Sometimes It's the Small Things that Count (Solid Thinking SolidWorks Tutorial)

31 Dec, 2007 By: Richard Doyle

What else is new in SolidWorks 2008?

Each year, when the latest release of SolidWorks 3D CAD software is rolled out, the community starts to buzz about the new features and functionality -- with good reason. 2008 is no exception. An intuitive new interface, large assembly management tools, DimXpert, AssemblyXpert, SketchXpert, and Instant3D are just a few of the new "Wow" tools in SolidWorks 2008.

What sometimes gets lost in all of the excitement are those little additions that mean just as much, but might not get the attention that they deserve. This month, I'll look at what else is new in SolidWorks 2008.

Do You Really Want To?
The SolidWorks 2008 user interface received its share of attention, but what you might not have seen is an easy way to get rid of those message boxes that seem to pop up every time you do something. Whether it's deleting a part from an assembly or exiting a sketch, some users simply don't want to be bothered by the questions. Most dialog box messages now can be dismissed permanently by selecting the single Don't Ask Me Again checkbox.

Please, no more dialog boxes.

Selecting this box ensures that you don't see that particular message again until you want to. If you want to bring the messages back, go to Tools / Options / System Options / Advanced and select the messages you want to restore.

Restoring the dialog boxes.

Hide / Show Feature Tree Items
Do you use the Design Binder? (You should, but I'll save that lecture for another time.) How about Lights, Cameras, and Scenes? Have you ever wished you could remove them from the Feature Manager Design Tree? Well, now there is a way. A new option, under Tools / Options / System Options / Feature Manager, lets you remove these items and more from the display.

FeatureManager items shown.
Items not shown.

You can set the items in the figure below to be shown or hidden. Some items also may be set to automatic such as design tables and equations. These items only show up in the FeatureManager if they exist. You can even hide the default planes and origin.

It's easy to hide or show feature tree items.

Browsing Around
Browsing open or recent documents is visual in SolidWorks 2008. Using CTRL-TAB no longer scrolls through open windows; instead, a browser window appears so you can select the document that you want to switch to.

Browse open documents.

Browse recent documents.

Center Rectangles
Quick, show of hands: How many of you start a new part by sketching a rectangle, then a diagonal reference line, followed by adding a midpoint relation to constrain the rectangle to the origin? Almost all of you? I thought so. The new center rectangle sketch tool saves several steps each time you start a part.

Center rectangles saves you steps.

Circular Patterns
Have you ever been in the middle of creating a circular pattern of holes, only to realize that you don't have an axis to use? Sure, you can select View / Show / Temporary Axis. Better yet, SolidWorks 2008 now supports cylindrical faces or circular edges as the axis of rotation for circular patterns.

Circular pattern using an edge.

Viewing Mates
As part of the overall user interface changes, viewing mates got an overhaul. A new selection tool lets you select items that are mated to the selected item, highlighting them in the graphics area. I have added the new selection tools to my Shortcut Bar for easy access.

In SolidWorks 2008, when you select a part in an assembly to view the mates, the graphics area changes and turns unaffected parts transparent. Only those parts with mates common to the selection are shown. Select one of the mate callouts, and the parts highlight to show common mates between items. Select anywhere in the graphics area to close the View Mates property manager and restore the graphics area state.

A new selection tool lets you select items that are mated to the selected item. Select Mated To.

View mates.

Pasting a drawing sheet.
Copy Drawing Sheets!
SolidWorks 2008 now lets you copy entire sheets of a drawing to another drawing. Simply right-click on the tab of the drawing sheet you want to copy, navigate to the destination drawing (see Browsing Around Visually above), right-click on any sheet tab, and select Paste. A dialog box appears and asks you where you want to insert the sheet.

Add Custom Properties in the BOM
Sometimes it's easy to forget to add custom properties to parts as you are modeling them. In SolidWorks 2008, you can add or modify custom properties via the drawing's bill of materials (BOM). The properties populate back to the part or assembly.

Add Custom Properties at the BOM level.

Some Quickies
In addition to all of the terrific items above, a few other hidden gems are worth mentioning. You can:

  • save a sheet-metal flat-pattern to a DXF file, without creating a drawing
  • show welded corners in sheet-metal parts
  • add balloons to notes
  • use a fill pattern as the basis for a component pattern

More than 200 Enhancements
SolidWorks 2008 has more than 200 user-driven enhancements, a great new look to the interface, and some ground breaking technological advances. But sometimes it's all about the little things. Center rectangles may not get the attention, but they'll sure get the attention of everyday SolidWorks users.

About the Author: Richard Doyle

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