The Different Kinds Of Solid Edge

Looks like the folks at Siemens PLM didn’t quite appreciate my last post titled “Solid Edge Design1 And Local Motors” because they scheduled another call with me to better explain Design1. This time I spoke to VP of Product Development Bill McLure and Director of Solid Edge marketing Kris Kasprzak. There have been a number of versions of Solid Edge flying around recently that it has caused some confusion. In this post I would like to list the different “kinds” of Solid Edge out there and what I think about them.


Solid Edge Free 2D

This is basically the 2D drawing portion of Solid Edge given away to everyone for free. This is similar to what SolidWorks did with their free DWGeditor and now free DraftSight. That is to give people (mainly AutoCAD users) a free tool to create 2D drawings from scratch or edit existing 2D drawings. It is important to note that 2D Free doesn’t come with the feature of creating 2D drawings from Solid Edge parts or assemblies. It is merely a 2D viewer and editor, that’s all.

In my Design1 post I wrote:

With Design1 you can create only parts and assemblies. I found it weird that Siemens PLM decided to leave out 2D drafting, especially since they already give away Solid Edge Drafting for free. Common sense, anyone?

I downloaded Solid Edge Free 2D and tried to install it along side Design1. I got this error message.

The thing with Solid Edge is that you cannot have two instances of Solid Edge on the same computer, be it different versions or different parts of the same version, as is the case here – Solid Edge ST4 Design1 (parts and assemblies) and Solid Edge ST4 2D Free (drawings). The only exception I have seen is that a beta version of Solid Edge can be installed alongside a release version so that people can test it out. So due to this limitation, users of Design1 cannot have 2D Free as well.


Solid Edge Student Edition

This is a free version of Solid Edge whose functionality is equivalent to the $5,000 commercial Solid Edge product. This is meant for students or instructors attending any academic institution and is licensed to be used for academic course work only. Files saved from this version cannot be opened in the commercial version of Solid Edge and the 2D drawings have a watermark.


Solid Edge University Edition

This educational version has the same restrictions as the Student Edition but has premium features. It is licensed to a university and is installed on the computers of students studying at that university. The university pays Siemens PLM a nominal fee for support.


Solid Edge 45 Day Trial

This is a fully functional trial of Solid Edge that expires after 45 days. Nothing much to explain here.


Solid Edge Design1

This is a restricted version of Solid Edge (parts and assemblies only) with advanced features like surfacing turned off. It is offered to members of the 25,000 strong Local Motors community at $20 per month and you need to be approved to get access to it. Siemens PLM tells me that Local Motors controls the approval process, not them. I guess in my Design1 post I bitched about the approval process enough to make Siemens PLM get Local Motors to approve  my request. 😉

Local Motors is a company that uses crowd-sourcing to “co-create cars”. The idea here is to create a community of people who have a regular day jobs (designers, engineers, etc.) and who are enthusiastic enough help out in designing cars in their free time. Local Motors does this by holding design contests. For example, Local Motors may get a client who needs a different engine on the Rally Fighter, for which the chassis will need to be tweaked. So Local Motors holds a design contest to redesign the chassis and the winner gets a cash prize which can be anything between $200 to $5,000. Siemens PLM considers this as commercial activity and that’s the reason they are charging $20 a month for Design1. I was told that Design1 is licensed to be used only for these Local Motors design contests and not for any other purpose.

Personally I think that’s stretching it a bit too much. I would hardly consider the chance of financial gain as commercial activity. This is like asking a kid using Solid Edge Student Edition to pay up because he won a design contest. Even worse, asking the kids that didn’t win to pay up as well just because they stood the chance of winning money. Its freaking ridiculous.

I’m trying hard to figure out exactly what Siemens PLM is trying to achieve here. Do they really see this as some kind of a revenue stream? Would the sales of Solid Edge be cannibalized if Siemens PLM simply let Local Motors members use the full blown student edition instead of going through the hassle of creating a new type of stripped down Solid Edge? Instead they could have simply given Local Motors a small utility to convert student edition files submitted by Local Motors members to regular Solid Edge files that can be opened in the commercial version. That way they could give Local Motors members all the functionality of Solid Edge and prevent them from using it for anything else other than Local Motors design contests. This is just an idea that popped in my head as I was typing this post. I’m sure if the folks at Siemens PLM and Local Motors really put their minds to it they could find a more elegant way of doing this.

Something needs to be understood here. The people who are supposed to use Design1 are enthusiasts. They should not be confused with novices. They are experts in their field and already use a fully functional powerful CAD system at work. No matter how Siemens PLM and Local Motors put it, sooner or later they are going to hit a wall and get frustrated with the limitations of Design1. After all, they are designing real cars, not toy trucks. Siemens PLM wants to upsell them to the full blown version of Solid Edge as can be seen from this message. Really? Is someone who may stand a chance of winning a prize going to shell out $5,000 for a commercial license of Solid Edge?

Come on. The people doing commercial activity are Local Motors, not the enthusiasts taking part  in design contents. If someone must pay for Design1 it should be Local Motors. Frankly, nobody should be paying for anything. If Siemens PLM really wants to promote Solid Edge to a community of 25,000 people then they should find a way to do it in a way that everyone’s commercial interests are taken care of and more importantly, the members should want to use the software. The way the whole thing is set up now, Siemens PLM is probably going to make peanuts from this deal with Local Motors and their members are probably going to use the same CAD system they were using before Design1 showed up. That’s if they actually bothered to submit their application for Design1.

IMHO, I think Siemens PLM and Local Motors are looking at this whole thing the wrong way. They could have done better. Much better.


Update (21-Nov-2011)

Apparently there some more news coming out from Siemens PLM at the start of 2012. Watch this space.