Today I had the opportunity to attend InterCAD‘s SolidWorks 2015 launch event. With part of my current role involved in supporting HSMWorks, I was eager to see what was new and if any of the those features could help CAM users. There are a few promising features, but until I get my hands on a build of SolidWorks to try them myself within some workflows it’s hard to know for sure. With this post I’ll highlight a few of the features which caught my eye or impressed me from a pure CAD standpoint.
The event was opened by Jason Gannon, Business Development Manager at Intercad NZ, he laid out the format for the afternoon ahead then introduced Chris Bowman, Channel Marketing Manager – APAC, Dassault Systemes. Chris talked predominantly about the community, the strength of New Zealand based companies using SolidWorks on the global stage and how prolific SolidWorks is within the educational establishments around the world. Of more relevance to the users in the room was the message regarding MySolidWorks, he provided a summary slide showing the features of the 3 tiers available, MySolidWorks, MySolidWorks Standard and MySolidWorks Professional.On point I thought was particularly valuable was the Manufacturing Network Partners program, it sounds like a great idea, and you may need to forgive me here, since I’m still learning about the SolidWorks ecosystem. I can’t seem to find much mention of it on the SolidWorks site anymore, so if anyone knows where I can find more information about this for our readers, then please let us know in the comments. The last time I came across something like this which works was with the Thermwood eCabinet Systems community. eCabinet Systems, in my opinion, was way ahead of its time and is the best thing about Thermwood.
Moving on from the Sales & Marketing portion of the event, InterCAD’s main technical and training application engineer, Stuart (sorry I’m missing his family name), got stuck into the meat & potatoes. He did a great job of getting through a lot of content, while making it entertaining for the audience and reacting to questions from the crowd, as well as the odd technical hiccup. So which bits did I think were the best?
2D Sketch Improvements
Now when you draw a tangent arc between two lines, you don’t have to worry about trying to invoke tangency at both ends of the arc during creation AND you don’t have to select the arc & the line to get the tangent relation to appear in the pop up menu. Instead all you have to select is the coincident point between the two sketch elements. A subtle but vital addition in the CAD users quest for reducing mouse clicks. Having not had the opportunity to test this yet, I can only assume this will work with points between two elements, rather than 3 or more.
SolidWorks now also provides Mid point lines. This means you can start a line from its center point, which its ultimate length growing out from there. If you have ever used a center point rectangle tool, then you can imagine it working in much the same fashion.
Rectangle enhancements – You can now include various types of construction center lines during rectangle creation.
Much more worthy of note than the previous enhancement is the new Segment tool. This becomes available on the CommandManager once you select a sketch object. From there you are able to chose to either splint the element into equidistant segments or place evenly space points along it’s length. This is very reminiscent of the Divide command found in AutoCAD. I know how handy that was then, so it will be for sure here as well.
In previous releases of SolidWorks, if you have defined a pattern to create a given number of instances, at a certain offset distance. Then you later reduced the overall dimension of the component, if any of the features dropped off the edge of the component, the pattern feature would fail. 2015 now allows you to select a reference face to pattern to instead, then all you need to do is either chose an offset distance or the number of instances. If think this will be particularly handy for configurable ‘stock’ parts with an integrated CAM solution.
Just briefly, here are a few additional pattern tools which are often missing from competing CAD products:
- Switch between patterns of features to bodies.
- Fill pattern quantity is validated and associative. Which means you can manually remove a few instances and re-validation updates the quantity value.
- Variable table patterns – This tool set can produce quite complex feature pattern results. Although you can use on screen objects to configure and build the table, it looked a tad non-intuitive to use. Nevertheless, it looks like the kind of tool a select few would thrash the living snot out of. As an example, you can now create pattern styles for things like football (Soccer) boot soles.
Take note of how the handy little dependency arrows in the model browser. I look forward to seeing how extensive they are.
Advanced mate has now been blessed with a Profile Center mate style. This slashes the number of clicks you need to join two component faces together at their center. The faces don’t have to be the same profile either and you can flip orientation etc.. This results in these types of mates being applied with a similar level of productivity as using Joints in Autodesk Inventor.
I think this is one of my favorite usability features ever! If you have ever worked within a team which collaborates on designs regularly, you will no doubt have been in the situation where, one of your esteemed colleagues have decided the quickest course of action was to delete a feature to enact a change. Instead of massage it’s foundations to maintain the faces for down stream model dependencies. The SolidWorks team have hooked their users up with the Globally Replace Failed Mate References tool. Which means you only have to repair or redefine the first mate, then propagate the selections to all the other mates with the same error. Choice!
Worthy of note:
- Width mate condition improvements: Free move (but stops on interference), distance or percentage.
- Move components – temporarily fix components to stop others from moving. Handy when grabbing and dragging components to test mate conditions are working correctly.
- Interference check. Group by type and hide interference’s of specific sizes, such as seals and o-rings etc.
- The new chain pattern means you can drag chains around corners now. Very swag!
Treehouse (odd name)
This post is starting to get a bit lengthy now, so I don’t want to dwell on this too much. However, I’m really intruiged by this tool and want to give it a decent kick about in time, so I will cover it in more detail in the future. But I love the idea of being able to visually layout your model structure up front. This could be epic if it has good API support as well. You can even define configuration requirements, which you can then reuse during configuration creation.
Existing assemblies are supported, so if you aren’t clear on a components file dependecies, and you need to know more, this could be your solution. Finally, as you can see in the slide shown below, you are able to define component properties and quantities on each individual element as well. How extensible those property dialogs are, I don’t know yet, hopefully they support custom properties.
Surfacing & 3D Sketches
In addition to compound flat patterns, 2015 users also get a deformation plot analysis tool.
I was stoked to see SolidWorks now natively supports flattening of compound surfaces. In the image above, a 3D spline has been drawn across the brown surface, then used to trim the surface itself. In previous releases, users needed to place spline control points on edges as it passed from one surface / face to the next. 2015 shuns that requirement, which instantly makes the creation of these types of splines far more fluid.
Worthy of note:
- Asymmetric fillets.
- Surface patch curvature display and bounding curve option.
- Open sketch profiles now support boolean subtractions of a specified distance.
- Work Planes can be created which are parallel to the camera lens.
CAM user goodies
Given my strong connection to HSMWorks, I’m keen to see how many new features can benefit CAM users. Again this will be something I cover in the future. But for now here is a list of some I anticipate will be put to good use.
- Selection filters & Sets are available in the context menu.
- Select previous.
- Save selection sets – These could be VERY handy with HSMWorks if they are accessible while in ‘CAM’ mode.
- The Pop Up menu is now customizable, which means CAM users can select a face or edge and have HSM commands instantly at their cursor tip.
- Dependency arrows in browser will help CAM users establish design intent within the model structure. Just in case any Change Orders fall on their desks….
The BEST PART of the day?
I was extremely honored and blown away to met a relatively young chap called Darren Lomman during this event. Darren founded the Dreamfit Foundation a number of years ago so he and his team could apply engineering and creativity in ways to truly make a massive difference in the lives of people with disabilities. The range of solutions, from super simple to in some cases rather complex, was breath taking. I hope to ge the opportunity to interview Darren in the future and share the story here on D&M, but in the meantime, please take the time to watch the following video and check out the Dreamfit Foundation website. They’re also HSMWorks users, so I’m looking forward to helping them out in the future with their CAM needs.