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.

Multi-Distance and Variable Chamfer

The chamfer tool is gaining much of the functionality we currently have for fillets, including multi-distance selections (the ability to create chamfers of various sizes within the same feature), variable chamfers (which change distance or angle along the length of an edge), and face chamfers (the ability to create chamfers between two sets of faces, and control it with hold lines). The UI has also been redesigned to more closely match the fillet PropertyManager.

Combined Chamfer/Fillet Feature

An answer to one of 2014’s Top Ten List requests, users will now have the ability to switch between a fillet and a chamfer without recreating the whole feature. Most feature properties – including distance/radius, hold lines, symmetry, etc. – should stay constant as the feature type is toggled (I’ll have to test this to be sure).

Part Modeling Enhancements – 2

Transparent Section Views

For a better way to visualize your model, try the new Transparent Section View option. When you section your model, some or all of the components sectioned can appear as transparent, rather than being completely hidden, so you don’t lose the overall structure of your model. One of the crowd’s favorite visual enhancements at SWW16.


Thread Feature Lead-in/Lead-out

Building on the fantastic Thread Creation Wizard introduced in SolidWorks 2016, this option allows users to specify lead-in and lead-out features of the thread, including the angle of the draft, and number of revolutions it should cover.

Treehouse Enhancements

Treehouse Drawing Support

Treehouse 2017 will finally support drawings when working with structures of existing assemblies. Drawings associated with any component in the assembly tree will be automatically imported.

Treehouse Structure Print

This is one of those features that should have been available from day 1. When Treehouse first became available as an officially supported product in 2014, there was no way to print the structure, or save it as a universal (.pdf) format. That functionality has been added in SolidWorks 2017 (see red circles below). Notably, there’s another new icon in Treehouse 2017, which looks like an “Export to Excel” command (see blue square below). This may allow for the creation of graphical BOMs in 2017, as requested in this year’s Top Ten List.

Sketch & Hole Wizard Enhancements

Shaded Sketch Contours

New in SolidWorks 2017, closed sketch contours will be emphasized with shading. Not only will this add clarity to your sketch, but you’ll also be able to drag the entire sketch around by clicking and dragging on the shaded area.

Nested contours will be shaded with different colors, to help differentiate them.

Advanced Hole Wizard

This “Advanced Hole Wizard” isn’t just an improvement to the existing Hole Wizard, it’s an entirely new hole creation command (If you look closely, you can see the icons for both Hole Wizards in the CommandManager in the images below.

The Advanced Hole Wizard adds the ability to create multi-stepped holes including any combination of countersinks, counterbores, straight and tapered threads, straight holes between two faces, differentiating between the near side and far side of through holes.

Assembly Enhancements

Smarter Mate Placement

When adding common mates, the components move closer to each other, to make further mating easier.

Misaligned Mates

When attempting to create a concentric mate using faces that aren’t quite parallel, SolidWorks 2017 will give you the option to create a “misaligned mate.” This type of mate includes an option to force one alignment to solve correctly, or to position the part such that the misalignment is minimized between all othermated components.

Sub-Assembly Saved as Part Now Maintains all References

When a subassembly no longer needs to be a subassembly, you can save processing time and file size by saving it as a part. But, when you do, you’ve always then had to fix a bunch of broken mates and dangling drawing references. However, SolidWorks 2017 now gives you the option to “Preserve geometry references” when saving as a part. This will read and copy all face IDs to the new part file, meaning no more broken references!

SolidWorks PDM Enhancements

Latest Version Overwrite

If you need to make a minor change to a drawing – such as fixing a typo or repositioning a dimension – you don’t want to have to create a whole new revision. With the 2017 version of SolidWorks PDM (presumably both Standard and Premium), you’ll be able to overwrite the latest version of your file when checking in. What’s not clear is whether this transition contains any intelligence to keep larger changes from sneaking through undocumented.

Having constructed their lightsabers and repaired their hyperdrive using tools found in SolidWorks 2017, our heroes seek help infiltrating the Imperial base.

"These are not the drawings you're looking for

“These are not the drawings you’re looking for

Luke and OB meet crafty scoundrels Hans Preview and Queue Backup, who agree to give them passage on the Millenium Elevator to the Sixth Floor, where OB battles and ultimately falls to Dark Screensaver, while Luke and Hans rescue Princess Layout.

The princess in safe hands, Luke and Hans return to the safety of the rebel base to continue planning the demise of the Empire…

Drawing Enhancements

BOM Tables Respect Template Lock

You can now set an option in your BOM template to keep column widths and row heights fixed when a BOM is created from that template. This will give all your drawings a much more consistent look, which can’t be changed by individual users.

Notes can Reference BOM Table Cells

This nifty new feature allows drawing notes to reference any data in a BOM cell – such as quantity, description, part number, etc. – simply by clicking on the cell while editing the note. No explanation was given on how this feature works on sheets without a BOM.

Multi-Sheet Property Edits

Sheet properties can now be changed for multiple sheets at once. Any property which can be set from the Sheet Properties window – such as sheet scale, projection type, size, or format – can be set for multiple sheets at the same time. Just click “Select Sheets to Modify” and choose which sheets to apply your settings to.

Emphasize Section Outline

Cut edges of section views can be bolded, so that they can be more easily differentiated from other, normal part edges.

Jagged Outline for Detail Views

A jagged pattern can be applied around the edges of detail circles, to differentiate the edge of the part from the edge of the detail view. The size or “intensity” of the jagged shapes can be controlled with a slider in the detail view PropertyManager.

Mirror View

Although this seems like cheating to me, the Mirror View command allows you to create a drawing of a mirrored part, without creating the part itself. Simply copy an existing drawing or drawing sheet, check the Mirror View box for the parent view, and watch all the child views become mirrored, with all dimensions and annotations still intact.

DimXpert/MBD Enhancements

Manual Basic Dimensions of Size

You can now add basic dimensions to hole diameters and other features of size. This DimXpert dimension type exists as a third option, alongside Location Dimensions and regular Size Dimensions.

3D Dimensions to Edges

Whereas in earlier versions of DimXpert, you had to select faces to apply dimensions, you’ll now be able to select multiple edges, and SolidWorks will create linear dimensions between them.

Re-order 3D Views

Exactly what it sounds like: MBD model views can be rearranged in the 3D Views pane at the bottom of the window, which will affect the order of views in an exported 3D PDF of eDrawings file.

Compare 3D Annotation Tool

This new tool will allow manufacturers to easily check for differences between various revisions of parts sent to them by clients. The comparison tool will highlight added, removed, or modified 3D annotations between two components. These annotations could include dimensions, tolerances, datums, or other 3D PMI. This is similar to the exiting Compare Geometry tool, but utilizes the intelligence of 3D annotation data instead.

Surfacing and Reference Enhancements

Hide All Reference Item Types

FINALLY, there’s a way to hide all reference items directly from the HUD. Previously, you could hide individual reference item types from the HUD dropdown but the only way to hide all types was by going through a sub-tier of the View menu (or assigning a keyboard shortcut). Just click directly on the Show/Hide Icon in the HUD to hide every reference item below it.

Offset Curve on Surface

Offset a curve (based on an edge) in 3D space onto a surface of any shape. This will be great for trimming solids without creating complex reference surfaces.

Wrap Sketches onto any Surface or Multiple Surfaces

The Wrap command has finally gotten an upgrade, which will allow it to work effectively on any shape of surface. They’ve also added the ability to wrap a sketch onto more than one surface at a time – this was previously a huge limitation of the Wrap feature.

Assembly Enhancements

Magnetic Mates

This is probably my favorite enhancement in 2017, simply because it has the potential to completely eliminate a huge aspect of standard CAD modeling (at least in some cases). With magnetic mating, all the time and effort spent defining your model with mates is replaced with a simple drag and drop, and working with assemblies suddenly feels less like CAD modeling and more like a game. After creating magnetic made nodes (discussed in the Asset Publisher section, below) you can simply drag components in an assembly, and they’ll snap together instantly. If multiple magnetic mate nodes are present, SolidWorks will display a magnetic link between the nodes it wants to solve. Simply drag the part near another node before releasing to change the mate. You can also magnetically mate multiple parts in sequence by inserting them into an assembly all at once.

Magnetic Mate Asset Publisher

Magnetic mates are created within a part or sub-assembly using the Asset Publisher. This name makes it sound like SolidWorks is building a platform where non-CAD users can access pre-built models, and snap them together quickly, without having to deal with mates.

Magnetic mates require definition of a ground plane (with or without some prescribed offset), which will always be coincident and aligned. While this plane doesn’t necessarily have to represent the ground, this tool is definitely geared towards marge machinery components such as the conveyer system used in the SWW16 demo. The mate also requires set-up of a connection point and vector, to prescribe the positioning and alignment of the next mated piece. Because magnetic mates require this small amount of initial set-up, they’re best suited for components which will be reused.

eDrawings Enhancements

eDrawings Opens Many More Formats

Feel the love, eDrawings is playing nice with many more CAD systems, and is now able to open dozens of file types, including Autodesk Inventor, Catia, Creo, Pro/E, Rhino, Solid Edge, IFC, and 3DXML, to name a few. The 2017 version also appears to introduce a new class of eDrawings files: .eprtx, .easmx, and .edrwx. No word yet on whether these new file types come with new functionality.

The imported files retain all appearances (at least for this demonstrated Catia file), and full measure and markup is supported.

Import Enhancements

Open and Use Many CAD Formats

This one’s very interesting, and great for CAD Admins who are worried about server space or duplicate data. In SolidWorks 2017, you’ll be able to use data from other CAD systems in your design without importing and converting it. As shown in the image below, you’ll be able to add a third-party CAD file, such as this Inventor assembly, directly to your SolidWorks assembly. Again, all appearances are retained, and all entities can be used for mating or other references, just like a native SolidWorks file. No word though on whether part trees of imported assemblies are maintained.

Maintain Features and Mates when Re-Importing

As a continuation of the above enhancement, you can easily update the reference to a non-SolidWorks part via the Edit Feature command. When updating the item to a new or changed part file, all the references you’ve already created in your parts and drawings will be retained. Even mates will update correctly, as long as the mated entity hasn’t been completely removed.

Finally, Dark Screensaver sees the error of his ways. He renounces the Old Empire of CAD, reconciles with Luke, and restores peace and justice to the Galaxy – all thanks to SolidWorks 2017.

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

  1. Lock column width and link to BOM cell are both associated with BOMs. Link to BOM cell takes the value of the selected cell regardless to whether or not there’s a custom property. The link is maintained, even as the cell is moved around the table. This is particularly useful when linking to the item number.

      • I’m aware of that method, but it’s rather cumbersome for an occasional/one-off need. I found it was faster to just download a standard bolt model from McMaster and modify the helix the reflect the pitch needed, and add that to my model.

        • Hi Alex, I just learned that you CAN create custom thread profiles. Search your File Locations properties for the Thread Profiles folder. You can save custom tap/die profiles there (just like weldment profiles). Hope this helps!

          • Thanks, that’s good to know about thread profiles, but the thing I’m specifically interested in is non-standard pitches (i.e. I ran into a 1/4″-40 recently and needed to 3D print a matching thread).

          • But as I mentioned above, you can always change the pitch (or thread diameter) manually when creating the thread through the wizard. Just click the icons under Specification and enter a custom pitch value.

Leave a Reply