Freesteel Blog » The San Diego mission accomplished

The San Diego mission accomplished

Sunday, February 19th, 2012 at 3:24 am Written by:

Well, that was an interesting time with the HSMWorks crew at an expensive hotel in sunny San Diego, climbing into an apple pie bed every night and eating pancakes in the morning before attending SolidWorks World 2012.

Not sure entirely what SolidWorks World is; it’s part trade show, part product launch pad (like Apple used to famously do), and part training boot camp for users of the base software.

Each morning begins with a 5300 persons-in-the-audience General Session (5000 of whom are men), that is interspersed with interviews and presentations from various famous people on the stage, such as inventor of the ipod Tony Fadell with his new thermostat product.

The spluttering through my coffee moment goes to minute 13:40 of day 3, with this announcement:

Throughout the year we had a bunch of other design contests.

We had a new Green Design Contest really focussed on using Solidworks to make the world a better place. It was launched on Earth Day 2011 with the goal of creating awareness and educating people about the benefits of sustainable design.

Students and professionals used Solidworks for Sustainability and Solidworks Simulation to design a better chair for a fictitious airline.

But there’s more content to be had watching the speeches by the CEO of SolidWorks, Betrand Sicot, followed by the CEO of the CEO, CEO of Dassault, Bernard Charles. They are both french, and the french own it, and the Americans didn’t seem to notice. I thought they were supposed to mind. I think it would be cool if they sold the whole stock to Iran.

The hand-over is at minute 21:25, where Charles points to Sicot and says: “He survived. He survived one year.”

What goes on in their board room?

Anyways, back in the “Partner pavillion” I spent most of the day milling around on the stand opposite the most super-advanced hang-glider in the world. It’s the Ferrari of hang gliders. Except why would you want a boring old car that smells and only looks good because of the paint. Occasionally I eavesdropped on the conversations between its engineer and the passing delegates.

“Hey, I got a call the other day from a guy I didn’t know and never heard of. The first thing he says to me is, ‘I’ve got a divorce!’ What am I supposed to say to that? Congratulations, or something? Then he goes on, ‘I’m getting back into hang-gliding.’ Oh, now I see.”

HSMWorks is probably the most humane (and unreasonably unconventional) group of people I have worked with. Whether it’s accidental or not, it’s not due to a shred of any hippy politics, if you know what I mean. It’s more that people care about what they are doing, rather than squeezing out every margin of revenue in every channel of activity, consciously disregarding all other aspects, like they teach you to do in business school. Ultimately if you don’t care about the work there’s no point in doing it.

During Fadell’s interview (which has unfortunately not made it the SolidWorks World website), he made it absolutely clear that when you are in a design company, making something new, everyone has to be an equal, absolutely. You’re too emotionally exposed, putting out new ideas if they get shot down by people higher up, and no one can tell from whom the good ideas and subtle yet absolutely crucial developments are going to come. He repeated this point several times to really drill it in. I would like to hear his interview again if possible.

So the entire programming team sat through the sales strategy meeting the day following, which was fascinating, even though none of us had much to contribute. There is no secret really. There’s this new strip-down 2.5 axis HSMXpress product which is being distributed for free to anyone who has SolidWorks copy. It represents quite a revolutionary move. It is functionally complete and specifically does not contain any upselling, crappy nag-ware or marketing content at any point in the experience. You know, even like an extra tab with the greyed-out forbidden commands advertising all the advanced machining strategies you haven’t paid for yet. The point is to make this thing as absolutely lovely and useful as possible. And be like ipods which led to iphones.

I was stunned. I had given up hope of ever seeing this type of thought in action. I got frustrated with unimaginative salesmen back in 1994 or 95 when we were writing Machining Strategist at NCGraphics, and Mr E came in one day and said he had a customer who wanted only to read and preview IGES files. He didn’t want to do any machining on that computer. Could we compile the system down without any of the machining features, and just keep the viewer and triangulator?

Sure we can, I said. But why don’t we do that and just give it away for free as a download? [Remember, the internet had just gone mainstream, so this was for the first time possible.] Imagine, I said, if everyone who ever had any IGES file to look at, especially users of all those clanky competitive products that had far worse 3D previewers than we did at the time, imagine they had an NCGraphics product right there on their desktop, which they used daily to get their work done, and find parts in their archives? We have this once in a lifetime opportunity where we could dominate that place, almost permanently, if we get it out there now and entrenched. This moment won’t come to us again, and someone else will do it. It only takes a small fraction of the users exposed to this excellent NCGraphics product to come to you and convert to using the whole package.

Absolutely not, the salesman said. Listen, I don’t tell you how to program, and you can’t tell me how to do sales. I can sell this product for one thousand pounds and I think I can make seven sales of it by the end of the year, so that idea would cost me minus seven thousand pounds. You understand?


  • 1. Graeme replies at 20th February 2012, 9:20 am :

    Nothing has changed.

    I was asked to pay £1k

  • 2. Charles Davis replies at 5th March 2012, 2:05 pm :

    As part of the HSMXpress registration, you must read and accept the item below. Please read what is in the quotations:

    I understand that download and use of HSMXpress is free
    and DOES NOT obligate any purchase from HSMWorks

    By checking this box you understand that download and use of HSMXpress DOES NOT obligate you to make any purchase from HSMWorks and that a standalone license of HSMXpress is being made available to qualified users as an electronic download free of charge.

    “If you are approached by or receive communication from anyone claiming that you are required to submit some form of payment to them in exchange for the use of HSMXpress please contact HSMWorks immediately so we can monitor the situation and take whatever actions are necessary to protect our user community from predators.”

  • 3. Tyler replies at 5th April 2012, 2:35 pm :

    “Absolutely not, the salesman said. Listen, I don’t tell you how to program, and you can’t tell me how to do sales. I can sell this product for one thousand pounds and I think I can make seven sales of it by the end of the year, so that idea would cost me minus seven thousand pounds. You understand?”

    In the CAD/CAM industry It’s still exactly this way with a lot of things – immediate return without seeing the big picture. Usually because of a personal commission attached to that single product.
    It stifles creativity and independent ideas for development, and as someone who loves developing, it has all but shut down my desire to create.
    What I’ve found is if it’s something I care deeply enough I just do it, bend some noses out of shape and then wait for the proof to arrive in pudding. Expecting some day to lose my job over something like that, but I’m also expecting someone, someday to make a functional/stable Open source CAM software 🙂

  • 4. Freesteel&hellip replies at 18th May 2012, 10:09 pm :

    […] Luckily I had my laptop and did some coding on HSMWorks, attempting to get someone interested in my Wills Wing connection. It was lucky I did so as some horrendous software bugs came down the wifi, which I had to work […]

  • 5. Freesteel&hellip replies at 25th January 2013, 2:34 pm :

    […] to watch the SolidWorksWorld videos Day 1 and Day 2 all the way through. I was there in San Diego this time last year, at the start of my big adventure and a whole lot of fun. Unfortunately the keynote addresses […]

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