June 19, 2006
SolidWorks 2007 Unveiled
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor


by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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SolidWorks Corp. unveiled SolidWorks 2007 software, offering design teams unprecedented opportunities to work faster and smarter in the quest for better products. In addition to more than 200 new features, this latest version of the leading 3D CAD software introduces SolidWorks Intelligent Feature Technology (SWIFT), which for the first time puts expert-level techniques for 3D CAD's most challenging design operations in the hands of every user.


Toppling the notion that powerful software is necessarily complex, SWIFT technology delivers exponential increases in efficiency while simplifying use of the software. For example, 3D CAD applications have traditionally forced design teams to consume precious time determining the order in which they create part features like drafts and fillets. SolidWorks 2007 changes all that, leaving the SWIFT FeatureXpert to automatically create the new features in the proper order as the designer intended. This allows designers to spend more time on the task at hand - designing great products.


"The new FeatureXpert functionality dramatically simplifies modeling, especially for new users," said Designer Marla Schmidt of the Sub-Zero Freezer Company. "For instance, a new user probably wouldn't know how to add a draft to a part that already has fillets. FeatureXpert automatically reorders the features so the draft can be applied correctly. We hope for similar benefits from the other SWIFT capabilities in SolidWorks 2007, as well as those in future releases."


SWIFT accounts for just a handful of the enhancements in SolidWorks 2007, 90 percent of which were directly driven by customers. Together, the enhancements will help customers succeed by providing intuitive, high-performing software that helps design teams set themselves apart.


Other SWIFT tools in SolidWorks 2007 include the SWIFT SketchXpert, which resolves dimensional and relational conflicts when sketching, and the SWIFT MateXpert, which removes conflicts that arise when users add or modify mated parts. SWIFT is a clear example of how SolidWorks Corporation's approach to 3D CAD focuses more on product design than on the workings of the tools that support it.


This focus is also apparent in a powerful new Search capability that enables users to find anything related to their 3D design work on their desktop, in shared files, in their product data management (PDM) system, or in their supply chain universe with a single tool. The new powerful and easy-to-use Search capability will work in concert with a wealth of new standard content, including that offered through the SolidWorks 3D ContentCentral(R) part-finding service. As a result, teams will have more time to design great products by minimizing time they spend looking for files and parts that have already been created.


The tool will also pinpoint new routing and weldment content in SolidWorks 2007. SolidWorks users now have more predefined content than any 3D CAD user community, which is critical since at least 60 percent of a typical machine consists of purchased parts.


Also vital to design teams is the ability to conceptualize in 2D before creating in 3D. Accordingly, SolidWorks 2007 includes dramatic enhancements to capabilities like Sketch Blocks, introduced last year. 2D sketches of belts, chains, pulleys, and gears now automatically exhibit multipart interaction and motion, helping teams refine designs at all stages of their work. This feature combines the intelligence of 3D CAD with the feel of 2D CAD.


The unique SolidWorks Design Checker, introduced as part of SolidWorks 2006 last year, includes powerful new features to ensure drawings meet the defined standards of each user's organization. The new features include auto-correction and the ability to "learn" from a finished drawing - features that make it even easier to avoid expensive, labor-intensive drawing revisions.


In addition, SolidWorks 2007 enables users for the first time to save any file in Adobe Systems' new 3D PDF format, thereby providing complete support for the two prevailing standards for sharing 3D designs, PDF and the SolidWorks eDrawings(R) collaboration format.


SolidWorks 2007 includes a host of other new drawing enhancements, making it even easier and more efficient to turn 2D drawings into 3D models and to generate finished, professional, production-ready 2D files for manufacturing.


The bottom line in 3D CAD is designing better products. To make products more contemporary and ergonomic, SolidWorks 2007 introduces powerful new consumer design and assembly interaction capabilities. A new Freeform surfacing tool for the first time lets design teams simply "push and pull" control points to create stylish surfaces with intuitive curvature continuity (C2) control throughout. The result is sleeker designs accomplished more quickly than is possible with traditional surfacing commands.


SolidWorks 2007's new 3D gear mates and belt interaction capabilities for the first time simulate belts, chains, racks, pinions, and gear assembly action for testing of more complex assemblies than previously possible. The new functionality optionally defaults to standard component sizes, minimizing the cost and labor of the design.


SolidWorks 2007 extends SolidWorks' history of introducing powerful new design tools to the mainstream 3D CAD market, creating new opportunities for design teams to make their organizations successful.


For example, SolidWorks 2007 includes SolidWorks ScanTo3D capability, enabling users to automatically extract design data from real-world artifacts - such as broken parts that need replacement or concept foam models - and move it into the SolidWorks design environment. The built-in capability includes an easy-to-use wizard interface that steps the user through the scanning and data import processes, and through the completion of a fully defined 3D solid model.


The ScanTo3D software is optimized for use with a new high-resolution, full-color Desktop 3D Scanner from SolidWorks Solution Partner NextEngine, available at a discounted price to SolidWorks users. Additionally, ScanTo3D includes support for several other common 3D scan data formats.


SolidWorks 2007 includes powerful new capabilities in its integrated analysis software tools. COSMOSXpress, the basic analysis tool included with every SolidWorks 3D CAD product, now includes optimization capabilities, which can save valuable part materials and improve performance by helping ensure products are not over-designed. The COSMOSWorks Designer analysis tool, included in SolidWorks Office Premium, offers new, unique capabilities for weldment analysis - a complex process made easy, but which is beyond the reach of other analysis tools. SolidWorks Office Premium now includes COSMOSMotion analysis software, which will benefit design teams making products with critical moving parts
that require well-engineered dynamic properties.


"SolidWorks 2007 is a milestone release because with the introduction of SWIFT, 3D CAD crosses the line from automation to intelligence," said SolidWorks Corporation CEO John McEleney. "Not only do users have new ways to compress sophisticated operations into minimal commands, they now possess the wisdom and expertise of the most accomplished SolidWorks experts. SWIFT will influence design engineering for years to come."


SolidWorks 2007 is available now for purchase in 12 languages worldwide through SolidWorks authorized resellers.


For more information about SolidWorks 2007, including video demonstrations, visit www.solidworks.com/SW2007PR/.


Commentary

by Jeffrey Rowe, Editor


I just returned from SolidWorks' headquarters in Concord, MA where I, along with a number of my peers, met with company executives, product managers, and developers. The company provided a series of presentations on the state of the company as well as an introduction to SolidWorks 2007. On the second day of the event, we were given a few hours of hands-on training with SolidWorks 2007 Office Premium. I always enjoy the hands-on part because it gives me a much better perspective on how a software application operates, and how well it compares with previous versions and the competition.


Like just about all of its competition, SolidWorks 2007 continues its attempt to coax AutoCAD users (still the biggest source of new customers) from 2D to 3D. One of the most significant new tools for 2D users is the ability to perform better mechanical simulation in 2D sketch blocks. eDrawings Publisher for AutoCAD can now publish 3D data from AutoCAD solids. Through the DWGviewer, this capability lets users communicate with models and drawings created in AutoCAD, and rotate, animate, and zoom in/out. The DWGeditor now includes PDF export for DWG and DXF files.


Although there are a number of new features and capabilities in SolidWorks 2007, I found the most interesting and significant to be SolidWorks Intelligent Feature Technology (SWIFT). It provides high-level assistance techniques for 3D some of the most challenging design operations and problems. The five components of SWIFT include:
  • FilletXpert - creates and modifies constant radius fillets without having to be concerned about the order of filleting. You can also change or remove fillets of a specific size. FeatureXpert is activated automatically when a fillet fails.
  • DraftXpert - creates and modifies neutral plane draft features with having to reorder other features. DraftXpert is activated automatically when a draft feature fails.
  • SketchXpert - determines why sketch dimensions and relationships are conflicting. This can make it easier to capture and maintain design intent.
  • DimXpert - recognizes features and automatically applies an appropriate dimension scheme. It also recognizes multiple instances of the same feature and groups those features as a pattern.
  • MateXpert - determines mate errors, view errors, and can force mates to resolve problems. The mate status is displayed and you can run View Mates when mate warnings or errors to display better isolate and solve problem conditions. This is a big deal for resolving problems associated with assembly components.
  • Of course, there are a lot more new features and capabilities, and as soon as I receive a shipping copy of SolidWorks 2007 Office Premium, I'll provide a short review of it here in a future edition of MCADCafe Weekly.

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    -- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.


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