SOLIDWORKS 2021 What’s New Top 10 Features

Article by Rod Mackay updated September 22, 2020


Once again, DS SOLIDWORKS have added countless enhancements to SOLIDWORKS 2021, expanding functionality that will simplify and accelerate your workflows. And by popular demand, DS have increased their focus on performance, reliability, and optimizing pre-existing workflows to work exactly as you’ve always intended them to.

You can learn what’s new in SOLIDWORKS 2021 by attending our LIVE Virtual Tech Conference on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 at 11:00 AM ET. In the meantime you can check out what we think are the SOLIDWORKS 2021 Top 10 enhancements:

01. Drawing Detailing Mode Improvements

Introduced in SOLIDWORKS 2020, Detailing mode provides a way to open massive drawings in seconds, but is not limited to just viewing the drawing. Viewing performance is super-fast, thanks to the performance improvements added in SOLIDWORKS 2021. Detailing mode allows you to perform typical detailing tasks, such as editing and adding dimensions and annotations. The model does not get loaded, so sharing drawing files is easy, but rest assured, the drawing views are intact, and there is no loss of detail.

New capabilities include:

  • Improved performance of Detailing Mode to speed up drawing creation even more
  • Improvements in ability to add hole callouts, edit existing dimensions and annotations, and add Detail, Break and Crop views
SOLIDWORKS 2021 Drawing detailing mode

SOLIDWORKS 2021 Drawing detailing mode

Benefits: Work faster on large assembly drawings with more improvements to Detailing Mode.

02. Assembly Modeling Enhancements

As you spend time creating and working within your assembly designs in SOLIDWORKS 2021, you will find more streamlined tools to help you assemble, pattern and analyze your assemblies.

To improve working with Lightweight components, there is now also a more streamlined approach to accessing their assembly and feature information. Simply expanding a component from the Feature Manager Tree will now dynamically load those components on demand giving you access to the fully resolved sub-assembly or part. This prevents unnecessary loading of large assemblies, but allows you to quickly access and resolve the components you’re working on as needed.

SOLIDWORKS has always offered the flexibility to change the configuration of each component instance within a pattern. However, sometimes you may just want all of the components to reference the original instance. This can be time consuming to do one-at-time.

New in SOLIDWORKS 2021 is a new option to synchronize the configurations of all component instances created by a pattern. This new options also helps from inadvertently changing the configuration of any of these components from the quick menu drop-down and by locking this option within the Component Properties dialog. This ensures that as you make any configuration changes to the seed components of the pattern, those changes will be properly propagated.

Finally, Interference Detection is a powerful tool to quickly find issues within your design. SOLIDWORKS 2021 now offers the option to save the interference out in a spreadsheet. You even have the choice to capture a screenshot of each interference so that they can be shared and reviewed with others inside of your organization. This offers a new collaborative way to review interference in a design and determine if they are intentional due to fit conditions, or to collaborate with others what changes should be made to solve the interference.

Summary of new enhancements are:

  • Option to automatically resolve lightweight components upon expanding Feature Tree node
  • Chain pattern along path to use curve length, not chord length
  • Interference-detection reports exported with images to Microsoft® Excel spreadsheet
SOLIDWORKS 2021 Interference Detection Report

SOLIDWORKS 2021 Interference Detection Report

Benefits: Design assemblies with streamlined workflows.

03. Improved Assembly Simplification

The Silhouette Defeature, introduced in SOLIDWORKS 2019  allows you to create a simplified representation of an assembly, or to protect proprietary information. Silhouette Defeature provides an intuitive step-by-step workflow to define a simplified version using a variety of geometry simplification tools.

What’s new for Silhouette Defeature in SOLIDWORKS 2021 is the ability to save a simplified representation as a configuration within the same assembly from which it was created. This eliminates the need to manage a separate file that contains the simplified model. When using defeatured models within higher level assemblies, it’s now as simple as right-clicking on the component and choosing to use the Defeatured version.

Defeatured assemblies as configurations provide a way to both simplify complex assemblies visually and also add a performance boost in cases where all of the detail of the individual components isn’t necessary.

With the new enhancements:

  • Defeatured models can be saved as a Configuration
  • Ease of toggling between full and simplified versions
  • Operation mimics any other configuration
SOLIDWORKS 2021 Assembly Simplification

SOLIDWORKS 2021 Assembly Simplification

Benefits: Work better with simplified assemblies.

04. Performance Improvements

Every year DS SOLIDWORKS focuses on enhancements, quality and performance. This year SOLIDWORKS dedicated 58% of its resources on the number one thing that customers asked for…performance.

Performance enhancements include faster drawing creations with improved Detailing Mode with even more editing abilities. Selection, panning, and fast-zoom make your everyday work faster. Improved occlusion culling and silhouette edges use more of your GPU for faster frames. Faster file operations, configuration switching, and automatic Lightweight mode resolving all help with the most complex assemblies.

If you’re using SOLIDWORKS PDM, you know much of your speed comes from the efficiency of the database. 2021 offers performance improvements that make most of your daily file operations and workflows significantly faster.  Faster operations like Check in, Add files, Change State, Open, Save, Delete.

A summary of performance improvements are:

  • Improved performance for occlusion culling, silhouette edges and drawings; quick configuration switches
  • Significant performance improvements in Open, Save and Close of assemblies
  • Detection and reporting of circular references
  • Adding files to SOLIDWORKS PDM vault is significantly faster
SOLIDWORKS 2021 Performance Improvements

SOLIDWORKS 2021 Performance Improvements

Benefits: Work faster with large, complex designs.

05. More Flexibility for Part Design

SOLIDWORKS 2021 introduces many enhancements to extend the already robust capabilities when working with parts. Part design enhancements include redo on more than 60 features, Edge Flanges on non-planar edges, Equations in File Properties, and the ability to use the colour picker anywhere:

  • Redo available for over 60 features and commands in parts
  • Sheet metal for edge flanges on non-planar tangent edges
  • Complex flanges can be flattened
  • Ability to add and evaluate equations in file properties and cut list properties
  • Part-level materials transferable when you insert or mirror part, derived component part, or mirrored component part
SOLIDWORKS 2021 Flexible Part Design

SOLIDWORKS 2021 Flexible Part Design with Edge Flange improvement

Benefits: Gain more options and flexibility for part design.

06. User Experience Improvements

SOLIDWORKS has long been known to have an intuitive and customizable user interface. However, by listening closely to the user base, SOLIDWORKS 2021 comes packed with enhancements that make it even easier to use and more customizable.

You now have an improved colour picker that can reference other applications such as a web browser.

A command search within the Customize dialog making it easy to customize toolbars, a collapsible Command Manager which gives you more space to work, as well as semi-transparent dimensions that make it easy to select entities on dimension creation.

With SOLIDWORKS 2021 you no longer have to find the perfect balance between user interface and access to the tools you need. Simply customize your workspace using these new enhancements so that you can focus on your design:

  • Colour picker tool to pick colour for appearances from external application
  • Customize dialog box for searching for commands on Shortcut bars and Command tabs
  • System option shows translated feature names in FeatureManager® design tree
SOLIDWORKS 2021 Appearance from Swatch

SOLIDWORKS 2021 Appearance from Swatch

Benefits: Save time and simplify design tasks.

07. More Robust Simulation

SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2021 makes it easier than ever to succeed with your Simulation-driven design efforts. The analysis process is simplified and more flexible. And with the accuracy and speed improvements, there’s something for everyone, new and existing users alike:

  • Mesh diagnostics identify, isolate and prompt to fix poor quality elements
  • Faster and more robust meshing due to improvements in bonding accuracy
  • Improved convergence through contact stabilization

SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation 2021 expands the types of CFD problems you can solve and continues to improve how project results are processed. Rotating Region is a powerful feature that is used to simulate fluid driving motion of rotating components. Now, in Flow Simulation 2021, Rotating Regions can be combined with the Free Surface feature. This is ideal for mixing tasks and can be leveraged further to gain more insight on product performance.

SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2021

SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2021

Benefits: Enjoy faster, easier-to-use, more robust simulation.

08. Improved Electrical Routing

In SOLIDWORKS Electrical 2021, DS have enhanced Routes Harness functionality to now support the use of both Splines and Lines to create Route Paths. Supporting Splines, along with lines and arcs, in creating a Routing Paths for electrical harnesses greatly improves the versatility of routing electrical harnesses in geometrically complex products.

It is a common practice to have multiple cables starting from a single connector and then have each of the cables go to different parts of the electrical system. Routing all these different cables as a single assembly does not provide flexibility designers want. In SOLIDWORKS Electrical Schematic 2021, DS have improved Cable Properties by including a new field ‘Separate 3D route assembly’. The same parameter can also be controlled in SOLIDWORKS Route Cable command to provide maximum flexibility on how and where to initiate this new parameter.

The following new and improved functionalities in Electrical allows designers to create more complex and more feature-rich functionality by bridging the needs of Mechanical, Electrical, and Electronics disciplines:

  • Multiple wires/cables can pass through and be arranged through a clip
  • Wires joined using splice component or spliced without component
  • Support for end terminations in Connector Tables, Interconnects and Accessories Library
SOLIDWORKS Electrical 2021

SOLIDWORKS Electrical 2021

Benefits: Create electrical routes with more flexibility.

09. Streamlined Data Management

SOLIDWORKS PDM 2021 lets you explore and document references with the highly-requested Treehouse View for Contains and Where Used. Workflow Icons build in visual recognition and awareness of your processes across the team. Bill of Materials account for more CAD workflows, and everyday PDM operations are faster.

SOLIDWORKS PDM 2021 introduces expanded configurability and increased performance to help you manage your team’s file-based processes and deliverables better than ever.

One of the best features of SOLIDWORKS PDM has long been the integration with Windows Explorer.  In 2021, support for the latest Windows 10 elements like the Ribbon interface, is even better.

While icons are visually appealing, ‘Details’ is where the power of PDM reveals itself. Columns define specific sets of visible properties for users as they work in ‘Details’ view. In PDM 2021, you can customize these even further, in more places, AND provide choices with Multiple Column Sets.

With the expanded configurability and increased performance of SOLIDWORKS PDM 2021, you can take your engineering teams to the next level:

  • More consistent Windows® Explorer integration, better thumbnail support
  • Great flexibility in controlling custom column sets
  • Reduced risk of mistakes and improved efficiency with support for BOM settings
  • Icon selection available for workflow states; transitions improved to help determine status of files quickly
SOLIDWORKS PDM 2021 Treehouse View

SOLIDWORKS PDM 2021 Treehouse View

Benefits: Create seamless product development workflows and easily extend them with new tools as your business needs evolve.

10. Connected Design-to-Manufacturing Ecosystem in the Cloud

SOLIDWORKS 2021 provides new functionality to aid in your design-to-manufacturing workflow, including:

  • Derived Formats Converter enables creation of derived outputs for broader consumption and exact geometry for use in downstream design, simulation and manufacturing applications
  • Support for multiple sheets and markups on drawings, improved drawings quality
  • Managing Open Modes offers similar options to SOLIDWORKS when opening data from the 3DEXPERIENCE® platform
  • Ability to control configurations to save in 3DEXPERIENCE platform
SOLIDWORKS 2021 Design-to-manufacturing

SOLIDWORKS 2021 Design-to-manufacturing

Benefits: Create seamless product development workflows and easily extend them with new tools as your business needs evolve.

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Rod Mackay

Rod has been using 3D CAD software for over 25 years and has trained thousands of designers to use their CAD systems more effectively. Rod is the Javelin Webmaster and is based in Ottawa, ON., Canada.