Product Reviews: SolidWorks 2001
Early last month we were visited
by SolidWorks to preview the soon to be released SolidWorks 2001. John
McEleney, VP of the Americas, discussed the company and their direction,
while the versatile Joe Dunne, Field Technical Manager, demonstrated
the new features.
SolidWorks continues on its roll.
The company has 230 resellers worldwide, 110,000 seats of which 60,000
are commercial, 300 solution partners, and now has more than 300 people
employed by SolidWorks.
SolidWorks software in 2000 probably
generated in excess of $350 million for what president Jon Hirschtik
calls the SolidWorks "ecosystem." Definitely very impressive. Filling
the channel from the engineers in training is a priority with the company.
McEleney estimated that they have 50,000 licenses in educational institutions.
Our observations on the product
Joe Dunne performed a demonstration
of many of the key features of SolidWorks 2001, which is due to be released
some time in February of this year. We did not have time to review all
of the changes, only the highlights. This release contains over 150
enhancements. We had a chance to review the new heads up display, sketching
improvements, callouts, additions to sheetmetal functions, and new surfacing
additions, Smart Fasteners, improved assembly functions, and drawing
enhancements. As is their custom, SolidWorks will soon publish a what's
new document for the new release. Check with their web site.
If you want to follow along with
this review we have posted images on our web site which highlights much
of what we reviewed. Click
here to view these images.
The heads-up display eliminates
many of the dialog boxes that covered the geometry in the previous version
of SolidWorks. It provides the interactive functionality without diverting
the users attention away for the problem at hand. We also saw that as
the system was marching through the development of the sketch in particular,
the property manger was updating as well. So, the user can actually
type directly by clicking and have it automatically entered into the
property manager on the left side. Dimensioning is also enhanced. When
you are in the dimensioning command, it is easier to modify dimensions
as well as generate them. Callouts are also used in solid modeling,
as well as sketching, to show geometric relations and to display related
information. Look at the image entitled sketch.jpg
to review the callouts in the boxes on the sketch. Also look at headsup.jpg
for callouts on solids.
There are significant new enhancements
that SolidWorks has made to the sheet metal operation that make it easier
to use. The focus, and the SolidWorks differentiator, is on building
sheet metal parts in the context of an assembly - using top down design.
Users can start with a standard SolidWorks 3D model, then add sheet
metal capabilities while using standard SolidWorks functionality to
maintain the sheet metal design in the context of the assembly.
Some of the new capabilities include
Sketch Bend, Auto Flange, Dynamic Drag of Tabs, and the ability to develop
the design in either in 2D or 3D mode. We also saw the capability to
automatically insert bend reliefs and place mitered corners with offset.
SolidWorks uses Excel based bend tables; users thus edit the excel spreadsheet
to develop their own bend parameters, if desired. There are 13 images
that illustrate sheetmetal in more detail here.
Smart Features and drawing enhancements
Smart Features automatically add
fasteners to the holes in the assembly. Logic has been added to the
system from a partnership between SolidWorks and CimLogic, a company
recently purchased by SolidWorks. For instance, if holes were designed
using the Hole Wizard, then fasteners can automatically be populated.
Fastener might be defined as a bolt and a nut, but this could be modified
later to add, for instance, washers on either side. Once the fasteners
are placed there are options available to the user to change them by
groups. So for instance, in one face if you wanted to have all the fasteners
have washers; they can be changed by just changing one instance. The
fasteners that are placed understand the standards of the hole in which
they will be placed, in terms of the thread depth, fastening nuts, etc.
If a hole changes in size, the system would change the fastener associated
to that hole to the next standard size. See images smart_fastener1.jpg
Drawing enhancements include alternate
view positions which make use of SolidWorks configurations to display
alternative positions with Dynamic Assembly Motion, an improved DXF/DWG
import wizard, and the ability to define electrical schematics by making
SolidWorks "Visio aware."
Other aspects enhanced include surface
lofting which adds a weighting tangency, holes that can be dragged and
dropped anywhere, a delete hole feature, face curve modifications, and
some surface patching derived from Catia.
Assemblies now allow sub assembly
mirroring, flexible subassemblies that allow subassembly movement, and
have added contact mates.
A very impressive release! In addition
to the enhanced functionality, SolidWorks continues to improve on its
user interface with the callouts. We also liked the smart fastener addition
and expect to see this continue to include more and more smart functionality.
Why not only mate and join parts in an assembly that can actually fit
to one another. Or even extend this so that parts know the FUNCTION
of joined parts in an assembly?
Aside from the software SolidWorks
is also building its support structure to match its growing market share.