SWIFT technology and surface continuity lead the list of many new features in SolidWorks 2007.
SolidWorks 2007 is the company’s 15th major release of its flagship 3D mechanical design software. Like many of its competitors, SolidWorks is now on an annual release cycle, and while customers have long known about many of the features planned for the new release (the software was first publicly demonstrated in Las Vegas at SolidWorks World in February 2006), the software wasn’t actually available until the end of the summer. But it’s been worth the wait. New and enhanced capabilities extend throughout the release.
A good example of that is the 2D sketch block capability introduced in SolidWorks 2006. It enables users to combine sketch entities into a block of geometry that behaved as a single object. Sketch blocks could be used to test the fit and function of mechanisms, and when layout sketches were later converted into a solid assembly, each sketch block converted into a part.
> > SolidWorks 2007’s new Belt/Chain assembly feature creates a special curve for pulley and sprocket systems. Belt Mates are automatically created that link motion of the pulleys based on their diameters. Belt length is determined by pulley position, or belt length can be input to determine idler position.
SolidWorks 2007 builds on that capability, enabling users to create and test multiple gear sets, cable and belt pulleys, and chain and sprocket systems. For example, a new traction relation lets you create relative rotation constraints between blocks used to represent pulleys or sprockets. Adding a traction relation automatically adds a tangent relation between circles, or between circles and linear entities. You can also now use the Make Path tool to create a tangent relation between a chain of sketch entities and another sketch entity. This can be used to model cam profiles where the tangent relation between the cam and a follower automatically transitions as the cam rotates.
Once you’ve converted your sketch blocks into real parts, SolidWorks 2007 provides enhanced assembly capabilities. You can now mate multiple components to a common reference using the same mate type. For example, you can mate several gears and bearings concentrically to a common shaft. The resulting mates are placed in a Multi-Mates folder. You can then change the common reference, mate type, or distance for all the mates in the folder in a single operation.
< < The new Boundary-Surface feature can provide C2 curvature continuity in both directions. In addition, connectors can be moved to limit or define the extent of the surface area. A new Selection Manager tool offers enhanced selection capability when defining the 1st and 2nd curves.
A new belt/chain assembly feature creates a special curve for pulley and sprocket systems. Belt mates link the motion of the pulleys based on their diameters. After placing the pulley components and selecting them in the desired order, you can either have SolidWorks determine the belt length based on the pulley position, or set a fixed belt length and let the software determine the idler position. The software adds a belt feature and a BeltMates folder to the feature tree.
A new Rack and Pinion mates type enables a linear translation of one part to result in a circular rotation of another, and vice versa, so you can create rack and pinion-type assemblies with the motion of components consistent with the diameter of the pinion.
Surface and Sheet Metal Enhancements
While SolidWorks and its competitors originated as solid modeling applications, most have steadily added surfacing tools to handle the complex shapes prevalent in modern product designs. Here again SolidWorks 2007 makes great strides.
Product designers require curvature-continuous (C2) control over surface and shape design. SolidWorks 2007 introduces C2 continuity throughout many aspects of its existing and new surfacing tools. The new Two-Directional boundary surface feature lets you create surfaces that can be tangent- or curvature-continuous in both directions. In most cases, this will deliver a higher quality result than the Loft tool. Connectors let you define or limit the extent of the surface area. This new tool enables users to create high-quality surfaces with curvature-continuous matching usually found in consumer product design. The Fill Surface tool has also been enhanced, allowing you to create n-sided patches that can have C2 continuous boundary conditions and to create surfaces even when there are gaps in the boundaries.
> > DraftXpert, one of the new Xpert tools based on SWIFT technology, creates and modifies neutral plane draft features without the user having to worry about reordering features. Draft analysis is built into the DraftXpert. If a draft feature failure occurs, the FeatureXpert will be activated.
SolidWorks 2007’s new Freeform Surface feature lets you select a surface or model face and then push and pull it dynamically using specified control points. You can use this tool to define complex surface features in ways not possible with Loft, Swep, or Deform.
Even though sheet metal functions received lots of improvements in the previous release, SolidWorks’ developers still managed to add more enhancements in this latest version. You can now add curved-edge flanges created off a planar base, enabling the creation of more complex sheet metal parts. The curved edges must border a planar face and multiple edges must be tangent, but you can include both linear and curved segments. In addition, when lofted bend parts are flattened, the bend lines now appear in the bend regions as long as the lofted bend area is well defined (the profiles that define the lofted bend part must have the same number of elements) and can be created using brake press manufacturing methods.
One of the most touted additions to SolidWorks 2007 is the new SolidWorks Intelligent Feature Technology (SWIFT), which powers the new Feature, Fillet, Draft, Dim, Mate, and Sketch Xpert tools. These tools work behind the scenes to solve errors so that you can concentrate on your designs. For example, the FeatureXpert lets you simply select the geometry to which to apply a feature, and then FeatureXpert automatically determines how to best create the feature, yielding the result in a single operation. You no longer have to be concerned with the order of feature creation as you normally would with Fillet and Draft features. The FeatureXpert can change the feature order in the design tree or adjust the tangent properties so that the part rebuilds successfully.
< < A new Freeform feature allows the user to select a surface or model face and push and pull on it dynamically using control points placed by the user.
These Xpert tools can be toggled on as you add features. For example, when adding a fillet, a new button in the PropertyManager lets you choose Manual or FilletXpert. In Manual mode, if something prevents a part from rebuilding, SolidWorks displays the familiar What’s Wrong dialog box. You can then click the FeatureXpert button and let the SWIFT technology take over. Or, you can just switch to Xpert mode and avoid the warning completely. The FilletXpert can create multiple fillets, automatically invoke the FeatureXpert, and automatically reorder fillets when required. Similarly, the DraftXpert can create multiple drafts, do draft analysis, and edit drafts.
Other Xpert tools work in similar ways, removing the tedium from complex operations. For example, the SketchXpert can identify conflicts in sketch dimensions and relationships, such as over-constrained sketches. The MateXpert deals with conflicts in assembly mates by isolating problems and guiding the user to a solution. When working on drawings, the new DimXpert can apply dimensions so that manufacturing features — patterns, slots, pockets, and so on — are fully defined.
Drafting, Scanning, Searching, & More
Users continue to clamor for more drafting improvements, and here again SolidWorks 2007 delivers. When you begin to lay out drawings, a new View palette contains images of standard views, annotation views, section views, and flat patterns. You can drag any of the views onto the drawing sheet to create a drawing view. When you create a section view in a part or assembly, you can also save the section view to include in the View palette. The section view is then also available to be dragged onto a drawing sheet.
> > A new mate type called Rack & Pinion enables a linear translation of one part to result in a circular rotating of another, and vice versa.
Users can now create multiple horizontal and vertical breaks in the same drawing view. Balloon callouts can now link to any custom attribute, not just to part numbers. There are also improvements to hole tables, so that a single table can combine information from several different drawing views, and you can now specify an existing hole as the basis for a hole series. Hole tables also now recognize far-side holes and include tolerances.
New ScanTo3D add-in functionality lets you open mesh or point-cloud scan data and convert it into a surface or solid model, significantly reducing the time required to build complex 3D models from non-digital data. Consumer product designers can use this new capability to create representations of models initially made from clay or foam, while machine designers can import scans of OEM parts. SolidWorks 2007 also works directly with the new NextEngine desktop 3D scanner, eliminating the need to import scan data files.
A new Search Assistant tool can search all SolidWorks files regardless of whether they’re stored locally, on the network, in PDMWorks Workgroup, or in 3D ContentCentral. The new search is not just filename-based, it also searches metadata (such as notes in drawings or custom properties) and you can use additional attributes to refine the search. You can then open the found content or drag-and-drop it into the SolidWorks window. The Search Assistant is also found in the new SolidWorks Explorer. After locating files in SolidWorks Explorer, you can click on any of the results to see additional information about the found content, such as physical properties and where-used information.
< < A new Search Assistant helps users locate files. The Search Assistant is also found in the new SolidWorks Explorer tool, which can also display additional information about the found content, such as physical properties and where-used information.
SolidWorks 2007 is available in the same three bundles as last year. SolidWorks includes the core mechanical design software plus the DWGeditor, COSMOSXpress, and MoldflowXpress. SolidWorks Office Professional adds eDrawings Professional, SolidWorks Utilities, SolidWorks Animator, Toolbox, FeatureWorks, PhotoWorks, SolidWorks Task Scheduler, 3D Instant Website, SolidWorks Design Checker, and PDMWorks Workgroup. SolidWorks Office Premium includes all of these add-ons plus SolidWorks Routing, COSMOSWorks Designer, COSMOSMotion, and ScanTo3D.
Other improvements and additions run throughout these additional modules. For example, with COSMOSMotion now fully integrated in SolidWorks Office Premium, assembly geometry, mates, and drivers from physical simulation are used to run analysis directly in COSMOSMotion to determine reaction forces. COSMOSMotion simulations can be added to SolidWorks Animator as key frames and simulations can be saved as eDrawing files. There are also significant improvements in the Design Checker, the Routing add-in, and COSMOSXpress. Clearly, with this latest release, SolidWorks just keeps getting better and better.
SolidWorks: $3,995; support & update subscription: $1,295/year
SolidWorks Office Professional: $5,490; support & update subscription: $1,495/year
SolidWorks Office Premium: $7,995; support & update subscription: $1,995/year
> System Requirements
CPU: Intel Pentium, Xeon, or Core; AMD Athlon, Opteron, or Turion
Operating System: Windows XP Professional (32- or 64-bit)
Memory: 512MB minimum, 1GB or more recommended
Video: Certified OpenGL workstation graphics card and driver