Maintaining design know-how in the ever changing CAD environment

Posted on 22 Feb 2016 by Tim Brown

At SolidWorks World 2016 (SWW16), The Manufacturer sat down with Tony Glockler, the CEO of CAD training platform SolidProfessor, to discuss skills, the need for training on multiple systems, and 3D printing.

Tony Glockler, CEO of SolidProfessor
Tony Glockler, CEO of SolidProfessor

For Tony Glockler, in the beginning there was SolidWorks.

He was an engineering student come CAD technician who was teaching classes in order to help people understand design software technology.

But what quickly became apparent for Tony was that the CAD training environment was not responsive enough to allow people to keep up to speed with the inevitable changes that were rolled out after every software update.

“Classical training is really great if you’re going to learn something that is static like maths, science or English, which doesn’t change much,” says Tony. “But for something as dynamic and complex as CAD software, things are always changing and getting better and there are always new best practices and techniques.”

So Tony along with his team have been working since 2003 on creating an online solution that is available when people need to be tutored on a particular area of CAD, and in particular SolidWorks.

Enter SolidProfessor

With SolidProfessor, users can go through a linear approach to learn a new area or, if they want to refresh their skills and knowledge in a really specific area, they can search for a topic and undertake a short tutorial.

A screenshot of a SolidProfessor tutorial video - image courtesy of SolidProfessor.
A screenshot of a SolidProfessor tutorial video – image courtesy of SolidProfessor.

All the SolidProfessor lessons are short video-based tutorials which are available to watch on a computer or even on a phone and there is also a SolidProfessor interface within SolidWorks itself.

And no matter what version you run, SolidProfessor can keep you up to speed.

“Most of our core material in terms of the concepts and the strategies doesn’t change a lot,” says Tony. “But to keep up with new updates, every year we do an update of all the courses because we want the interface to look exactly the same as the interface of the person that is using it.

“We also still maintain all our back years, which go back as far as 2007 in our library because some companies don’t keep up with yearly updates so people can just choose what year they are using.”

SolidProfessor sells its memberships into commercial institutions and schools as well as directly to individuals. Presently with around 30,000 users, about 65% of its membership are engineering companies, who purchase memberships depending on the size of their team.

But most importantly, the SolidProfessor system isn’t just a collection of hosted videos. The online training is individualised with each user having their own profile. And in addition, the system also allows companies to evaluate their workers skills.

“Another part of what we do is allow an engineering manager to assess the skill level of their users using an online competency test,” says Tony. “Then, with what we call ‘precision learning’, we can take the results of that skills test and then using the curriculum that has been assigned, we can suggest lessons based on how well someone has done on the competency test.”

In the UK, SolidProfessor is represented by New Technology Group (NT CADCAM), which offers software consultancy, implementation and training.

But what of Autodesk and other systems?

Although, SolidProfessor began with a particular focus on providing training exclusively for SolidWorks, the platform is now catering to multiple systems.

“It is a big focus of ours to provide training now for other systems too,” says Tony. “The idea is to be more solution based. If you look at engineering teams and users, they don’t have to solve a SolidWorks problem, they have to solve design problem, which can involve multiple teams and often multiple companies.”

“I came from a SolidWorks background but we’re really focused on being an engineering and technology solution. Outside of SolidWorks we now offer content for Autodesk, Onshape, MasterCam, CamWorks and also a new rapid prototyping course.”

3D printing / additive manufacturing

Tony says SolidProfessor has made its latest educational foray into 3D printing because although he believes the technology has been overhyped to some extent, he firmly believes that 3D printing and rapid prototyping certainly has a strong future.

“When you look at schools and education, rapid prototyping is changing the way in which people talk about engineering. It used to be so theory based and engineering is not just about the concepts, it’s about having a physical product,” said Tony.

“Rapid prototyping gets you to the stage of holding something in your hand and make different iterations so much more quickly. As soon as you can hold something I think it makes the design process that much better.”

Tony also believes that the ability to see how multiple parts fit together is a key element of why rapid prototyping is likely to continue to increase in popularity. “It’s not for everything but it does have its place and it has certainly changed thing. The increase in available materials in 3D printing is also going to keep impacting the market.”