What I Learned at SolidWorks World 2018

Fresh off my return from SolidWorks World 2018 in LA last week, here are the most interesting tips, tricks, tools, and tidbits I picked up, which may help my fellow CAD users out there.

Section Views Kill Drawing Performance

Thanks to Alin Vargatu of Javelin Tech and Grant Mattis of Feature Walters, I learned that section views in drawings significantly increase drawing open, rebuild, and response times. Apparently SolidWorks creates a whole new copy of your model in memory, performs a physical cut, and then displays the edges of that model. Having multiple configurations in a drawing similarly increases required resources, but that at least makes sense.

High Quality Views are Actually Better for Performance

While draft quality views can be generated faster initially, they take a moment to update every time you zoom or pan the drawing, because they’re pulling their information from the model data. On the other hand, high-quality views take longer to generate up front, but then don’t need to be redrawn every time the view shifts. High quality drawing views also result in smaller drawing file sizes.

#Task (“SharpTask”)

This batch task manager is infinitely more functional than the build in SolidWorks Task Scheduler. It includes an online library of tasks to choose from, and multiple tasks can be run at a time. Plus, it’s free! There are several tasks I can already see benefiting from:

  • Freeze Feature Tree – Reduce rebuild time to zero for mature models
  • Change image quality – Reduce image quality of model files to increase graphics performance
  • Custom Properties Manager – Add, remove, and change custom properties (client, project description, date, etc.) for several files all at once
  • Rename bodies (such as structural steel members) from custom properties (cut list names)
  • Generate Tube Cut lists – Converts hollow cylindrical geometry to weldment parts, with cut lists and properties like ID, OD, thickness, and length. Then you can create cut tables in drawings
  • Renumber drawing sheets
  • Merge drawings
  • Save PDFs

Check it out here: https://cloud.centralinnovation.com.au/WebSharpSwTask

Lenovo Performance Tuner

Whether you’re using a Lenovo or not, you can download this free applet that lets you control how many CPU cores are used for which processes. From their site:

“For example, when running a single-threaded application, such as Dassault® SOLIDWORKS®, on systems that have a Quad-Core processor, Processor Affinity allows you to designate which core is used for that application, helping to better allocate resources for certain applications while others can function freely on the other cores. This also is beneficial for multi-core applications, like ANSYS®, which can be isolated to prevent it from consuming all of the system resources, allowing other applications to concurrently and smoothly execute on the same system.”

https://www.thinkworkstations.com/products/lenovo-performance-tuner/

 

2019 Enhancements

There seemed to be fewer enhancements announced this year than previously, ostensibly due to a huge push to increase stability and performance in “StabilityFest 2019,” SolidWorks’ response to last years “One and Two” kerfuffle. (At SolidWorks World 2017, the two most requested enhancements of the year were “focus more on fixing bugs” and “Improve program stability” even at the expense of new features.)

    Of the few announced, these are the features I think will have the greatest impact:

  • Interference detection in multibody parts
  • Add 3D textures to part using texture mapping

  • Lots of “Newser Interface” enhancements (pen, touch, Microsoft Surface Dial, VR)
  • Group mates by status (overdefined, underdefined, warning, suppressed, inactive, etc.)

  • Assembly defeature

SolidWorks 3DExperience Online Tools

SolidWorks is building an online pillar of product offerings to compete with other cloud-based CAD services. As usual, they stress that this is not a replacement for the current desktop tool, but we’ll see which way the dollar signs blow. The pillar consists of 5 tools so far, some of which are available today:

  1. 3DExperience Social Collaboration Services – A tool specifically for collaborating on rapid design iterations in the earliest stages of concept design. Not meant to be a full-featured 3D modeler.
  2. 3DExperience PLM Services – Basically PDM in the cloud, plus more project management tools.
  3. SolidWorks Product Designer – I can’t tell if Industrial Designer and Mechanical Designer combined to become Product designer, or if this is a third product. According to SW, it “brings a complete set of design capabilities including Parts, Assemblies, Sheet Metal, Motion Simulation, and Drawings.”
  4. SolidWorks Xdesign – The SolidWorks-class modeling tool in a browser or an app. It (supposedly) does everything SolidWorks can do (including open SolidWorks native files), plus some brand new features and tools that the old Parasolid kernel just couldn’t support.
  5. 3DExperience Marketplace – SolidWorks has created a network of dozens or hundreds of fabricators and part vendors to help you get your model made. In Marketplace Make, you can search fabricators based on price, tolerance, turn-around time, capacity and more, and submit 3D files for quote and manufacture right through the UI. However, either it’s being buggy, or the ability to submit RFQs hasn’t gone live yet. PartSupply is a catalog of over 500 component suppliers with easily half a million searchable components. I really like this service, because you can configure each component, view it in 3D, and perform side-by side comparisons. My favorite feature, though, is the ability to search by similar geometry. This give you the option to search for the right part, even if you don’t know what it’s called or who makes it. Just search for a vaguely similar component, and use the geometry search engine to hone in on the perfect part.

Last of all, it was announced that SolidWorks World 2019 will be held back in Dallas, February 10-13!

SolidWorks World 2017 Top Ten List Submission Ends Soon

For anyone interested in making an impact on the future of SolidWorks, it’s not too late to head over to the Ideas section of the SolidWorks Forums to submit your enhancement requests. Idea submission is open to all – you can participate even if you’re not attending SolidWorks World in person.

The end for new submissions ends on December 15, and voting starts on December 16, 2016!

As you may know, I’ve been compiling data on the Top Ten List going all the way back to its inception in 2000. This data tracks all previous idea submissions, implementation time, popularity, and other patterns. Check out some previous ideas on the SolidWorks World Top Ten List Data page, and you may get some good ideas for submissions to this year’s list.

According to SolidWorks Product Definition Manager Matt Lorono, “Over 600 idea submissions are now available on SOLIDWORKS World 2017 Top Ten list! 

“If you wish, you can also choose to view ideas based on categories (such as Assemblies, Drawings, Simulation, etc.), which are available to the left of Ideas page. You may up or down vote as many ideas as you like.  To vote for an idea, simply click that idea’s title and click the up or down button.

“This year, we had a Top Ten rule change regarding ideas about bugs and stability. Focus more on fixing  bugs is available for those interested in asking SOLIDWORKS to focus more on bug fixes.

“The other is asking for more stability (reduce crashes): Substantially increase stability in SOLIDWORKS.  According to this year’s rules, if anyone wishes to call more attention to bug and stability, they are asked to bookmark or comment on these ideas (instead of creating individual ideas for particular bugs and crash fixes), then vote for them once voting
begins.

“Voting will close on Friday, January 20, 2017.

“The ten ideas with the most votes will become this year’s Top Ten List, and will be presented at SOLIDWORKS World 2017 in Los Angeles, CA on February 8, 2017.  Voting is an easy way to tell us how to improve SOLIDWORKS products to meet your needs.”

SolidWorks Visualize Integration will Cause Activation Headaches

Now that SolidWorks 2017 is in Pre-Release, there’s some confusion about how SolidWorks subscription customers should claim and activate their free seat of SolidWorks Visualize Standard. When Visualize (formerly BunkSpeed) was released alongside SolidWorks 2016 last year, any SolidWorks subscription serial number could be used to download and activate the new rendering tool. Now, in SolidWorks 2017, the Visualize download is integrated into the SolidWorks Installation Manager, but requires a separate serial number. (No, your SolidWorks serial doesn’t work here.)

2016-09-20_9-31-15

 

So what gives? If your SolidWorks serial worked last year, and it’s more integrated this year, why do you need a different serial number, and where do you get it?

As it turns out, that added integration is the source of the problem. According to Visualize Product Manager Brian Hillner, Visualize 2016 was still hosted on Bunkspeed’s old servers (which is why Visualize was a completely separate download and activation). Because the activation servers were separate, you were able to use the same serial number for two different products. Now, in 2017, however, Visualize activation has been moved over to SolidWorks’ servers. This allows installation and activation to take place through the Installation Manager (above), but also requires a unique serial number. Since it’s possible to buy Visualize Standard without owning SolidWorks, the server needs to know which product your serial number entitles you to.

Ok, great, now how do we get this new serial number? A Visualize Standard serial number will be automatically added to the “My Products” section of the Customer Portal for all Subscription customers when SolidWorks 2017 enters SP0.0 on October 10th. This serial number will work perpetually, though it’s not clear whether the same serial number will be valid for future years’ releases.

2016-09-20_9-50-37

Stay tuned for more info on Visualize, and SolidWorks 2017.

What’s New in SolidWorks 2017: Chapter 2 – User Interface

The leaves are turning, the air is chilling, and the smell of sweet, sweet CAD is in the air. Welcome to SolidWorks 2017! Take a look below for some of the best new features from the User Interface chapter of the 25th major SolidWorks release. You can learn more at the SolidWorks 2017 launch page: https://www.solidworks.com/launch

I’ll be back every few weeks with more of my favorite new features, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Try SolidWorks 2017 for yourself by logging to your free my.SolidWorks account and requesting a free, cloud-based Product Trial.

 


Honorable Mentions

Enhancements to Dynamic Reference Visualization

The parent/child relationship arrows displayed for Dynamic Reference Visualization have been redesigned to avoid obscuring other important information. What other subtle UI changes can you see in the example comparison image below?


Dedicated Hide All Types Button

The Hide/Show Items flyout in the HUD has been updated to include a dedicated, one-click Hide All Types command. Click the eye symbol (rather than the dropdown arrow) to toggle Hide All Types.

Enhancements to Breadcrumb Mate Information

When hovering over an assembly component, SolidWorks breadcrumbs will now display information about mates with errors, as well as information on the suppression state of mates.



Breadcrumbs also now include access to origins and reference planes of any part or subassembly selected.



Winner

FeatureManager Design Tree Comment Enhancements

The ability to add comments to certain areas of the design tree has been around for a while, but this functionality was so limited and – more importantly – so hidden, that it was nearly useless. While it was easy enough to add comments to part features, other users had no indication that the comment existed without checking each feature manually. Additionally, names and timestamps had to be added manually to each comment.

Comments can be used to explain design intent, guide users through training, or record specific design changes over the life of a product. It’s easy to see, then, why users have been clamoring for this much needed overhaul for years.

In SolidWorks 2017, comments can be added to not only part features, but every FeatureManager item, including mates, folders, materials, blocks, configs, and more. You can also add standalone comments, which are not attached to any one specific item (these comments appear in the Comments folder).

Most importantly, you can turn on Comment Indicators, which highlight any FeatureManager items which have comments. Additionally, usernames and timestamps are automatically added to new comments, and you can even attach images and generate screenshots of your model within the comment.

Better still, you can view ALL the comments that exist within a part, and export them to a single document.

Tune in next week when we discuss improvements to the licensing system.


Chapter 4: Installation »


SOLIDWORKS Visualize Review

  

Greetings readers! After SolidWorks World 2016, I partnered with Develop3D to publish an in-depth review of SolidWorks Visualize, which launched that week.

If you subscribe to the print version of Develop3D Magazine, you may have already seen the review. However, starting today, you can read my article (as well as dozens of other CAD and tech tidbits) on the Develop3D site:

SolidWorks Visualize Review on Develop3D

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.

Continue reading

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.

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.


Loser

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.

Winner

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 »

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.

2015-10-25_23-14-57

Winner

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 »