level of design, simulation and data management suitable to them without paying for a one-size-fits-all bundle.

Verticalized Collections

With a dizzying array of software titles in its collection, Autodesk offers three distinct bundles for the major sectors it serves: the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) Collection ($2,825 per year); Product Design Collection ($2,590 per year); and Media and Entertainment Collection ($2,145 per year).

The AEC Collection revolves around the building information modeling software Revit; the Product Design and Manufacturing Collection revolves around the mechanical modeling and simulation package Inventor; and the Media and Entertainment Collection revolves around 3DS Max and Maya.

The AutoCAD version included in each collection is slightly different. The AEC collection comes with architecture-specific AutoCAD tools for creating windows, doors and walls. By contrast, the Product Design Collection comes with AutoCAD with tools for easy factory layout creation.

Single-product Option Remains

The collections, Autodesk argues, offer more software for the subscribers’ dollars. However, for those who feel they only need specific titles without any other complementary software, Autodesk continues to offer single-title subscriptions. For example, AutoCAD on its own is $1,288 per year. Inventor by itself is $1,985 per year. 3DS Max by itself is $1,545 per year.

The company also offers Fusion 360, an integrated CAD-CAM-CAE package targeting SMBs, for $60 per month, $495 per year or $1,335 per three years. The license includes a mix of generative design, collaboration, data management and rapid prototyping in addition to the core modeling and simulation functions (prices as of July 2019, per Autodesk online catalog.)

Bundles, which usually sell for more than single titles, are the revenue engines for many firms. A good argument can be made that purchasing the design and data management combo costs less than assembling the required pieces separately. But many vendors also realize an unwanted bundle, no matter how comprehensive, is pointless. This is reflected in the fact that most of them continue to offer the single-title licensing option for their top-selling products.

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