D3DLive! 2014 Conference review


D3DLive 2014 is over – Long live D3D live!

From it’s inception three years ago the D3DLive! conference has grown from 450 hardcore designers and engineers to 1300 of the industries finest (at Martyn Day’s last count!).

The well deserved success of D3DLive! is based on a simple premise:

‘Interesting stories, about Interesting People who design interesting stuff – and the digital tools they use to do it’

The easy going passion that drives the the D3D team to write Develop 3D Magazine seems to extend effortly into the conference, creating a unique event where all the major CAD vendors are happy to rub along with each other and show off their wares.

For us CAD junkies, this is a unique opportunity to hear from the executives of all the major CAD vendors one after the other, and check out their offerings straight away in the exhibition hall.

This can’t be an easy event for the CAD vendors to attend. I took the opportunity to thank as many representatives as I could on the day for attending, and I’ll say it again now.

Thank you for helping to create this unique conference – please keep it going year after year!


Picture credit: @schneik80

Buzz Cross (Autodesk) & Betrand Siccot (Solidworks) Picture credit: @schneik80


Overheard conversation between Buzz Cross and one of his Autodesk posse;

Autodesk Employee ‘Do we have anything like this in the states’

Buzz: ‘No, no – nothing like this…’

So – What did we learn?

I cannot stress enough how valuable it was to hear Bertrand Sicot (CEO Solidworks), Buzz Cross (Senior VP of Design, Lifecycle and Simulation – Autodesk), Karsten Newbury (Senior VP for Siemens PLM) and Justin Hendrickson of Spaceclaim talk one after the other.

I did my best to sit back and look at the bigger message. What did these guys want us to know? What did they think it important to tell us?

Here’s some of the themes I picked up.

Concept design

Concept design has become an area of focus for all the CAD companies. Solidworks Conceptual Mechanical (and soon Conceptual Industrial), Fusion 360 and Spaceclaim all allow fast iteration of ideas without the constraints of parametric design. I couldn’t help but consider whether the success of Sketchup is having some influence here?

Is ours the only company who uses Sketchup at the early stages of design to iterate through many different options and get client buy in, before moving into parametric CAD for manufacturing validation and documentation?

Of course, you could use Hardi Meybaum’s ‘Open Engineering’ method, via GrabCAD, securing 700 different solutions in a month to their most popular design challenge!


All the CAD vendors are keen to leverage the power of the Cloud. Their ideas are slowly beginning to coalesce into tangible products that we can try out for ourselves.

Fusion360 and SWX Conceptual are cloud based CAD solutions and include an online ‘Collaboration layer’ allowing designers to use a Social Media type threaded comment scheme to collaborate and track design changes on CAD files.

GrabCAD has abstracted this layer with GrabCAD Workbench, offering no CAD software at all – just a CAD agnostic secure server to upload your files to in order to collaborate with a distributed design team.

Spaceclaim’s take on web based collaboration is interesting different. Instead of asking you to work in the cloud, they instead allow you to send just the image you are seeing on your PC’s screen to your colleagues via the web link. This allows real time collaboration without uploading your IP to the web, or allowing your IP to exist on someone else’s server.

Anywhere, anytime, any device

The advantage of having your CAD software in the cloud is that you can design from anywhere, using whatever web enabled device you have on your person.

While the theory sounds great, I haven’t yet seen Fusion360 or SWX conceptual working on a tablet computer (Apparently Fusion360 works just fine on a Windows phone!).  I’m not sure that I even want it too. I’m not yet convinced that I could get some productive modelling done by stroking my screen all day!

It’s worth considering that you can already edit your CAD files stored on your home server from any location using Virtualization software such as Citrix Xendesktop.

Overall, there seemed to be a sensitivity around the CAD vendors presentation of Cloud CAD. Bertrand Sicot in particular seemed to be very keen to stress that the development of the Solidworks Conceptual range would not mean the end of support for Solidworks on the desktop.


Both SWX Conceptual and Fusion360 are ‘Fileless’ systems. They are fully integrated with their PDM layer. There is no need to create a file until you need to export your data from the system.

Edit: I found out afterwards that it was Justin Hendrickson on stage – sorry Justin ;)

Fusion360 and Spaceclaim have an excellent collection of libraries for importing CAD geometry from almost any source. While the data imported is converted to a ‘Dumb solid’ (the parametric design intent is lost) – this doesn’t matter to a direct modelling system.

Fusion360 and Spaceclaim will edit meshes, polygons and Breps with equal ease but Spaceclaim’s impressively effortless single editing tool edits meshes in exactly the same way as solids. While this sounds easy – it’s really not. Very impressive stuff.

D3D Live 2014 At Warwick University

And some fun too!

I wish I had more time at D3Dlive to attend the various breakout sessions on diverse topics from sustainable design to 3D printing. I did manage to catch Daniel Simon’s stunning presentation ‘Dream machines for film & Life’ – juxtaposed nicely against Al Peasland ‘the digital backbone of F1 champions’.

This encapsulations everything you need to know about D3Dlive. Beautiful 3D CAD designs and Complex engineering driven as always by a passion for interesting stories.

If you missed out on D3DLive! 2014 go immediately to the website to see the highlights from previous shows and recordings of this years event :)

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