Gray Unicorn

The end of Solidworks

I was really happy using Solidworks. I joined the EAA mainly because the membership gave me access to an educational version of Solidworks. The educational version was everything, for free, though not to be used for commercial projects. Solidworks is the best 3D design package I have ever used, of course I was happy with that as I wasn't selling any designs. I hoped maybe one day I would and then paying thousands for Solidworks would be fine with me. Seems smart to catch those who might spend many hours learning a package and want to stick with it after commercial success, right?

Then I got an email from EAA membership advising that the Solidworks license was changing and I would have to pay $49 for a "Maker" license to continue use. No problem, fair price, or so I thought. I paid little attention for a month until I rebuilt the PC as Mini-ITX and reinstalled Windows. Then I had to reinstall Solidworks.

Then on going through the Solidworks installation process I found an incredibly slow web portal in the way. The only way to launch Solidworks is via this web portal. It is glacial! On installation I found that Solidworks had removed the ability to load or save designs locally, just as Fusion360 had done. There's an "export" option to get a STL locally but no local "Save".

When I have a terabyte of fast SSD locally there is no way I will make a round trip to the Solidworks cloud every time the program needs to access storage! This kind of nonsense is what stopped me from using Fusion360. One day you have a functioning application, the next you are off to make a cup of tea every time a design loads. Maybe it's less bad if you have fast fibre internet but I don't.

So congratulations Dassault Systèmes - you have lost me, and judging from the reaction on the EAA forums, everyone who was using Solidworks on EAA. "At least buying Alibre, you don't have to worry about Lucy pulling the football away...." said one EAA forum user.

What's next? I've tried a couple of things. Windows-only doesn't really bother me, though I love the way I can't make the fans on the M1 Mac spin at all.

Fusion360 is cloud also, I won't look at that again as long as that is true.

OpenSCAD doesn't really appeal. I prefer to design visually.

Blender is a whole other beast - I know it's good, but it's very different. Not looking yet.

FreeCAD seems OK but really, really lacks polish. It's free.

Alibre Atom 3D is so far pretty good, not snappy, though it looks like a reasonable package for the things I need to do. I'm experimenting with some GPU settings their support page recommends and will continue the trial. The price is a few hundred dollars, locally. I think it probably is a few hundred dollars better than FreeCAD and it's the front-runner so far.

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