A Brief History Of SolidWorks

Updated Feb 15, 2023
Old book and photograph - solidworks, brief history

SolidWorks—as you might already know—is a solid modeling CAD and CAE program. Owned by Dassault Systèmes, SolidWorks is used by millions of engineers and designers worldwide. With so many capabilities, it’s no surprise to find that it competes with the best in the CAD industry—allowing users to push the boundaries with design and engineering. You might already think of yourself as an expert in SolidWorks, but do you know about SolidWorks’ history?

Scan2CAD is here to educate users on SolidWorks‘ turbulent and interesting history. So, if you want to know about its origins, version history, and its many uses, simply read on.

The beginning…

SolidWorks was founded in December 1993 by Jon Hirschtick who used the $1 million he made while a member of the MIT Blackjack Team to set up the company. Hirschtick then recruited a team of engineers who set out with the aim of creating 3D CAD software. It was intended to be accessible, affordable and available on Windows desktop. 

Soon after, in November 1995, SolidWorks was released. It was the first significant modeler for Windows. This proved to be a huge step in the subsequent evolution of CAD. While AutoCAD had been released much earlier, SolidWorks brought something new to the table—3D modeling. Consequently, 3D CAD became the focal point of the 1990s. Within months, SolidWorks changed the way engineers brought their creations to life. 

SolidWorks was so impressive in fact, that by 1997 it was acquired by none other than Dassault Systèmes—best known for CATIA—for a staggering $320 million in stock. Jon Hirschtick stayed on board for the next 14 years. Under his leadership, SolidWorks grew to a $100 million revenue company. Hirschtick later left to found another familiar company, Onshape, offering cloud-based CAD

The product…

When SolidWorks was first released in 1995, it was a real game changer. With it, the go-to platform shifted from UNIX to PC. The cost of software also went from $18,000 to $4,000 and the training needed was vastly condensed to mere days. Needless to say, SolidWorks changed every engineer’s desktop for good. Since its inception, SolidWorks has seen 26 versions. Each version offering more capabilities and enhancements.


  • 3D CAD: delivers powerful design functionality. It also allows users to speed up the design process. 
  • Electrical design: allows for the design of embedded electrical systems and collaboration between teams. 
  • PDM: enables users to get design data under control and improve the way teams manage product development. 
  • Simulation: subject your designs to real-world conditions to test the quality of your product whilst reducing cost for live prototypes. 
  • 3DEXPERIENCE: delivers a new design experience focused on creating innovative products in a collaborative environment. 
  • Technical communication: enables automated creation of inspection documents and re-purposes design data. 

You can take a better look at how SolidWorks has evolved in the video below…

SolidWorks Version Release History
Version Number Version Name History Value Release Date
1 SolidWorks 95 46 November 1995
2 SolidWorks 96 270  Early 1996 
3 SolidWorks 97 483  Late 1996 
4 SolidWorks 97Plus 629  1997 
5 SolidWorks 98 817 1997 
6 SolidWorks 98Plus 1008  1998 
7 SolidWorks 99 1137  1998 
8 SolidWorks 2000 1500  1998 
9 SolidWorks 2001 1750  2000 
10 SolidWorks 2001Plus 1950  2001 
11 SolidWorks 2003 2200  2002 
12 SolidWorks 2004 2500  2003 
13 SolidWorks 2005 2800  2004 
14 SolidWorks 2006 3100  2005 
15 SolidWorks 2007 3400  2006 
16 SolidWorks 2008 2800  July, 2007 
17 SolidWorks 2009 4100  January 28, 2008 
18 SolidWorks 2010 4400  December 9, 2009 
19 SolidWorks 2011 4700  June 17, 2010 
20 SolidWorks 2012 5000  September, 2011 
21 SolidWorks 2013 6000  September, 2012 
22 SolidWorks 2014 7000  October 7, 2013 
23 SolidWorks 2015 8000  September 9, 2014 
24 SolidWorks 2016 9000  October 1, 2015 
25 SolidWorks 2017 10000  September 19, 2016 
26 SolidWorks 2018 11000  September 26, 2017 

SolidWorks’ Applications

While SolidWorks was originally aimed towards mechanical engineers, it has since branched out to cover a variety of engineering and design industries. In fact, it’s a presence in most industries related to 3D technology. Arguably, this expansion has contributed to the huge success of SolidWorks. It certainly shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon!


Mirror Image Aerospace's vertical take off model

Image source: solidWorks.com

Designers and engineers working in the aerospace industry need to be able to produce complex parts and large assemblies. Using SolidWorks, engineers can create these designs whilst maximizing performance and meeting strict safety standards. SolidWorks’ product development solutions in particular, allow users to simplify their entire design process. Users can also evaluate product performance—without producing live prototypes—and achieve cost-effective development from inception to manufacturing. 

Customer stories: 

  • BAE Systems: the world’s second largest defense contractor. They develop and deliver advanced defense, security, and aerospace systems. 
  • Mirror Image Aerospace: specializes in the development and manufacture of Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. 


Model from Rowan Williams Davies and Irwin Inc.

Image source: SolidWorks

Using SolidWorks, it’s possible to develop designs that can be used across planning, layout, fabrication and construction. It doesn’t matter if you specialize in engineering services, equipment design or piping projects—SolidWorks can be used to give you the output you need. Using 3D parametric design and simulation, designs can be fully optimized before they’re sent to clients. Additionally, SolidWorks can create photorealistic renderings for structural designs, mechanical systems, electrical cable layouts and so on. 

Customer stories: 

  • Domespace International: based in Quimper, France, an innovator in the construction of eco-friendly homes. 
  • Metromont Corporation: produces precast concrete products for a variety of construction purposes including parking garages, offices, schools and so on. 
  • Three Elements Timberworks, Inc: a timber frame contractor handling the design and assembly of hand-cut, custom timber frames for interior and exterior projects. 


Model of a TiSport wheelchair

Image source: Solidworks.com

The manufacturing industry brings with it a multitude of challenges. One particular difficulty is ensuring your design is perfect before the prototype stage. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up wasting money by having to go back to the design stage. SolidWorks solves this issue by offering users the ability to eliminate interferences. And that’s not all SolidWorks brings to the table. Users can also produce automatic estimates of part manufacturing costs. Additionally, with 3D CAM integration, SolidWorks eliminates the need to import or export between design and CAM. 

Customer stories: 

  • Modular Services Company: designs, fabricates and manufactures headwall systems—used in patient-care areas and clinical environments. 
  • R.W. Fernstrum & Company: manufacturer of cooling systems and custom heat exchangers for marine applications. 
  • TiSport, LLC: creates titanium wheelchairs that are easier to propel with less stress on the body. 

Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. SolidWorks is used across a huge range of commercial industries, the government, education and research

What else is there to know about SolidWorks?

SolidWorks logo

SolidWorks is an incredibly innovative software package. It enables users worldwide to create all types of designs imaginable. With so many capabilities, there’s still a lot you can learn about SolidWorks. Scan2CAD is here to help. That’s why we’ve put together our top SolidWorks articles below. Using them, you can get to know SolidWorks a bit better: 

Not sure if you should be using SolidWorks or AutoCAD? That’s fine—we’ve done a full comparison between AutoCAD and SolidWorks. If you don’t want to fork out for SolidWorks but want the same capabilities, check out Scan2CAD’s top 5 SolidWorks alternatives

Want to stay updated on all the latest CAD, CAM and CNC news? Keep a close eye on Scan2CAD’s blog

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