Article by Alin Vargatu, CSWE updated September 9, 2013

Article

SW2014 banner - CopyMy name is Alin and I am a SolidWorks user.

Who am I kidding?

My name is Alin and I am addicted to SolidWorks!

Today I am so happy that I am about to explode (translations and rotations included)! The wait is over: SolidWorks 2014 is here and my cravings for new CAD tools are finally satisfied. This year, by going “Back to CAD”, SolidWorks proved one more time that the development of its software is driven by its users and not the other way around.

Let’s remember that back in 2007-2008 users were demanding more stability, more ease of use and less new features. They pretty much said: “fix what’s broken before adding new stuff”. And the fact is SolidWorks listened – the new releases after 2008 became more and more stable, to the point that crashes were almost unheard of in 2012 and 2013 (when using certified systems), while the software became more and more user friendly. In the meantime, while SolidWorks improved the existing functionality, from 2009 until 2012 they had not introduced new authoring tools for creating geometry (the last such tool being the Boundary Feature back in 2008). But remember, this is exactly what the users wanted!

The problem with people is that they tend to forget very fast what they said, once their demands are met. The same users who demanded more stability, started very soon to loudly request new CAD features in SolidWorks forums and blogs. They even described in detail what they wanted.

Let me list just a few examples from the thousands of Enhancement Requests submitted by the SolidWorks users in the past 5 years:

  • We need conic sketch tools and conic surfaces for complex blends
  • We have to create fair surfaces. You gave us C2. We want C3 or C4 continuity!
  • We need to be able to change our design intent faster and easier, without fighting the feature tree
  • We absolutely need to dimension chain of sketch entities. Oh, and please allow us to dimension the length of splines
  • We need to create and mate slots much easier
  • We want to be able to re-use the intelligence included in the existing patterns for creating new ones
  • We want more ways to explode our assemblies in order to create instructional step-by-step guides. Oh, and we need to access these instructions on any tablet or smart phone.
  • Gussets in sheet metal! We want Gussets!!!
  • The sheet metal folded state will not be realistic until you allow us to add corner treatments while folded
  • You have to find a way to configure equations and global variables
  • We want total control over the plane normal direction
  • We want to be able to replace the model references for one or more drawing views
  • We want to be able to sort and split any Bill of Materials any way we want
  •  

SolidWorks has always have been driven by its users, but starting around 2011-2012, they took the users’ involvement to the extreme. Instead of just listening to the users’ requests, they decided to invite some of the best users in the SolidWorks Community to join the SolidWorks Product Definition team and take an even more active role in shaping the future of SolidWorks. This is how people like Don Van Zile and Mathew Lorono joined SolidWorks and are now spending a good part of their time browsing SolidWorks forums and blogs, participating in user group meetings and visiting customers in order to understand how they are using and, more importantly, how they would like to use SolidWorks.

As a result SolidWorks 2013 was the first release in 5 years that added new CAD tools for creating geometry: Conic sketch entities and the Intersect command. The conics eliminated the danger of inflexions, while the Intersect simplified multibody workflows by an order of magnitude.

 

Today, SolidWorks 2014 continues this “Back to CAD” trend, proving that even a mature program like SolidWorks could find new ways for creating and modifying geometry.

 

These are my Top 20 Favorite Enhancements in SolidWorks 2014 (selected from over 200 new enhancements):

 

1. Replace Sketch Entity

The functionality for replacing a sketch entity with another (e.g.: replace a line with an arc) is an excellent solution for quick design intent changes. Anything that is dependent on the old entity (features, mates, in-context relations) will just use the new entity as the reference, without errors or warnings on the tree. This will provide a huge productivity boost for all SolidWorks users.

 

2. Conic Fillets

We got the Conic sketch entities in 2013 and we used them in lofts, sweeps and boundaries for creating complex blends. SolidWorks 2014 introduces Conic Fillets which simplify to the extreme the process of creating and modifying Conic Surfaces. You can use either the Rho value or the minimum radius of curvature. This new tool will make million of industrial designers very happy. Even the rest of us mechanical designers could use Conic Fillets for creating previously hard to model blends in seconds.

 

3. Style Splines

One more reason for the Industrial Designers to celebrate; we have now Bezier splines! They are much easier to dimension than the old B-splines and provide super smooth curvature throughout.

 

4. Dimension Path Length and Spline Length

This new functionality opens a world of possibilities for design automation. You can now dimension the length of a spline or of a chain of sketch entities. This was almost impossible before!

 

5. Delete Parent Features Without Deleting Children

Users requested this behaviour for a long time and they finally got it! Changing your design intent is now easier than ever.

 

6. Auto-Scale First Sketch

How many times have you drawn the first sketch and when you added the first dimension entities went flying all over the place? Would it not be better to automatically scale that first sketch to match the first dimension added? After all, that would determine the size of your part. Well, SolidWorks does this auto-scaling automatically for you. I believe that this little enhancement will save users the most time, without them even noticing it.

 

7. Hole Wizard Slots

Do you like how easy it is to add and change holes using the Hole Wizard? Me too! Now we can do use the same simple but powerful tool for adding and modifying slots. Lots of slots! That includes counterbore and countersunk slots.

 

8. Pattern Driven Patterns

Another candidate for the all time favorite is the ability to create a pattern based on the pitch and number of instances defined in a previously created pattern. Such a simple but powerfull concept!

 

9. Sheet Metal Gussets

This is a great time saver for sheet metal designers. What previously would take minutes it can be done now in seconds. I also like the Hole Wizard-like interface!

 

10. Configure Structural Member Profiles

For people with custom library of structural member profiles, this enhancement will reduce the number of files they need to manage by a few orders of magnitude. It is such a brilliant concept – the ability to configure the profiles inside the sketch library part. So instead of having hundreds of similar profile files, you will have only one with hundreds of configurations. If only SolidWorks will add Configuration Publisher-like functionality… Maybe in 2015?

 

11. Explode Assembly Components with Rotation (Carries into eDrawings)

I wanted this functionality since I saw it in SolidWorks Composer. Now we have it! Translate and rotate components in Exploded Views any way you want. It is the simplest way to create impressive animations for installation purposes.

 

12. Options for Mirroring Components about the Bounding Box Center or the Center of the Mass

For some users, this simple enhancement might be the main reason for upgrading to SolidWorks 2014. No more headaches when mirroring asymmetric components!

 

13. New Functionality for Showing the Components Mated to a Sketch, a Plane, an Axis or a Feature

Another very simple idea that will save a lot of time when editing an assembly. It will make troubleshooting or even trying to understand the mating scheme much easier!

 

14. Assembly Curve and Sketch Driven Pattern

This is self explanatory. We will save time using it.

 

15. Multibody Support for Pattern and Mirror Features

This functionality was sorely needed. For example, now a pattern of cuts will create multiple bodies (if needed) instead of providing an error.

 

16. New Types of Mates: Slot Mates and Spherical and Curvilinear Mates

Looks like I have to edit all the articles and videos showing the workarounds for mating spheres in SolidWorks 2013 or older. Now this can be done with ease in SolidWorks 2014.

 

17. New Ability for Defining the Section View Scope in Assemblies and Multibody Parts

This is huge. You can define what bodies or components to be cut in the model environment by the Section View. There is even a “graphics only” options that could save minutes in large assemblies!

 

18. New Sketch Picture Scale Tool

Another helper for the users who need to do cheap reverse engineering by tracing around an image. Positioning and scaling the sketch picture is now a breeze.

 

19. Propagate Cut List Properties When Pushing/ Pulling Weldment Bodies in(to) New Parts

Adding this functionality will open the use of the weldments environment to a lot of companies that were missing a complete parametric link between the metadata from the cut list and the exported bodies. Now, anyone can use weldments and thus reduce the modeling work by a factor of 10 (compared to assemblies).

 

20. New Stick Text Font for Engraving

Your CNC programmer will become your best friend again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alin Vargatu, CSWE

Alin is a SOLIDWORKS Elite Applications Engineer and an avid contributor to the SOLIDWORKS Community. Alin has presented multiple times at SOLIDWORKS World, Technical Summits, and User Group Meetings, while being very active on the SOLIDWORKS Forum.