Dassault Systèmes is a multinational software company that specializes in 3D design and product lifecycle management (PLM) software. The company is best known for its flagship products CATIA and SolidWorks. Since its inception, Dassault has spread its influence from the aerospace industry to the automotive industry to the engineering industry. Even if you’re familiar with its most popular products, there’s undoubtedly a lot you don’t know about Dassault.
Scan2CAD is here to remedy that problem. This article will cover everything you need to know about Dassault Systèmes, from its popular products and acquisitions, to its impact on the CAD industry and its future.
Table of Contents
- Corporate Acquisitions
- Impact on:
- The Future: What’s Next?
Marcel Bloch-Dassault and the Dassault Group
Dassault Systèmes started with the creation of Dassault Group in 1929. Its creator Marcel Bloch was well-established in aeronautics, believing it to be an industry of the future. Under this company, Bloch challenged conventions and established himself as a firm contributor to the aviation industry. Bloch’s previous successes include the ‘Éclair’ propeller, which was subsequently used by the French Army. By 1935, his companies began to produce MB.200 and MB.210 bombers.
Bloch was briefly held in the Buchenwald concentration camp during the Second World War. He was freed when the camp was liberated on 11 April 1945. Bloch changed his name to Dassault in 1949 in homage to his brother’s resistance pseudonym ‘Char d’assaut’ (assault tank). Dassault’s companies went on to produce France’s first jets—from Ouragan (1949) to Mystère II (1952) to the Mercure passenger plane (1973).
The company was renamed Dassault Aviation in 1990. It has since become the world leader in private jets.
Dassault Systèmes: CAD, PLM and 3D Innovations
Dassault Systèmes was founded in 1981 with a spin-off team of engineers from Dassault Aviation. The company launched its first product CATIA in the same year. Dassault was a major client of IBM in France, which is why CATIA was eventually sold as an IBM product. This was an integral step to Dassault Systèmes becoming a market leader in the CAD industry.
While Dassault began in aeronautical design, it soon branched out into the automotive industry. Dassault secured Boeing as a CATIA user in 1984. By 1998, Boeing announced that it would use CATIA to design its new 777 aircraft. This created a staggering $1 billion in revenue for IBM-Dassault. Not long after, Dassault won contracts with companies including Toyota Motor Corporation and Volvo Group.
In 1997, Dassault acquired CAD program SolidWorks with $310 million in stocks. This gamble more than paid off—by the end of the 1990’s, Dassault Systèmes emerged as one of the main competitors in the CAD industry. The same year also marked the organization of Dassault into two business segments:
- a process-centric segment (PLM) to support its customers’ end-to-end product development process, and
- a design-centric segment (SolidWorks) dedicated to customers seeking to create products in a 3D design environment.
The success of Dassault brought about the introduction of a PLM-centric suite of products, including DELMIA (in 2000) to address the digital manufacturing domain, and SIMULIA (in 2005) to address realistic simulation and analysis. In the past 5 years or so, Dassault has also expanded towards the 3DEXPERIENCE—taking all aspects of product development into consideration.
Of course, that’s not even the half of it! Dassault Systèmes has more products than you probably know, as you’ll see below.
Since its inception, Dassault Systèmes has released a wide range of products, from recognizable CAD packages such as CATIA and SolidWorks to its PLM suite. Let’s take a look at its most popular products below.
Dassault’s most innovative product, CATIA, has only grown in popularity since its release in 1981. In fact, it’s the world’s leading brand for product design. It’s essentially a 3D Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software suite.
CATIA can be used throughout the entire process of product development—from conceptualization and design (CAD) to engineering (CAE) to manufacturing (CAM). Not only can users design products, they can do so in a real-life behavioral context. While CATIA started out in aerospace initially, it has since branched out to other industries such as shipbuilding and architecture.
One of CATIA’s biggest advantages is that it offers disciplines and industries a specialized toolset. For aircraft, it offers wiring, meta and composite materials. For car design it has a toolset for Class A surfaces. From 3D sketching to 3D printing, CATIA provides all the solutions a designer or engineer would need.
SolidWorks is a solid modeling CAD and CAE program. It was the first significant 3D modeler for Windows in 1995—a huge step in the evolution of CAD. By 2013, approximately 2 million engineers and designers in over 165,000 companies were using the software. Needless to say, it’s a program that competes with the best in the CAD industry.
Designers can use SolidWorks to create auto-generated 2D drawings and advanced 3D models using a parametric feature-based approach. SolidWorks also gives users the ability to perform analyses and simulations including Finite Element Analysis. The product places an emphasis upon faster modeling, new design tools and enhanced collaboration.
From 2007 onward, Dassault’s interests moved away from just the 3D virtual model to every aspect of product design—from requirements, to commentary around the concept, to simulation results. From this, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform was created. This platform is a suite of industry-focused applications that are built around industry best practices and processes.
These apps are subsets of existing software brands, so customers have to decide whether they want to buy individual products or the packaged ‘experiences’. You can find out more about 3DEXPERIENCE in the video below.
Note: Here’s an update on Dassault Aviation adopting 3DEXPERIENCE
The SIMULIA brand offers users realistic simulation applications. Through this, users can explore the real-world behavior of products and life. This includes Abaqus for Unified Multi-Physics FEA and the CATIA-integrated FEA solution which allows engineers to design and simulate in one environment.
This brand helped to develop The Living Heart Project, which created the world’s first realistic 3D simulation model of a whole human heart. It holds promise for the future—clinicians could use this in the future to diagnose and treat illnesses without invasive procedures.
The ENOVIA brand is the common collaborative platform for all Dassault Systèmes brands. It ensures real-time collaboration and enables bill of material management across the product lifecycle. The brand also comes with product planning and program management solutions which enable users to precisely orchestrate the most complex of processes. In addition, ENOVIA offers tools for quality issue prevention such as Quality Functional Deployment (QFD), Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) and much more.
The DELMIA brand is a PLM digital manufacturing software. It enables manufacturers to virtually plan, create and monitor all production processes—from the early process planning and assembly creation to a complete definition of the production facility and equipment. With collaborative manufacturing, users can create and annotate 3D simulations of production issues and share them with others. This streamlined collaboration accelerates and shortens the product cycle.
Corporate Acquisitions & the 3DEXPERIENCE
The history and success of Dassault Systèmes can be separated into three eras. The first era started with the introduction of CATIA—marking Dassault’s move towards CAD. This was fortified by the acquisition of SolidWorks in 1997. Both programs were then strengthened by PLM workflow software, starting with the acquisition of Smart Solutions in 1999.
Acquisitions became more rapid and steadfast with the turn of the new century. They were vital in shaping Dassault’s later brands and packages. In fact, many were the building blocks of Dassault’s second era of PLM. In 2005, for example, Dassault acquired Abaqus and from it created the SIMULIA brand. They later expanded upon the brand with their acquisition of Engineous software in 2008. The following years added additional software like MatrixOne Inc and ICEM to Dassault’s product collection.
The company’s third and current era is post-PLM. Dassault has been steadily broadening its focus from engineering-centric design and product lifecycle, to an enterprise or company-wide view. With their 3DEXPERIENCE platform, Dassault has made it clear that the future is all about offering integrated and specialized software solutions.
On the CAD industry
It’s safe to say that Dassault Systèmes has had a sizeable impact on the CAD industry since its beginning in 1981. From CATIA to SolidWorks, Dassault paved the way for the future of the CAD industry. In fact, it’s been a presence in any industry that is remotely related to 3D technology. Check out a few interesting statistics below:
- Every 2.5 seconds an aircraft takes off powered by an engine designed using Dassault Systèmes software.
- Over a trillion kilometers are traveled each day on tires designed using Dassault Systèmes software.
- Each year global drivers spend 384,000,000,000 hours in cars created using Dassault Systèmes software.
However, Dassault is more than just its products. It dedicates millions every year to initiatives and foundations that push the boundaries of CAD.
The Passion For Innovation initiative, for example, uses Dassault’s technology for developing research, education and culture. The program initially began when a disabled employee couldn’t drive a sports car because of his condition. To combat this problem, he developed a new clutch system which he then needed to test out virtually. Dassault granted him free access to CATIA to design his idea, which eventually enabled him to drive a sports car.
This initiative has also led to the development of many more projects including:
- Khufu: architect Jean-Pierre Houdin used Dassault’s software to create a 3D replica of the Khufu pyramid.
- IceDream: engineer Georges Mougin used Dassault’s software to refine his ideas for towing icebergs for fish water.
- Paris 3D Saga: this offers virtual immersion into Paris at different points in history—from the Gallic period to the late 19th century.
Dassault Systèmes is committed to the education of anyone using its products—from hobbyists, to students, to professionals. As with other CAD providers, Dassault currently offers students free or discounted versions of its products. In 2015, it was announced that 2 million SolidWorks licenses had been installed at educational institutions worldwide. Dassault also provides resources like My SolidWorks for students.
Dassault has furthered its commitment to the future with an entire foundation dedicated to educating students and workforces in 3D. La Fondation offers academic and research institutions learning applications in 3D and virtual technology. Most recently, La Fondation teamed up with STEM-focused organization Base 11 to bring about a new initiative aimed at training the next generation of workers in high-demand skills such as 3D design. These students will learn how to use 3D design platforms like 3DEXPERIENCE with the goal of helping them into STEM-related degrees and careers.
This has given thousands of people the opportunity to teach themselves valuable, high-demand skills in 3D design. As you can imagine, this opens up a variety of high-demand CAD careers.
Dassault hasn’t just committed itself to pushing the boundaries of 3D design. It’s also committed to helping designers create a sustainable future.
With the growing issue of carbon emissions and pollution, many designers are looking for ways to create more sustainable vehicles and aircraft. A recent innovation in aircraft was the Solar Impulse 2 airplane. It was designed with Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE platform. So what’s so special about this aircraft? It completed an around-the-world trip in 17 stages and 16 1/2 months. It was the first circumnavigation of the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power.
Global population is on the rise and people are increasingly living in cities that were built for smaller populations. Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCity project is a response to this problem. It allows urban planners to digitally study and test ideas. By doing so, they can consider the impact urbanization has within the boundaries of a city and the entire planet.
Dassault has also contributed to the development of renewable energy solutions. Their recent partnership with hydropower firm HYDROCHINA CHENGDU aims to enhance hydropower engineering capabilities and help minimize the impact on the environment. Dassault has also had a presence in wind energy—working with Vestas Wind Systems to create a virtual manufacturing referential to promote re-usability and collaboration when responding to local requirements.
Dassault Systèmes has clearly had a bigger impact on the world than you probably imagined. It will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future.
The Future: What’s Next?
It’s difficult to say what’s next in Dassault Systèmes’ future, due to how widespread its reach is. There are, however, a few prevailing topics of interest.
It’s clear that Dassault will continue to broaden its reach to more industries in the future. It has expressed interest in the transportation industry, for example, with driverless cars. Using Dassault’s software, motor manufacturers will be able to design, produce and maintain driverless cars. This would have a huge impact on the transportation industry, the environment and our overall future.
Going forward, Dassault will concentrate on shortening the distance between what we can imagine and what is real. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform gives industries the ability to design and create innovations in a fully-integrated package. With the growing superiority of technology, users are expecting more and more capabilities from their programs. As such, Dassault will have to work on making its products even more powerful. SIMULIA, for example, may be able to support higher end simulations like non-linear analysis in the near future.
It’s also safe to say that Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality will feature strongly in Dassault’s future. We’re not far away from designers being able to create and design with VR and AR in SolidWorks and CATIA. Just imagine what this transition from desktop screen to goggles could do to the CAD industry! This could potentially change the entire learning curve for CAD—it might become simple enough that a complete beginner could pick it up and figure out how it works.
We can’t possibly predict everything that the future might hold for Dassault Systèmes. However, judging from its past successes and huge growth since its inception, it’s safe to say that Dassault will have many innovations to offer users in the future.
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