SOLIDWORKS 2017 Introduces New Modeling Tools, Licensing Options

22 Sep, 2016 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

With the new release, Dassault Systèmes continues its promotion of model-based design, adds a PCB solution, and offers term licenses.

Dassault Systèmes has announced the launch of SOLIDWORKS 2017, the latest annual update to its portfolio of 3D design and engineering solutions for product development. SOLIDWORKS claims more than 3.1 million users worldwide, and 1 million members of MySolidWorks, a community portal launched in 2013.

During the launch event this week, SOLIDWORKS CEO Gian Paolo Bassi explained his company’s choice of the launch theme, “The power you need to drive innovation.” Bassi stressed that having “the courage to invent the future” is essential in light of global and marketplace challenges including limited resources, heightened consumer expectations, and the rise of connected objects. “Because we live in a very complex world … we have challenges from all sides,” he noted. “The challenges are formidable, [but] innovation is the key to solve all those problems.”

To drive innovation, SOLIDWORKS is betting on “platform thinking.” Bassi explained: “Today, the most successful companies are in reality a network of connected people, of connected suppliers; a very diverse and different supply chain that can take you to market more rapidly, that can give you more amazing solutions for your design needs.” Platform thinking is “natural” and is already happening in the marketplace, he observed, exemplified by such giants as Amazon, Google, and Facebook.

“The platform needs to bring together people, needs to bring together things, because your devices need to be connected,” Bassi said. “How do you fast-prototype a connected object so that you can get funding and go to the market in the least possible amount of time? You need a platform that helps you do that in a few clicks. … This is our mission, and it is not far away in the future.”

This goal does not mean the company is going in an entirely different direction, but rather that it is extending the capabilities and integration of its solutions. “We are not interested in replacing or rewriting SOLIDWORKS — SOLIDWORKS is an amazing product. We don’t need to rewrite it; we need to reinvent it, we need to get it to the next stage, we need to enhance it to a different way of thinking,” Bassi said.

In his launch address, Bassi also praised the fact that SOLIDWORKS has been used for designs beyond the MCAD realm, including buildings and bridges, and indicated that we may see more capabilities dedicated to those projects in the future. “We are very proud of being the Swiss [Army] knife of engineering,” he said.

Access and Licensing Evolutions

In addition to its desktop version, SOLIDWORKS has been developing an online version, which it demonstrated last year. (Ever since an executive’s comment about moving to the cloud ruffled feathers a few years ago, the company has been very careful to stress that any browser-based and cloud-based solutions it develops are augments to, not replacements for, its desktop-based solutions.)

Currently, users can access SOLIDWORKS online, but only for trials of the software. SOLIDWORKS Online Edition uses the Frame cloud engine to make the original application, designed for desktop, available through a browser instead. “Customers are telling us they don’t see a difference between the two,” said said Kishore Boyalakuntla, senior director of product portfolio management and brand user experience leader for SOLIDWORKS.

Close to half of North American product trials are now happening in the browser, confirmed Boyalakuntla. Online trials are gradually being rolled out to the rest of the world, and the beta process for the 2017 release included 500 users on the browser. “You can see it slowly becoming a commercial option in the next 12–18 months,” Boyalakuntla predicted.

The Online Edition is not to be confused with the company’s Xdesign, a distinct design solution that will also be accessed through the browser but was created from scratch and is entirely cloud-based. Interested parties can register to receive information about beta program participation; Xdesign is currently in internal beta, and we may see it surface in the second half of next year, Boyalakuntla said. 

In addition to developing more access options, SOLIDWORKS is giving customers more choices with the introduction of term licenses in three-month increments. The added flexibility will help startups and other companies that have limited up-front capital as well as those that bring on temporary personnel, such as summer interns, said Boyalakuntla. Traditional purchase options are still available.

“You have companies such as Autodesk forcing their business models on their customers … we will never force a business model on you,” Boyalakuntla stated.

Enhancements and New Capabilities

In developing the 2017 version, the SOLIDWORKS team implemented more than 520 projects, including 250 for CAD and more than 100 related to electrical design, Boyalakuntla reported. “We touched every product in a significant way,” he said. Highlights include: 

MBD. Since introducing its Model-Based Definition (MBD) solution two years ago, SOLIDWORKS has continued to add capabilities to support “paperless” or “drawingless” manufacturing. Enhancements to MBD enable users to select edges rather than surfaces when creating dimensions; dimension to a reference feature; publish a 3D PDF at a variety of accuracy levels; and attach any other files to that PDF, including automatically created STEP AP242 files for direct manufacturing. “Customers want to build technical data packages (TDPs),” Boyalakuntla explained. “[With this update,] you can attach multiple files and create one thing you can e-mail out.”

PCB. This release introduces SOLIDWORKS PCB for printed circuit board (PCB) design, which incorporates technology from PCB design software developer Altium. With a unified environment for schematic and layout tools, the goal is seamless integration of electronic design with the mechanical workflow and interface familiar to SOLIDWORKS users. Tools include Interactive Routing, AutoRoute, Multi-Track, and Differential Pair routing modes.

Modeling. SOLIDWORKS 2017 debuts several features intended to speed up the design process, including new tools that can do the following:

  • create multiple variable chamfers in one operation
  • switch any pre-existing chamfer to a fillet and vice versa
  • capture and access previous hole definitions and apply pre-saved specifications
  • construct stepped holes more quickly, in one operation
  • speed surfacing via wrap, drag and drop, emboss, deboss, and 3D curve features.

Among other improvements to modeling performance, Boyalakuntla praised the impact of magnetic mates, in which components automatically join up based on predefined connection points. “You bring them close, they just snap together,” he said. This speeds component placement and can help users to stay organized when working with large assemblies.

Simulation and rendering. Expanded simulation capabilities help experienced and new users to analyze, solve, visualize, and verify the functionality of designs. Users can input parameters for simulation static studies, quickly identify stress hot spots, and convert studies from linear static to nonlinear or dynamic with one click. A rendering boost feature lets users offload jobs to a computer with multiple GPUs for speedier processing.

Collaboration. A new 3D Interconnect tool enables users to work with both neutral and native CAD data, helping customers who work with data from suppliers and other collaborators, or who are transitioning from another CAD solution. 3D Interconnect actively brings native files into SOLIDWORKS without translation, where “the native CAD system and format becomes part of the SOLIDWORKS family,” said Boyalakuntla. “It will tremendously help our users who work in a multi-CAD environment.”

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