SolidWorks World 2014, Part 1: Software on Stage

5 Feb, 2014 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

At the annual user conference, Dassault Systèmes customers get to see what’s in store for SolidWorks — and more.

Dassault Systèmes’ annual SolidWorks World conference drew close to 5,000 of the 3D mechanical design software’s users to San Diego, California, last week. They came to hone their skills in the technical training sessions, to tour the booths and exhibits in the Partner Pavilion, and to gain insight into the company’s software plans for the coming year.

A Concept Comes to Fruition

Among the event’s major announcements was the official launch of SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual, the cloud-connected conceptual mechanical design application unveiled at SolidWorks World 2013. Mechanical Conceptual is the first SolidWorks application to be launched on the company’s 3DEXPERIENCE platform, and as such will be the first of many.

Mechanical Conceptual was conceived to address a significant need in the community; Aaron Kelly, vice-president of User Experience and Product Portfolio Management, related that the company’s users spend up to 30% of their design time in the conceptual phase.

The goal of Mechanical Conceptual is that users can quickly produce several iterations of a design, check their functionality, get feedback from collaborators, then move the selected design into SolidWorks for additional detailing. “It’s not enough anymore to innovate once … you’ve got to innovate over and over again,” said Kishore Boyalakuntla, director of product management, Next Generation Products, explaining that Mechanical Conceptual helps users do just that.

In Mechanical Conceptual, users can conduct motion studies to determine whether their designs will move as expected. Click image to enlarge. Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.

Gathering input on those innovations is an integral part of the process; according to Dassault Systèmes, 98% of companies collaborate on conceptual design — with remote team members, suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders. “Social” is one of the four key aspects of Mechanical Conceptual, and indeed of conceptual design itself, according to Dassault Systèmes.

The other three are:

  • Conceptual: Users must be able to develop ideas rapidly.
  • Instinctive: An unstructured modeling environment with direct editing enables users to “work the way [they] think,” as Kelly put it.
  • Connected: Design iterations are saved automatically and accessible anytime, anywhere.

Thanks to cloud storage, users don't need a particular device to access their Mechanical Conceptual designs — just an Internet connection. Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.

Mechanical Conceptual will cost $249 per month and will become generally available in April, a few months later than first predicted. There’s also a new Mechanical Conceptual exam available for those who wish to become certified on the software.

Still in the works is SolidWorks Industrial Conceptual, a kindred application for — you guessed it — conceptual industrial design. Users will be able to “quickly create multiple concepts and connect everyone from engineering to the end user,” said Kelly. The “lighthouse” program — in which select customers use the software at a post-beta stage — will be held this summer, and barring any changes that might arise as a result of that field testing, Industrial Conceptual will likely be released by the end of the year, Kelly explained.


Ten to Grow On

The Top Ten, a countdown of the year’s most-desired enhancements to SolidWorks, included the following user suggestions:

  1. Equal spacing options for linear patterns
  2. Rename components in the Feature Manager Tree
  3. Draw a line from the midpoint
  4. The Esc key should always stop the current calculation and return control to the user
  5. Unlimited Undo/Redo
  6. Redefine (flip) angular dimensions after they’ve been placed
  7. Redefine a fillet to a chamfer (and vice versa)
  8. List quantity of identical holes in a hole callout
  9. Purge Data command to reduce file size
  10. Automatically hide components while mating to improve selection.

Dassault Systèmes stresses that it takes these user requests to heart, and strives to incorporate them in future releases. “We build SolidWorks exclusively on your input,” Kelly told the audience.

Many currently available features — including slot mate, edge bleed through, and eDrawings for Android devices — are fulfillments of past Top Ten requests. “Over the past 14 years, we’ve implemented the vast majority of all items on all Top Ten lists,” said Bruce Holway, director of Product Definition. Indeed, it appears that some of these requests will be answered in SolidWorks 2015 (read on for more on that topic).

The Adventures of SolidWorks 2015

Many SolidWorks World attendees are eager to learn what features the next release holds, and they were not disappointed. In a plenary session presentation that would make Adam West proud, costumed crime-fighters CADMan and Ribbon showcased highlights of the forthcoming SolidWorks 2015 while battling design delays.

If you have need to design a grappling-hook gun, escape from the Meeting Room of Doom, or do battle with archvillain The Marker, enemy of efficient design processes, the following enhancements may come in handy:

  • Define asymmetric fillets
  • Split surfaces
  • Convert feature to body pattern
  • Render only one portion of the model (to check for desired outcome without waiting for the entire model)
  • Vertex adjacent constraints
  • Create line from midpoint
  • Rectangle creation options (support for orthogonal lines)
  • Segment tool finds number of segments, and segments lines equally
  • Convert to style spline (from a standard spline curve)
  • Weldment costing
  • Live analysis results (view progress while SolidWorks Simulation is running)
  • Cutlist folder description options (apply weldment properties to folder names; set the folders to always update)
  • Routing supports rectangular ducting
  • Dynamic chain patterns in assemblies
  • Profile center mate; two planar faces made coincident and centers aligned
  • Width mate now supports geometry limits; width mate limits automatically update
  • Drawing sheet zones to identify location of drawing elements
  • Open model in same orientation as drawing view
  • Layer print control (prevent certain information from showing in printed version)
  • Model break and pipe break views; drag break lines to desired locations; break isometric view
  • Angle dimension manipulator
  • Enterprise PDM mobile web client runs on any browser, making projects accessible via a tablet or phone
  • SolidWorks Inspection extracts important data such as tolerances; automatically creates inspection documentation for quality control; can operate within SolidWorks or as a standalone application (SolidWorks Inspection and SolidWorks Inspection Professional will become generally available in April 2014).

With asymmetric fillets, the user has more control over the way fillets smooth out edges like these.

The SolidWorks 2015 portfolio will be integrated with the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, providing users with access to Collaborative Sharing capabilities. Collaborative Sharing is a cloud-based data management and social solution that will enable collaboration between Mechanical Conceptual and SolidWorks 2015 users. Collaborative Sharing for SolidWorks 2015 is expected to be available in November as part of the 3DEXPERIENCE 2015 release.

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