SolidWars: Episode 2017 – The Phantom Edges (What’s Coming in SolidWorks 2017)

There’s nothing hotter right now than Star Wars. That is, unless you’re a SolidWorks user attending Day 3 of SolidWorks World 2016, where you’ve just learned about some of the new enhancements you can look forward to in SolidWorks 2017. The clever skit, which somehow made it past the Dassault legal department, featured such cringe-inducing characters as Luke Sketchdrawer, Princess Layout, Over-Bend CanSolveIt and Hans Preview (along with his trusty sidekick Queue Backup), who battle the evil Old Empire of CAD, led by Dark Screensaver.


The scene opens with that familiar title crawl…


Yeah, that’s right. We’re doing this… You’re already thinking how this could go, and all the ways we could possibly tie in SOLIDWORKS 2017 functionality…

It’s a period of unrest in the design universe. Rebel Designers are battling against the evil empire to Make Great Design Happen. Princess Layout, custodian of the secret plans to expose the ineffienencies of the Imperial Design Tools, arrives at the office early to prepare for a gathering of like-minded rebels at a local SWUG Tech Summit…

Soon enough, however, the brave princess finds herself in the clutches of the evil Dark Screensaver, who attempts to extract information from her by subjecting her to the torture of a lengthy cost review meeting. During this meeting, imperial commander General Tolerance makes the grave error of using up the last of the cream cheese. Dark Screensaver rightly punishes the general for this transgression.

Stop hittin’ yourself, stop hittin’ yourself.

Stop hittin’ yourself, stop hittin’ yourself.

Luckily, Princess Layout has already sent her droid (a Sphero BB-8) to find sympathetic rebels, and share her plans to defeat the Old Empire.

The droid find itself in the hands of Luke Sketchdrawer, who – once he finds an appropriate VGA-to-DVI-to-mini USB-to-HDMI adapter – accesses the plans and consults his mentor, Over-Bend CanSolveIt. After vaguely insulting the English and dropping some subtle hints about the true parentage of young Luke, the two set about planning how to use the new features in SolidWorks 2017 to defeat the evil Empire…

Part Modeling Enhancements – 1

Bi-Directional Circular Pattern

This enhancement adds a secondary direction control to circular patterns (similar to the current “Direction 2” control for extrudes), allowing you to pattern about an axis both clockwise and counterclockwise. You can choose different spacing parameters for each direction, or just check the “Symmetric” box to keep spacing constant.

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SolidWorks World 2016 Model Mania Solution

See the fastest way to model the part from the SolidWorks World 2016 Model Mania competition, and improve your modeling skills in under 5 minutes.

Mark Schneider presents his solution at SolidWorks World 2016 in Dallas. Can you do better than the winner’s best time of 12:29?

2016-02-03 09.05.28

Solidworks World 2016 Top Ten List

#10 – Revert to eDrawings 2013 Engine and Interface for Desktops

#9 – Automatic Fastener BOM for Large Assemblies

#8 – Ability to Use End Points of Sketch Lines for Hole Wizard Holes

#7 – Automate Explode Line Creation

#6 – Enhance Fillet, Chamfer, and Other Functions for Multi-Body Parts

#5 – Bounding Box Values for any Component

#4 – Move Assembly Sketch to Component

#3 – Use ALT to Temporarily Hide Face Under Cursor when Mating

#2 – Ability to Export BOM Table with Thumbnail Images of Components

And Dark Screen Saver presents number one…

#1 – Create a “Classic” mode GUI option in SolidWorks 2016 that emulates SolidWorks 2015

Be sure to check out my newly-updated SolidWorks Top Ten List Data page for information on all these requests, as well as those from the previous 15 years.

Testing the eDrawings Virtual Reality Prototype with Google Cardboard

In the Partner Pavilion at SolidWorks World 2016, the mobile products team demonstrated a prototype of the eDrawings mobile app, with support for Virtual Reality via Google Cardboard.

Cardboard is an inexpensive, open source virtual reality viewer, meant to be used with apps on your phone. An alternative to expensive VR rigs like the Occulus, Cardboard uses the high-quality graphics, accelerometers, and processing power already in your pocket. Inexpensive Cardboard headsets are available available from many outlets, such as this one from Amazon.

The eDrawings team has worked quickly to integrate this technology into their product, and were able to demonstrate a functional prototype at SolidWorks World 2016. The prototype was hosted on an iPhone 6 Plus, but the team assured me that iOS and Android versions are being developed in parallel.

Viewing a model in eDrawings virtual reality allows you to add an extra layer of immersive realism to your design, using the movement of your head, rather than your finger, to manipulate the model.

Similar to other Cardboard apps, the VR function of eDrawings mobile generates two images of the object being viewed, with a slight offset to account for stereo vision, making the object appear three-dimensional. Convex lenses in the Cardboard headset resolve the two images into one, and make it appear farther than a few inches in front of your eyes. The accelerometers in the phone also track movement, so the object moves and rotates, changing your perspective as you move your head.


As a prototype, the new eDrawings VR mode I tested was certainly unpolished, but the basic functions – stereo imaging, head tracking, etc. – were implemented well. However, more functions will need to be added to make VR viable, rather than foregoing the goofy-looking box and simply using your finger.

If all goes well, the team hopes to release the VR feature update sometime this year (possibly alongside the release of SolidWorks 2017). Be sure to stop by the SolidWorks area in the center of the Partner Pavilion at SolidWorks World 2016, to try out the Cardboard prototype, along with a bunch of other great projects now under development.

The incomparable Michael Lord modeling the Cardboard headset

Google Cardboard Kit

What’s New in SolidWorks 2016: Chapter 8 – Composer

Even though Composer is a completely standalone product with its own subscription fees and an entire development team behind it, once again there are almost no interesting enhancements to speak of in this document. In fact, the functionality of this product has been reduced thanks to new restriction on file importing.


Importing Third-Part File Types

In an interesting loss of product functionality, as of 2016, it will no longer be possible to import Parasolid (*.x_t, *.x_b, *.xmt_txt, *.xmt_bin.) or Unigraphics (*.prt) files into SolidWorks Composer. If you use Composer to generate work instructions or product manuals from these file types, this development is very likey to prevent you from upgrading.

I can’t imagine what drove Dassault to this decision, especially since one of the affected file types is a widely-used neutral format which forms the foundation of core SolidWorks. Could it be, perhaps, because Parasolid also forms the foundation of Onshape?

Honorable Mentions

New Timeline Tracks

The timeline now includes several new tracks, offering greater control over the various actors and annotations you can use in 3D animations. In addition to the existing Camera and Digger tracks, the timeline now includes tracks for:

  • Location: displays the keys indicating an actor’s location.
  • Properties: expands into sub-tracks (such as Opacity, Materials and Events) displaying property-related keys.
  • Viewport: displays all the viewport property keys.

« Chapter 7: DimXpert | Chapter 9: Costing »

What’s New in SolidWorks 2016: Chapter 7 – DimXpert

DimXpert is a more powerful tool than most people realize, and with the ever-increasing adoption of Model-Based Definition (MBD), more and more SolidWorks users will soon before familiar with it.

Honorable Mentions

Improved Selection Options

DimXpert used to be very “selective” (pun intended) about what entities could be used to define a DimXpert annotation. In 2016, however, DimXpert allows for more types of selections, and intelligently recognizes the type of dimension that is needed.

For example, you may now select edge of any shape to create size or location dimension, as shown below. Note that clicking a curved edge associated with a cylinder applies a diameter dimension to that cylinder.

Previously, you needed to select a face to create these dimensions. Now, you can select either faces or edges.

Additionally, silhouette edges can now be selected to create dimensions, as shown below. Selecting a silhouette edge will create a distance dimension between the two end faces associated with that edge.


DimXpert in Assemblies

Just as you’ve always been able to define dimensions and tolerances in parts, as of SolidWorks 2016, you can now do the same in assemblies, though it seems the SolidWorks MBD module is required for this enhanced functionality.

To reduce confusion, only DimXpert annotations created in the open assembly will be visible. DimXpert dimensions created in parts and subassemblies will not appear in the open assembly.

This enhancement vastly increases the usefulness of DimXpert, and therefore the MBD package as well. You’re now able to define tolerances on component placement and clearance within the 3D model, rather than the 2D drawing.

« Chapter 6: CircuitWorks | Chapter 8: Composer »

SolidWorks World 2016 Top Ten List: Now Open For Idea Submission

Attention all SolidWorks users!

The SolidWorks World Top Ten List is now open for idea submission and discussion.


For those of you that are new to the SolidWorks World Top Ten List, it is an opportunity to submit your ideas for enhancements to SolidWorks. Once ideas are submitted you will be given the opportunity to vote for your favorite ideas. All ideas are considered by SolidWorks development and the Top Ten ideas are presented at SolidWorks World 2016 in Dallas.

Submitted ideas can be viewed by visiting the SOLIDWORKS World 2016 Top Ten List area of the discussion forum. Click on “Content” just under the Top Ten List banner. You can also click on the categories on the left side to sort by specific areas of SolidWorks (Assemblies, Drawings, Simulation, etc.).

When submitting an idea to the forum, please be sure to assign it within the proper category so that when voting opens other users can easily find ideas according to their area of interest. Prior to submitting an idea, please review the ideas already posted to make sure that there are no duplicates.

As always, we encourage friendly and professional comments and discussions to all ideas that may help clarify or better communicate other uses and needs. This potentially assists others when voting and helps us better understand everyone’s needs and ideas too.

Submit your enhancement ideas by December 11, 2015.

Whether or not you’re attending SolidWorks World 2016 in Dallas, we look forward to seeing your ideas. You also just may see your idea in a future release of SolidWorks!

In addition, if you’d like to see a complete list of Top Ten List enhancements from previous years, along with statistics on implementation rates, categories, and more, check out my SolidWorks World Top Ten List Data page!

Important dates:

December 11, 2015 is the end for new idea submissions.

December 14, 2015 voting on all ideas begins.

January 22, 2016 voting ends.

What’s New in SolidWorks 2016: Chapter 6 – CircuitWorks

CircuitWorks: For when your circuits have to work.

Honorable Mentions

Locating CircuitWorks Components

It’s now easier to locate specific CircuitWorks components, both in the CircuitWorks feature tree and in the CircuitWorks Component Library. There are two ways to search for CircuitWorks components.

Type into the Search field, located at the top of the feature tree in CircuitWorks (similar to the search filter in SolidWorks), or above the Preview image in the Component Library. The feature tree or component library are filtered to only display parts that match your search terms.

Activate the Find dialog by pressing Ctrl+F. CircuitWorks will display a list of components that match your search terms as you type.

Building SolidWorks Models from ECAD Files in Task Scheduler

CircuitWorks is now integrated into the SolidWorks Task scheduler. You can schedule a task to build multiple ECAD files as SolidWorks solid models while the system is idle. You can choose when the task is run, and where the completed SolidWorks files are saved.



Creating Copper Traces as Decals

Creating copper surface traces as sketches, split lines, or other physical geometry can take up a lot of computing power. Now, in SolidWorks 2016, you can choose to represent copper traces as a bitmap decal when importing PCB models into SolidWorks. You can save the images as bitmap files in the CircuitWorks Trace Decals folder or internally to the board file. You can also choose whether to generate trace images for all layer of a PCB, or just the exposed (top and bottom) layers.

To use trace decals, first choose whether you want to see traces from all layers, or just exterior layers when the model is built in SolidWorks. You can find this setting under the SolidWorks Import tab of CircuitWorks Options.

Then, when you’re ready to import the board file into SolidWorks, check the “Use trace decals instead of geometry” box in the window that appears after clicking Build Model. Here, you can also choose whether to save the bitmaps as part of the new SolidWorks board part file.

Because the traces are represented as bitmaps, they are not as accurate as a geometry representation, but this option is still very useful for getting the point across while saving computing power and file size.

« Chapter 5: Assemblies | Chapter 7: DimXpert »

What’s New in SolidWorks 2016: Chapter 5 – Assemblies

This year’s assembly enhancements include innovative new ways to add, edit and control mates, as well as a fantastic new file management time-saver.

Honorable Mentions

Copying Multiple Components

You can now copy several components at once, while preserving all mates between them. Simply select several components while holding Shift or Ctrl, and Ctrl+drag the group to a new location. New instances of the components are created, along with any mates that existed between them. Previously, the only way to do this was by using Copy with Mates, or forming a subassembly, both of which required several steps.

Component Preview Window

With the new Component Preview Window, you can zoom, pan, and orient an individual part – and select faces, edges, or other entities – without changing the orientation of the overall assembly. This is especially useful when mating components in tight spaces, when your view can be obscured, or when selecting very small faces for mating.

To activate the Component Preview Window, click on the part you’ll be mating, and select the Component Preview Window icon from the context toolbar.


The component is then displayed in a separate pane on the right side of the graphics area. Any entities that are selected in the Preview Window are also selected in the main graphics area, meaning that one mate reference can be selected in the main assembly, while the other can be selected from the Component Preview Window. When selecting multiple features between the preview window and the main graphics area, the Quick Mates context toolbar still appears.



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What’s New in SolidWorks 2016: Chapter 4 – Installation

It all has to start somewhere…

Honorable Mentions

Graphics Card Validation

The first time you start SolidWorks 2016, and every time you install a service pack thereafter, you’ll be prompted to run system diagnostics to ensure your system – specifically your graphics card and driver – is compatible with the release of SolidWorks you’re running. If your driver is out of date, you’ll be able to quickly download and install the correct driver directly from SolidWorks’ collection of drivers.

Record Extended Logging Data

When using SolidWorks Rx Problem Capture, you now have the option to send even more data to SolidWorks Technical Support. By checking the box in the Capture Problem dialog box, you’ll be sending information on dick and CPU activity during your capture.


New Products Included in SolidWorks Standard

SolidWorks is providing the Utilities package and FeatureWorks with SolidWorks Standard installations at no extra charge! Rejoice! These add-ins were previously only available with SolidWorks Professional licenses or better.

SolidWorks Utilities includes over a dozen analysis, comparison, and troubleshooting tools to help you ensure your model is correct the first time, every time. From Geometry Compare – which is great for ensuring that your vendor’s part hasn’t diverged from your original model – to Feature Paint – which allows you to make sweeping changes to many features at once.

The FeatureWorks package provides users with various methods to convert an imported “dumb solid” to a parametric native SolidWorks model. While automatic feature recognition may not be suitable for more complex models, the correct application of manual mode can make quick work of a challenging conversion.

« Chapter 3: SolidWorks Fundamentals | Chapter 5: Assemblies »