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SolidWorks competitions unleash student ideas

Designing a custom-built bike may appear to have little in common with creating 'smart solutions for smart cities', but both are among challenges that CAD software company SolidWorks has organised at colleges in India to encourage students to engage in some out of the box thinking.

Designing a custom-built bike may appear to have little in common with creating 'smart solutions for smart cities', but both are among challenges that CAD software company SolidWorks has organised at colleges in India to encourage students to engage in out-of-the-box thinking.

Every year, engineering students across India who take up the SolidWorks challenges see their ideas evolve from sketchy outlines on a drawing board into 3D designs aided by the company's software suite. Some recent results were on show in Bangalore recently at an event to mark the launch of SolidWorks' 2017 tools.

While the latest generation of SolidWorks tools feature a new user interface, tools and process enhancements, it’s clear that the company is keen to engage with the student community. "The SOLIDWorks portfolio is used by 890 colleges and polytechnics across the country," said sales directo PM Ravikumar. "Students give definition to their ideas by accessing our technology. We encourage students to participate in certified design competitions, which is a platform for them to network and exchange ideas."

Take the case of Aakruti, an annual design and modelling contest, launched by the Pune-based company 3DPLM in 2010 as a platform for engineering colleges and Universities across India to showcase their innovation and talent. Students can play around with the tools, come up with ideas and, in the process, update themselves about the latest trends in the computer aided design and product lifecycle management in industry. Students will create designs using the SolidWorks portfolio at the 2016 Aakruti event, to be held during the course of October. This year students will work on themes like designing SMART products for conservation and smart usage of natural resources. There’s also a 'divyaang' thread for senior citizens and 'specially-abled' people. Futuristic agriculture is another theme.

Such competitions attempt to trigger off design ideas, with SolidWorks hoping to develop and nurture the next generation of its users. A case in point is the Kerala Start up Mission (KSUM) supported by FabLab. KSUM is a small scale workshop that offers digital fabrication and technical prototyping opportunities to promote entrepreneurship and start-ups among the locals. Incidentally, Dassault Systemes SolidWorks Corporation is a partner of Fab Labs and Fab Academy (short form for Fabrication Laboratory), providing SolidWorks software through sponsorship of labs in MIT’s global Fab Lab network.

SolidWorks believes it has created a portfolio of products that are meant to ignite a spark of imagination across different age groups, even four-year-olds. At the press briefing, journalists were shown cute images of animated objects. Many of us smiled and enjoyed the presentation. That’s not all though, because it turns out to be a playing field for tiny tots who can create objects through a drag-and-drop mechanism. "We have an app for kids, where children can draw images of turtles and ducks, among others. A lot of geometry has gone into making these images precise and realistic. This is in the beta stage after which it will be made commercially available," explained Suchit Jain, VP for strategy & business development with Dassault Systèmes.

SolidWorks claims that its 2017 offering allows both new and experienced users to improve their productivity by using simulation tools to analyse, solve, visualise and verify the functionality of their designs before any prototype is created. The focus is on creating an ecosystem that will bring back-end operations closer to the original designer.

"“Our concern is to help small local shops to thrive by selling the whole of our products or even allied parts. We would like the design team to connect with vendors. Eventually it is hoped that this leads to a connected community within the demand and supply chain. To facilitate this, a development centre will be set up in India in 2017," said Jain.

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