Spring Forward into SOLIDWORKS 2021

Here are 3 good reasons to upgrade now.

The New Year is always a good time to make some changes or start a new project like upgrading your software, including SOLIDWORKS. Here we are approaching spring, so if you haven’t started the upgrade yet, perhaps it’s time to get out the garden tools, so to speak, and start digging into SOLIDWORKS 2021.

The annual release became available in October 2020, shortly after Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS announced that “Dassault Systèmes’ SOLIDWORKS 2021 Now Available, Including New 3DEXPERIENCE Platform-Enabled Offers.” 

Since then, the company has given a technology preview of SOLIDWORKS 2022 at this year’s 3DEXPERIENCE World, which was held virtually.

We wanted to provide a refresher for those who are considering upgrading now, as Suchit Jain, VP, Strategy and Business Development, Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS, recently told us the company’s customer base really starts to implement the new release around this time of year.

So we sat down (well, in a virtual meeting) with Jain to learn more about the new release and what users can look forward to. There are three top reasons or “buckets,” as Jain put it.

Jain noted that with every release there are three main buckets, which are areas of focus that are key to the release. The first is on performance enhancements and how they can make customers who are using SOLIDWORKS desktop more productive with the tasks they are doing every day like drawings, assemblies and visualization. The second is on delighter enhancements, which are little software upgrades that provide epic workflow gains that users don’t necessarily need every day, but which are nice options to have. The third bucket is how to empower users for the future with advancing technologies like cloud solutions and provide them with capabilities to Dassault Systèmes cloud solutions like the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS.

“So, if you think about SOLIDWORKS desktop, which is what is primarily used by a lot of the customers today … we always have to balance between some of the new things, which are sort of looking at the future. How do we enhance technology and unlock things, which will help people do their future jobs better? So whether it’s around generative design or using the power of cloud—things like that are in one bucket,” explained Jain.

With each release, the company also must balance between robustness and performance to help make users more productive. “We have 6 million customers, including 4.5 million in education and 1.5 million commercial,” he added.

“How do we make them more productive? They are always looking for PERFORMANCE, PERFORMANCE, PERFORMANCE … so every year, it has to become better.”

So, in the first bucket, when it comes to performance, Jain said the company focuses on core areas, including drawings and assemblies. “Millions of users are using drawings, spending hours making sure that all the drawings can be produced very nicely, or assemblies, whenever you have a, you know, half a million part assembly … when you open it up, you don’t want to lose, you know, the value.… Even if you have a five-second improvement, that’s huge for them, or visualizing and things like that. So, a lot of the time is spent on that—you know, robustness and performance over the years.”

“For the second bucket, we look out for things such as ‘delighters,’ which are innovative things which will help them do their jobs better, say, even on the desktop. And by the way, when I use the word desktop, it’s not just design, it’s PDM, its design and simulation, your electrical—all of that. So, we give them tools, which they’re not necessarily using all the time. But they are innovative, you know, and used once in a while.

 “And then the third bucket is how we continue to enhance the future with cloud technologies. And in that respect, we bring in the 3DEXPERIENCE. And we make connections to our existing products through the 3DEXPERIENCE. So, there’ll be a bunch of technologies fitting into that.”

Now that Jain has given us a glimpse into some of the efforts that went into SOLIDWORKS 2021, let’s take a look at some of those buckets in more depth to see what users can expect.

Bucket 1 Performance—Drawing and Assemblies

Drawing Performance Enhancements

As Jain mentioned above, improvements in the drawing environment are always among the most popular requests that SOLIDWORKS receives from its users and an area of enhancement for each release.

In terms of drawing performance, users will notice the zoom and pan performance for massive drawings has improved significantly to provide a more consistent and predictable experience when navigating a drawing.

When working with large assembly drawings, users rely heavily on view manipulation and the ability to manipulate views, so they will appreciate that enhancements to the Detailing Mode introduced in SOLIDWORKS 2020 enable users to open massive drawings in seconds. And for assemblies, the Enhanced Graphics Performance option was implemented to take advantage of high-end graphics cards by moving the graphics burden to the card. For SOLIDWORKS 2021, the Enhanced Graphics Performance option has been extended to the drawing environment.SOLIDWORKS 2021 Drawing Performance.

Assembly Performance Enhancements

Users will notice that in SOLIDWORKS 2021 they can access and work on assemblies more efficiently with the ability to dynamically load lightweight components, find circular references, and create defeatured assemblies as configurations.

Yes, to improve working with lightweight components, there is now a more streamlined approach to accessing your assembly and feature information. Expanding a component from the Feature Manager Tree will now dynamically load components on demand, giving you access to the fully resolved subassembly or part. This prevents unnecessary loading of large assemblies while allowing users to quickly access and resolve the components they’re working on as needed. Also note that components in subassemblies remain in lightweight mode until you expand them.

Performance Evaluation Checks for Circular References provides detection of circular references in assemblies.

As users dig into working with assembly designs in SOLIDWORKS 2021, they’ll find that there are more tools to help them assemble, pattern and analyze assemblies.

Combine the time-saving enhancements above with new graphics improvements and users will sure be spending more time designing and less time waiting.

Bucket 2—Delighters

Sometimes it’s the little things that count the most and can make a difference. With every major release of SOLIDWORKS, there are big and small innovations.

The new Color Picker feature seems to be a favorite of many, including value-added reseller (VAR) TriMech, which listed it in their Top 11 Features in SOLIDWORKS 2021 blog series. “One of our favorite delighters of SOLIDWORKS 2021 is the color picker for appearances,” said Stephen Petrock, senior solutions consultant at TriMech. “This tool enables you to hover over any pixel in your screen and use that to define the color for an appearance. Think of this [as] an extension of the traditional appearance tools such as selecting from the color [palettes] or defining RGB values.”

The Color Picker tool allows users to easily match the color of their SOLIDWORKS model to any other color on the screen. Users can open the Color Picker dialog box from various Palette tabs and several dialog boxes. They can select the Color Picker wherever a color parameter appears. For example, when selecting an appearance in the Appearance tab, its color parameters appear as strips of color. Clicking any of these color parameters displays the Color Picker to let users edit that color.

Plus, the Color Picker has all the standard controls, including an eyedropper that lets users sample colors anywhere on the screen—even outside the SOLIDWORKS Visualize window.

Toby Schnaars, solution consultant at Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS, is also fond of the Color Picker.

“SOLIDWORKS 2021 introduced some great new functionality, and one of my favorite time savers is this new Color Picker option,” said Schnaars.

“In previous versions of SOLIDWORKS we would have to somehow capture the RGB formula for a custom color. This often meant working with an additional piece of software, and a lot of copying and pasting. This was a time-consuming process, especially when trying to capture many different colors. But SOLIDWORKS 2021 simplifies this process down to just a few clicks!”

To see more, you can catch a two-minute video by TriMech here to see the Color Picker in action or get a step-by-step walkthrough from Schnaars on the SOLIDWORKS blog.

With the Color Picker tool Schnaars was able to make a mug in SOLIDWORKS RED and then create one in blue by capturing the deep blue color shown on the Dassault Systèmes logo.

With the Color Picker tool Schnaars was able to make a mug in SOLIDWORKS RED and then create one in blue by capturing the deep blue color shown on the Dassault Systèmes logo. (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)

Users will also notice enhancements to the Detailing Mode tool, a delighter that was introduced in the software’s 2020 release. For instance, you can now edit existing annotations such as notes and dimensions with full access to all the annotation editing tools.

In addition, Detailing Mode for Drawings now supports the creation of detail, break, and crop views. All the break line styles, as well as the gap between the breaks, are available.

As users know, it is common to define hole information when detailing drawings. Now Detailing Mode supports Hole Callouts and foreshortened dimensions are applied when necessary.

Detailing Mode in SOLIDWORKS 2021. (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)

Detailing Mode in SOLIDWORKS 2021. (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)

Bucket 3—The Future Is now—Connect CAD to the Cloud with 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS

As part of the SOLIDWORKS 2021 release, Dassault Systèmes also announced that users will be able to connect SOLIDWORKS to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and create seamless product development workflows and easily extend them with new tools as their business needs evolve. This connected design-to-manufacturing ecosystem in the cloud enables teams to collaborate on real-time data anywhere and at any time on any Internet-enabled device.

If you’re ready to make the leap to the cloud, Dassault Systèmes is offering a special edition of SOLIDWORKS connected to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform that is available in three packages— 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS Standard, Professional and Premium, which mirror the desktop versions.

3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS offers cloud-based industrial and mechanical design optimized for mobile devices and designed for automation and collaborative work on the go.  



How the offer works is that SOLIDWORKS customers can use the same familiar SOLIDWORKS desktop applications they love, plus utilize the 3DEXPERIENCE platform cloud services to make them more collaborative and mobile. This connected version of SOLIDWORKS comes with embedded data management, eliminating obsolete or lost files and including automatic updating of software and data. All users work on the same version and are just one click away from all the advanced applications of the 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS portfolio.

If you’re interested in these cloud offerings, stand by, we’ll be looking at them in more depth, along with diving into Dassault Systèmes’ stance on the cloud, in another article coming soon.

While we’ve barely touched on the surface of what’s new in SOLIDWORKS 2021, our evaluation wouldn’t be complete without some input from SOLIDWORKS Product Manager Craig Therrien.

We’d encourage you to check out this blog post from Therrien featuring demos of the top enhancements, along with what’s new in SOLIDWORKS PDM, SOLIDWORKS Simulation, SOLIDWORKS Visualize and more!