Keeping the user friendly

The latest major release of SolidWorks 2003 has moved from being just about CAD to claim some of the ‘design automation’ high ground.

The main focus of SolidWorks 2003 has been to provide tools to allow engineers to work smarter not harder. There is built-in motion simulation and ‘stress checking’ analysis capability, there are web publishing tools and links to hosting facilities and online catalogues for collaboration.

When most vendors seem to have a fixation with increasing part count in large assemblies it’s refreshing to see renewed concentration on part modelling.

SolidWorks has proved in previous releases that it can handle large assemblies with ease, now it has turned its attention to refining the modelling process so that even complex modelling operations can be executed quickly and efficiently – with the software working hard for the designer NOT the other way around.

In sketching, there is a new facility whereby you can specify ‘contours’ or individual profiles that can be operated on separately. Take an engine connecting rod – the big end and small end bosses, the rod and the rod pocket can all be contained in the same sketch and developed separately increasing productivity several fold.

You can also now flag a sketch ‘as shared’ which means it becomes permanently available at a top level of the feature tree, rather than being consumed by the first feature that uses it.

In the FeatureManager a refined ‘rollback’ allows you to edit ‘feature-intensive’ parts without time penalties – much of the recalculation work is ‘deferred’ until it’s needed. There is also an ‘interrupt’ for regenerations allowing you carry on with actions you missed without having to wait for a ‘regen’ to finish.This is supported by the introduction of incremental graphics – only modified geometry is updated, rather than the whole part.

SolidWorks can now create multiple separate disjoint bodies within a single part, providing much more flexibility when developing parts. You can choose to join these bodies together, or keep them distinct. Previously this type of modelling feature would only be found in expensive high-end systems.

In surfacing, there are new commands that make working with imported data and creating complex, sculpted forms from scratch, a great deal easier. The ‘surface fill’ command has been improved to make both calculation faster and the results more accurate, particularly when working with four-sided patches. And the ‘remove holes from surface’ command has been extended with a new surface untrim tool.

Other new surfacing features include the ability to scale surfaces (useful for mould design or data import and units mismatch problems), the ability to create parametric surface patterns and a new deviation analysis facility, which shows the angle deviation between adjacent faces graphically.

For drawing production many of the key tasks have been automated. Drawing templates are now more flexible – they allow you to create templates, which store custom view placements. In turn, these can store other information including number, orientation, scale, and display type (shaded etc). This means that you can set-up company standard templates to your precise requirements, then simply ‘drag and drop’ your model onto them.

When it comes to price SolidWorks is still only £3995 – there is now a SolidWorks Office bundle which includes: eDrawings Professional (e-mail-enabled design tool), 3D Instant Website (a Web-publishing tool), PhotoWorks (photo-realistic software), SolidWorks Animator (an animation tool), SolidWorks Toolbox (a library of components), SolidWorks Utilities (productivity enhancement software), and FeatureWorks (feature-based recognition software) all this for £4995.

There is a perception that all mid-range modellers are ‘about the same’ – this is no longer true. With SolidWorks 2003 there is significant high-end design automation capability for a very affordable mid-range price.

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