SolidWorks 2012 displaying a 3D part in multiple views.
Developer(s) Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp.
Initial release November 1, 1995 (1995-11-01)[1]
Stable release
SolidWorks 2017 SP0.0
Operating system Microsoft Windows
Available in English
Type CAD and CAE
License Proprietary

SolidWorks (stylized as SOLIDWORKS) is a solid modeling computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided engineering (CAE) computer program that runs on Microsoft Windows. SolidWorks is published by Dassault Systèmes.

According to the publisher, over two million engineers and designers at more than 165,000 companies were using SolidWorks as of 2013.[2] Also according to the company, fiscal year 2011–12 revenue for SolidWorks totalled $483 million.[3]


SolidWorks Corporation was founded in December 1993 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate Jon Hirschtick. Hirschtick used $1 million he had made while a member of the MIT Blackjack Team to set up the company.[4] Initially based in Waltham, Massachusetts, United States, Hirschtick recruited a team of engineers with the goal of building 3D CAD software that was easy-to-use, affordable, and available on the Windows desktop. Operating later from Concord, Massachusetts, SolidWorks released its first product SolidWorks 95, in November 1995.[5][6] In 1997 Dassault, best known for its CATIA CAD software, acquired SolidWorks for $310 million in stock.[5] Jon Hirschtick stayed on board for the next 14 years in various roles. Under his leadership, SolidWorks grew to a $100 million revenue company.[7]

SolidWorks currently markets several versions of the SolidWorks CAD software in addition to eDrawings, a collaboration tool, and DraftSight, a 2D CAD product.

SolidWorks was headed by John McEleney from 2001 to July 2007 and Jeff Ray from 2007 to January 2011. The current CEO is Gian Paolo Bassi from Jan 2015. Gian Paolo Bassi replaces Bertrand Sicot, who is promoted Vice President Sales of Dassault Systèmes’ Value Solutions sales channel.

Release history

Name/Version Version History Value Release Date
SolidWorks 95 46 November 1995[1]
SolidWorks 96 270 Early 1996
SolidWorks 97 483 Late 1996
SolidWorks 97Plus 629 1997
SolidWorks 98 817 1997
SolidWorks 98Plus 1008 1998
SolidWorks 99 1137 1998
SolidWorks 2000 1500 1999
SolidWorks 2001 1750 2000
SolidWorks 2001Plus 1950 2001
SolidWorks 2003 2200 2002
SolidWorks 2004 2500 2003
SolidWorks 2005 2800 2004
SolidWorks 2006 3100 2005
SolidWorks 2007 3400 2006
SolidWorks 2008 3800 July 1, 2007
SolidWorks 2009 4100 January 28, 2008
SolidWorks 2010 4400 December 9, 2009
SolidWorks 2011 4700 June 17, 2010
SolidWorks 2012 5000 September, 2011
SolidWorks 2013 6000 September, 2012
SolidWorks 2014 7000 October 7, 2013
SolidWorks 2015 8000 September 9, 2014
SolidWorks 2016 9000 October 1, 2015
SolidWorks 2017 10000 September 19, 2016


DS Solidworks Corp. has sold over 1.5 million licenses of SolidWorks worldwide.[8] This includes a large proportion of educational licenses.[9] The Sheffield Telegraph comments that Solidworks is the world's most popular CAD software.[10] Its user base ranges from individuals to large corporations, and covers a very wide cross-section of manufacturing market segments. Commercial sales are made through an indirect channel, which includes dealers and partners throughout the world. In the United States, the first reseller of SolidWorks, in 1995, was Computer Aided Technology, Inc, headquartered in Chicago. Directly competitive products to SolidWorks include Solid Edge, and Autodesk Inventor. SolidWorks also partners with third party developers to add functionality in niche market applications like finite element analysis, circuit layout, tolerance checking, etc. SolidWorks has also licensed its 3D modeling capabilities to other CAD software vendors, notably ANVIL.[11]

Modeling technology

screen shot captured from a SolidWorks top-down design approach.

SolidWorks is a solid modeler, and utilizes a parametric feature-based approach to create models and assemblies. The software is written on Parasolid-kernel.

Parameters refer to constraints whose values determine the shape or geometry of the model or assembly. Parameters can be either numeric parameters, such as line lengths or circle diameters, or geometric parameters, such as tangent, parallel, concentric, horizontal or vertical, etc. Numeric parameters can be associated with each other through the use of relations, which allows them to capture design intent.

Design intent is how the creator of the part wants it to respond to changes and updates. For example, you would want the hole at the top of a beverage can to stay at the top surface, regardless of the height or size of the can. SolidWorks allows the user to specify that the hole is a feature on the top surface, and will then honor their design intent no matter what height they later assign to the can.

Features refer to the building blocks of the part. They are the shapes and operations that construct the part. Shape-based features typically begin with a 2D or 3D sketch of shapes such as bosses, holes, slots, etc. This shape is then extruded or cut to add or remove material from the part. Operation-based features are not sketch-based, and include features such as fillets, chamfers, shells, applying draft to the faces of a part, etc.

screen shot captured from a SolidWorks top-down design approach.

Building a model in SolidWorks usually starts with a 2D sketch (although 3D sketches are available for power users). The sketch consists of geometry such as points, lines, arcs, conics (except the hyperbola), and splines. Dimensions are added to the sketch to define the size and location of the geometry. Relations are used to define attributes such as tangency, parallelism, perpendicularity, and concentricity. The parametric nature of SolidWorks means that the dimensions and relations drive the geometry, not the other way around. The dimensions in the sketch can be controlled independently, or by relationships to other parameters inside or outside of the sketch.

In an assembly, the analog to sketch relations are mates. Just as sketch relations define conditions such as tangency, parallelism, and concentricity with respect to sketch geometry, assembly mates define equivalent relations with respect to the individual parts or components, allowing the easy construction of assemblies. SolidWorks also includes additional advanced mating features such as gear and cam follower mates, which allow modeled gear assemblies to accurately reproduce the rotational movement of an actual gear train.

Finally, drawings can be created either from parts or assemblies. Views are automatically generated from the solid model, and notes, dimensions and tolerances can then be easily added to the drawing as needed. The drawing module includes most paper sizes and standards (ANSI, ISO, DIN, GOST, JIS, BSI and SAC).

File format

SolidWorks files (previous to version 2015) use the Microsoft Structured Storage file format. This means that there are various files embedded within each SLDDRW (drawing files), SLDPRT (part files), SLDASM (assembly files) file, including preview bitmaps and metadata sub-files. Various third-party tools (see COM Structured Storage) can be used to extract these sub-files, although the subfiles in many cases use proprietary binary file formats.

See also


  1. 1 2 "The future of Solidworks". September 27, 2011. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  2. Opening statement by CEO Bertrand Sicot at 2013 Solidworks World YouTube Video Link.
  3. SolidWorks Fact Sheet, July 30, 2012.
  4. Bob Tremblay (March 26, 2008). "Former MIT blackjack team member talks about breaking the bank". Galesburg Register News.
  5. 1 2 Solidworks Company History. Solidworks company website
  6. Solidworks Company Information, Solidworks company website
  7. "Exclusive: SolidWorks vets raise $64 million for Onshape".
  8. "Thanks for helping us reach our millionth license!". SolidWorks. April 30, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-12.
  10. "Solid finds solution in business park switch". The Sheffield Telegraph. December 10, 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
  11. "ANVIL EXPRESS® SOLIDWORKS® Connectivity". MCS ANVIL. September 2009. Retrieved 2011-04-15.
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