SolidWorks World 2015 Top Ten List now open!

10-15-2014 12-32-42 PM

Every year, a few months before SolidWorks World, the Product Definition team opens up a special section of the SolidWorks Forums, where users like you and me can submit our best ideas on how to improve the product to meet our needs. Starting today, and for the next two months, you can submit as many ideas as you want to the Top Ten List discussion forum, where the SolidWorks community can discuss them all. On December 12th, submission will be closed, and a few days later, on the 15th, voting begins. Between December 15th and January 23rd, 10 ideas will rise to the top of the list, and will ultimately be presented during the General Session on the final day of SolidWorks World 2015. These enhancement ideas will then get special attention from the Product Definition team, in an effort to make them a reality. Nearly every Top Ten idea has been implemented in later releases of SolidWorks, go get your ides into the forums, and make history!

Important Dates

December 12, 2014 is the end for new idea submissions

December 15, 2014 voting on all ideas begins

January 23, 2015 voting ends

Click here for the announcement from SolidWorks.


SolidWorks 2014 What’s New – Chapter 11: eDrawings

The list of enhancements to eDrawings is about as short as it can get. There’s additional content available on the iPad app, and the ability to view SolidWorks 2014’s enhanced explode steps. Additionally, there’s an important step towards full Model-Based Definition.

Honorable Mentions

3DContentCentral on iPad

According to the What’s New document:

You can use eDrawings to view 3D ContentCentral on iPad. 3D ContentCentral is a free service for locating, configuring, downloading, and requesting 2D and 3D parts and assemblies… Start eDrawings on your iPad and click

I assume this feature is still forthcoming, because I haven’t seen it on my version of eDrawings yet.

Update: I’ve discovered that the What’s New document is (again) worded very poorly. What they mean to say is, 3DContentCentral is now available on the mobile Safari browser, and components can be opened in eDrawings directly from the mobile site. All standard eDrawings tools (section, measure, configure, etc.) are available to parts opened via 3DCC.

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Viewing Rotational Explode Steps

Now that rotational explode steps are available in Solidworks 2014, it only makes sense that the eDrawings viewer should be able to view them.


Viewing DimXpert Dimensions From SolidWorks Part Files

You can now view DimXpert dimensions from files are saved in SolidWorks 2014 or later. It’s a small enhancement, but what this means is that all geometric information is now available in the eDrawings format. This is the next big step necessary for making 2D drawings obsolete.


Check out the video below for even more eDrawings 2014 enhancements:

SolidWorks World 2012 Top Ten Voting is Now Open!


Starting today, you can vote on the ideas that the SolidWorks community has been submitting to the forums for the last month.  There are dozens, maybe hundreds of ideas that, with your help, could change the face of SolidWorks. If you’re not already a member of the forums, what are you waiting for… do it! DO IT NAOUGHW! 

SolidWorks Enhancements for Alpha Testing

I’ve been invited to an all-day alpha testing session for SolidWorks 2013!  I won’t be able to report on what I see, but this will be a great opportunity to reveal some of the enhancement requests that have been piling up in my head.  I’d like to keep them under wrapd for the time being (unless any SolidWorks employees want to contact me), but if anyone else out there has a great enhancement request that they’d like me to share during this rare audience with the Product Definintion team, let me know.


UPDATE 12/1/11:

Ok, I caved. I couldn’t keep all these great ideas to myself, so I posted them on the SolidWorks World 2012 Top Ten List over on the SolidWorks Forums.  So take a look at my ideas below, then head over to the Top Ten List to comment.  And don’t forget to vote, starting January 1st.


Redo selection order for width mate

The current setup (width, width, tab, tab), generally forces you to spin the model 180 degrees after each selection (or use select other, etc).


Instead, the selection order should be right width, right tab, left width left tab.  Additionally, the focus should automatically advance to the next selection box after 2 picks.


Redo selection order for symmetric mate

The current symmetry mate UI forces the symmetry place to be chosen last, which is the opposite of all other symmetry/mirror commands n SolidWorks.


My enhancement ideas:

  • Move symmetry plane selection box above face selections.
  • If a single plane or planar face is pre-selected, use as symmetry plane (instead of first face selection)
  • If multiple entities, including a reference plane, are pre-selected, automatically use reference plane as symmetry plane, regardless of selection order.


Selecting a surface while in an Extrude command automatically switches to ‘Up to Surface’ mode

Open an extrude, extrude cut, extrude surface, etc. Click on a face. Poof! The End Condition changes to up to surface, and terminates at that face (if allowable).


Pattern/Mirror Weld Beads

How about the ability to pattern and mirror weld beads (found under weldments or assembly features) both with the bodies/components that they are attached to, or independently.


If the first feature of a part is an extrude, make end condition midplane

This promotes good modelling practices. In my experience, most parts I create need to be symmetric about the sketch plane.  Alternatively, add this as a document property that can be toggled on for certain templates.


Allow use of multiple patterns in feature driven component pattern

Imagine if you will…

You create a hole wizard hole:


You then create a linear (or circular) pattern from that hole:


Then, you pattern that entire series of holes:


THEN, you mirror all the holes you’ve created so far (or the body/component that those holes are on):


Now, you insert this part into an assembly, and you want to populate all the holes with fasteners, using feature-driven component patern.


You would have to create 3 distinct patterns in your assembly, because you’re only allowed to use one pattern at a time:


With he ability to use multiple patterns, we could populate every hole in this part with one assembly feature.


Live updating of structural steel preview

I use this tool occasionally  to create beams for weldments, etc.


However, each time I use it, I have to guess and check, becuase the terminology used is counter intuitive (height is depth???), and the preview doesn.t update based on the selection.  At the very least, we need something like this, where the major dimensions are at least labelled.


But preferably, I’d like a preview where the shape actually changes, and the dimensions are displayed…


Unrelated pet peeve: When a sketch is created from structural steel, it is not fixed in any way to the origin


Toolbox component placement and updating enhancements

When placing multiple similar toolbox components, add the ability to undo the last placement (in case you didn’t quite line it up with that hole).


Also, when editing the defnition of a toolbox component, the edits shuld affect ALL similar components originally placed with that command.  (For example, you have to change the length or thread pitch of all the bolts and nuts in your huge asembly. Currently, you have to do it one by one.)



Right-click in weld bead PropertyManager should create new path

Currently, right-clicking in the weld bead PropertyManager completes the command.  However, it SHOULD complete the current path, and start a new path (like clicking the ‘New weld path’ button)

Ask, and Ye Shall Receive – My List of SolidWorks Enhancements

I was recently asked by one of the higher-ups a SolidWorks to provide a list of enhancement ideas that I thought of during the course of the last few days. What I’m sure we both expected to be a short bullet list turned into a five-page essay. Here’s my list in it’s entirety:


Geometry-based search

I actually pitched this idea to Jeff Ray and some of the other SolidWorks executives last summer. However, it was only after that presentation that I discovered that an idea very similar to this had been put into motion by a small CAD start-up, ShapeSpace. The basic idea is this:

You’re browsing some large repository of 3D content (such as 3DContentCentral or your company’s PDM vault) searching for a part that you can picture clearly in your head, but have no idea of what it might be called. After all, 3D CAD is a visual exercise, not a literary one. Wouldn’t it be be much more efficient to search for parts by shape, rather than by name? For example, if you’re looking for a specific type of bracket, you could search for ‘bracket’ on 3DContentCentral – and wade through nearly 2500 parts. OR, you could model a quick and dirty representation of what you’re looking for in SolidWorks. It wouldn’t have to be too exact, and it certainly wouldn’t have to be pretty. You could upload your part to a special 3DCC or PDM search tool, and instantly find all the parts in the library that have similar geometry (within a certain specified tolerance). Then you could sort by price, manufacturer, material, etc. The results could be independent of scale and coordinate system, so you wouldn’t have to worry about measurements, just relative size.

Automatically align blueprint sketches in initial sketch pictures


Currently, to get started on a complex model (like a car) using orthogonal sktch pictures is a complex multi-step process. It involves cropping trimming the images in a 3rd-party program to get the ratios just right, down to the last pixel. Then you must create new reference plans in addition to the three defaults (if, for example, you want to use a rear or bottom view). These planes must also be positioned perfectly, based on the dimensions of the images. Then you have to create between three and six new sketches, add the sketch pictures, and rotate, resize, and edit transparency for each. And then, generally, add all the sketches to a new FeatureManager folder. What if SolidWorks automated most of these steps? I imagine the user would follow this basic path:

  • From a UI, browse for desired views (top, front, right, rear, etc)
  • Select ONE dimension (length, width, or height) for reference.
  • SolidWorks automatically detects the curves in the images, trims images to size (so that the width of the front view is equal to the width of the side view, etc), automatically creates any extra reference planes at the correct distances, and positions images on those planes correctly.
  • The user is prompted to select a transparency setting to apply to ALL images. • Optionally, reference axes can be automatically added at plane intersections.
  • SolidWorks places all the images and planes in a new FeatureManager folder (can be named by the user or have a default title).

Full-featured Augmented Reality Viewer

The 3DVia Mobile iPhone app is a good start, but Google SketchUp already has a relatively advanced AR plug-in.

SolidWorks could take it one step further by incorporating motion and stress analysis into Augmented Reality models. This technology would enable engineers to visualize their products – anything from handheld devices to furniture to entire buildings – in the real world. It would also be a fantastic addition to the Post3D community, for enabling sales teams to demonstrate their products to distant clients in the most lifelike way possible.

Ability to use unlinked images in the design binder as sketch pictures
Probably the most common use of the design binder is to store orthogonal reference images, to de-clutter the Windows folder. However (as far as I can tell) these images cannot be accessed when choosing an image for a sketch picture. This leads to a designer either a) maintaining two sets of images or b) unfortunately, never using the design binder (more likely, I think).

Add a decal/split line based on the center of gravity
Using the CG from the mass properties of a part or assembly, automatically apply a center-of-gravity symbol decal or split line to specified faces, in the 3 orthogonal directions.


Edit BOM in external excel file.
Similar to how you can edit a design table in an external file, it would be useful to be able to do the same for a BOM, especially when working with large assemblies, it would be more efficient to perform all the data entry outside of SolidWorks.

Parallel draft in Boss/Base extrusion
Add an option to draft all walls of an extrusion towards the center. Take the sectioned cylinder below. A) is a regular extrusion, B) is the same extrusion drafted 5 degrees from the Extrude Boss/Base FeatureManager, C) is my proposal to allow for parallel drafting.


Hide/Show entire folders
We currently have the ability to suppress entire folders, but not to hide and show them. This would involve hiding every bode who’s last feature is present in that folder, along with all sketches and parts (in an assembly). This would be useful for hiding a set of orthogonal reference sketches, or all the fasteners in a large assembly (i.e. blueprints or layout sketches, fasteners/hardware, etc)

Add a “Hide All Types” button in the HUD

It’s available in the View menu, but not in the HUD.


Add appearances to interior of split lines
I know this one has circulated for a while, but it would be astoundingly useful.

Save snapshot of part position in assemblies.
This is one of the good features of Pro/E. You can move parts into a desired position (at the beginning of a motion analysis, for example) and then take a ‘snapshot of those parts. You can than return the parts to that position at any time without suppressing/unsuppresing mates or creating new configurations

Ability to add appearances while in section view.
This is useful when working on a model which will eventually be sectioned (for a publication or scale model).

Automatically show/hide one feature or group of features when another is hidden/shown
For example, automatically hide the front blueprint image when the rear is shown.

Create geometry based on mass/volume
Given a few specified values (such as volume, mass, footprint area, shape, etc) SolidWorks will automatically create a solid which fits those requirements. For example, maybe you need an object weighing one ton which fits in a parallelogram-shaped footprint of no more than 4’ x 6’. The current method is simply to guess-and-check.

Create custom materials by alloying
​Use percentages of certain metals to create new alloys, with appropriate material properties.

Make sketch pictures inert in the graphics area
​Along the same line, sketch pictures should be completely inert (unselectable) from the graphics area. Once they’ve been created, sketch pictures should only be editable through the FeatureManager tree. They really seem to get in the way after that, especially when using mouse gestures. Many mouse gestures don’t work when performed over a sketch picture. And when using a highly transparent image, it can be difficult to determine where that boundary ends.

SolidWorks Enhancement Idea – Axial Section Views

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on importing, repairing, and editing a very complex, roughly cylindrical part.  Specifically, a missile. Ooh-rah.  During this time, I’ve come up with an enhancement idea I think may have some merit.  When it comes to working on the inside of a complex assembly, large multi-body part, or huge ugly imported surface part, it can be infuriating to try to see past all the complexity to the area of interest.  To solve this, I propose the axial section view.  This section feature would behave just like the planar section view we know currently, but it instead removes a cylindrical section of the component.  Here’s a simplified example:



Imagine this “complex” item is all one part or – worse yet – all one body (either due to import errors or bad modeling practices).  A cylindrical section view would definitely be helpful in this case, but I believe multi-body parts and assemblies could also benefit.  



Now imagine that I need to work on this area or the inner surface (to repair a faulty surface, add a new feature, etc):



Using a single section view, the area of interest is barely accessible.


Two offset, angled section views make it a bit better, but I’ve lost much of the surrounding geometry, which I may need for reference, etc.



I think a cylindrical section view would solve this problem.  By choosing an axis and a radius, and paired with a single section view if necessary, the part could now look like this:


Our area of interest is now wide open and easily accessible.


The UI might look something like this. Just a simple axis and radius selection.




Does anyone else think this would be useful? How often would you use it, and it what situations?