Product Design

SolidWorks World 2010, Part 2: New Products for SolidWorks Users

25 Feb, 2010 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

Event report: A tour of the Partner Pavilion finds endless new tools for structural steel design, CAM, prototyping, and much more.


No report on SolidWorks World 2010 would be complete without a rundown of all the action in the Partner Pavilion. Held early this month in Anaheim, California, the event brought about quite a bit of activity among the exhibitors, as you'll see. Information provided here was gathered from a tour around the Partner Pavilion, meetings during the week, and press releases. If I missed an update, send it to editors@cadalyst.com.

Part 1 of this report, SolidWorks World 2010: Clouds, Macs, Movie Making, and More, shares my overview of SolidWorks announcements and action at the event.

Concepts for Design Visualization

“Mixing the real with the virtual” is the foundation of mixed reality (MR) technologies. The concept of MR has been around for quite some time, but at SolidWorks World this year, you could get your hands on it, and the latest development by Japan-based Canon IT was attracting a constant stream of curious conference goers. In this application, which is still in development, the user wears a head-mounted device over his or her eyes that holds two compact cameras, one for each eye. That device is connected to a PC, which delivers virtual objects -- in this case, CAD data -- that appear to the user to be in real space. In layman’s terms, what you experience is the life-size model sitting right there in the room, allowing you to gauge the scale and features of the object within real-world surroundings. (See this article for a couple of photographs.)

Down the aisle in the SolidWorks exhibit, Infinite Z was showcasing its zSpace concept. Based on a “virtual-holographic computing platform,” this technology lets users directly interact with a CAD model. I donned a special pair of glasses and used a stylus to click on parts of a model, lift them, turn them over and around, and put them back.

New for Mechanical CAD

AMV was on hand to demonstrate AMV Steelworks 2010, which brings advanced functionalities for steel carpentry to the SolidWorks environment. The software is designed to facilitate communication between structural and mechanical design departments, allowing each team member to work on the same model, understanding in real time how everything fits together. The downstream process can manage multidisciplinary sets of drawings, as well as make and coordinate design changes.

SolidAce, which made its debut at SolidWorks World 2009, was exhibiting a similar solution: its newly launched BuiltWorks 2010 for plant and mechanical designers who need more structural steel–modeling tools inside SolidWorks. New features include an enhanced user interface, a new custom model rebuild function, and a new sample library of prototype connections with dedicated directory. New training tutorials are available free through the company's web site. After the conference, the company reported, SolidAce met representatives from SolidWorks to discuss the various aspects of BuiltWorks integration with SolidWorks simulation for stress analysis.

Smap3D is now available from CAD Partner to aid in planning complex 3D piping systems for mechanical engineering, tool production, and plant design. The software implements pipe classes with 3D pipe system construction. In the pipe classes, the affiliation of components (such as fittings and flanges) is defined in line with particular company or project specifications for pipe system characteristics to avoid user error, save time, and optimize process security.

Trace Software International announced a new release of elecworks, its flagship electrical CAD add-on for SolidWorks. The product is designed to facilitate collaboration between electrical and mechanical teams in better designing automation and electrical installation projects. It helps designers, engineers, and managers integrate electrical schematics in an existing SolidWorks platform. New features include improved automatic generation for PLCs, automatic routing and wiring within SolidWorks, and better SolidWorks–AutoCAD compatibility.


Trace Software launches a new release of its elecworks add-on for SolidWorks.
 

Zuken had just announced the availability in Canada of its E3.WireWorks software for wiring, harness, cable assembly, and panel design that integrates with SolidWorks Premium Routing and PDM Enterprise Solutions. Contact reseller Javelin Technologies for information.

Template Wizard is a product from Knowledge Services Tools that aids SolidWorks users in creating customized part and assembly templates. A new feature, the Update Wizard, will traverse assemblies and folders to find drawings that meet the user's specified criteria and update them as required.

At the AMC Bridge booth, I spoke with Sales and Marketing Manager Nick Finamore. AMC Bridge has a booth in the Partner Pavilion to be near its customers and potential customers — the other vendors, he said. The company provides SolidWorks customization for in-house use and works with other SolidWorks partners to integrate products with SolidWorks, such as the SolidACE tool for structural steel design that was on display elsewhere on the show floor.

Computer-Aided Engineering

The folks at the Moldex3D booth were always busy discussing their Moldex3D eXplorer for SolidWorks, part of the company's line of CAE (computer-aided engineering) products for the plastics injection molding industry. The eXplorer tools help identify potential design problems and solutions to optimize part design and manufacturability. Quality issues such as air traps, weld lines, and hesitations can be simulated and analyzed.

Computer-Aided Machining

It was a pleasure to speak with Daniel Lai, the sales and marketing director at Quick Press. Between all his kudos for Cadalyst, he told me the story of how Quick Press was born when Hong Kong lost manufacturing work to mainland China many years ago. Lai and a few of his peers, who had backgrounds in mold and die design, found themselves unemployed. Not wanting to uproot their families to pursue employment, they decided to reinvent themselves by developing software to automate the labor-intensive die design process. In 2003, they launched Quick Press, a tool that creates die designs and determines machining operations for sheet metal parts created in SolidWorks. Lai said business these days is good — it held steady through 2009 — and customers are experiencing 30% to 70% time savings and as much as $100,000 annual cost savings using Quick Press. "Quick Press decreases the advantage that China has over companies in the U.S., Japan, and Germany by decreasing costs. It helps them fight back."

Gibbs and Associates demonstrated new features of GibbsCAM 2010 software for programming CNC machine tools, including the SolidWorks-to-GibbsCAM transfer add-in that allows models to be directly transferred with a single menu selection within a SolidWorks session to GibbsCAM for NC programming. Solids machining operations now offer improved plunge roughing, enhancements to advanced 3D machining, and an added option for stock. The new version also offers 64-bit implementation.

Mastercam X4 for SolidWorks was unveiled by CNC Software. The fully integrated CAM application allows users to program parts directly within SolidWorks using Mastercam toolpaths and machining strategies. Mastercam for SolidWorks provides a full suite of cutting strategies, including feature-based machining (FBM) and 3D high-speed machining (HSM) toolpaths as well as automated cleanup toolpaths.

Delcam launched Delcam for SolidWorks, an integrated CAM solution for drilling and two- through five-axis milling. The software offers full associativity so any changes in the CAD model will be reflected automatically in the toolpaths, modifying the existing toolpaths as well as reviewing the choice of cutting tools and machining strategies and changing them if necessary. The software comes with Delcam's full range of postprocessors to allow fast, accurate data transfer to all leading machining equipment. Future releases will cover the full range of machining operations, including turning, mill-turn, and wire EDM.


All toolpaths generated with Delcam for SolidWorks can be checked by the integrated simulation module on the computer before being passed to the machine tool.
 

ReverseEngineering.com announced that version 2010 of its measurement-based reverse engineering and inspection software has been optimized for maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) operations. It supports 64-bit supported CMM hardware under Windows 7 (WOW64). The product is designed for feature measurement, inspection, and CAD-to-part comparison directly in SolidWorks using popular 3D scanners, laser trackers, and portable manual CMM arms.

PAS Technology demonstrated PAS CMM, a new tool that automatically creates an inspection model from a SolidWorks model and delivers "CMM program ready" results in "two minutes flat." The company sells direct to large organizations and to SMBs through its reseller network.

Data Management

3DSemantix launched 3DPartFinder, a shape search product that locates similar and duplicate parts to facilitate part reuse. Rather than using a traditional search based on alphanumeric characters, the tool uses a 3D model as input to the search engine — for example, a known CAD model or creating a sketch — then displays parts similar to the initial inquiry. 3DPartFinder is fully integrated into SolidWorks.


3DPartfinder locates legacy parts for reuse based on their shape. Users can launch a search using a known CAD model (blue) or by creating a sketched image of the target part done in SolidWorks. Similar parts are located and displayed on screen (green).
 

SolidPartners introduced version 5 of Activault, which the company describes as an alternative to traditional product data management (PDM) systems. The Microsoft SQL Server–based software now offers multilingual, multilocation support for worldwide product development environments. System implementation requires no custom programming, the company reports.

Extensible CAD introduced Office2PDM, an add-in for Microsoft Office that brings the document management functions of SolidWorks Enterprise PDM directly into Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The company also announced recently that InspectionXpert for SolidWorks now supports SolidWorks 2010. (Extensible CAD's InspectionXpert First-Article was reviewed in the Winter 2010 edition of Cadalyst magazine; the review is also available on Cadalyst.com.)

Product Lifecycle Management

PLM360 from Mechanica Solutions is a brand new solution that offers collaborative program management, such as integrated product requirements, multidisciplinary product structure, and issue and change management. It also incorporates integration with manufacturing resource and process management within the collaborative program and portfolio management system.

Omnify Software released Empower 4.5, the latest version of its PLM solution for electronic, medical, mechanical, and defense manufacturers. Designed to capture data spanning the entire product development process, from design engineering to the manufacturing floor, the new version features BOM routing, advanced training management, and new help desk features for more complete product records.

Keytech PLM demonstrated keytech v12 and its new mobile PLM capabilities for product data management and design reuse and version control. The product runs inside SolidWorks.

Product Configuration

Configure One announced new SolidWorks integration for its web-based product configurator for companies that sell configurable, multioption, and customizable products. The Concept Add-In for SolidWorks allows users to easily and graphically define rules that manipulate SolidWorks assemblies, parts, and drawings so customers and other users can place customized orders via a nontechnical interface. The tool can be used for proposals, ERPs, and other applications that can benefit from simplified product configuration.

DriveWorks released DriveWorks Pro v7 at SolidWorks World 2010. The software provides an upgrade path from the DriveWorksXpress tool inside SolidWorks to DriveWorks Live, a module that supports online product design and configuration.

New Hardware

Rapid prototyping. Roland DGA and CAM software developer MecSoft demonstrated a new subtractive rapid prototyping (SRP) workflow. MecSoft showcased its new 64-bit version of VisualMILL for SolidWorks, which enables designers to machine larger, more complex parts. Prototypes and parts were produced on Roland's MDX-40A SRP 3D milling machine. The MDX series integrates with VisualMILL for SolidWorks and can produce parts from nonproprietary materials.

3D printer. Scott Harris, who is best known for being a cofounder of SolidWorks, retired from the company two years ago and now runs Harris Technical Consulting (when he's not traveling the world with his wife or doing search-and-rescue or other community service work). "Now I'm advising and nurturing start-ups," he told me. One of those is Solido, which was at SolidWorks World to introduce the Solido SD300 Pro desktop 3D printer. Harris is backing Solido because he believes its simple technology, simple processing requirements, and relatively low cost are key to helping 3D printing reach the masses — and, he adds, Solido has the vision necessary to make it all happen. "[Other] industry players recognize the opportunity for 3D printing, but have no idea how to get there," he said. Currently the market is around 5,000 units per year, but Harris says the need is upward of 100,000 units. Solido is poised to change that, he believes.

Drawing data from the 3D model, the Solido SD300 Pro builds prototypes from layers of an engineered plastic film, depositing glue and antiglue between layers according to which portions will become part of the finished piece and which will be peeled away. The results are rigid, detailed prototypes accurate to within 0.004", the company reports.


Parts produced on the Solido SD300 Pro can be machined, drilled, finished, and painted, and reportedly do not distort over time.
 

The base price for the unit is promoted as $2,950*, with the asterisk in place to indicate "when purchased with a Platinum Value Pack," which includes a good supply of modeling material, glue, knives, and magnetic pads and totals $14,950.

Harris also is consulting with Infinite Z, but before we had a chance to discuss that venture, his phone buzzed and he was off to another meeting.

3D printer. New at SolidWorks World since last year is the ULTRA desktop 3D printer from EnvisionTEC, which offers a build envelope of 10" x 7.5" x 8" and produces parts and prototypes with "extremely smooth surface finishes" in a range of plastic- and wax-based materials for investment casting, according to the company. The machine measures 29" x 30" x 46" and weighs 200 lb.

3D mice. SolidWorks users have new capabilities for their 3Dconnexion 3D navigation devices, which can now automatically follow a designer's point of interest and continuously determine the optimal center of rotation, enabling an easier and more intuitive exploration of the largest models and the smallest details. In addition, the center of rotation can now be seen at all times via an icon, further enhancing the navigation experience. "We're giving users total control over navigation of their model," Froi Lomotan, director, Advanced Software Technology, told Cadalyst. The new feature will be available via a free 3DxWare software update.

Workstations. HP's Tom Salomone offered a guided tour of what's new at HP. High on that list is the Z200 Workstation introduced in early January. Starting at $769, the Z200 is designed for AutoCAD, Adobe Photoshop, and power office users. It offers dual-core processor options based on future Intel processors as well as quad-core processor options based on the Intel Xeon 3400 family. All HP Z Workstations offer a range of options in Windows and Linux operating systems and independent software vendor (ISV) certifications. The base model is equipped to run AutoCAD LT, and if you upgrade to a Nehalem-based processor and the latest ATI or Nvidia professional graphics card (several hundred dollars more), Salomone said, "You get huge performance gains for a lower price." A review of the Z200 is in the works at Cadalyst Labs.

HP is partnering with ATI in its current "Fulfill Your Design Destiny" campaign, which promotes the value of an HP Z Workstation equipped with an ATI FirePro professional graphics card and optimized and certified for SolidWorks.

HP also recently unveiled the HP Performance Advisor, a software tool described as a personal system engineer. It updates a user's workstation settings and drivers to ensure optimal performance, maximize stability, and increase overall productivity. It comes preinstalled on the HP Z200 and ships on all HP workstations at no additional cost. All new HP Z Workstations come preloaded with the new HP SkyRoom online collaboration software as well.

Notebook projector. Also new from HP is the highly portable Notebook Projector Companion ($499), which projects images a distance of 60 inches to 8.5 ft. It uses a mercury-free LED light source and measures only 4" x 3" and weighs less than 1 lb. The projector is available from a handful of online retailers.

And Everything Else

Speech recognition.Xpresso speech recognition software from 3 Engineers now allows users to enter simple equations and units in addition to numbers. The new features, along with the Xpress command to change the units of a dimension, give users full verbal control of numerical entry and manipulation. The SolidWorks command list has grown to more than 650 commands and more than 70 Xpress commands, which combine several standard actions into one quick voice command.

Training.SolidProfessor showcased its new 2010 line of SolidWorks training products. The latest versions of SolidProfessor Standard, Professional, and Premium include content aligned with the version of SolidWorks a user is running. Training videos are available in English, German, French, Dutch, and Spanish, and are created in a fully localized SolidWorks interface.

Modeling services.Innovate 3D was on hand to talk about its SolidWorks modeling service, which is available to help companies convert some or all existing CAD data into SolidWorks models. Pricing is fixed and starts at $49 per model.


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