The Scoop on SolidWorks 2001

by Cliff Beattie



Seeing the Big Picture

When shopping for new design software, there's a smorgasbord of programs to choose from. Some are still in the land of 2-D design and have only a limited solids portion of their program, while others center the complete software package on designing in solids. SolidWorks falls in to the latter category. From day one, SolidWorks has been based on solids, and how to use them productively to create new designs and products. It also has been created to run in a Windows environment from the start, and has a large portion of Windows-based functionality and compatibility built right into the program.

Looking Back at SolidWorks 2000

Let's go back to last year for a little while and look at SolidWorks 2000. You may have taken a "test drive" of the software and got to play with some of the handy tools it has. If you did, you probably noticed the solids design portion of the software is very strong, and it has a lot of fancy tools to create lofts, extrusions, trims, and sweeps. The speed of loading big assemblies is very impressive, along with the fact that the software seems pretty stable (very few lockups) and has a below-average amount of bugs that we've all came to expect from new software released today.

Still, after fooling around with a couple of parts or drawings, you might have noticed that most commands have a dialogue box that pops up in the middle of the viewing area. The box ranges from small to very large (the annotations box is a good example of large). Also the visualization of what is going to happen when creating extrusions, sweeps, cuts, lofts, etc… is best described as adequate. Most operations showed a wireframe preview of what was going to happen. All these shortcomings deal with the user interface, an area a lot of programs fall short in.

SolidWorks 2000 Sheet Metal Design

This is a major area that SolidWorks introduced a few releases back, and had pretty much had made few improvements. There are two basic methods for creating sheet metal parts. One method is to draw the part in its flattened state, add lines where the bends need to be, and actually fold or bend up the part along these lines. This works out great for making solid models out of parts that are pre-designed and drawn in a flattened state. By doing this you are folding up a part.

Another method is to make the formed part the size and shape you need, and then flatten the part out to see what it looks like before it is bent. Using this method you are unfolding a part. This method is faster when designing more complicated parts that need to be a certain size, have holes in certain locations, and connect to various other parts in assemblies. SolidWorks 2000 does a very good job when folding up parts, but lacks some of the more powerful features when creating parts to be unfolded.

Introducing SolidWorks 2001

Now that we've looked at SolidWorks 2000, lets look at SolidWorks 2001. Introduced as a pre-release to SolidWorks customers in February, then released in March, SolidWorks 2001 is the latest and greatest design software from the SolidWorks Corporation. Based on customer demand and software improvements, there have been more than 130 enhancements to SolidWorks 2000 in the making of SolidWorks 2001. These changes range from minor visual tweaks to rethinking how certain tools should be used to make parts.


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