Closed for Business

Posted on January 9th, 2017. Posted In Personal,SolidWorks Community



I guess I’m just stating the obvious here, but Jeff’s Tool Shed is closed for business.

It’s been a great 10-year run, but I just don’t have the time to properly do you, my reader, justice with my (lack of) writing. Somehow, I don’t think sporadic two-paragraph posts about nothing are the way to go. 2017 isn’t just the end of Jeff’s Tool Shed, though. It will also be when I stop using SolidWorks on an almost daily basis, step down as leader of the Seattle Area SolidWorks Power User Group (we were first, Phil!) and it will be my final SolidWorks World.

Some months ago, I became manager of Technical Services for the company I work for. In a nutshell, I handle all post-sales customer services. These new duties include quite a bit of travel and no design. While I still have some design duties right now, they will be moved to others here in the coming months. This wasn’t a decision that I rushed into, but it is one that I am at peace with. After almost 20 years of using SolidWorks, it will be strange to not be. However, I love my new role here and truly enjoy being able to travel the world and see places I never imagined I would.

SolidWorks World will be rather bittersweet, but I am happy that I’ll be able to hang out with my fellow geeks one last time. I’ve had some incredible times at the 9 I’ve had the pleasure of attending and am looking forward to this last one. I’ve made some good friends because of SolidWorks and I’ll always be thankful for each of you. I would expect a ‘heads up’ if you’re up in Seattle so that we can break bread together and enjoy a drink or two.

Go Pats!!


Jeff – out.

SOLIDWORKS 2016 – It’s almost here

Posted on October 5th, 2015. Posted In SolidWorks Community

The official release of SOLIDWORKS 2016 is just around the corner and I, for one, am excited for it. While I was a bit taken aback by the UI change, I didn’t have the negative reaction to it that some have had. Much of the uproar reminds me of the last UI change back in 2008, but I’m sure the detractors will come around just as they did then.

While I plan on posting about some of my favorite changes over the next couple of weeks, this post is strictly for two bits of information for you, my loyal reader. One, if you haven’t seen SOLIDWORKS 2016 yet, where have you been? You need to get your butt to a reseller event to see all the “what’s new” demos. There are a few things in there that should put a really big smile on your face. You can go here to find a list of events in your area. Two, I’m sure you’ve heard about SOLIDWORKS World before. How about getting your conference pass paid for? SOLIDWORKS is giving away three passes to the three top vote getters in their T-Shirt Contest. You can get all the details here.

Rachel York – SolidWorks’ New Voice

Posted on July 8th, 2015. Posted In Interview

Rachel and her Dad


In today’s post we’ll become better acquainted with Rachel York, SolidWorks’ newest voice. She is the Community and User Advocacy Manager for SolidWorks or, perhaps more aptly put, the face of SolidWorks. Rather than trying to paraphrase everything, I’ll just let Rachel do the talking: […Read More…]

Mike Puckett

Talking Certification

Anyone who has been a part of the SOLIDWORKS community for any length of time probably knows of Mike. Some of us remember when he was just a humble blogger before he was beamed up to the SOLIDWORKS mothership to join the certification team. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was jealous of this, not that I’m holding a grudge. I mean he deserved it, I guess. It’s not like I was in the running for the position. Hell, I didn’t even know about the position. You’d think, though, that I would have at least been asked if I was interested…oh, look, a butterfly. […Read More…]

SolidWorks World 2013 – Prologue

Posted on January 18th, 2013. Posted In Personal,SolidWorks Community

I’m sitting at gate C9 at Seattle-Tacoma international airport waiting to board my red-eye flight to Orlando, and the magical time that is SolidWorks WorldThis yearbit more special for two reasons. One, I missed last year due to family reasons. Two, is a personal, but highly important reason. Important enough that I brought a button down shirt. No, it has nothing to do with a job.

Moving on…I only have one employee interview lined up, but I’m meeting with a few vendors with my sights set on a few more. I’ll be attending some breakout sessions this year as well, which is something I haven’t been able to do as often as I’d like. I’mreally looking forward to seeing Richard Doyle’s presentation on surfacing.

I have to admit that I feel a bit out of touch this year. It’s like missing a year through me off somehow. Relationships that I’d developed with DS employees, with the partner channel and with fellow users and bloggers didn’t get recharged last year. There will be excessive amounts of handshakes this year to make up for last year.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy people watching at the airport. The cross-section of humanity that you get to see never ceases to amaze me. I’m just hoping the couple with the two young, screaming, children know about benedryl, or I’m going to be a zombie tomorrow when I’m driving to Vero Beach.

If you’re on twitter, be sure to follow me for my incessant tweets from Orlando. You can find me @jeffmirisola. I’ll be blogging as often as possible, too. And, if you’re going to be there, be sure to say hi if you see me!

The Man from Down Under

Posted on May 28th, 2012. Posted In Interview,SolidWorks Community

While he never mentioned anything about Vegemite sandwiches, there’s no doubting Michale Lord’s roots. He was born in Fairfield, New South Whales, Australia, a suburb of Sydney, so one can only assume that said sandwiches are part of his daily caloric intake. I mean it’s either Vegemite or shrimp on the barbie in Australia, right?

By his recollection, he started building things around the age of 9 or 10. He was always modifying bikes or building billy carts (what we Americans call soapbox cars). He also enjoyed damming up the creek by his house and then blowing it up with fireworks. Like so many of us, Michael also enjoyed taking things apart to see how they worked, such as clocks. Also like many of us, they never went back together. There were also the mandatory experiments with electricity (240V, not our wimpy 110V). By ‘experiment’, I mean he removed switch covers and then got zapped by it. Isn’t that how we all learned?

Michael figures his interest in design came about because of the era he grew up in (late 60’s/early 70’s). Couple the lunar landing with a neighbor who had stacks of Popular Mechanic magazines and another young boy was sucked into the glamorous world of design.

I’m a bit confused by the Australian education system, but what I am able to figure out is that Michael left school at 15 and got an apprenticeship in Carpentry and Joinery. It was assumed that he’d go on to college, having come in first in mathematics, technical drawing and woodwork, so his decision left many scratching their heads. However, Michael has no regrets. His career path eventually brought him (back) to Trakka Ply Limited, an Australian RV customizer, where he brought them into modern times by introducing them to AutoCAD and then to SolidWorks.

The switch to SolidWorks was, and I quote, “the start of the greatest change in both how we designed but also how we manufactured”. They used to have to wait for a vehicle to show up before they could begin measuring, etc. With SolidWorks, they’re able to get the vehicle files from the manufacturer and design everything prior to the vehicle arriving, saving tons of man hours in the process. They’ve also realized savings of floor space, in marketing costs and in build time.

In 2011, Michael made the trip to SolidWorks World as the winner of the SolidWorks World Correspondent Contest. It was something he absolutely didn’t expect as his entry was meant to entertain himself by ribbing his American friends. Well, Michael, the joke was on you…sort of.

Aside from traveling to SolidWorks World, Michael enjoys being the father of 20-year old triplets, playing around with SolidWorks, some chess and road trips. Sounds like a great life!


Picture stolen from



If you were to close your eyes and imagine what the stereotypical New Englander sounds like, there’s a good chance you’d hear a voice similar to Joy Garon’s. Every time I get the opportunity to talk with her, I’m immediately whisked home to Andover, where I grew up. She has enough “Boston-ness” to offset the fact that she, a die-hard Red Sox fan, married a Yankee fan. Well, mostly anyway. So, in honor Joy, and her awesome New England accent, I’m going to write this interview with a New England accent.

Joy stahted her design careeah at the tendah age of seventeen as a draftah/designah. At eighteen, she joined GE Aircraft Engine group as a tool designah, while continuing her education at night. (Side note: you’ll just have to affect the accent yourself now. It’s too difficult type) It was here that she was first exposed to CAD/CAM. They used ComputerVision and Joy was quick to realize the value of 3D design. It was her love of 3D, coupled with her love of computers that propelled her to jet a job at ComputerVision. While working there, she spent time dealing with large automotive companies domestically and internationally. Becoming involved with data management was a necessity at this point of her career. She also met some of the founders of SolidWorks while at ComputerVision.

Joy left ComputerVision and went to work at SmarTeam, becoming more involved with data management. She started realizing the the challenges of implementing data management and PLM at smaller companies. In 2001, she left SmarTeam to join SolidWorks as a Product Manager for data management.

When she first joined SolidWorks, she was more of a technical product manager, which is where her passion lies. As the position evolved into more of a business management position, she decided to join the training team so she could continue to remain a techie and prepare herself for a teaching career when she retires.

The training department as SolidWorks is responsible for writing all of those wonderful books that the VARs use to teach all those lucky enough to go to training. Much of Joy’s time is spent working with pre-release software, creating all those cool exercises in the books. Then, of course, all those books need to be translated into umpteen languages.

What Joy failed to mention was the fact that she travels all over the world to provide training from one of the best. Asia, Australia, Eastern Europe. Joy is all over the map. (Strangely, I can’t seem to get her out here for a SASPUG meeting…) Joy is also a fixture at SolidWorks World and her PDM sessions are always well attended. Should she ever make it to your neck of the woods, you’d be doing yourself a favor to let her learn ya.


Picture stolen from

Rick Chin – SolidWorks’ Innovator

Posted on February 14th, 2011. Posted In SolidWorks Community

Another SolidWorks employee that got to suffer through my attempt at being a journalist at SolidWorks World 2011 was Rick Chin, Director of Product Innovation. A Mechanical Engineer by education, Rick is another shining star in the SolidWorks Universe. He holds no less than five patents, has worked for McDonnell Douglas and Pratt & Whitney, spent some time with PTC before joining SolidWorks as its 17th overall employee. He then ventured out on his own for a few years before returning to (his senses) SolidWorks in 2006 in his current role. Rick invented eDrawings, FilletXpert and DraftXpert, just to name a few of his great ideas.

As the Director of Product Innovation he spends his time trying to think up new ideas for SolidWorks. However, rather than identifying new technology and building a product around it, Rick prefers to focus on customer frustrations and come up with ways to alleviate them. This doesn’t pertain to features, though. Rick’s job isn’t to fix, say, angle mate issues, it’s to come up with new products that can help various segments of the customer base. Where SolidWorks’ customer base is so diverse, he has to choose a segment and then discover what gets them worked up. By surveying and visiting, he finds the things that don’t just annoy people, but get an intense, vein popping reaction. Why? because he, in particular, and SolidWorks, want you to be emotionally invested in the product. If he solves a minor annoyance, you’ll say “thanks”, and move on. If he gives you a tool that decreases your daily vein popping time, you’re going to be nominating him for the CAD industry equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize, brag to your friends about the wonders of SolidWorks, and name (or re-name) your first born after him. So, in a nutshell, Rick finds a segment, discover what pisses them off, conceptualizes and then delivers the next greatest thing since sliced bread.

How does Rick do this, you ask? Easy. He looks for the “absurdly ideal” solution. He “gives himself permission” to come up with any solution, as impossible or insane as it may be. It’s from there that he can look around and see better where he actually needs to be. He then pares down from impossible to probable, followed by searching for technologies that fit into the probable category. It’s through this process that add-ins like Sustainability are borne. Actually, ‘adopted’ may be a more apt term. Ideally, Rick will be able to find an existing technology that will work rather than to have to develop something in-house. It’s just the nature of the beast. Companies, or individuals, are always coming up with new things which, ultimately, end up out there for public consumption. Why recreate the wheel when you can just modify it to fit your application?

One thing to understand about Rick, and his duties, is that he works off to the side of the main product. While he was involved with Sustainability, nothing he’s worked, or working, on will be in 2012. After the release of Sustainability, he went through another investigative process but nothing came to fruition. After hearing this, I asked him what he was working on now. I was surprised when he answered, on the record.

What, you want to know what’s going on behind the curtain? Well, it’s probably not too Earth-shattering, but he’s investigating new ways for CAD, users and hardware to interact. Somewhere between where we are now, with mice and keyboards and monitors, and ‘Iron Man’. While Rick doesn’t envision a designer waving his or her arms about for 8 hours a day, they’re looking at multi-touch and gesture hardware. The goal is something that will enhance the user experience, while being easy to use, productive and, perhaps most importantly, cost effective. There’s no point in coming up with something that’s going to cost $20,000. Further to the point, the hope is that you’ll be able to stop thinking about the user interface and just do it, that it will become more of a right-brained activity. As of right now, they’ve identified some technologies and are developing prototypes. Some time in the next few years, you may be interfacing with SolidWorks in a completely new, but totally cool way.

Picture stolen from

During SolidWorks World 2011, I sat down with Asheen Phansey, Sustainability Product Manager of SolidWorks, to find out a bit more about him and what drives him. I’ve enjoyed giving Asheen a hard time about being a tree hugger, among other things, but all of it in jest. For one, I think sustainability is important. Two, the passion that Asheen has for his job, and how it can help make the world a better place, is incredible. About the only thing that makes him even more lively is when he talks about his new-born son.

First off, Asheen is a smart guy. His undergrad is in Chemical Engineering and he spent much of his time in bio-tech, with some time in Aerospace and Software. He came to the realization that while he really enjoyed hi-tech, his values were in sustainability. Having seen all the steps from R&D, through manufacturing and out to market, he wondered about making each of those steps more sustainable. He went back to school, got his MBA and opened his own consultancy business. It’s this sustainability “street cred” that attracted SolidWorks to Asheen. Even though he lacked the CAD background, he is the ultimate sustainability evangelist. With 400,000 commercial customers available, Asheen has his work cut out for him in bringing sustainability to all.  They (should have asked for clarification on who ‘they’ are, but I’m a lousy journalist) did some calculations and figured out there are 1,000,000,000 physical objects that are designed (in SolidWorks), manufactured and sold each year. He figures if there was a 5% energy reduction across the board, that would be enough to take a power plant offline. It’s these kind of things that gets him excited.

Delving further into the murkiness that is Asheen’s mind, I discovered that he is an Eagle Scout and it is in his scouting days that his sustainability addiction is rooted. All the nights spent under the stars gave him a love of nature and the want to keep it around. He also sees sustainability as a business advantage, which isn’t hard to understand. With so many people (read: consumers) trying to do their part to help the environment, businesses that can advertise that they’re shrinking their carbon footprint can help increase their bottom line.

It was at this point in our conversation that I had to ask Asheen to give me an overview of Sustainability in SolidWorks, as I haven’t really looked at it. He calmly explained where the data came from and how it was used. He also explained that SolidWorks’ philosophy was that designers wouldn’t want to go elsewhere for the info, it had to be seamlessly integrated. By filling in a few parameters in the Sustainability Dashboard, you can find out the carbon footprint of your design, lifecycle energy, etc, and will then automatically update as you change your design. It will also help you to find alternate, more green, materials. Ones that have the same properties as what you need/want, but that won’t have as much of a negative impact on the environment.

While no one industry appears to be leaning more towards sustainability than another, he has seen more of the companies at the end of the value chain moving towards it. Those companies are the ones that are feeling the consumer pressure to be more environmentally aware. Suppliers of those companies are starting to feel the pressure as well. Wal-Mart actually scores their suppliers and gives the high scorers preferred vendor status. McDonald’s, IBM and P&G were also mentioned.

Asheen loves what he does. His passion for sustainability is almost palpable. Once you get him started on the subject, he’ll talk forever. This, in my opinion, is an excellent quality in a product manager and can only lead to success for SolidWorks Sustainability. He has me convinced, now I just need to convince the powers-that-be.

Last two thoughts: I need to stop interjecting my little sidebars into conversations; I end up sounding foolish. I don’t like the sound of my own voice.

Photo stolen from the SolidWorks Blog.

SolidWorks World 2011

Posted on January 23rd, 2011. Posted In SolidWorks Community

Currently, I’m in a plane 37,000 feet above the ground on my way to SolidWorks World 2011. This will be my 6th time attending SWW, and I’m just as excited for this one as I was my first one in 2006. For me, it’s a reunion, a learning experience and a vacation all rolled up into one trip.
As a wide-eyed newbie in 2006, I was unprepared for the size of SWW. I really didn’t know anyone and felt a bit lost. Over the years, as my blog picked up readers, and I met my fellow bloggers, other users and SolidWorks employees, traveling to SWW took on much more importance to me. My need to be there was greater.
Even though I know that those who read this blog also read other blogs, I still like to be able to share my experiences, my views. I think that where I’m fortunate enough to be able to attend SWW, it’s my duty to share it with as many as possible.
Then there’s the learning experience. While much of my time will be taken up with some interviews, as well as lining up new reviews, I still hope to be able to attend a few sessions. Learning the nuances of SolidWorks, from actual users, is a treasure trove of info that you won’t find in a manual or video training or from an AE. These people are like you and I, sitting in front of their computer figuring this stuff out.
Then there’s the Humanus SolidWorkus factor. While there are hundreds of thousands of SolidWorks users, it seems that only a small percentage of them are as enamored with it as I am. Being able to be surrounded by like-minded individuals helps to provide a sense of normalcy to my geekiness. I only wish it were more than once a year.
So whether you’re reading to learn more about SolidWorks, its partner products, or to experience SWW vicariously through me, I hope you enjoy the upcoming posts from San Antonio. I know I’m going to enjoy the experiences that will provide their content.

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