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Architosh Talks to solidThinking about the Mac and industrial design

In this interview, Architosh speaks with both Robert (Bob) Little and Alex Mazzardo about Altair’s decision to buy solidThinking and what it means for the company, how solidThinking will expand its footprint in the United States, and why solidThinking should be the preferred choice of industrial designers everywhere.

Back in July of this year brothers Alessandro and Mario Mazzardo, co-founders of solidThinking, a global leader in the market for industrial design software, were acquired by Altair Engineering, Inc, a privately-held US corporation with 1400 employees in four continents. Robert Little, previous president of Altair Engineering Canada, Ltd., has since become president of solidThinking, Inc., an Altair Company, while the original founders Alessandro and Mario Mazzardo, will serve as Vice Presidents of Product Strategy and Marketing and Product Strategy and Management, respectively. 

Continued product development will be based out of offices now in both Troy, Michigan and Vicenza, Italy. 

Altair Engineering, Inc., is a global leader in engineering software solutions with a particularly strong position in CAE (computer-aided engineering). Its Altair HyperWorks product is an industry leading CAE solution and the company offers products and consulting services in product innovation and development. The company is particularly well suited to serve engineering and product development companies and their design studios with a product like solidThinking in its portfolio. We start this talk with some background behind the acquisition. 

The Interview

Anthony Frausto-Robledo (AFR): What was Altair’s decision to purchase solidThinking? What was the motivation behind doing that and where does the company plan on taking this unique product?

Bob Little (BL): We studied the market and saw that design studios were a special type of place in the product development world, where a lot of C-level type executives spent a lot of time. You know, you always see a place in the parking lot for the C-level executive outside the design studio but you don’t see a similar spot for them outside engineering.

AFR: So why solidThinking?

Bob: We developed a special design group to help us serve our customers. We became very familiar with the conceptual design process. And in solidThinking we discovered some impressive software technology, impressive innovation in the product, and also a similar fanatical culture about serving the customer. 

AFR: What did your industrial designers think? What products did they use in the studio?

Bob: Our industrial designers used the tools they had been using, like AliasStudio and Rhino. But Alex and his brother came in and did full presentations and showed them what solidThinking can do and can’t do and they became very convinced that this was a tool that enabled them to excel at industrial design. 

AFR: What would you say are the key strengths of solidThinking compared to Alias Studio and Rhino? 

Alessandro Mazzardo (Alex): solidThinking is unique in its class. We have a matchless feature in our “construction tree” that allows the designer to be more fluid in the design process than anything out there. Designers also love our built-in rendering capabilities which are quite strong. And lastly — and this is becoming more important — designers who want to work on the Mac love that solidThinking not just runs on the Mac but shines on it.

01 - solidThinking is not just an advanced NURBS modeler but a complete environment for industrial design.

01 - solidThinking is not just an advanced NURBS modeler but a complete environment for industrial design. It is a global leader in CAID (computer-aided industrial design) and one of just a few such programs that serves both Windows and Apple's Mac OS X operating systems.

The thing is, solidThinking is not just a modeling tool. It is 3D environment made specifically for industrial designers. It allows them to be free and creative in a way they can’t be with other software solutions. This fluidity is key where we have tested it within the Italian design market. Italian [design] firms are renowned for their attention to style and detail. Many Italian products have made or make their designs as key market differentiators from their competition. Serving this market with solidThinking challenged us to develop a software product whose goal was not just about building 3D models but about exploiting the user’s creativity. solidThinking is a constant source of inspiration for designers. 

02 - solidThinking's Construction Tree.

02 - solidThinking's construction tree palette.

AFR: Do you find that industrial designers are looking at the Mac now, more than before?

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