Company NewsJanuary 4, 2022

Dassault Systèmes at 40: From French startup to global enterprise

The journey from CAD drawings of airplanes to virtual twins of cities, spacecraft and humans isn’t a straight line, but it does have a through line. And that through line is the story of Dassault Systèmes’ first 40 years.
Avatar Patrick Ball

The journey from CAD drawings of airplanes to virtual twins of cities, spacecraft and humans isn’t a straight line, but it does have a through line. And that through line is the story of Dassault Systèmes’ first 40 years.

You know Dassault Systèmes as a global leader in innovation, with about 20,000 employees in 140 different countries and a portfolio of 12 brands serving over 290,000 customers across 11 different industries. We’re a science-based company pushing the envelope on sustainable innovation. In 2022, our solutions are quite literally shaping the world around us – touching sneakers, semiconductors, vaccines, satellites, cities, and basically everything in between.

We started smaller. Forty years ago, Dassault Systèmes was a spinoff of Dassault Aviation. In 1981, we were just an R&D lab with 20 or so people concentrated on a single industry – aerospace – with just one single brand: CATIA.  

Dassault Systèmes’ progression from French startup to global enterprise has been a story of evolutions and revolutions. Every step, every pivot, every partnership and every acquisition has been oriented around the mission of making a positive impact on society. About a decade ago, our purpose crystallized around the commitment of providing businesses and people with 3DEXPERIENCE universes to imagine sustainable innovations capable of harmonizing product, nature and life.

What follows is an abridged timeline that hits some of the highlights along our journey from aerospace spinoff to global leader shaping 21st Century industry. For more of the story, visit the About 3DS page.

Five distinct periods in 3DS history

  • 1981-1989 – 3D Design 3D design marked the dawn of three-dimensional design of parts and assemblies.
  • 1989-1999 – 3D Digital Mock-Up 3D parts can now be assembled to simulate a complete virtual mock-up, enabling the replacement of physical prototypes.
  • 1999-2012 – 3D Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) The entire lifecycle of a product’s development – from design to retirement/recycling – can now take place in 3D, enabling improved process management and product innovation. 
  • 2012-2020 – 3DEXPERIENCE The 3DEXPERIENCE platform is a digital platform that connects people, ideas, data and solutions, helps connects companies create differentiated experiences for their clients, allowing a more consumer-centric approach at a time when consumers put greater value on usage than the product itself.
  • 2020-present – 3DEXPERIENCE from Things to Life With the advent of virtual twins for people, the human body can now be modeled and tested as precisely, safely and effectively as products in traditional industry, such as cars, buildings or airplanes.

Key dates in 3DS history

  • 1981 – Dassault Systèmes is created after spinoff from Dassault Aviation; strategic partnership with IBM is launched; 3DS branches beyond aerospace and begins working with automotive manufacturers
  • 1982: CATIA version 1 is introduced
  • 1994: 3DS expands focus to seven industries, adding fabrication and assembly, consumer goods, high-tech, shipbuilding and energy.
  • 1995: Bernard Charlès becomes President and CEO of Dassault Systèmes
  • 1996: Initial public offering in Paris and listing on NASDAQ; 3DS is organized into two business segments: process-centric (PLM) and design-centric
  • 1997: SOLIDWORKS is acquired
  • 1998: the ENOVIA brand is launched for product data management
  • 1999: PLM is introduced for 3D design, simulation analysis, digital manufacturing and product management
  • 2000: the DELMIA brand is launched for digital manufacturing
  • 2005: Abaqus realistic simulation software is acquired and relaunched as the SIMULIA brand; 3DS expands from seven to 11 industries
  • 2007: the 3DVIA brand is launched to extend 3D visualization for non-CAD users
  • 2010: EXALEAD is acquired for structured and unstructured search with data analytics
  • 2010: 3DS acquires IBM’s sales and support force for the PLM software business
  • 2012: NETVIBES is acquired for intelligent dashboarding and social media monitoring
  • 2012: Gemcom is acquired for geologic modeling and mining engineering and relaunched as the GEOVIA brand
  • 2012: The 3DEXPERIENCE platform is introduced
  • 2013: Apriso is acquired for manufacturing operations management software and integrated into the DELMIA brand
  • 2014: Accelrys is acquired for biological, chemical and materials modeling and simulation software and relaunched as the BIOVIA brand
  • 2014: Quintiq is acquired for operations planning and optimization software and integrated into DELMIA
  • 2015: Dassault Systèmes changes legal status to European Company
  • 2018: Acquired majority stake in Centric Software for fashion and retail
  • 2019: Medidata Solutions is acquired for clinical trial software
  • 2020: 3DS acquires NuoDB, developer of a cloud-native distributed SQL database management system, and Proxem, a specialist in AI-powered semantic processing software and services

Of course, acquisitions are only part of the story. Over the past 40 years, we’ve forged strategic partnerships with major players, such as Boeing in aerospace, Bouygues Construction and Renault Group in the automotive industry. And these last few years have seen us on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19, with Medidata supporting clinical trials for Moderna and others developing coronavirus vaccines.

To paraphrase the astronomer and author Carl Sagan, you have to know the past to understand the present and appreciating where you’ve come from lets you look forward to the road ahead. In the coming months, we’ll share more posts like this one, that look back at Dassault Systèmes history and how all of our experiences have prepared us for a future of harmonizing product, nature and life.

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