The 5 Prongs of SolidWorks 2010

This week SolidWorks' 2010 beta program moved into it's third round (Beta 3) of testing and with this usually follows two waves of pre-releases and finally FCS (first customer ship). Beta testing is somewhat of a cult at SolidWorks, pulling in dedicated users in droves to play, test and bug squash everything in sight. Many of us testing SolidWorks' newest creation are looking at as many of the hundreds of enhancements and trying to determine which ones will actually play a role in "enhancing" our use of SolidWorks on a daily basis! Since SolidWorks 1999, I have watched the new releases roll out of Concord with "Over X hundred New Enhancements", however each release has a handful of highlights that leave their mark.

SolidWorks 2010 follows suit, bringing hundreds of new enhancements, all of which bring different levels of impact and importance to the variety of users in the community. This year there are 5 that mark SolidWorks 2010 as a release to pay attention to.

Assembly Visualization:assemblyvis1

This new capability was first debuted at SolidWorks World 2009 and expands the ability to filter

components either by their display or order based on a number of customizable properties. This sorting capability can display components either in a nested view (indented sub-assemblies) or in a flat view (parts-only) driven by a single property. Included as "default" sort criteria are the usual suspects: mass, density and volume, however the tool go to another level of effectiveness when you begin to customizing.

Properties driving the filter can be either numeric or non-numeric and once sorted, the graphical display can be customized with colors to give visual clarity to the assembly. By right clicking on the color gradient on the left you can add sliders to change the scope of that color spectrum. This color control can also be coupled with component visibility by using the horizontal drag bars located at the top and bottom of the list. Similar to the Rollback Bar in the SolidWorks FeatureManager, these bars allow the user to focus in on the components of interest.

The filtering properties also can include equations (i.e. multiplying the quantity by a numeric property) as well as allowing the user to change property values, i.e material selection. These criteria lists can also be saved out to a separate file (text or Excel) for outside manipulation.

Configuration Publisher:
SolidWorks 2009 brought the Property Tab Builder, streamlining the way users add file properties (metadata) to their parts, assemblies and drawings by providing a graphical form building application. In SolidWorks 2010, a similar interface has been integrated into SolidWorks configurations. In addition to the previous capabilities, Configuration Builder gives the user the freedom to build configuration options without having to explicitly specify every possible combination. This makes SolidWorks do the work on the fly, modifying your part or assembly and generating new configurations as they are built.

This capability also seems to fill the gap between using SolidWorks configurations and DriveWorksXpress. SolidWorks configurations add variation to existing documents however many users want a way to add additional configurations to those files without creating new documents (DriveWorksXpress). Now using Configuration Builder, the user has the ability to create configs on the fly and then use them in design automation with DriveWorksXpress.

Not only can you use this with parts that have existing design tables but as an added bonus, this new interface give a streamlined conduit to submit your generated models up to the web-based model sharing site, 3D Content Central.

Sheet Metal Enhancements:

Hands down, this release has more sheet metal enhancements than any other since maybe SolidWorks 2001Plus. SolidWorks 2010 finally extends the multi-body environment to sheet metal that was given to parts back in 2003's version. This gives users more flexibility to design sheet metal similarly to the way the actual design has to be manufactured. A great example of this would be using the edge flange in a "bridging" maneuver to join two parallel, same thickness sheet metal bodies into one. These bodies could be created individually or mirrored then joined and even welded to complete the finished design.

I remember back when SolidWorks 2003 shippe and how the impact was not just only that it now supported multi-body parts, but how that brought about a whole line of features that could harness the multi-body environment. In this case many of the common part, multi-body tools are also utilized like mirror, split, and even insert body.

In addition to multi-body support, 2010 also brings improvements to an area that lends itself to challenge, closing corners. Closed corners now can support cuts across flanges, large radius bends, closes on parts created from the Insert Bends commnad or the 2009 tool Convert to Sheet Metal as well as faces of large cornered parts. Hems have also been improved to handle a number of complexities and flat patterns bring additional clairity to self-intersection and inner/outer faces.

A big enhancement for sheet metal is flat patten output. Typically manufacturing requires DXF/DWG files of the flat pattern and this process used to require the SolidWorks user to create a drawing for DXF/DWG export. SolidWorks 2010 adds this as a right-click menu from the Flat Pattern feature, removing the drawing step completely and replacing it with a DXF/DWG Cleanup preview window. This dialog allows for common view manipulation and the ability to remove any superfluous entities without leaving the part mode.

Event Based Motion Analysis: (Simulation Professional)
Hints of this were also debuted at SolidWorks World 2009 but it wasn't until I tried this new capability that I started to think about the impact this could have with some creative 3rd party applications. Being a robotics and automation engineer in my previous life, this new capability intregued me. Many dynamic simulation tools on the market follow the same approach as many animation tools; the Timeline. Timelines are great for making something look good but when it comes to tuning an automation system, timing registers are not reliable and that is why sensors are a key to today's automation. SolidWorks 2010 ups the intelligence of Motion Simulation with event based motion analysis, creating motion triggers with interference, proximity and dimensional sensors as well as completion or start/finish times of previous tasks.

Complimenting these real-world triggers that are incorporated into the motion, drivers like constant speed & servo motors, forces and torques can start, stop or be changed on the fly based on other triggers in the analysis. This complexity mimics that of real automation systems thus allowing users to "tune" tasks to increase things like thruput.

What further interests me is the integration of SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Aquisition) programming tools like LABView and Rockwell Software's RSView. This would extend the ability to virtually test a PLC program with a virutal model inside of SolidWorks without having to hook it up the actual automation system for testing.

Simulation Design Studies: (Simulation Professional)
The goal of virutal testing is to come out with an optimized design that fits the scope of the product. Bringing clairity to this goal is key to using a simulation tool like SolidWorks Simulation. For the past few years, Simulation (formly COSMOSWorks) has had a few nice tools for optimizing deisgns, one of which was Design Scenerios. Design Studies in 2010 combines that of Design Scenerios and Optimization (shape optimization) into a single interface. This new interface integrates nicely into the now standard lower-tabbed area where Motion and Simulation studies already reside and give access to both design scenerios and optimization studies alike. The new interface also has three distinct views: Variable View (above), Table View and the Results View.

Optimization studies add parameters that contain a range of values, descrete values or a range of values with a step. This enhancement gives the user much more flexibilty since the previous version only allowed range, which doesn't lend itself well to stock sizes. Design Scenerios works similar to previous releases except that 2010 does add real-time previewing of geometric changes (i.e. scenerios involving dimentional change).

Overall the most power part is the result viewing, which has been completly redesigned to not only show graphical feedback for the scenerios and optimized designs but a tabularized resultant area containing a visual pass/fail (green/red respectivly) of each itteration.

These are just 5 of the enhancements that are coming in SolidWorks' lineup in 2010 and there is no shortage of goodies. I am thrilled to see that Spilt Line will now allow multiple entities to be split in one command and that Simulation brings back the ability to select faces as shell elements without having to do a number of surfacing commands as it did back in 2008.

Overall the release looks strong and promised to be more efficient with common tasks and to boost performance as it does in every relase. In premininary testing, SolidWorks 2010 seems to run fine on existing hardware and does not require any major upgrades to hardware from what I can see. The 2010 beta program is still going on and Beta 3 has just started so if you want to test this fucntionality for yourself, go sign up! ~Lou