A Quick Look at SolidWorks 2010

Nov. 17, 2009
SolidWorks 2010 new and enhanced features include the Split Line and the Hole Wizard.
The software comes from Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp., 300 Baker Ave., Concord, MA 01742, www.solidworks.com

SolidWorks 2010 is here, and your first thought is probably about when to upgrade. Keep in mind you can have multiple releases of SolidWorks installed on one computer. Each different version is set up to function independently of the others. This lets users work on multiple projects, each using a different release. But this approach creates an obvious concern: Once a file is saved in SolidWorks, you cannot open it in a previous version. (Should you accidentally open an older project in a newer release, just close your files without saving, and they will not be updated.)

Fortunately, SolidWorks 2010 has multiple flags that notify you about a decision to save in the newer release. You should make a point of communicating with your colleagues to avoid starting a project in the wrong release. So, actually, it isn’t really a matter of “when to upgrade to the latest release,” it’s more “when to start using the latest release.”

Your suppliers should influence this decision. If you need to exchange native SolidWorks files, make sure you are both using the same version. But if you are just providing PDFs and IGES files, upgrading is not an issue.

Customers, too, provide a good indicator of when it is time. In starting a project, it’s best to specify up-front in which release the project will be delivered. Multiple customers may force you into the scenario of using several releases in the same office.

In developing your own internal products, when to begin is up to you. Typically, before implementing a new release, users perform a limited trial by creating new files similar to legacy products or opening existing files to ensure a smooth transition. Plan to spend some time in the transfer of resources such as libraries, templates, and sheet formats.

Here’s some of what’s new in 2010:

The software is good at helping you create conceptual designs quickly. One task for which I use the Split Line feature is to arrange membrane switches and button arrays on panels of electrical enclosures. This is not the real thing, I just want to communicate the orientations and location of buttons, displays, connectors, and even text.

The software makes tasks such as this much easier because users can lay out all the open and closed contour shapes in one sketch and split the face(s) in one step. Then it’s simple to change the color of the new faces to represent the components. A big improvement: Users can also split the faces across multiple solid or surface bodies. (Interestingly, users cannot split the faces of both solid and surface bodies in the same feature.)

The Hole Wizard is an excellent tool. And what was a challenging concept to teach new users is no longer an issue. Previously, when users failed to preselect a plane or flat face and then invoked the tool, the software automatically placed the holes in a 3D sketch. In 2010, when users preselect a plane or flat face, the software places all the holes on a 2D sketch, as it should. But when users do not preselect a face, they get prompted to do so or begin a 3D sketch. By the way, if you haven’t used the wizard much using 3D sketches, it’s really worth trying. It lets you put multiple instances of holes throughout a part on multiple flat faces, all in one group — a big time saver.

On a downside, it’s difficult to make comments about how the developer should have implemented new features when they fall short of what I would like to see. One example is the new capability of assigning different materials to the individual solid bodies in a part file. The only thing missing is a BOM of the solid multibodies. But then I catch myself and think, “Previously, users couldn’t even assign different materials, and now you’re asking for something much more sophisticated. You should be satisfied with what you have.” Besides I know the BOM inside a part is on the to-do list because an early revision of the 2009 What’s New documentation mentions this capability, which never got implemented. For whatever reason, the feature is just is not ready for prime time.

When someone asks, “What is the easiest way to make a drawing in SolidWorks,” I usually jokingly answer, “Tell someone else to do it.” (After all, I am the boss.) Therefore my focus with respect to drawings is on implementing methods that make their creation go more smoothly. SolidWorks 2010 has added a lot of features to enhance drawing creation. One of my favorites is the capability to organize your individual general notes and place them in a Design Library. Then you can drag and drop them into your drawing as the first note or a subsequent note below the previous note. If you have previously formatted the text box for number or bullet formatting, the new note inherits the formatting.

Also, 2010 lets users create Display States for parts and specify the display state of the part instances in an assembly. This really complements the way display states work in assemblies. It also eliminates the need to make different part configurations for different part appearances. However, the assembly feature tree is more complicated, because it now shows the component filename, instance number, configuration, and display state.

After doing your homework, if display states are still confusing, remember by default they are tied to the configuration of the component. (Note the “Link Display States to Configurations” option at the bottom of the Display States property manager.) A checked box means this option is active. A different configuration will show different display states related to that configuration.

The concept may be simpler to understand if you uncheck the box. In a part having two different configurations with and without holes, there are usually four different display states — red, blue, green, and orange. Unchecking the box gives eight different choices — red with holes, red without holes, blue with holes, and so on.

I always thought the best reason for using the next release as quickly as possible was for personal growth and increasing your value as a designer or engineer — that is, lifelong learning. Others might enjoy the challenge of pushing themselves, but to me, it’s more about keeping up with the latest so I don’t fall behind.

— Phil Sluder

Phil Sluder is a mechanical engineer, owner of TriAxial Design and Analysis, certified SolidWorks instructor, certified SolidWorks professional, a longtime member of the SWUGN committee, and leader of the San Diego SolidWorks User Group. He can be reached at [email protected]

Edited by Leslie Gordon

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