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Features List 13
From CAD User Mechanical Magazine Vol 19 No 06 - JUNE/JULY 2006
SWIFT retains its primary position in the latest version of SolidWorks, automating complex design functions for inexpert users
Now that SolidWorks 2007 is officially on the street we can give you a more
detailed breakdown of some of the new features, highlighted earlier this year in
the review of SolidWorks World at Las Vegas. It's quite an interesting bunch of
new tools too, covering everything from 2D sketching to improvements to freeform
surface modelling, right through to sheet metal work and weldments. SolidWorks
is now becoming a pretty comprehensive package for design - right through to
We mentioned SWIFT (SolidWorks Intelligent Feature Technology) in our overview. SWIFT enables novice users to design like an expert - or to put it another way, it allows professional engineers to develop their concepts unhindered by the software. SWIFT uses a series of Xpert tools - FeatureXpert, SketchXpert, MateXpert and DimensionXpert.
FeatureXpert takes over the time consuming task of creating drafts and fillets on a part before it can be moulded, sorting out the order in which to create drafts and fillets, and, quite often, inexperienced users aren't able to work out how to add draft to a part that already has fillets, etc. Now SolidWorks FeatureXpert can do that for them. Instead of selecting each face or edge at a time and activating the function, the whole component is selected, allowing the software to intelligently pick each plane face and create draft angles and fillets in order to get the part to work.
SketchXpert has the same aim in mind. The designer's job is to create the 2D sketch. SketchXpert simplifies the task by selecting conflicting dimensions and resolves them automatically, even showing users perhaps 4 or 5 ways of solving the problem, allowing them to concentrate on the design instead.
With the best will in the world, there are going to be clashes in creating assemblies between one mate and another. MateXpert gives the necessary feedback on all related mates to allow the designer to work through them, forcing those that are vital to the components function at the expense of those that aren't, until a satisfactory solution is found.
DimensionXpert places dimensions correctly on a drawing, even down to recognising patterns of holes. It can also be used to delete extraneous dimensions, tidying up the appearance of drawings in a matter of seconds.
Blocks for Sketching
Sketch Blocks was actually introduced in SolidWorks 2006, but this useful feature has now gained some extra functionality. It's part of SolidWorks initiative to harness 2D expertise to power 3D design. Sketch Blocks gives designers the ability to create conceptual models and try them out in 2D, simulating mechanical activity, before they convert them to 3D. Now designers can create belts, chains, pulleys and gears, cams and followers, racks and pinions etc., and exhibit multipart interaction and motion.
Rotating a 2D cam or pinion will move associated blocks just like the real object. And, with belt drives, users can position shafts and pulleys, loop the belt over them, and rotate the whole assembly, allowing them to define the length of belt or chain needed, or to adjust the design to take a belt of specific length.
SolidWorks has also put a lot of work into developing its freeform surfacing capabilities, enabling users to create complex 3D curves with full curvature continuity. This allows designers to address areas of the market - the small white goods and consumer market - where the aesthetics of a design or its packaging appears to be more important than the technology or the contents, viz. electric kettles, irons and perfume bottles.
SolidWorks' new freeform surfacing tool allows users to 'push and pull' curves until they have created the shape they wanted, using freely placed control points along the curves length. Users can ignore the uv grid that shows the mathematical shape of the curve as the software allows them to define exactly where they want to manipulate the curve - yet still retain its correct curvature.
Tangency handles have similar freedom of manipulation, all achievable without losing the ability to finish off the curves with smooth blends for adjoining surfaces.
Another fascinating surfacing feature is the ability to 'peel off' a surface, play around with the model geometry, and re-attach the 'peeled' surface to the 3D model.
Sheet Metal and assemblies
SolidWorks 2007 enables tin bashers to work on more complex sheet metal geometry, and including the ability to produce curved edge flanges and lofted blend lines - dragging the edge off to create the flange and producing a layout of the manufacturing blank at the same time. Lofts can be created with multiple bend lines.
Creating assemblies has been speeded up and simplified. One merely has to
click on the component and each item that has to mate with that component in its
correct order, and they will snap into place. All components in a multi-mate
configuration can also be saved as one item in a special multi-mate folder.
Users are quite familiar now with the way that search engines work on the Internet. That functionality has now been added to SolidWorks, enabling designers to search their records or the Internet to bring up components used in any drawing and related objects, and to present them in a similar, familiar format to Google.
Anything related to their 3D design work, either on their desktop, in shared files, in their PDM system or in their supply chain can be brought up with a single tool. The search engine will also work in conjunction with SolidWorks' 3D ContentCentral part finding service.
Another interesting feature that was introduced last year and has now been further enhanced is design checker, a unique tool that ensures that drawings meet the defined standards of each user's organisation. The new features include auto-correction and the ability to "learn" from a finished drawing - features that make it even easier to avoid expensive, labour-intensive drawing revisions.
In addition, SolidWorks 2007 enables users - for the first time - to save any file in Adobe Systems new 3D PDF format, thereby providing complete support for the two prevailing standards for sharing 3D designs, PDF and the SolidWorks eDrawings collaboration format.
Readers of the SolidWorks World issue of the mag earlier this year (Feb/March) will also recall the NextEngine 3D scanner, part of its functionality with SolidWorks coming from the software's new ScanTo3D capability, which enables users to automatically extract design data from real-world artifacts - such as broken parts that need replacement or concept foam models - and move it into the SolidWorks design environment. The process is greatly simplified by the inclusion of an easy-to-use wizard interface that steps the user through the scanning and data import processes and the completion of a fully defined 3D solid model.
SolidWorks has been assiduous in its promotion of integrating analysis tools within its CAD solution. It believes that the ability to analyse models earlier on in the design process contributes towards better and more stable designs. Eliminating potential problems early on in the design process stops engineers travelling down design cul-de-sacs.
To improve the process even further, SolidWorks has added optimisation capabilities to COSMOS, its integrated FEA package. This will enable users to save part materials and ensure products are not over-designed, by iterating the analysis process. It doesn't just prove that a part will work under given stresses, but will iterate the analysis until it establishes the minimum thickness of material required to do the job. In a world where some materials, such as brass, are becoming very expensive, saving tiny amount s on materials can, in turn,save large amounts of money when the production runs are in the millions.
Another analysis feature is found in COSMOSWorks Designer, which comes with SolidWorks Office Premium. It offers unique weldment analysis - a complex procedure that defeats many packages but which, in SolidWorks 2007, is made easy. SolidWorks 2007 Premium also includes SolidWorksMotion for the kinetic analysis of moving parts.
In all, SolidWorks 2007 represents another important step along the way towards providing a total solution for manufacturers and product design companies.
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