SolidWorks 2001Plus beefs up assembly capabilities

1 Apr, 2002 By: Jeffrey Rowe

Across-the-board improvements make SolidWorks 2001Plus a major release.

SolidWorks 2001Plus
3D solid and surface modeling

star rating: 5 stars out of 5
pros: Several new features and major enhancements for part and assembly creation, sketching, drawing production, model dynamics and diagnostics, and overall performance. A number of little time-savers boost productivity.
cons: Though improving with each release, surfaces still need work to be considered a tool for industrial designers. Otherwise, none significant.
price: $3,995; $4,995 for SolidWorks Office (includes SolidWorks Animator, eDrawings Professional, PhotoWorks, 3D Instant Website, SolidWorks Toolbox, FeatureWorks, and SolidWorks Utilities)

SolidWorks Corp.


SolidWorks 2001Plus is the tenth release of SolidWorks' flagship 3D solid modeling product, first introduced in 1995. It's now 2002, so why the "2001" moniker? According to SolidWorks, its corporate policy is to name its software according to the year in which it is released. This version of SolidWorks was released last December, hence the 2001 designation. With that mystery solved, let's delve into some of the significant improvements and new features found in SolidWorks 2001Plus. SolidWorks 2001Plus is the core of the company's product suite, SolidWorks Office, which also includes SolidWorks Animator, eDrawings Professional, PhotoWorks, 3D Instant Website, SolidWorks Toolbox, FeatureWorks, and SolidWorks Utilities. Because SolidWorks is basically a single-product company, it has the luxury of focusing its development efforts on what it considers most important— performance (speed) and ease of learning and use.

Several other aspects of design are left to add-on modules developed and marketed by SolidWorks and third-party developers. The company says that about 30–40% of SolidWorks seats ship with at least one of its nine add-ons, and another 30% ship with at least one third-party add-on.

SolidWorks also notes that about 90% of the 150 enhancements that appear in SolidWorks 2001Plus were based on customer requests (figure 1). The top request was to implement trail-lines in exploded assemblies that trace the path of each part's position with its own unique trail. Another oft-requested change was the ability to export models as

Figure 1. The Fillet command is one of the most commonly used for various types of product design. Enhancements to the Fillet command in SolidWorks 2001Plus include variable fillet point definitions and continuous curvature fillets. Shown are zebra stripes that ensure smoother transitions between faces.
Pro/ENGINEER files (unfortunately, geometry only, not features).

Over time, however, SolidWorks has found that most new customers are less interested in a myriad of features and capabilities than they are in transitioning from 2D to 3D modeling. To address this need, SolidWorks 2001Plus provides several transition tools that help you create 3D CAD models from 2D design data. The new view-folding feature lets you place 2D drawing projections over a 3D model. Simply put, view folding places the 2D drawings in a virtual 3D "glass box" around the 3D model. This feature and others help you visualize and create 3D designs using existing 2D data.

Sketching and parts
In SolidWorks, as well as in several other MCAD programs, sketching is the fundamental method for creating features, which are the basic units for parametric models.

SolidWorks 2001Plus implements several enhancements to sketching, including the interface and the ability to insert graphics such as BMP, TIF, GIF, and JPG files and use them as underlays for 2D sketches. The Split Part feature splits parts into separate, associative models. SolidWorks then automatically places these models into an assembly to help build the complete design. This feature quickly creates multiple parts from a single part file and aids in designing stylized plastic parts, molds, and weldments.

Figure 2. SolidWorks 2001Plus adds the ability to insert loft sections into an existing loft. SolidWorks automatically creates the profile planes and profile for the new loft sections.

The Progressive Loft command in SolidWorks 2001Plus inserts loft sections into an existing lofted part (figure 2). A loft combines several sketches and profiles with various shapes on separate planes to develop complex shapes. Lofts are used to create complex geometry typically found in highly stylized products. This new feature lets you change the dimensions of lofts relatively quickly, because SolidWorks automatically updates to incorporate the new loft specifications.

While discussing parts, let's take a brief look at sheet-metal enhancements. SolidWorks 2001Plus lets you create hems, an overlap of a sheet-metal flange that rounds out the flange's edge. A flange is a section used to attach one object to another. Using this new sheet-metal tool, you define the hem's shape, extension, and gap. You can also use the jog feature to create complex flanges by converting any tab into a flange by "stretching" it out (figure 3).

Figure 3. With the jog feature in SolidWorks 2001Plus, you can create more complex flanges. You can change any tab into a flange by just "stretching it out" using this new tool.

According to the company, with SolidWorks 2001Plus you can create large assemblies with 10,000 or more parts. This claim is significant because not all that long ago, 1,000 parts really taxed the application.

The relationships between parts in an assembly are associative, so that when you make a design change, all associated, affected parts update automatically. SolidWorks 2001Plus rotates large assemblies much faster than did previous versions.

The software also features a new large assembly mode, a customizable tool that defines how many parts make up the average large assembly. SolidWorks then remembers these settings and automatically adapts to this mode when you design assemblies. This "set-it-and-forget-it" option lets you focus on assembly development instead of the specific settings required to create an assembly.

Figure 4. Exploded drawing views document how assemblies and components are put together in detail drawings. Explode lines show the paths of individual components when you put them together.

With the Exploded Drawing Views tool, you can visually document how the components within a model are assembled. By automatically drawing a line from the part to the position where it should be located in the model, exploded drawings show exactly how all components fit together in a 3D display (figure 4).

Based on the SolidWorks 3D sketching environment, explode lines can be dynamically dragged in 3D space to optimize the display.

The new Dimension Favorites drawing function organizes and saves your favorite dimensions and dimension styles. This feature makes it easy to set up, distribute, and adhere to company design standards because you can save dimension favorites on a workstation or server, providing access to everyone within an organization.

Dynamics and diagnostics
Through what it calls Physical Dynamics, SolidWorks 2001Plus simulates complex mechanisms and true motion between solid components. This tool expands on SolidWorks' Dynamic Assembly Motion and Dynamic Collision technologies. You can move components in a 3D design and see how they physically interact with each other as they would in the real world.

Physical Dynamics calculates the actual contact and transference of motion from one component to another. For example, in a machine design, you can use physical dynamics to move a gear with a single mouse click and see how it interacts with and moves other components in the machine.

This ability lets you visualize how a machine moves and functions prior to manufacturing, reducing design time and production errors. A good portion of this capability is licensed from D-Cubed in England.

Mates define the relative position and degrees of freedom between components in an assembly. The new Mate Diagnostics feature identifies individual problems between mates and highlights specific errors in the design with a red flag. By telling you exactly where and what the problem is, mate diagnostics helps you identify and correct errors early in the design cycle, before manufacturing.

With the Top-Down Configurations tools, you can control sketch relations, equations, and feature end conditions, as well as view what-if design variations and distinguish between these views and design changes. For example, you can configure a stock shelf component to be one, two, or three meters long, or to fit into a variety of enclosures. Each variation is a unique configuration. By controlling these functions, you gain a flexible way to view and edit designs prior to manufacturing.

Beyond the point
Though many other MCAD vendors would term SolidWorks 2001Plus a "point" release, several new features and major enhancements make this version a significant major release. Because SolidWorks 2001Plus contains so many new features and enhancements, I've touched only on what I regard as the highlights. Visit for more product details. Try it for yourself, and I think you'll agree on the significance of this release. Highly Recommended.

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