Bring It On. SOLIDWORKS 2018 Packs in More Power.
Roopinder Tara posted on September 19, 2017 | 3671 views
Image supplied by DS SolidWorks
SOLIDWORKS  2018. The most popular professional MCAD software gets even more powerful . (Image supplied by DS SolidWorks)

SOLIDWORKS is going to get a major enhancement come November. To tell us about it is Kishore Boyalakuntla, vice president of Product Portfolio Management at Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks. We scheduled an hour for the discussion. It wasn’t enough.

Kishore Boyalakuntla, VP, Product Portfolio Management, DS SolidWorks(Image from LinkedIn.)
Kishore Boyalakuntla, VP, Product Portfolio Management, DS SolidWorks Image from LinkedIn.)

SOLIDWORKS 2018 has 420 “projects,” each some sort of improvement or additional feature. Dassault Systèmes continues to release whopper upgrades, even though software trends toward smaller more frequent updates. Boyalakuntla will only be able to give us the highlights.

“We normally do a top 10 for the whole release, but we have so many good projects this time, we decided to do a top 10 in several categories: top 10 in modeling, simulation, etc.,” says the expansive and ever-positive Boyalakuntla.

SOLIDWORKS Gets Sketchy

Touch-enabled screens allow using a finger or pen to draw shapes.(Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks.)
Touch-enabled screens allow using a finger or pen to draw shapes.(Image courtesy of DS SolidWorks.)

The product is now touch enhanced. You can draw free hand, taking advantage of touch-enabled screens such those on the Microsoft Surface Pro or the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro.

The freehand sketching was home grown by SOLIDWORKS. It is not the 3D sketch previously found in CATIA called Natural Sketch.

“We’re all using pens and even our fingers to draw now,” says Boyalakuntla, clearly ahead of his userbase, most of whom remain desk bound to their big (non-touch) screens.

It appears from the graphic used that the software can convert imprecise input from pens and fingers–lines that are squiggly or not horizontal/vertical, for example–to a geometrically perfect state. However, it remains to be seen whether users will be willing to leave their mouse to reach over the keyboard to interact with a screen.

The freehand sketching also necessitates having Windows 10.

Topology optimization

New to 2018 will be Topology Study, a shape optimization capability.

Topology optimization. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks.)
Topology optimization. (Image courtesy of DS SolidWorks.)

Tosca, a robust and powerful topology optimization software previously available only to SIMULIA users, has been made available to SOLIDWORKS users, at least those with Professional or Premium packages.

“It’s built right into SOLIDWORKS,” says Boyalakuntla. You do not have to run a separate program.

CAM

SOLIDWORKS CAM generates toolpaths without leaving the application. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks.)
SOLIDWORKS CAM generates toolpaths without leaving the application. (Image courtesy of DS SolidWorks.)

Users will be able to generate CNC toolpaths while in SOLIDWORKS. Powered by CAMWORKS, users can do 2 ½D and turning operations without leaving their trusty CAD program. Knowledge-based machining (KBM) lets SOLIDWORKS CAM recognize SOLIDWORKS features like holes, ribs and pockets and, according to Dassault Systèmes, learns as it goes. It is smart enough to read data from GD&T annotation (tolerances, surface finishes, etc.) and other model-based definition (MBD) data and turn them into machine code.

SOLIDWORKS CAM was developed by Geometric Software, but has been enhanced the past year-and-a-half in collaboration with SOLIDWORKS.

You’ll Manage

SOLIDWORKS Manage, new for 2018, sports a dashboard, quite a bit more welcoming and understandable than PDM systems to CAD users. Dassault Systèmes invites comparison to, but chooses not to sell Manage as a PDM system–even though that is what it is.(Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks.)
SOLIDWORKS Manage, new for 2018, sports a dashboard, quite a bit more welcoming and understandable than PDM systems to CAD users. Dassault Systèmes invites comparison to, but chooses not to sell Manage as a PDM system–even though that is what it is.(Image courtesy of DS SolidWorks.)


Manage promises to do what PDM Professional and PDM Standard can do, even though it is not one of those. Wink, wink. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks.)
Manage promises to do what PDM Professional and PDM Standard can do, even though it is not one of those. Wink, wink. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks.)

With the new release comes a new PDM tool called Manage, which seems to be made for people who would rather not have to deal with PDM software, but still need to do what PDM software does. CAD users typically have a difficult time with managing parts, determining latest versions, large assemblies and communication such as emails. However, they’re averse to the alphabet soup of solutions: PDM, PMI, PLM, MBE, BOMs. Manage is for them. It introduces a whole level of document and part management, sparing them new methods and nomenclature, and relying on familiar tools and concepts.

SOLIDWORKS Manage is said to use a Windows Explorer-like interface that, with a click, connects to the CAD model, and, with another click, the PDM system.

Mesh Mode

SOLIDWORKS 2018 will handle meshes as native geometry. Previously, meshes were imported in as a mess of triangular faces and difficult to work with. Now, a mesh model will behave more like a solid model, able to respond to Boolean operations.

SOLIDWORKS 2018 is catching up with other CAD software that have taken advantage of mesh mode, notably NX and Solid Edge, which have capitalized on enhancements in the Parasolid kernel.

You can convert from mesh to solid and do Boolean operation on it, Boyalakuntla says. Assemblies can have both standard (NURBS-based) solids and mesh models.

Term Licensing

Boyalakuntla quotes his SOLIDWORKS CEO to tell us how flexible SOLIDWORKS has become–perhaps sensing the pressure from lower cost CAD currently available. CAD costs hit hardest with individuals, startups and small companies that balk at having to fork over thousands of dollars to acquire the CAD they need. The competition is all about paying a monthly fee and only for as long as you need it. SOLIDWORKS wants to make sure we know you can do that with SOLIDWORKS now.

Term licensing of SOLIDWORKS will be a big help to consultants, who can “rent” a SOLIDWORKS license for a particular project and easily bill the cost to the client to cover their cost. Many are converting their term licenses to annual subscriptions and perpetual licenses, according to Boyalakuntla. Dassault Systèmes does not release the number of conversions.

Boyalakuntla also reminds us that a streaming version of SOLIDWORKS is available. “With nothing to download, it is the easiest way to try SOLIDWORKS,” he adds.

SOLIDWORKS now makes use of floating licenses, and we get an example of how this can be used. “A user can login from anywhere on any machine and any place, and have a license of SOLIDWORKS available. A company with 20 SOLIDWORKS licenses, for example, can now more fully and efficiently use each license, rather than have licenses sitting idle on workstations on which they reside.

The login is the same as for My.SolidWorks.com. A single login concept has been made popular by Apple ID and Autodesk.

Lest users worry that they now must be online to use SOLIDWORKS, Boyalakuntla assures us that users can elect to take their software offline for up to 30 days at a time.

You’re Welcome

SOLIDWORKS 2018 greets you with this, a Welcome screen. (Image courtesy of Javelin Technology.)
SOLIDWORKS 2018 greets you with this, a Welcome screen. (Image courtesy of Javelin Technology.)

If your reaction to welcome screens is to immediately banish them, Dassault Systèmes may have thwarted you by not having that “do not show” checkbox on theirs. In what is being billed as a feature, the Welcome box shows your last few models and online resources available. Okay so far. This is in keeping with modern software. It also serves up my.SolidWorks.com content, such as the “latest relevant tutorials,” for example.

“It’s much better than seeing a blank screen,” says Boyalakuntla. It’s more welcoming, in other words.

Agreed: being reminded of the model you last worked on Monday morning would be quite convenient. Online resources, though? We have Google.

I notice SOLIDWORKS has omitted a search field on the welcome screen. This will, no doubt, shelter them from seeing users enter, “How do you turn off the welcome screen?”

Tab and Slot

Tabs and slots can be added as features in SOLIDWORKS 2018. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks.)
Tabs and slots can be added as features in SOLIDWORKS 2018. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks.)

SOLIDWORKS 2018 introduces tab and slot features, which should be a terrific tool for sheet metal assemblies.

There’s a Lot More to ME

The presentation goes on to discuss mechatronics, the confluence of mechanical, electrical and electronic design. SOLIDWORKS is trying hard to be seen as a solution for the whole of it. “The days of just making a sheet metal part are gone,” says Boyalakuntla. Engineers and their designs have become multi-faceted. Nowadays, products have microprocessors, PCBs—they might even be transmitting data using the Internet. For a company founded by MEs—known, established and respected for mechanical design the world over—it may be a bit of a tough sell to uproot a company’s task-specific EDA software and replace it with the SOLIDWORKS design platform. But that may not be Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks’ intention. For the millions of MEs and designers who trust it for what it’s good at and want to expand their horizons and make their products smarter, SOLIDWORKS’ electrical abilities may be just perfect.

Find Your Inner EE

“Everything in the future will be a mechatronics project,” Boyalakuntla says. For years, SOLIDWORKS has had electrical wiring and PCB software. Both have been enhanced in the 2018 version to help mechanical engineers (MEs) find their inner EEs.

“We have EEs that are using SOLIDWORKS for PCB,” Boyalakuntla says. He adds that they introduced PCB a year ago, and it has exceeded all expectations, but declines to provide any data for backing up his claim.

Electrical is the last jewel in the crown, according to Boyalakuntla. What used to be just a mechanical design product can now be used in marketing (illustration and rendering), simulation and manufacture seamlessly–the entire design cycle, end to end.


Recommended For You