Zenith Aircraft Company visited SolidWorks, designers of the SOLIDWORKS computer-aided design software offered free as an EAA member benefit, to assist employees on their first homebuilding project.
The two companies first met at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016 when SolidWorks was announcing their software as a free EAA member benefit. The SOLIDWORKS software is not only a useful tool to homebuilders, which is how many of EAA’s members use the program, but it also allows manufacturers like Zenith to develop kits that offer quicker build times, for example by allowing for final hole-size match-drilled assemblies. SolidWorks representatives were impressed to by how Zenith was using their software to manufacture kit parts and to learn that airplanes could be built by amateurs, so they took what they learned back home.
In early 2017 SolidWorks CEO Gian Paolo Bassi visited Zenith along with a few employees to see how kits are manufactured with help of SOLIDWORKS software and CNC machines. He was so enamored by the kits that he ordered a CH 750 Cruzer kit to be constructed as a staff build.
In late May Zenith President Sebastien Heintz, his son Calvin, and employee Roger Dubbert, along with EAA’s membership development manager Cory Puuri, visited SolidWorks headquarters to help kick off the assembly. Employees from throughout SolidWorks, including software engineers, management, and interns, participated in the first day of the build. None had ever participated in an aircraft build before.
“These employees are skilled computer coders, software engineers and managers, and not aircraft builders,” Sebastien said. “Their enthusiasm was fueled by the quick progress of the assembly. They were able to complete the rear fuselage assembly in a single day.”
Since then, SolidWorks employees have been steadily chipping away at continuing the build.
“Building is going slow, but it is deliberate,” said Suchit Jain, SolidWorks VP of strategy and business development, who was one of the representatives to visit AirVenture. “We would like to involve as many employees as possible probably we will take six months to finish.”
Once complete, SolidWorks plans to allow employees to fly the airplane virtually, using AR/VR technology to create a digital twin of the Zenith.