SolidWorks 2011 Launched

Keeping abreast and familiar with the waves of technical and engineering software that continually crosses my desk is a chore to keep up with. I (along with my peers) have to stay on top of a broad industry that has diverse needs and requirements. It's not easy trying to stay on top of hundreds of currently marketed CAD/CAM/CAE/PLM core products, add-ins, partners, and services; much less emerging technologies and R&D efforts. I constantly get requests to demo and review software and hardware (beta and shipping). This year, in fact, I have received 307 such requests (actually 71 fewer than last year at this time), so I am very selective because they can be demanding and time consuming. I wish I had the luxury of becoming an expert with a given software technology or small group of technologies, but that's not the case. As I have said in the past, I do not review and report on products that are, in my opinion, obviously bad or “me too” products. Why waste my time and the time of my readers? It just doesn't make sense. So, the different technical software media have different voices because our media consumers have different needs and expectations. Also, as I've said in the past, we're all relevant to the people we try to serve, so tone down some of the self-promotion, self-aggrandizing, and self-importance proclamations by continually stating how great you are and how bad the vendors, their products, and other media members are.

Anyway, back to the issue at hand - some of the more significant aspects of SolidWorks 2011. These are far from all the new features and enhancements, but are the ones that interested me most in beginning to evaluate the beta version.

  • Workflow improvements. The connection between design and manufacturing continues to get stronger with recent releases of SolidWorks, and the 2011 version exemplifies this effort. A handoff between design and manufacturing, not a toss of a design “over the transom” from design to manufacturing. Weldments, sheet metal, and routing improvements are testimony to ongoing overall workflow improvements.

  • Collaboration and visualization. PhotoView 360 is huge in this area. I'm really glad to see it fully integrated into SolidWorks 2011. It was good as an add-in last year, and I'm sure it will be even better as a full-fledged part of the core product.

    SolidWorks Sustainability. Designing “green” products has been one of the bandwagon issues for CAD vendors the past couple of release cycles. What started out as a SolidWorks Labs project last year became a real product.

  • SolidWorks Sustainability is intended to assist in optimizing the creation of sustainable designs through life cycle assessment (how materials, manufacturing method, and location influence a design's environmental impact throughout a design's life cycle) and environmental impact factors. All of the impact factors are displayed on the Environmental Impact Dashboard that dynamically updates with any changes you make to the various factors. How well SolidWorks Sustainability will play still remains to be seen, but I am sure it will enjoy wider acceptance over time as design sustainability becomes more central to the design process.

As I said earlier, I just downloaded and have started using the beta version of SolidWorks 2011. Once I've had some quality time with it and the shipping version, I'll be in a much better position to tell you about what's really new and improved. SolidWorks is a big product with a lot to investigate, so stay tuned for a detailed look in the coming weeks.

The Week's Top 5

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

Autodesk Announces AutoCAD for Mac and AutoCAD WS App for iPad and iPhone
Autodesk announced AutoCAD for Mac software. This version of AutoCAD runs natively on Mac OS. Autodesk also announced the AutoCAD WS mobile application, a new app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch that will allow users to edit and share their AutoCAD designs in the field. AutoCAD for Mac has an intuitive interface that will be familiar to Mac users and makes available many of the powerful AutoCAD features and functionality to customers who choose to work natively on the Mac. AutoCAD for Mac takes advantage of Mac OS X, including graphical browsing of design files with Cover Flow and use of Multi-Touch gestures on Mac notebooks, Magic Mouse, and Magic Trackpad for intuitive pan and zoom features. The value of AutoCAD for Mac is further extended with an extensive API (application programming interface) and flexible customization options that allow for tailor-built workflows, simple application development and adaption, custom configurations for settings and screen real estate options to suit individual workflows and project demands. Autodesk also announced the AutoCAD WS mobile application, a new free app soon to be available through Apple's App Store that will extend AutoCAD to Apple's iOS. The AutoCAD WS mobile application will enable AutoCAD users to edit and share AutoCAD files on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch so they can have real-time collaboration even while on the go.

ZWSOFT Announces the Acquisition of VX
ZWCAD Software Co., Ltd (ZWSOFT) announced that it has completed its acquisition of VX Corp., an American CAD/CAM solutions provider since 1985. Currently, ZWSOFT services over 180,000 users in 80 plus countries around the world and is aiming to become a leader in both the 2D and 3D CAD/CAM market.VX Corp. was known for its 3D CAD/CAM solution based on their state-of-the-art VX kernel. As a wholly owned subsidiary of ZWSOFT, VX and ZWSOFT will adopt this powerful technology for their latest product, ZW3D. This new all-in-one CAD/CAM solution will extend enterprise-level mechanical design and engineering capabilities to the desktop at an attractive price (to be announced). Also, ZWSOFT now owns and controls its own proprietary geometric modeling kernel. ZWSOFT will release the ZW3D product line this month during the company's annual Global Partner Conference.

Astronauts Stay Strong with Help from SolidWorks
Though phenomenally fit, astronauts grow weak after prolonged missions in zero gravity. To help combat muscle atrophy, a Spanish company using SolidWorks software has developed a sophisticated system to test their strength in space. Called MARES, the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System was developed by NTE-SENER for the European Space Agency (ESA). MARES consists of an adjustable chair with a system of pads, levers, electronics, software, and a motor that tests a dozen muscle groups for weakness and exercise benefits. It was launched last April aboard the NASA Discovery Space Shuttle and will soon be installed in the European Columbus Module of the International Space Station. The design requirements were rigorous. MARES needed to restrain the astronaut, limit motion to the tested muscles, ensure user safety, deliver power-assisted resistance, and handle any astronaut between the fifth and 95th height percentiles. The system also needed to be modular so astronauts could assemble, disassemble, stow, and operate it.

Alibre Announces Social Media Site for 3D Designers & Diyers
Alibre Inc. announced, its new social media website for Alibre inspired 3D designers, digital fabricators and DIYers. The new site is a center for Alibre designers to connect and share their latest Alibre Designs, announce new product launches, share information, ask questions, and publicize their products within the community.

New Verisurf Model-Based GD&T Inspection Software Eliminates Need for 2D Drawings
Verisurf released the 5th generation of its Verisurf X software. With Model-Based GD&T Inspection technology at its core, the all-new computer-aided inspection and reverse engineering software inspects parts faster and more accurately without any need for 2D drawings. Verisurf Model-Based GD&T data can be:

  • Imported from or created on virtually any 3D CAD/CAM model
  • Inspected to manually or as part of an automated inspection process
  • Reported on in a variety of industry formats

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