SolidWorks 2009 Reigns in Spain

1 Oct, 2008 By: Jeffrey Rowe

In a departure from previous releases, SolidWorks 2009 was introduced to the world, not in North America, but in Europe.

It isn't often I get invited to Europe by a CAD software developer. When I was invited to Barcelona, Spain, for the launch of SolidWorks 2009 at a press and analysts' event, I jumped at the opportunity. The venue was beautiful, and those who attended learned a lot about the company and the new 2009 SolidWorks product line.

The event consisted of presentations by company executives on the business side of things, a presentation on SolidWorks' involvement with education, and demonstrations by some of the technical staff toward the end of the first day. All those presentations and demonstrations were interspersed with customers who showed and talked about their designs using SolidWorks. I thought the most impressive was the REEM-B humanoid service robot, demonstrated by PAL Robotics, a company from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The robot weighs 60 kg; is 1.4 m tall, has joints with a total of 40 degrees of freedom; can carry a 13 kg load; has two hours of battery life; walks at a top speed of 1.5 km/hour; and can be guided by voice commands. Very impressive work from a place you don't ordinarily associate with advanced robotics.

On the business side, a couple of notable things: The software will now be known as Dassault Systemes SolidWorks. Kind of a mouthful, but the goal is to forge more of a public identification between SolidWorks and its parent company. This event also marked the first time I can recall Bernard Charles, CEO of Dassault Systemes, and Jeff Ray, CEO of SolidWorks, appearing on the same stage together -- again, driving home the tighter connection between the two moving forward.

SolidWorks 2009 Put to the First (Limited) Test
For me, the best parts of the event revolved around SolidWorks 2009 -- the presentation given on the first day and the optional hands-on session the second day. The training session would have been more useful had the attendees been divided into groups based on experience. As it was, the range of experience was so great that the trainers had to expend a lot of time on SolidWorks' basics for some of the trainees. This time around I'll discuss only the few new features and capabilities that I personally experienced during the hands-on training session that lasted just a couple hours.

SpeedPak. SpeedPak creates simplified representations of assemblies without losing references. For large assemblies, SpeedPak can significantly improve performance. Because it is a simplified representation, SpeedPak protects intellectual property (IP) because it doesn't provide all of the information contained in an assembly necessary to reverse-engineer it.

You use SpeedPak when you want to insert a large assembly into a higher level assembly. Essentially, a SpeedPak is a subset of the parts and faces of an assembly that you create in the Configuration Manager. Unlike regular configurations, in which you can simplify an assembly only by suppressing components, SpeedPak simplifies without suppressing. This means that you can substitute a SpeedPak for a full assembly in higher level assemblies without losing references. Because only a subset of the parts and faces is used, less memory is used, which can result in performance increases.

I found it a little tricky matching faces and features for inserting an assembly into a higher level assembly, but like anything, I'm sure with a little practice on my part, the procedure would go much more smoothly.

SolidWorks simulation. SolidWorks Simulation is the new name for what was previously known as COSMOSWorks and COSMOSWorks Designer. In the practice session, we simulated external loads on a simple multibody frame using SolidWorks Simulation in a stress/deformation study. We used the Simulation Advisor to create our relatively simple study. It assists in determining the proper study type, as well as defining internal interactions between various bodies in a model and external interactions between the model and the environment. Loads are applied and a desired factor of safety is indicated. You then run the simulation to determine if your model will succeed or fail and where. The Simulation Advisor interprets your results and presents them in various ways, including tables, graphs, and animations. Based on the results, the Simulation Advisor can then help you optimize your model so that it will not fail for a given set of simulation parameters. It all sounds simple, and to a large extent it is, but you still have to be mindful of what you're doing, because even with the Simulation Advisor some steps are somewhat subtle and obscure. Again, practice makes perfect.

PhotoView 360. PhotoView 360 is a new photorealistic technology based on the Nexus progressive rendering engine licensed from Luxology. It's based on high dynamic range imaging (HDRI) technology that allows a greater dynamic range of exposures (the range of values between light and dark areas) than traditional digital imaging. HDRI accurately represents the wide range of intensity levels found in real scenes ranging from direct sunlight to deep shadows. You can selectively assign a wide range of materials to specific parts in an assembly, and you can assign different levels of rendering, from low to high, the higher level being the more computationally intensive (with longer generation time) but yielding the better result. This proved to be a straightforward process with some nice photorealistic renderings.

Although no one from the company would comment on this, I suspect that ultimately PhotoView 360 will replace PhotoWorks for photorealistic rendering in SolidWorks.

On my own I created a simple shell and split it to see if I could use the new lip and groove fastening feature for plastic parts. Once the parts are created, you just click Lip/Groove on the Fastening Features toolbar to set the options and details. You then select the edges/faces where you want to place these plastics features, and there you have it -- a mating lip and groove along a split line. Simple, and it works!

The Overall View
From a very preliminary look, SolidWorks 2009 appears stable and reliable, although I have yet to put it to the test with more extensive evaluation. I can say this, however: the new release incorporates not a zillion new features, but a number of smart enhancements to existing ones, and the UI looks largely the same as that of the previous release. With the SolidWorks 2008 user interface learning curve behind me, I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with the new and improved SolidWorks 2009, and that will be the subject of upcoming articles once I receive the final shipping product.

Author's Note: In addition to those discussed here, I saw many other new features and capabilities demonstrated, including sheet metal, PDM, performance, new workflows, simulation, and ECAD interoperability. I'll cover many of these functions in more detail in future editions of Cadalyst MCAD Tech News.

For further analysis about the press event itself, read Kenneth Wong's report, "The Silent Partner Speaks."

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