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.
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,
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.
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.
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.