SolidWorks 2013 Highlights: Conic, Intersect, Dashboard, and More
Quite often, in the middle of a press briefing on a new CAD software release, I’d hear a musical number from Annie Get Your Gun:
Anything you can do, I can do better;
I can do anything better than you.
No, I’m not hallucinating. Irving Berlin’s words seem to echo the song-and-dance routine at these press events: Autodesk Inventor gives you real-time ray-tracing? So does our product. Solid Edge gives you push-pull editing? Our software does too, and it does it better. And so on.
Last week, when I flew to Waltham, Massachusetts, for a preview of SolidWorks 2013, I, for a change, couldn’t hear the familiar musical number. And it wasn’t because it was drowned out by the cracking of lobster claws during dinner. It was because I genuinely felt that a number of new features debuting in SW2013 sets it apart from its competitors.
Conics: MCAD programs are made for drawing perfect arcs, lines, and circles, but they’re not quite adept at irregular shapes. To create those, most MCAD programs borrow the Spline curves from surface modeling programs. In SW2013, the software gives you Conic sketcher, driven by end points and rho value. This, according to the company, will let you draw elliptical, parabolic, or hyperbolic curves.
Intersect: The new Intersect button operates like a Boolean command you can execute to subtract and add materials at the same time. It can be used on a mix of surfaces, solids, and planes. Once you’ve identified the intersection of multiple objects, you may specify what volume to keep and what to discard. This is expected to dramatically speed up operations that previously require two or more steps (for example, a trim, followed by an add).
Dashboard: For CAD admins, the Dashboard will provide a comprehensive view of software performance, crash frequency, possible causes, and workstation statuses. Think of it as a network administrator’s system monitoring window, configured specifically for SolidWorks installations and instances in a company. The Dashboard will be hosted on the SolidWorks Customer Portal, controlled by password.
Other improvements queued for SW2013 includes patterns with varying dimensions (a handy way to create, for example, a series of slots with varying lengths); an enhanced version of the cost-estimation module (it now supports multi-body parts); sub-model analysis (to perform analysis on a selected portion of the model only); and more.
News on Next-Gen Product: SW still remains strictly history-based, showing as of now no inclination to incorporate the direct-editing (or push-pull modeling) functions many rivals have embraced. On the other hand, it has launched the long-awaited mobile version of eDrawings (available as Free or Pro).
When it comes to conceptual design, a history based modeler is in no position to taunt a direct modeler with “I can say anything faster than you.” Many would agree that the methodical, step-by-step approach required in history-based modeling hinders the concept exploration phase, driven by impulse, marked by swift changes.
For that, SolidWorks is suggesting the next-generation product currently under development will fill the gap. As he faced the press last week, SolidWorks CEO Bertrand Sicot said, “I know I need to give you something on the next-generation product, so I’ll tell you this, and that’s it — nothing more.” He revealed that the new product will:
- focus on mechanical concept design;
- be unveiled at SolidWorks World 2013; and
- be complementary to SolidWorks (not a replacement for nor a competitor to the current product).
I tried to get more details on the new product out of SolidWorks R&D VP Gian Paolo Bassi, but even bribing him with an additional lobster didn’t help, so I, just like you, must wait for the next user conference. Who knows? Perhaps he’ll perform “Anything SpaceClaim can do, we can do better” on stage.
For the complete list, visit SolidWorks’ dedicated site for SW2013.