Hypermileage Design with solidThinking Inspire®

Today we have an extra special blog post from John Young of the University of Michigan. John Young is a senior in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan and an intern at Altair Engineering. This year, he is the Chief Engineer of the University of Michigan SAE Supermileage team. He intends to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Michigan upon graduation. While interning at Altair this summer, John learned about solidThinking Inspire. Below he details his story.

Each spring, teams from universities across the country come to Houston, Texas to compete in the Shell Ecomarathon competition. The goal is simple: produce a vehicle that gets the best fuel economy. Often with little more than a lawn mower engine and some spare bike parts, these teams regularly reach 2000-3000 miles per gallon (MPG).


Launch of solidThinking Inspire® 2014

Last year we introduced solidThinking Inspire® to the world with version 9.5. This revolutionary concept development tool received immense praise from the media and customers alike, even winning a number of prestigious industry awards, including the Design News Golden Mousetrap, the A’Design Award, and Architosh’s Best of Show at the AIA Convention. Improving on an award-winning product is certainly a difficult task, but we are confident that with today’s launch, we have done just that. I am thrilled to announce the release of the next generation of solidThinking Inspire, Inspire 2014.

solidThinking Inspire enables design engineers, product designers, and architects to create and investigate structurally efficient concepts quickly and easily leading to reductions in cost, development time, material consumption, and product weight. Important new features in solidThinking Inspire 2014 include geometry simplification tools, smoothing options, linear static analysis, and concentrated mass parts. With Inspire 2014, we focused on not only adding new tools and capabilities to the feature set, but we also put an emphasis on the user’s workflow and making it easier to generate the ideal structural concept from a design space. (more…)

solidThinking Inspire® Receives 2014 Architosh Best of Show Award at AIA National Conference

solidThinking Inspire® has been recognized as one of Architosh’s “Best of Show” products at this year’s American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Convention,  held this year in Chicago June 26-28.  Taking honors in the Innovation Category, solidThinking Inspire enables design engineers, product designers, and architects to create and investigate structurally efficient concepts quickly and easily.



For the past two years, Architosh, the number one worldwide online publication dedicated to Mac and iOS CAD for 3D software professionals and students, has awarded technology vendors for overall product excellence, outstanding new features and updates, and cutting-edge approaches to workflow transformation. The “Best in Show” award announcement occurs during the annual AIA National Convention and Exhibition. Architosh recognizes vendors in various categories, including desktop, mobile, building information modeling (BIM), and innovation. Regional Manager Chad Mach and the solidThinking team had a chance to discuss the upcoming Inspire 2014 release with Architosh at the event.


“Altair continues to push forward in AEC with its industry-leading engineering technologies and its fusion early stage design tools like solidThinking Inspire 2014,” noted Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA LEED AP. “Version 2014 fuses direct-modeling tools like push-pull faces and powerful Booleans with linear static and normal modes analysis, as well as geometry simplification and concentrated mass parts. Another exciting aspect of this tool is it works on both Windows and Mac platforms, empowering designers to consider weight-reduction and material efficiency prior to final engineering development. Inspire will continue to develop with interesting consequences for AEC.”


Architosh has a strong focus on architecture, and continues to be a wonderful channel for exposing solidThinking Inspire to AEC professionals around the world. The 2014 Best in Show award is truly an honor for solidThinking. Congratulations to all the winners!

RAPID 2014: solidThinking SLAM at the Materialise Slot Car Race

Who says slot cars are just for kids? Engineers and software developers alike gathered at the RAPID 2014 Conference & Exposition to design and build a winning slot car!

For nearly 25 years, RAPID has been the leading forum for innovation in additive manufacturing. It showcases the newest technologies and applications across multiple industries, from aerospace to fashion. This year, Materialise hosted an after-hours networking and slot car racing event. Thecompetition requires companies and individuals to design and 3D print a slot car for the race. Upon hearing about the event, the solidThinking team got to work to design our car.

Program Manager, Andy Bartels, racing the solidThinking car

Program Manager, Andy Bartels, racing the solidThinking car

RAPID 2014 was held at the Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan. The conference program included keynote addresses from industry leaders, networking receptions, pre-conference workshops, a Contemporary Art Gallery, and the Additive Manufacturing Certificate Review Course and Exam. RAPID also included hands-on labs sponsored by BASF for 3D printing enthusiasts. Altair and solidThinking booths showcased our technology and its synergy with additive manufacturing. Over 100 different exhibitors and thousands of attendees made this a very exciting event.

Altair CEO, Jim Scapa, discussing the recent addition of Materialise to the Altair Partner Alliance

Altair CEO, Jim Scapa, discussing the recent addition of Materialise to the Altair Partner Alliance

25 different competitors joined the race, ranging from automotive manufacturers to software companies. Materialise provided the chassis and the rules for the final cars, but the design was completely up to each entrant. Our team used solidThinking Evolve® to design the car’s clear outer shell, and solidThinking Inspire® to design the inner shell. This helped to give the car a streamlined and aerodynamic look, while also making it structurally sound and able to survive any bumps or crashes on the course. 3-matic STL by Materialise, an upcoming addition to the Altair Partner Alliance, was used to prepare the car for 3D printing.

Structurally efficient inner roll cage designed in solidThinking Inspire®

Structurally efficient inner roll cage designed in solidThinking Inspire®

Clear outer shell designed in solidThinking Evolve®

Clear outer shell designed in solidThinking Evolve®

Final assembly of solidThinking SLAM

Final assembly of solidThinking SLAM


Our car was not the fastest on the track, but it was one of the most unique – we were greatly honored to receive the Most Innovative Use of Additive Manufacturing Award!


Check out solidThinking’s RAPID 2014 video below!



Thoughts from AMUG 2014

This past weekend, we had the opportunity to attend the 2014 Additive Manufacturing Users Group in Tucson, Arizona to showcase Inspire to the Additive Manufacturing community. Below is a brief summary of thoughts and observations regarding the conference.

AMUG Booth

To be a part of the 600+ attendees and exhibitors in one showroom showcasing the latest and greatest in 3D printing was a pleasure. From prosthetic legs to fully functional jet engines, anything and everything was 3D printed, no matter what shape, size, color or material. We also had the opportunity to attend several networking events where we met many people from different areas of the world who were passionate about 3D printing. This group ranged from graduate students to consulting firms to 3D print manufacturing companies.

While the conference consisted of a large number of attendees and exhibitors (600+), there appeared to be a familial atmosphere. This camaraderie may have been due to the open bar throughout the night; however, it was apparent that the group had developed relationships due to the 3D printing revolution. Being first time exhibitors at the conference, we were approached with many questions regarding our Inspire software. After demoing the software, some attendees went so far as to say we were revolutionizing the design community with the concept of simulation based design. Design engineers among attendees were excited at the new ownership of optimization that Inspire was able to provide.  For many, this proved to be a game changer to their traditional design process.


A few hours into the first day of the show, we saw a 3D printed part in our neighboring booth, Renishaw, which looked very familiar. To our surprise, Renishaw, a UK based manufacturer of metal-based additive manufacturing machines, was showcasing some pieces from their recently 3D printed bike frame which included parts designed with Inspire. To see the actual part was exciting after only seeing the concept in Inspire and pictures online. A recent article by DeZeen on this frame can be seen here, which includes a section explaining how Inspire helped Renishaw design this frame.

Inspire can be leveraged with 3D printing by generating concepts with no manufacturing constraints. When this is done a most efficient concept is generated, without the constraints of manufacturing processes like casting or stamping. In the past, Inspire’s “untreated” results were efficient, organic and optimized, but impossible to manufacture due to internal voids and hollow structures. Now these designs are possible to manufacture with 3D printing.

Simulation-Based Concept Design eBook

ebook_blogMany of you have heard us discuss the notion of simulation-based concept design, or conceptual simulation. My colleague, Tony Norton, covered the subject in some depth in his Optimize Early and Optimize Often! post back in December. To summarize, using computer-aided engineering (CAE) tools at the beginning of the conceptual design process helps to generate structural designs that are correct from the start. Using these “ideal” designs as a starting point in the design process can greatly speed up the product development process, as design iterations associated with prototype structural failures are largely eliminated.

Over the past couple of months, we have been working with Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insights to gather some hard data on the subject. We wanted to identify the goals and challenges of conceptual simulation, the impact of failed prototypes on the design process, and the challenges and roadblocks stopping companies from adopting the technology.

With that in mind, Lifecycle Insights launched the 2013 Simulation Driven Design Study. The study collected responses from over 1,000 individuals in total, spanning many different industries, and resulting in some extremely revealing data on the subject. Chad summarized the entire study in our free eBook entitled Simulation Based Concept Design: Setting the Right Context for Detailed Design.

Some of the key results from the study are summarized below:

•82% of respondents conduct conceptual simulation

•Top business objective for conceptual simulation is to reduce the number of failed prototypes

•Time is an obstacle hindering conceptual simulation, with little potential for mitigation

•Generating concept geometry for concept simulation is also a hindrance, with more than half of the respondents admitting to repurposing detailed designs for conceptual simulation

•Over 60% of respondents only use 3D models as the starting point for conceptual simulation instead of an iterative integration between CAD and CAE

This study not only helped us to learn about some of the goals and challenges of conceptual simulation, but also showed that organizations are truly starting to recognize its value. With new tools like solidThinking Inspire, conceptual simulation has now become much more accessible to all. Inspire’s easy-to-use interface allows not only simulation experts to use the software, but also design engineers and others working in the conceptual design phase of product development.



Industrial Design Evolution: solidThinking Evolve® 2014

Recently, we announced the launch of solidThinking Evolve® 2014. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with solidThinking Evolve, it is an industrial design tool that allows designers to design and develop forms, using either a Windows PC or Mac. Evolve allows users to capture an initial sketch, explore styling alternatives and visualize products with high-quality renderings generated in real time.

You will notice that Evolve sets itself apart from other industrial design offerings with what we like to call a “hybrid modeling approach”. This approach offers the best blend of organic surface freedom and parametric solid controls available for product design and architecture, giving designers almost unlimited freedom to help make their designs a reality.

This week, we ran an informational webinar introducing the new version and many of its new features. It also includes a brief, but informative introduction to the product itself. I would like to welcome you to view the on-demand webinar available below.

With the 2014 release of Evolve, we focused on introducing a new level of usability and efficiency. This release includes an enhanced user interface and refined workflow controls, allowing our users to develop forms faster than ever.

Some of the key new features included in Evolve 2014 include:

Live Linking™ to KeyShot® – Enables KeyShot scenes to be continuously updated directly from Evolve (view the press release here)

New Construction Aids and Scene Management – New and improved snaps, new isolate mode, better management of hiding/unhiding objects, and many new hotkeys to increase workflow efficiency

Enhanced User Interface Options – Simplified workflow for importing and controlling background images, new option to enable/disable selection pre-highlighting, and a mode to quickly disable curve visualization for better model evaluation

Improved Modeling Tools – Refined replication tools for a more intuitive workflow, increased surface control for the Round tool, and more robust deformation tools

We have produced a short video series outlining all of the new features, you may view it here:

One of our power users recently gave the team a stellar compliment, making us very happy:

“Each update you have added makes the program easier to use and more intuitive. Great stuff! Being able to turn off the pre-highlighting is very helpful. I often have to bring in full seat frame structures for packaging purposes and it is now much easier to organize the components I am working on. The new background image controls are excellent. The update takes a lot of guesswork out of bringing in images to use for modeling. This by far is the best update to the program!”

Thomas Hicks
Sr. Industrial Designer
Tier 1 Automotive Supplier

Thank you so much Thomas! We are thrilled to hear it. For anyone interested in more information on Evolve 2014 or if you are ready to request a free trial version, please visit our brand new Evolve 2014 webpage. And as always, feel free to submit any product questions to our “Ask an Expert” section of the blog.

Learn more about solidThinking Evolve 2014 – Webinar

As you probably know by now, a couple of weeks ago, we released the newest version of our industrial design software, Evolve 2014. This version includes multiple new features and has a strong focus on increasing usability and creating a more efficient workflow for our users.

We are very excited to show this version off to the world and have scheduled two FREE live webinars tomorrow, Tuesday, March 11th. The first is at 9:00am EDT and the second is at 2:00pm EDT. In these sessions we will go through a brief overview of the product and then jump right into a live demo where we will show you all of the new and exciting features of the product.

Once the webinar is complete, you can request a free trial version of Evolve.

If you would like to learn what’s new Register Now for one of our FREE Webinars!


Introducing solidThinking Evolve 2014

It is my pleasure to announce the official release of the newest version of our industrial design software, solidThinking Evolve 2014.


We have been listening carefully and collecting feedback from both veteran and new customers. With solidThinking  Evolve 2014, we focused on adding new features to make the existing workflow more efficient, the geometry even more robust, and to fine tune the most commonly used tools.

Some of the key new features in this release of solidThinking Evolve are:

  • New Construction Aids and Scene Management – Additional snaps added and improved existing snaps, new isolate mode and better management of hiding/unhiding objects, many new hotkeys added to increase workflow efficiency.
  • Enhanced User Interface Options – Simplified workflow for importing and controlling background images, added option to enable/disable selection pre-highlighting, as well as a mode to quickly disable curve visualization to better evaluate models.
  • Improved Modeling Tools – Revised Replication tools for more intuitive workflow, increased surface control for the Round tool, and added robustness to Deformation tools.
  • Live Linking to KeyShot – Enables KeyShot scenes to be continuously updated directly from Evolve.

I could tell you more about all of the great new features, but I rather just show you. Below you will find a series of What’s New in 2014 videos. These will give a brief overview of all of the new features in Evolve 2014. Additionally, we are offering you a great opportunity to see Evolve 2014 in action. Register for one of our two webinars on March 11th. In these webinars we will briefly be discussing the new features, and then will jump right into a live demo to show you how powerful Evolve 2014 is.

The infographic below shows some of the key new features.


If you would like to give Evolve 2014 a test run, feel free to request a free trial here.

Mickey Mouse, Mousetraps, and More


Our journey started last September when Design News and UBM Canon announced that they were accepting applications for this year’s Golden Mousetrap North American Design + Manufacturing Awards. The Golden Mousetrap Awards celebrate the success of the people, companies, and technologies that are driving progress in today’s design and manufacturing industries. With encouragement from the team, we nominated solidThinking Inspire® for the Design Tools: CAD/PDM/PLM Golden Mousetrap Award.

Fast-forward to this January. Design News announced that, from their largest application pool to date, the Advisory Board and content team had selected 57 different products in 16 different categories as finalists for the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards. These 57 finalists included three in the Design Tools CAD/PDM/PLM category, with solidThinking Inspire among them. The team couldn’t have been more excited to hear the news. That day we booked our flights to Orange County to attend the prestigious awards show, held during the Pacific Design and Manufacturing conference.

Arriving in California at John Wayne airport was a bit surreal. You may have heard by now that we are experiencing record snowfalls in Michigan this year. Landing in California was the first time I had actually seen grass in some time.  Enough about the weather, it was great!

The next morning we woke up early to attend Pacific Design and Manufacturing at the Anaheim Convention Center. This was a very large exposition to say the least. Walking the aisles we saw a huge range of different products, from large manufacturing line robots, to every kind of tiny medical device you can imagine.

The Golden Mousetrap awards ceremony was fast approaching so we made the short walk over to the Anaheim Marriot where it was to take place.

Design News had organized an extremely elegant reception with around 300 attendees and  standing room only. Fortunately for us, there was a section up front reserved for visitors from “finalist” companies.

In addition to conferring the Mousetrap awards, Design News recognized two other individuals for their contributions to the engineering world. The Rising Engineer of the Year Award went to Justine Haupt, who is working at the Brookhaven National Laboratory to design test systems for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. The latter is said to be the world’s largest digital camera. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to National Instruments’ founder, Dr. James Truchard.

The best comment of the night occurred when one of the speakers noted how ironic it was that they were giving out mousetrap awards within earshot of Mickey Mouse’s home, Disneyland!

Design News partnered with Stratasys to 3D print the actual Mousetrap awards. Prior to handing them out, a minute-long video was shown illustrating the process of designing and manufacturing the awards.

When the time came to start distributing the awards, we sat patiently and waited while many other worthy companies were honored. After a number of them had been announced, the time had come for the Design Tools: CAD/PDM/PLM category announcement. The presenters listed off all of the finalists and to our delight, solidThinking Inspire 9.5 was chosen as the 2014 winner of the Golden Mousetrap Award.

The entire experience was rewarding. We were thrilled to be named a finalist, let alone the winner.  Receiving this recognition from leading organization Design News is a testament to the hard work the solidThinking team has invested to create such a revolutionary product.

In closing, I wanted to congratulate all of the other finalists and winners, and thank Design News and UBM Canon for the opportunity to be recognized at the event.  Winning this prestigious award is a huge honor for us, but we won’t stop here. We are confident that upcoming releases of solidThinking Inspire will continue to surprise and delight our current and future users, all the while helping them to design products lighter, faster, and smarter.


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