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Editor’s Pick: Freeform Surfacing for SolidWorks

Dear Desktop Engineering Reader:

Today’s Pick of the Week sounds like a good one for all you old stagers out there beating on SolidWorks mechanical CAD, especially those of you trying to make it be an industrial design system or wish that it worked more like one when you need it to. nPower recently came out with a plug-in for SolidWorks called Power Surfacing that is, in effect, an industrial design toolset for SolidWorks. Here’s what it’s about.

The gist of Power Surfacing is that it gives you the tools to create complex, freeform organic shapes within the SolidWorks parametric design environment. The neat of it is that it connects Sub-D (subdivision surface) surface modeling with NURBS-based CAD modeling and your parts with Sub-D surfaces act as if you made them in SolidWorks.

And so what does all this mean to you? Well, Sub-D modeling shines when you want to make or change complex freeform shapes with smooth surfaces. NURBS, on the other hand, is your baby for combining shapes with Boolean and feature operations as well as things like filleting, blending, and face editing. That aside, the important point is that neither of them can tackle every 3D modeling problem. So, combining them gives you enhanced modeling technology to solve a whole lot more of your design challenges effectively.

Using the strengths of both modeling technologies in your design and revision processes also means you reap a bunch of new productivity as well as additional design options. For example, making “Class A” surfaces with tangent and curvature continuity becomes less arduous, and you can make artsy (or not) changes to surface features without wondering if your design will rebuild right or guessing how long it will take you to do it. For that matter, you may not need a separate application for ID any more.

Power Surfacing sounds easy to use. You form a Power Surfacing object inside of SolidWorks using a sketch as a reference then you design your object with Power Surfacing’s tools, also inside of SolidWorks. nPower uses the “like clay” description to describe your Power Surfacing design process; i.e., you push and pull on faces, edges, or vertices as if you were molding virtual clay.

When your Power Surfacing part is to your liking, you then convert it into a native SolidWorks part. Once it’s converted, your Sub-D design now acts as if you made it in SolidWorks. That means you can use SolidWorks tools like Booleans, fillets, or shells. You can go back to Power Surfacing and modify shapes without pulling apart the NURBS surfaces. You can also use Power Surfacing to import and convert Maya, Modo, 3ds Max, and ZBrush Sub-D models into the NURBS representation that SolidWorks wants.

More details on Power Surfacing are available in today’s Editor’s Pick of the Week write-up. Make sure to hit some of the video links at the end; there’re a bunch of them to choose from. This is good stuff.

Thanks, Pal. — Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood
Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering

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About Anthony J. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood is Desktop Engineering's Editor-at-Large. Contact him via de-editors@deskeng.com.