Interview With Rick Chin, Director of Product Innovation
After hearing of SolidWorks’ new sustainable product tool, code-named “Sage”, at this year’s SolidWorks World conference, I decided to learn a little more about it. So I contacted Mr. Rich Chin, Director of Product Innovation at SolidWorks.
After a few rounds of email tag over the last few weeks, I am pleased to bring you this dialogue on the day that SolidWorks Labs has released SustainabilityXpress. I hope you find it informative!
CADFanatic: Hi Rick, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Before we begin, could you please tell us a little bit about your background?
Rick Chin: I’m a 23 year veteran of the CAD space. I’ve worked for UG, PTC, Pratt & Whitney (as in-house CAD expert), SolidWorks, and Xpress3D (my own startup). Jon Hirschtick hired me in 1995, and I left in 2001 to start Xpress3D. I returned in 2005 when SolidWorks acquired the FeatureXpert technology from me. eDrawings has been one of the most notable achievements I have been involved with. Currently, I am working with the team that is developing our new SolidWorks Sustainability product.
CF: How did you become involved with SolidWorks?
RC: Prior to joining SolidWorks, I was a demo jock and product manager for PTC. I left PTC in 1994 with the hope of one day starting a company focused on creating a MS Windows version of Pro/E. I soon learned about a startup that was already developing that product. The company was venture capital funded and had rock stars like Jon Hirschtick and Mike Payne (who I had worked with at PTC). I realized that there was no way to beat them, so I decided to join them. This was one of the best career moves of my life.
CF: At SolidWorks World 2009 in Orlando earlier this year, Jeff Ray mentioned an upcoming tool called Sage to help SolidWorks users create designs that have lower environmental impacts, or sustainable design. What exactly is “sustainable design”, and how is it implemented?
RC: From our perspective, all design will soon be “sustainable design”. This is all about minimizing the total environmental of the products designed by our customers. To accomplish this, design professionals must be able to measure those impacts, and then proactively work to reduce them. Ideally, it should be a natural part of the design process.
We have equipped our customers to do this by building Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) right into SolidWorks. LCA is a very comprehensive way of looking at a product’s production, use, and final disposal; and the environmental impacts that result. The environmental impacts we measure are: carbon footprint, total energy consumed, effects on air, and effects on water.
We have taken this very sophisticated analysis and made it “SolidWorks simple”. We accomplish this by limiting the number of inputs, and providing real-time results in an easy to understand dashboard.
By the way, “Sage” was the code name for our project. The official product names are SolidWorks Sustainability and SustainabilityXpress. SustainabilityXpress allows our users to analyze individual parts. The full Sustainability product allows them to analyze assemblies, compare configurations, and works with our new Assembly Visualization tool (very cool!).
CF: Who is the target audience for Sage?
RC: Our target audience for SolidWorks Sustainability and SustainabilityXpress is just about anyone who is using SolidWorks to design product. SolidWorks SustainabilityXpress will be available to all SolidWorks users, and is a great way to easily try out sustainable design. SolidWorks Sustainability is for our users who are interested in understanding and improving the environmental impact of the complete products they are designing.
CF: Jeff Ray mentioned that a version of Sage will be rolled out prior to the release of SolidWorks 2010. Can you give any details of that?
RC: Yes, we are providing a preview of the SustainabilityXpress product. It is going to be available THIS WEEK on our SolidWorks Labs website. It is an add-in to SolidWorks 2009 and is available to all SolidWorks users who are running that version of the software. That also includes students who are using our educational products. The product isn’t perfect yet, but we are looking forward to getting feedback from our users on it.
CF: What is the timeframe for the product release?
RC: SolidWorks SustainabilityXpress will be available this week on Labs and in the 2010 Beta. Full SolidWorks Sustainability will be available in a later Beta build around August. Both levels of the product will be completed and released with SolidWorks 2010 this fall.
CF: What level of SolidWorks will be required to have access to the full Sage tool?
RC: Great news … SolidWorks SustainabilityXpress will be built into every seat of SolidWorks 2010 for no additional charge. Every SolidWorks user will be able to make sustainable design a part of their every day process.
SolidWorks Sustainability is an add-in to SolidWorks that will be sold separately for a price that we will announce later this summer. Please note that it is NOT a part of the Professional or Premium bundles. It is a separately packaged product with its own price.
CF: How will utilizing the Sage tool impact a user’s workflow?
RC: We are designing the product so that it can be effortlessly included in today’s design flow. Material choice is an important consideration for all design professionals. It is also an important influencer in the environmental impact of products. We built a very cool “Find Similar Material” tool into the Sustainability products. I think everyone will find it useful, whether you are interested in sustainable design or not. As you use the tool to help you find the material for the job, you will see the magnitude of your part’s environmental impact change in real-time. As you evaluate materials for their mechanical properties, you will simultaneously see their impacts. No extra work or time required.
CF: How dedicated is SolidWorks to continuing to work to develop Sage?
RC: Like I mentioned above, we feel that all design will soon be sustainable design. Slowly, more and more of our customers are asking for this. And their customers are starting to demand it. We see the SolidWorks Sustainability product as the first of many products we hope to develop in the near future.
I would like to thank Mr. Chin for taking the time to answer our questions. If you have any other questions, please leave a comment and I’m sure that Rick will be glad to follow up here.