Product Spotlight - SolidWorks 2004

Starting this week, and as often as we can, we will provide you with a short review of a CAD, CAM, or CAE hardware or software product that we consider to be outstanding. These brief reviews will provide some insight into various products and may help you decide if they might be right for your business. This week we'll kick things off with a look at SolidWorks 2004.

Product Spotlight - SolidWorks 2004

SolidWorks 2004 is the twelfth release of the SolidWorks flagship since 1995 and with its new features, this release should appeal to a new group of potential users who are still trying to decide about moving to a 3D MCAD package.

The new user interface is something users will probably love or hate, at least initially. However, the new UI will make SolidWorks 2004 easier to learn, especially for new users - either new to SolidWorks or new to 3D CAD.

The new CommandManager replaces the toolbars previously found in SolidWorks, although the old style toolbars are still available if you want to use them. Quick Tips are a comprehensive set of pop-up messages that are displayed as you create SolidWorks objects. These messages provide hints and options based on the mode you are in. Most of the messages also have hyperlinks that let you display additional information associated with the original Quick Tip. Even ordinary tooltips are more useful because they not only show you the name of the tool as you hover over it, a brief description of its functionality is also displayed.


SolidWorks 2004 can now accommodate up to 3GB of memory, and along with better memory management, are two things that will accelerate performance levels for large assemblies. If you edit large assemblies a lot during your work day, a new feature called lightweight subassemblies - an extension of lightweight parts in earlier versions of SolidWorks - will probably save you a lot of time during a typical day. When you open an assembly using lightweight subassemblies, only the subassemblies that you are working on become fully resolved. Spatial and visualization design data is available at all times, but B-rep data, that eats up memory, loads only when needed.

Curvy Stuff

A new deform feature in SolidWorks 2004 lets you perform simple industrial design and turn boxy shapes organic by pushing and pulling on any point or deforming the shape to an existing curve, while still maintaining the original engineering intent. A handy complement to the deform tool is section view. While it used to take several seconds to generate a single cutaway view in a complex freeform model, you can now view them just about instantaneously by dynamically scrolling and rotating a plane forward and backward through an object.

The loft connector, lets you create complex 3D shapes by interpolating multiple 2D cross-sections of varying size without nasty undesirable twisting. Loft connectors define how model profiles align.

For design visualization and presentation, a new feature in SolidWorks 2004 is RealView, a real-time rendering tool that can realistically show how a design will look when it is physically produced. Realistic shaders and materials add lifelike qualities to designs, and environment maps provide realistic reflections without having to leave the design mode.

Once a freeform plastic product is designed, it still needs a mold for production. Even with all the design tools available today, mold design is still by and large a complicated proposition. SolidWorks 2004, however, has a set of integrated mold tools that step you through a large part of the process.


SolidWorks 2004 contains a weldment environment that simulates how weldments are actually designed and fabricated. Previous versions of SolidWorks treated weldments as assemblies - you had to sketch each structural member as an individual part and then mate the parts together in an artificial assembly. You can now design structures by sketching them in a part document instead of creating an assembly. SolidWorks 2004 treats structural or plate weldments as a single part, making them easier to create and edit. Also, in SolidWorks 2004, structural weldment members, such as fillets, weld beads, gussets, end caps, and cut lists are predefined and available without having to configure each weldment.

As has been the case with just about every new release, it's difficult to hit anything but the highlights of SolidWorks 2004. There are a lot of new and improved features that I couldn't even touch on. This release will appeal to a wider group of users than any previous release - industrial designers, moldmakers, machine and robotics designers, and those involved with assembling and welding structural steel designs.

The 1,000th Seat Of

CoCreate Software Inc., a provider of collaborative product development software, announced that orders for its have reached the 1,000 seat mark just three months after becoming generally available to the market. is designed specifically as a lightweight collaboration tool for engineering data and project teams. It includes a secure project workspace, integrated meeting center for Web-based meetings, application sharing, instant messaging, decision and task tracking, and a 3D model explorer for evaluating product designs.

Orders have come from organizations of all sizes and regions, including companies such as ABB Corporate Research, Advanced Tech Products, APTEC, BMW Motorsport, CDI Engineering Solutions - Aerospace Technology, Edslev A/S, Sapa Profiler AB, SMiTO GmbH, Teksid and Woco GmbH & Co.; indicating that is being adopted across a broad range of vertical industries, including electronics, aerospace, automotive, machinery, and manufacturing.

CoCreate credits much of the early success of to its free trial, which lets companies evaluate in their own environments, on active projects. "Companies going through trials of are impressed with how quickly the software installs and how easy it is to use," said William Gascoigne, CEO, CoCreate Software. "End users consistently report that they are able to install the software in under 10 minutes, and use it with real projects, to solve real problems, within 20 minutes. We know of no better way for companies to predict real life benefits than to actually put the software in the hands of real users."

Trial users agree that it is the most effective way for companies to evaluate new software. Mark Wessels, Mold Designer at Applied Tech Products, said, "We used several times with one of our customers during our trial, and found that it saved us a lot of time trying to communicate changes on a complex part. All it took was 10 to 15 minutes in each meeting to get our points across."

Another selling point for is its low, flexible pricing schedule. " occupies a unique place in the collaborative software market, in that it is affordable for companies of all sizes," said Gascoigne. " is leapfrogging traditional companies in the PLM industry that have priced their solutions out of reach of small to mid-size organizations. While traditional PLM software requires lengthy planning and implementation efforts and takes years to achieve positive payback, can be implemented in minutes, and companies can start seeing return on investment the same day. Nobody else in the industry can say that."

Several analyst firms have recognized collaboration software such as as a bright spot in a humbled industry. "Visual collaboration software delivers the fastest value at the lowest cost when compared to other classes of PLM-related applications," said Marc Halpern, Research Director at Gartner. "Product development companies should invest in collaborative software as an early step in improving their product development performance. Collaboration software is extremely important for firms who depend on the supply chain for their survival. "

I've seen in action and can honestly say that it's got two huge things going for it - it's collaboration that really works, and it's extremely simple to learn to use. Beyond, CoCreate also produces other software applications for designing products, sharing ideas, and managing data. OneSpace Designer CAD products, for example, include 2D drafting, 3D modeling, and data management tools. Since becoming independent from HP a couple of years ago, CoCreate has come a long way and developed and marketed some innovative products that will complement other MCAD packages already in place.

Getting A Quick Start With ICED*CAD

ICED*CAD, a software product developed by QSSolutions - Engineered Systems Group for manufacturers that allows their customers and distributors to instantly configure complex assemblies, announced its QuickStart Program. The program, which will be offered to seven "best fit" companies, provides comprehensive analysis and real-time functional testing of the ICED*CAD software using the manufacturers' own product data and configuration process.

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