Last week SolidWorks Corp. released SolidWorks 2008, the newest version of its leading 3D CAD software. SolidWorks 2008 delivers a new intuitive, time-saving user interface (UI) as well as impressive 3D graphics, builds on the company's breakthrough SolidWorks Intelligent Feature Technology (SWIFT), accelerates better product design, and includes more advanced design analysis capabilities than any other CAD software.
With more than 250 user-requested enhancements, SolidWorks 2008 lets users concentrate on solving design challenges, not on using the software, and leverages existing designs to save time and ensure accuracy. It also helps users improve their designs by providing feedback about quality and manufacturability up front.
"The SolidWorks 2008 UI is very slick with an even more intuitive feel," said beta user Josh A. Mings, interior engineer of Executive Aircraft Completions, Tulsa, Okla. "You're more efficient because you have more opportunities to work on, in, and around the model in addition to the menu options. Switching between documents is more efficient, too, because you can see what you're switching to before you actually do. The more you experience it, the better SolidWorks 2008 gets."
SolidWorks 2008 introduces a host of new capabilities that lets users immerse themselves in their designs.
First is the new user experience. The intuitive workflow predicts which tools users will need in the context of the specific task they are undertaking and makes them readily available. The interface increases useful window real estate, reduces mouse travel, provides innovative customization options, and provides task-based command selection. These attributes help establish SolidWorks as the easiest to use 3D CAD system, focusing users on their designs and minimizing distractions.
SWIFT Instant3D, one of several unique new features built on the SWIFT framework, lets users create and modify 3D model features simply by manipulating drag handles directly on the model. Users don't need to deal with esoteric commands, dialog boxes, and extensive data input other CAD systems require. "Live cross-sections" enable users to make edits by dragging edges while looking at a slice of the model.
SWIFT DimXpert automatically sets geometric dimensions and tolerances on parts, saving time and providing expert information every design team needs. It provides visual feedback on whether the model has been properly described and is ready for manufacturing. DimXpert adheres to the ASME Y14.41-2003 3D specification and automatically creates views, dimensions, and tolerances in 2D drawings for complete design documentation.
"SolidWorks is on the right track with SWIFT," said Gisela Wilson, director of industry analyst firm International Data Corporation (IDC)'s Product, Project, and Portfolio Management program. "With this new release, it is again deepening design capabilities but without burdening users with lots of additional hard-to-learn complexities. SWIFT and SolidWorks 2008 can make a substantial difference for design teams in time to market, cost containment, quality of user experience, and ultimately quality of result."
SolidWorks 2008 gives users unique new ways to design better products faster by repurposing portions of existing designs while enforcing best practices.
The Design Clipart capability lets users search their file systems for sketches, tables, images, features, views, or DWG blocks that are inside existing designs. Once the item is located, Design Clipart dissects target files, allowing users to simply drag the item to incorporate it in new designs. The Design Clipart feature helps engineers recoup the hours they spend every day looking for already finished designs. Design Clipart also extends SolidWorks' leadership in the reuse of AutoCAD data by allowing quick access to any portion of a DWG file without the need for translation.
In addition to supporting native DWG blocks, SolidWorks 2008 alerts users when a referenced DWG block has been changed. Users can also natively edit these DWG blocks in the DWGeditor by simply right-clicking the block - a natural, efficient workflow for leveraging DWG data in new 3D designs.
Design teams for the first time can manage all of their 2D files from the SolidWorks desktop using a new capability called the DWGnavigator. The DWGnavigator lets users perform powerful DWG-specific searches, find references, view, and package up files for sharing. Users can also save their files in the format of any version of AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT software for unmatched interoperability.
Another unique development, DriveWorksXpress, automatically creates custom parts, assemblies, and drawings based on pre-defined design rules, enabling companies to quickly and economically respond to the unique needs of every customer.
SolidWorks 2008 gives design teams powerful new tools to help produce accurate designs that are complete, of high quality, and manufacturable the first time.
COSMOSWorks Design Insight, for example, displays the portions of CAD models that carry applied loads, making it easy for designers to decide whether to add material for strength or subtract it to avoid costly over-engineering. DFMXpress, another unique SolidWorks feature, helps "design for manufacturability," preventing costly downstream design errors by automatically flagging elements that are difficult, expensive, or impossible to machine, such as 90-degree milled corners.
TolAnalyst is an automated tolerance stack-up tool that helps companies avoid the hidden potential fit and function problems that can result from variations in manufacturing tolerances in an assembly. TolAnalyst helps identify the most critical tolerances and lets users tighten or loosen any tolerance to avoid functional problems or costly over-engineering. TolAnalyst also reduces the need for tedious error-prone hand calculations, increasing users' confidence that their designs will yield properly functioning products the first time.
"Designers use SolidWorks to create products throughout the day, so the software must help them be efficient and effective," said John McEleney, SolidWorks CEO. "In addition to powerful, unique design capabilities, SolidWorks 2008 delivers a smart user experience that fits naturally with the designers' workflow, allowing them to focus on innovation - which is the number one goal for them and us."
SolidWorks 2008 is available now for purchase in 13 languages worldwide through SolidWorks authorized resellers.
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
A few weeks ago I spent the better part of a day with two SolidWorks folks – Darren Henry and Rick Chin – and got an overview/preview of SolidWorks 2008. As with just about any new release of MCAD software, the time went by quickly as they covered as many of the new features and capabilities as time allowed.
Most releases of MCAD software have a general theme, and SolidWorks 2008 actually has the following three themes:
- Focus on design, not CAD
- Reuse existing designs
- Improve designs
While these themes aren’t entirely new or unique in the MCAD world, they do provide a basis or context for discussing some of the major highlights of SolidWorks 2008.
In keeping with the “focus on design” theme, the SolidWorks UI has been extensively overhauled this time around that increases design window space and decreases mouse clicks, including an enhanced CommandManager. SolidWorks’ SWIFT technology continues to evolve with Instant3D that allows models to be created and manipulated in real time by dragging faces and providing dynamic feedback. This puts editing tools right on the model and lets you see changes as they are made. Also in SWIFT, DimXpert now automatically dimensions 3D parts and ensures that they are fully dimensioned. There are also a number of enhancements in other aspects of SWIFT that will make a lot of tasks more efficient. Working with large assemblies should be easier this time around with assembly management tools, such as QuickView, with its new selection and filtering tools. For example, hidden components are not loaded into memory, but mates are maintained so you can work on an assembly as if the entire assembly is loaded.
The main reason for reusing designs is to leverage at least portions of an existing design to save time and focus on improving that design. DriveWorksXpress is new to SolidWorks 2008 and lets you automate repetitive design tasks for creating product design options and variants. With DesignWorksXpress you can capture critical design information and use it in the future to automatically create parts, assemblies, and drawings for product variants based on pre-defined design rules. Once the rules are defined, design variants can be created by filling out a simple form telling the software what product options you want. In the area of data translation, edit imported B-rep data via Instant3D – click on the geometry and edit it – SolidWorks 2008 automatically converts that geometry into a SolidWorks feature. Features available this time around for instant editing include filets, chamfers, and holes. Still attempting to appeal to the AutoCAD user, and as a further complement to other existing AutoCAD tools connected with SolidWorks, DWGnavigator is a free file management for DWG and DXF files. DWGnavigator allows conversion of a DWG file from one version to another, meaning that you don’t have to upgrade AutoCAD to remain compatible.