SOLIDWORKS 2015 is here! My Favorite Top 20 CAD Enhancements

Article by Alin Vargatu, CSWE updated September 9, 2014


Ever since I watched the SOLIDWORKS 2015 teaser videos at SOLIDWORKS World in January, I knew that the newest release of SOLIDWORKS will be something special. Let me tell you why.

In every new release I look for three very important factors:

  1. How many enhancement requests submitted by our team on behalf of our customers are implemented
  2. New CAD tools for creating and modifying geometry
  3. Productivity enhancements that would boost my modeling speed by a factor greater than 2.

Based on these factors, I can report that I am more than satisfied working with SOLIDWORKS 2015. There are over 250 new enhancements in this version of SOLIDWORKS and it is impossible to mention all the great ones in a single post. Because of that, I will only share my top 20 favorite CAD enhancements (tools that are used for creating new geometry at the part level or locating components in assemblies).

Update: 50% smaller files in SOLIDWORKS 2015!!!

1. “Free” condition for the Width Mates

Cage build with 3 Width mates

Cage build with 3 Width mates

This is nothing short of revolutionary, considering the fact that it makes the Linear Limit Mate almost obsolete. Imagine being able to limit the range of movement of any part in the space defined by faces belonging to one or two components for each direction. You can even create a cage to contain any component by using just three Width Mates.

Oh, the joy of selecting solid faces instead of typing numbers for the limit mate! I no longer need to measure first and input non-parametrical numbers. More importantly, I will no longer be afraid of mates flipping.

2. Enhanced end conditions for the Move Face feature

Again, reducing the need to use numbers and using geometry as end conditions,  in addition to the Blind end condition, we can now use:

  • Up to Vertex
  • Up to Surface
  • Offset from Surface
  • Up to Body

3. 3D Spline on Multiple Faces

While some might consider it a small enhancement, since only surfacing specialists seem to currently use the 3D Spline, I assure you that this new functionality will be extremely useful for any mechanical designer. Mastering this tool is an absolute must for any user who wants to get a productivity boost of 10x or more in conjunction with the new Variable Pattern. You will see exactly what I mean in the following days through our What’s Really New in SOLIDWORKS 2015 video series.

4. Variable Patterns

All cut-outs are the result of applying one variable pattern

All cut-outs are the result of applying one variable pattern

There is probably no other group of features that got such important enhancements as the patterns in the last three releases of SOLIDWORKS. The Varying Dimension Patterns where a game changer in SOLIDWORKS 2013 and the Pattern Driven Patterns added an extra productivity boost in SOLIDWORKS 2014.

Now, we get to save even more time by using the new Variable Pattern. Used properly, these patterns can reduce a 200 feature long tree to just 3 features, while still creating extremely complex geometry. Moreover, for those who are scared of loosing the modularity provided by multiple features, you will find that the way this pattern is defined allows for incredible customization.

If you need to apply the pattern on a non-planar surface, learning how to use the new 3D Spline on Surface is a must.

5. Asymmetric Fillets

Asymmetric Fillet

Asymmetric Fillet

After getting the conic fillets in 2014, we get more control over fine-tuning the blend between 2 or more faces. Imagine the Chamfer controls applied to fillets.

You also have a choice between a pure elliptical surface or you can modify it further by controlling the conic Rho parameter.

6. Flattening Surface Bodies

This is a request submitted many times by our customers and finally this functionality is now part of SOLIDWORKS 2015. It is not a complete replacement for specialized sheet metal flattening add-ons like Logopress or fabric flattening solutions like ExactFlat, but it does a good job of flattening shapes outside of the SOLIDWORKS sheet metal module’s capabilities.

Not only you get the flat body, but you can also take a look at the Deformation order to see the areas where the surface is compressed or stretched.

7. Delete/Keep Body

Another small enhancement with a huge productivity boost potential. I find this most useful after running an Intersect command and getting a zillion undesired little bodies that are hard to select in order to be deleted. In SW 2015, I can simply select the bodies I want to keep and the software will just get rid of the rest.

Works very similar with the options from the Mutual Trim Surfaces command.

8. Create Assembly from Multibody part with proper instance control (identical bodies are recognized as different instances of the same component).

There are a lot of situations where using the Master Part technique for creating all the components of an assembly could not only provide 90% time savings, but it might be the only way to get the job done.

There was only one big problem in SOLIDWORKS 2014: when trying to create an assembly from a multibody part using the Save Bodies command, each body will generate a distinct component, with its own file, regardless whether some components where identical or not.

This problem has been solved in SOLIDWORKS 2015; the user has the option to save identical bodies as different instances of the same component. As a result the distinction between multibody modeling and assembly modeling has been blurred to the point where a user has to master both techniques in order to choose the one that would provide the maximum efficiency for each particular job.

As an example, I can now create an assembly for a welded frame in minutes instead of hours.

9. B-Spline to Style Spline conversion (and vice versa)

Spline Conversion

Spline Conversion

In a nutshell, the B-Splines are easy to create but the smoothness of their curvature is hard to control. The Style Splines provide beautiful C3 curvature, but they are hard to locate properly.

Now you can start tracing a picture using a B-Spline and, when you are happy with the result, you can quickly convert it to a Bezier Spline to insure the perfect smoothness.

All product designers and industrial designers will love this new functionality.

10. Chain Pattern in Assemblies



This is huge for all the designers of mechanisms who need to simulate roller chains, energy chains and power transmission components. In the past they would try to use the Curve Driven Pattern to model a chain, but that was a very laborious process and simulating the movement of the chain was almost impossible.

The new Chain Pattern allows for quick and precise creation of such chains and, even more impressive, they can be dragged with the mouse to simulate their function.

11. Create equidistant points on a sketch entity or splitting a sketch entity in equidistant segments

Just another great time saver. I will use this functionality a lot in speeding up the process of creating sketch patterns.

12. Equal spacing option for the Linear Pattern

This functionality has been craved by users for a long time. We could use the curve driven pattern as a workaround, but it is great to be able to do it directly from inside the linear pattern feature.

13. More Robust Angle Mates (no more undesired flipping)

Another enhancement that would save hours and hours of troubleshooting mates. Now we can add a reference direction to help prevent angle mates from flipping unexpectedly.

14.  Profile Center Mate

This is huge! With one mate you can now locate components based on the center of their faces. Based on my tests, circular or polygonal profiles (with equal length segments) are supported.

15. Replace all missing mate references in failed mates

Another important time saver! When you repair a mate with a missing reference, a dialog prompts you to repair other mates with the same missing reference.

16. The Split tool works now for all type of bodies: solid or surfaces

This very simple functionality will replace at least 3 features in the tree (offset + trim + trim). Not only it is a great time saver, but is much more logical and intuitive than the old technique.

17. Visualization Tool for References

Relationships in Assemblies

Mate Relationships in Assemblies

Clear Parent-Child Relationships

Clear Parent-Child Relationships in Parts

This will provide further clarification about the parent-child relations in parts and assemblies. It is a thing of beauty!

18. Create Selection Sets

You can now create and save selection sets of multiple entities. Imagine CTRL+selecting multiple edges only once and using them in multiple features.

Great time saver!

19. Access to the Previous Selection

A small but… huge one! I cannot count how many times I wasted time (sometime even minutes) by making a mistake in clicking and loosing a huge CTRL+Selection set… That is no longer possible in SOLIDWORKS 2015!!!

20. Sheet Metal Loft on Non-Parallel Faces

You can create bent lofted bends from sketches on non-parallel planes. Previously, the planes had to be parallel.

To Learn More About SOLIDWORKS 2015

Starting tomorrow, we invite you to watch every day a new episode of the “What’s Really New in SOLIDWORKS 2015” video series on the Javelin YouTube Channel in order to see these new tools in action.

We also invite you to attend live demonstration of SOLIDWORKS 2015 in October. Reserve your seat at an Event in a Canadian city near you. Register now, as space is limited.

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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.