SolidWorks:HEARD - The Next Chapter

THEHEaRD_SunSet.png

For the past 8+ years I have been podcasting and blogging out of my interest to provide a place to share my excitement and knowledge in SolidWorks, engineering and tech.  It was a labor of love for many years and I look back at the late nights recording in my office at home and wouldn't trade it for anything.  So you may be asking, "Um... why are you telling me this?"  Well, this past week I resigned from Digital Dimensions after 12 and 1/2 years and will be starting a new chapter in my career as a team member at Onshape.

I want to thank Digital Dimensions for their support and sponsorship of the show.  Without their support, the show would not have been possible, especially the ability to ensure consistency, allowing me to record during business hours when necessary.

So what is the future of site as it exists today?  Well, the show will morph a bit to be more CAD neutral and branch out to focus more on CAD technology and engineering tools, much of which will be on the web.  The web, for me personally, is the platform of choice and a factor that weighs heavily on decisions I make when choosing tools to use.  I am not sure of the exact name of the site or the specific details yet but I am working on that as I type.  Obviously the SolidWorks:HEARD! name will change and the site URL will just redirect in order to make the transition as seamless as possible.

CAD and tech are still very much passions of mine and this site will continue to be an expression of that excitement.  The content, direction and topics will be selected by myself and you, the audience, and not that of my employer.  So stay tuned over the next few weeks as the transition takes place and for those of you that are subscribed to the feed, you will be directed over to the new feed once it is converted.  I want to thank you for the past 8 years of countless emails,  chats, social network interactions and comments and look forward to more tech discovery with you all in the years to come.  All the best!  ~Lou

SolidWorks World 2014 | SolidWorks 2015 Reveal

SolidWorks World general session day 3 is typically all about the next feature set in the traditional version of SolidWorks.  This year SolidWorks 2015 was the focus and the Product Marketing group performed another skit, as they have since 2007ish, and this year it was a parody of Batman called CADMAN!

The skit was entertaining and corny but they showed off some good stuff to come in the next build of SolidWorks.  These are all on the live blog with pictures of many of these new features. Below is a list of what was shown....

  • Split command now cuts surfaces (SolidWorks)
  • Define asymmetric fillets - set face fillet bias (SolidWorks)
  • Switch pattern from a feature to a body pattern without deleting and redefining. (SolidWorks)
  • Render region tool - draw a box over the screen and render it within the model (PV360)
  • Midpoint line tool - draw a line from midpoint and it auto relates (SolidWorks)
  • Convert spline to Style Spline without replace or delete (SolidWorks)
  • Segment lines with auto-split, co linear relationships and equal length (SolidWorks)
  • Rectangle tool has orthogonal construction lines with new options (SolidWorks)
  • Weldment cut list uses weldment details for the folder description (SolidWorks)
  • SolidWorks Costing now works on SolidWorks Weldments (SolidWorks)
  • View results while Simulation is still solving (Simulation)
  • Ducting feature and wire raceways inserted similar to piping (SolidWorks Routing)
  • Width mate now supports geometry limits.  This is similar to PhysicalDynamics so it detects surface to surface contact. (SolidWorks)
  • Chain pattern - allows alignment to a curve and relationships can allow motion (SolidWorks)
  • Profile Mate - Mate two faces and SolidWorks automatically aligns the surfaces coincident and the center of the profiles are also aligned. (SolidWorks)
  • Open part from drawing in same orientation (SolidWorks)
  • Break View works in parts and assemblies then leverage in drawings.  Works for isometric views too! (SolidWorks Drawings)
  • Angular dimensions can use many model edges to avoid creating construction geometry. (SolidWorks Drawings)
  • Zone lines for drawings (SolidWorks Drawings)
  • Decimal rounding options in Document Options
  • Layer Printing - control print access to specific layers (SolidWorks Drawings)
  • SolidWorks Inspection integration inside of SolidWorks.  It can read many aspects of the drawing like tolerances and other aspects to auto build inspection reports.  This tool also runs outside of SolidWorks and can do OCR (Optical Character Recognition) of PDF and TIFF Files. (SolidWorks Inspection)
  • SolidWorks Enterprise PDM Web2 - A server-side web client that can run in any browser and has mobile specific views for phones and tablets.  It also can call up eDrawings mobile from the device for viewing and markup. (SolidWorks EPDM)

In addition to this list, Neil Cooke also talked about a few things that would be available for users in 2014 as well.  The first was an integrated task pane in SolidWorks, Draftsight and eDrawings to access the 3DExperience communities as well as a new 3DExperience dashboard that will give users a cloud drive that is accessible from SolidWorks, Draftsight, Mechanical Conceptual etc, and allow users to share content to members of their teams.  They also show a complete web based version of eDrawings as well.  

No details to whether this was part of your SolidWorks subscription or if it would come at additional cost.  As details come available, I will update this post.  ~Lou

eDrawings Meetings - Sneak Peek

eDrawing_meetings.png

In the excitement of SolidWorks announcing eDrawings Pro for Android, I completely missed another announcement at the very bottom of the SolidWorks blog post.  eDrawings Meetings, a collaborative, real-time markup and interaction mode, is being shown as a sneak peek at SolidWorks World.  eDrawings Meetings will allow remote interaction and utilize the Augmented Reality (AR) as well as other markup tools in eDrawings in real-time.  

The post does state an example scenario between two offices and mentions specifically eDrawings for iPad, so hopefully this not another iOS first feature of eDrawings mobile. SolidWorks is previewing a "pre-Beta" version of eDrawings Meetings and wants to get feedback from the community.  They have not yet released a date for eDrawings Meetings but keep an eye out for announcements soon. ~Lou

 

Mechanical Conceptual | More Answers..Still Questions

Today more questions were answered on Mechanical Conceptual in the general session at SolidWorks World 2014.  Here are a few things we now know:

  • The interface closely resembles that of SolidWorks (Instant3D, contextual tooltips, mouse gestures, tools and icons...)
  • Cloud connected means a cloud database automating document management and collaboration.
  • This will be a hosted solution at first but there are plans to offer a private cloud option that runs behind the firewall.
  • Inviting users to collaborate is free through the SwYm community and they do not have to have a license of Mechanical Conceptual.
  • The cost will be $2988 USD ($250/mo) *unsure if this will be offered in a monthly payment plan but was mentioned on stage.
  • Resellers will begin selling it on April 2, 2014.

Many of these questions were being asked when Mechanical Conceptual debuted at last year's SolidWorks World.  Today they also interviewed four of their "lighthouse" testing group and they explained how it fit into their workflows for concept design.  One of them even said they were opening 56,000 part assemblies in 1/3 of the time of SolidWorks.

This all sounds promising but there are still some questions that remain that hopefully will be explained by the end of the conference.  Here are a few:

  • How does Mechanical Conceptual work with SolidWorks? (Once the concept is done, what is the workflow to move the design further in SolidWorks)
  • Is there an offline mode or a way to work when disconnected. (Being a Chromebook user, I see the power of the cloud and have ways to use my device when disconnected)
  • What operating systems will SWMC run on?  Since this is not just a flimsy thin-client, will it run on Windows, Mac, Linux?  What about mobile platforms?
  • What happens when the service is terminated?  How to I get my data?  I liken this to Google Takeout, an initiative to make is easy to take data out of their services.

It is still early and I will post an update to this post once I get some answers over the next couple of days.  ~Lou

 

SolidWorks World 2014 Kickoff

SolidWorks World 2014 is on it's way beginning with their annual kickoff in the partner pavilion. The partner showing seems to be comparable to recent years and the promise of new product announcements is all the buzz.  Mechanical Conceptual, announced last year at SolidWorks World, had a place in the DS booth tonight but nothing was being revealed yet.  The anticipation, among many of the attendees, is in the actual details of how this new product will work, cost and integrate into their current workflows. 

The live blog kicks off tomorrow at 8:30am PST and if you cannot watch it live and ask questions, you can come back and replay the event at any time.  If you are interested in having notes for any of the sessions, submit your sessions here.  Coverage of the event will be covered on Google+ and twitter as well under the hashtag #sww14. ~Lou

RealView on a Mac...Secrets Revealed!

Transient

When Apple switched their architecture from PowerPC to Intel in 2005 the race was on to get Windows running on Apple hardware without emulation.  Since then we all know the story and anyone can get Windows running on a Mac in a number of configurations without much effort.

I have been doing this since 2006 and have run all the SolidWorks products on 4 different Apple Macbook Pros from the first Core2 MBP in 2006 to the newest Macbook Pro Retina now running Windows 8.1.  Over the years I have gone to great lengths to run SolidWorks on my Mac without limits, including support for RealView.  Apple has changed video cards, video card manufacturers and Microsoft has shipped 32/64 bit XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and now Windows 8.1.  Saying that the playing field has changed a bit would be an understatement to say the least!

On the first builds I had to use Riva Tuner from Guru3d.com to build a hacked or "tuned" driver that enabled the pro series features on my "gamer card" that ships with the Macbook Pro.  This method was necessary to meet the requirements on the "Approved" SolidWorks video card testing site in order to unlock the RealView functionality.  The other issue was simply the earlier video cards in the various Mac lines were very under powered and tuning was necessary to handle the graphics load of SolidWorks.  

The good news is the hacking is over and there is a simple way to enable RealView on your Mac.

Disclaimer...

A word or warning though, as you all know SolidWorks still states very clearly on its system requirements page that:

Apple Macintosh®-based machines running Windows using Boot Camp are not supported.

I think it is also safe to say that someone whom uses a Mac has it for reasons beyond just using SolidWorks and want the ability to use the same machine for any application, Windows, Linux, or Mac.  If you don't have a need to use a Mac, don't buy one.  Alright.  Now that that is out of the way, here are the bits you were after...

Transient
  1. You must be running SolidWorks 2011 or later (might work on earlier builds but have not tested prior to 2011)
  2. Close SolidWorks... 
  3. Launch regedit and go to key:   HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\SolidWorks\SolidWorks 2012\Performance\Graphics\Hardware\Gl2Shaders\NV40
  4. Under the NV40 key (This will work for many of the nVidia line for ATI the RV420 key works for many of them) create a new key called GeForce (you can use the full name shown in your device manager as well)
  5. Under this new "GeForce" key create a new DWORD (32-bit) Value called "Workarounds"
  6. Double click the "Workarounds"  and enter a hex value "40008" (without "") (this is the setting for the nVidia card, ATI is typically 0 but it varies)
  7. Launch SolidWorks... (Should see the RealView gold ball now)

Keep in mind...

There are a few things that I have noticed since using this registry tune for displaying RealView.

  1. Editing the registry can cause OS level damage so make sure you know what you are doing...consider yourself warned
  2. Typically I have to reset this reg key after installing a service pack so you may want to right click on your key and export it for a simple double click after a patch.
  3. This step by step is my procedure for the last 3 Macbook Pros that all were running nVidia cards so if you have the ATI version, make sure you use the RV420 key instead to add your generic key to. 
  4. This does not work with virtual machine solutions like Parallels or VMWare Fusion (Only booted into Windows native via Bootcamp). 

I get 20-30 emails a year asking me how to do this and I wanted to share it with all of you that are using a Mac and running SolidWorks.  It's understandable that SolidWorks has to limit the scope of support to exclude this configuration from its supported list (as they do for some builds of Windows).  However, I can personally say that I have been able to successfully do this since 2006 and my Mac laptops have been some of the fastest systems I have owned to date.

I have spoken to hundreds of people that are already running SolidWorks on their Macs via Bootcamp or even using Parallels or Fusion to get their jobs done. Whether you have a Mac for  "religious" reasons or require the platform for similar reasons as I do (hardware quality and application preferences only on OSX), this solution will make the SolidWorks experience in Bootcamp at par with most Windows-based laptops.  If you run into any issues trying to get this to work, please leave a comment or drop me a line and I'd be happy to help out.   ~Lou

SolidWorks Recognizes Android As A Platform

Screenshot_2013-08-13-16-17-19.png

Too harsh?  We Android users are used to having to wait for the next big app to ship after iOS. The fact that SolidWorks themselves stated in the SolidWorks Forums in the Official eDrawings Mobile Wish List thread that there were "No plans to develop for Android", brought customers out in droves requesting them to reconsider.

At SolidWorks World 2013 (January) a glimpse of hope was shown on the main stage when a sneek peek version of eDrawings was  running on Google's own Nexus 7 tablet. Things were looking good...

Yesterday news came down from the SolidWorks Blog that eDrawings had finally made it's debut onto the Google Play Store after being pre-announced back in January. eDrawings for Android, like it's iOS sister, is the only real viewer that can work with the breath of features in native SolidWorks files. 

Here are the details of the first eDrawings release for Android  (From the Play Store):

Features: 
* Intuitive and easy-to-use user interface
* Open 3D (EASM, EPRT, SLDASM, SLDPRT), 2D (EDRW, SLDDRW) and associated files from any source: email attachments, cloud storage services (Dropbox™, SkyDrive®, Google Drive, Hightail®, and others), web and FTP sites and network folders.
* Zoom, pan and rotate your 2D or 3D CAD data using multi-touch
* Animate 3D standard views
* Browse your 2D drawing sheets
* View your designs in full screen and double tap to fit it on screen
* Sample files included

You might remember the launch of the iPad version that shipped on May 1st, updated on June 15 and in September eDrawings Pro for iPad shipped which really made eDrawings on mobile something to envy.  There has been no official word on if/when a pro version will be available for Android but I am sure they are working on it as we speak.

In order to test eDrawings for Android like I did for iOS, I wanted to go back through my test files and see what still applied to the compatibility chart.  I did most of my testing on the new Nexus 7 which shipped on July 24th, 2013. The results were almost identical to the first iOS release except on Android it appears that you can open SolidWorks template files (just like the desktop version), which was not possible on the iOS version. Password protected files and files with markups in them will appear to open but just switch to eDrawings without any content available for viewing.  This is expected in a V1 release and I am sure there will be bug fixes and enhancements to come in the following weeks.  Below is the compatibility chart from my testing... 

At $1.99 this is a "no-brainer" purchase for any Android user and it seems to be compatible on both phones and tablets without issue.  I hope to see a Pro version soon but this is a great first step and hopefully we will see more parity with an iOS release schedule in the future.  ~Lou

SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual aka SWV6 at SWW13

SWMConceptual.jpg

Today Fielder Hiss took the main stage at SolidWorks World and revealed a new product that will be delivered from Dassault Systemes to focus on the conceptual design process.  A few things we know after this morning...

  • It is built on the "3DExperience Platform"
  • It is focused on conceptual design (thus the  intuitive name?, looks like they are taking after Microsoft in the marketing department)
  • Will be able to move the concept over to SolidWorks for further design completion
  • Appears to have modeling and assembly capabilities.
  • Design process starts in a similar layout sketch feature with associative nature (like layout sketches in SolidWorks)
  • Has integrated version management for keeping track of concepts (looked similar to snapshots in LDR in SolidWorks combined with a similar swapping capability of that in SolidWorks configurations.
  • Will perform Simulation
  • Has integrated Chat
  • Has screen sharing
  • History-based and Direct Editing
  • Can share to private collaboration social platform (like posting screen shots and markups with threaded discussions)
  • Will be available on Mobile

There was no use of the word "Cloud" which leads me to believe they learned their lesson back in 2010, however they did mention that it was "always connected".  The product appears to be installed locally (maybe a lightweight framework) with its data populated from DS own servers.  They also mentioned the ability to save state in order to address the instance of connectivity unexpectedly disconnecting so data stability in in tact.

There were no bits on pricing or how anyone would pay for it but they are going to be finding customers that would like to try it out for production., which they described as a test case and not a "beta test".  Although that sounds like semantics, this is DS asking for direct input which is very positive.  

Once this private test is complete, DS will open this up for public trials in October/ November this year.  I have heard this before with products like Live Buildings and the original SolidWorks V6 platform since 2010.  The only part of today that makes me think they might be aggressive in their attempts to meet meet those dates was the amount of detail they showed.  Unlike 3 years ago, this looked like a product that could be used and not a technical trial and vision product that they got working on stage in Anaheim.

I am sure more details will come out over the next couple of days but so far this looks like a pretty feature-rich tool but hands on with actual users will tell the truth.  More to come soon... ~Lou

eDrawings for iPad Goes Pro

Transient

Back at the beginning of May DS SolidWorks launched the 1.0 version of the long awaited eDrawings for iPad.  This first release was far from perfect but SolidWorks opened up the suggestions box and asked for feedback from the community.  Many of the feature requests were addressed in the 1.1 version that shipped just 45 days after the debut of eDrawings for iPad.

Although the biggest request was a version that would run on Android, which has still not been addressed, the feature list that makes eDrawings useful to a majority of it's users (Markup, Measure, Section, etc..) was still absent from the mobile version of eDrawings.  It appeared that subsequent updates would trickle out but that the buik of what this mobile client would do was somewhat feature complete.

On the last day of August 2012, DS SolidWorks launched another version of eDrawings for the iPad called eDrawings Pro for iPad, bringing almost all the features still missing in the standard version.  In addition to the first generation build, eDrawings Pro for iPad will add the following functionality:

  • UPDATED Interface
  • Read and create markups
  • View Decals
  • Measure
  • Apply cross sections

SolidWorks, on their blog, listed many features that were already in the first version of eDrawings along with the pricing for this new offering.  The official price will be $9.99 but will debut for 30 days at a 50% discount of $4.99.  I think the $4.99 price is probably fair but the $9.99 price tag might me a bit high unless this is a must have app for you.  Some folks seems to think this is a hefty price considering they already bought the first version that does most of what this version does.  Maybe I'd feel that way at the $10 mark however it would have been wiser to make the Professional features available as an in-app purchase in the original version for $4.99.  Perhaps this would ease the pain of buying the first version not knowing the Pro version was right around the corner.  Unfortunately I will probably just delete the original version of eDrawings since it has been obsoleted by the Pro version. ($2 early adopter fee?)  

It's interesting how the mobile app marketplace has changed not only the price point of apps but also the expectations of it's users.  Five years ago, people wouldn't even complain about an application that had a $10 price tag, in fact they probably wouldn't even hesitate to purchase it.  However, today a $10 mobile app brings a lot of  "purchase hesitation" where as a $4.99 price may be still considered an impuse buy.

Below is the updated compatibility chart I built from the first version of the application.  Obviously there are still things that can only be done on the desktop version but overall this mobile client is the one to have of the two.  It is not apparent if the new interface or other pre-existing features will be updated in the standard version of eDrawings for iPad.

As far as plans to eventually support Android, well the stance is the same:

"We opted to concentrate on iOS for the time being because we felt we would reach the most users that way. But as I said earlier, we welcome any and all feedback."  - Matthew West, Social Media Manager, DS SolidWorks

Personally I have purchased a Google Nexus 7 and think it is one of the best tablets I have used to date.  Having owned the original iPad and now the iPad 3rd generation, as a utility device, the Nexus is at par with the iPad and has become my go-to device.  I hope Google entering the market and making a reference design will promote more quality devices to be made by its partners and boost the Android tablet market.  At this point counting out Android on tablets is just not going to happen and more companies have to start giving Android love on day one instead of treating the platform like a second rate citizen.

eDrawings Pro for iPad is the real deal and is the feature set I have always wanted to see on a tablet.  At $4.99, it is worth every penny, even if I already paid for the first version.  I have invested a total of $7 into having this functionality on my tablet and would like to see it make its way not only to Android but also to phones since that is the platform that will reach the masses.  Having this feature set on any mobile device will move SolidWorks in the right direction to addressing what users want in the mobile space. ~Lou

Deploying EPDM on Windows Azure

Transient

Two weeks ago I did a show on my experiences of setting up a test server for EPDM on Microsoft's Platform as a  service (PaaS) and have been testing this setup over the last week.  I wanted to show a quick setup tutorial since this services has a 90 day trial where you can test drive it fully!

Since many of you probably have a Microsoft account, especially if you are testing Windows 8 or more primitivlely have a Hotmail account login, you can sign up for the trial and then get access to the Portal for Windows Azure.  Here are the options that you get access to once you complete the trial signup process.

For EPDM purposes there were two services that I was interested in, Virtual Machines and SQL Databases.  At first my thought was to use a VM to host the server requirements for the archive and database services and a drive to house the archive hive (data store for file versions) and then host the database on the hosted SQL database service.  

Before I move forward, I tested if this SQL service would support all the same features as the on-premises version .  After further research, this was more of a service to power database applications and does not support stored procedures and other requirements needed for the vault creation wizard (SA access or db_owner access).  I did try a few other tricks like creating the database on a local machine and then importing it to the SQL store but no luck.  In SQL Management Studio 2012 there is a new database task to deploy to SQL Azure which failed when I tried with the Conisio Master and vault database:

So despite wanting to use the hosted SQL platform, I had to resort to utilizing a local instance of SQL on a Windows Azure virtual machine.  The saving grace to using the Windows Azure VM is that you can literally deploy an instance in about 2 minutes with SQL already installed and setup.  The other benefit is downloading the 1GB EPDM install package also took only 3 min to download from the deployed VM!

So here is the quick list to build your own testing vault for EPDM with a picture step by step:

Once you follow the steps in the VM creation wizard, you will need to wait until the status of the VM show "Running".  You will then be able to click "Connect" which will create an RDP file with all the required connection info.  Now you have remote access to a brand new VM running Windows Server 2008 R2 with MS SQL 2012 installed.  There are a few changes to the setup that will need to be adjusted before use with EPDM is possible:

  1. Switch the SQL instance to Mixed mode and set your SA password (I am assuming you know how to do this -> Properties of the server in MS SQL MGT Studio.)
  2. Add connection endpoints in Windows Azure to allow specific port communication with the new server (I used different ports for the archive server for the external port.
  3. Possibly open up ports in the firewall on the server as well (3030 and 1433/1434)

Now that the server is setup, the rest is done on the client machine.  On the client machine, add the public name of the server to the client machine's hosts file (C:\Windows\system32\drivers\etc) and point it to the public IP address shown on the VM dashboard on Windows Azure.  Now you can add the server and create a new vault hosted in the cloud.

Now I know I left out a few steps but there are a few things to also mention about this platform.  If this is going to be a production system, this setup does not address encryption, therefore all traffic is open and would recommend setting up a server to server VPN so that traffic is secure.  The other mention is that this does have to eventually be paid for so if you are curious on the cost of a hosted server, Microsoft has built a beautiful pricing tool that gives you live feedback of the monthly cost for your cloud setup.

I run into a lot of companies that do not have an IT staff and/or resources to setup the infrastructure required to deploy EPDM.  Having a service that can provide a server at a reasonable cost, with nearly no maintenance and automatic backup off site can be a nice resource for the small business.  I like it for testing new software since I can deploy quickly and not impact my production environment. ~Lou