Please Note: You may be looking for our review of the most recent version of SolidWorks, which can be found here
Crammed full of new innovations
Solidworks 2001 Plus from SolidWorks Corporation
Despite the established naming convention implying that 2001 Plus may be an incremental upgrade, the latest release from SolidWorks is crammed full of new innovations and functionality.
In come curvature continuous fillets for the designers, large assembly performance for machine builders and component interaction mechanical dynamics for evaluation of mechanisms.
As if the new release were not enough, the innovative eDrawings technology has also been updated to incorporate direct viewing of parts and assemblies plus mark-up and measure tools.
SolidWorks are building a reputation for constant improvement, making existing functionality more powerful, productive and intuitive.
The already clean interface has been enhanced by the use of the property manager in more commands and third party Gold partner applications to avoid dialog boxes obscuring the model.
Navigation is improved by the ability to use a wheel mouse to zoom in to the cursor position and edge anti-aliasing improves the overall visual fidelity.
Being able to exit a sketch and abandon all edits will avoid the frustration of repairing damaged geometry and curvature inspection tools are available on the right click menu, remaining visible after closing the sketch if required.
In circumstances where a model is to be based on freehand concept illustrations, a scanned tif file can be imported into a sketch.
Although lines are not vectorised automatically nor sketch entities snapped to the bitmap, it can be helpful to work directly over an image.
Text for embossing or engraving can now follow curves rather than just being linear.
Construction plane options have been expanded to include a perpendicular to surface option, useful in situations such as tangential to a cylinder.
Of particular interest for visible external forms is the ability to create curvature continuous face fillets to avoid harsh highlights where faces transition immediately to full radius with normal fillets.
Of course as modelling tools offer greater scope for improving surface quality, so the need for analysis tools increase.
In addition to a coloured curvature contour map, zebra stripes can be superimposed onto the model to identify any discontinuities.
A new draft analysis tool enables coloured faces or a gradual contour map to indicate areas of positive, neutral or negative draft.
Face colours can be retained to aid subsequent modelling or communication.
Fillets can be applied to specific existing features and variable fillets are enhanced with the ability to add and manipulate control points that can each be assigned their own fillet radii.
Lofts and sweeps now display shaded previews and additional sections can be extracted from a lofted form to allow subsequent editing.
In addition to specifying tangency to existing geometry at the start and end of a loft, side tangency can also be set to achieve excellent fitting of new features.
The migration of users from 2D is aided with a suite of new tools.
Cross hatching can be ignored on drawing import and potential problem areas such as overlaid lines can be repaired.
Orthographic views can then be projected onto a ‘glass box’ with alignment achieved by specifying corresponding edges or points.
Chain outlines can be selected as model profiles with the start and extent positions of their features specified on a perpendicular view.
Although these tools all appear on a 2D-3D toolbar, many can also be useful in regular modelling.
Planning the modelling of composite components such as hinged moulded parts has always required careful thought.
The split part function allows the full moulded form to be modelled and then be divided and automatically loaded into a new assembly.
New assembly mates include cylinder tangent and point coincident options.
Tools have also been added to diagnose mate problems with colour coding indicating features causing or contributing to the problem.
Dynamic manipulation of parts within an assembly has always been a strength in SolidWorks.
This is enhanced by the ability to move multiple parts simultaneously and most significantly to interact with other components.
This level of physical dynamics is unique in a core modeller product and allows intuitive assessment of complex mechanisms.
Performance with large assemblies is greatly enhanced by culling detail during rotation and the ability to specify the threshold number of components at which performance sapping features such as anti-aliasing, shadows and transparency are automatically suppressed.
Control over configurations has been greatly enhanced with nested configurations, and the ability for feature end conditions, sketch planes, equations and sketch relations and dimensions to be configuration specific.
Development continues in the drawing environment to both improve functionality for existing users and to convince 2D migrators that drawing output is not compromised.
Indeed drawings from 3D models do have significant potential benefits such as shaded views that despite not appealing to drafting purists can enhance communication.
New dimension and annotation options include chamfer variants, dowel symbols and fit tolerances.
Dimension styles can be saved as favourites for rapid recall of multiple setting preferences.
Leader lines can be intelligently broken where they cross other lines to aid legibility.
The overall interface style of heads-up working is maintained by editing text labels in edit windows in-situ in the drawing area.
The SolidWorks range of utilities are now available as a bundle.
Presentation orientated tools include PhotoWorks for rendering, Animator for generating AVI files within the modeller and 3D instant website for collaborative data sharing.
Productivity tools include a toolbox of standard components, feature recognition and compare tools and utilities for highlighting problem geometry or finding and suppressing features based on geometric criteria such as radius.
The highly innovative eDrawing application has been upgraded to version 2 and is now available in two versions.
The standard free version allows eDrawing files to be created directly from parts and assemblies as well as drawing sheets.
These can be compact data only files that can be opened by recipients with the application, as HTML for use in a browser with the downloadable ActiveX plug-in or can have the viewer embedded for transmission as a self-contained exe file.
eDrawings can also be generated from AutoCAD although functionality is limited.
When generated from SolidWorks parts standard view orientation tools are available and an animation between them can be played.
Design comprehension can also be aided by using a section view that can be dynamically dragged through the model.
Components in an assembly can be hidden with a component level hierarchy tree helping navigation.
Drawing sheets can be manipulated to position relevant views for convenience using virtual folds.
Multiple folds can be stored using the eDrawing manager side bar.
Print quality has been improved and drawings can now contain OLE objects.
eDrawing 2 data is saved within native 2001Plus parts and so becomes the only viewer application needed.
The professional version contains all the standard functionality plus the ability to publish files with embedded mark-up functionality that any viewers can subsequently access.
Mark-up annotations appear in the feature manager and can be saved as separate review files.
These can be manually loaded into the eDrawing file so that reviewers only need to return small review files, not the full eDrawing file.
The ability to measure and temporarily dimension the model can also be enabled or disabled at publish time.
The professional version costs £950.
Whilst there is inevitably much similarity between the bunch of design centric, Windows based modellers, SolidWorks are genuine innovators.
Although the sheer range of functionality now available puts at risk the reputation for ease of use and approachability, effort is clearly made with each release to streamline the interface.
The potential benefits of eDrawings 2 and physical dynamics alone make this release worth a look.