By David Cohn
SolidWorks Corp. continues to enhance its flagship 3D mechanical design and modeling product at a rapid pace. SolidWorks 2000, which began shipping in April, is the seventh version since the software's initial release in 1995, and provides more than 150 major enhancements.
The already easy-to-use interface has been improved by the addition of intuitive middle mouse-button control over pan, zoom, and rotate functions. The Feature Manager design tree can now be split so that you also can see the Property Manager or the Configuration Manager. SolidWorks Explorer, a new file management tool, can be run independently or from within Solid Works, and automates operations such as copying, renaming, and managing custom properties for SolidWorks files. You also can view file dependencies for drawings, parts, and assemblies using a tree structure.
|New tools, such as moving frames, make designing 3D freeform curves simple in SolidWorks. The Feature Manager, at left, can now be split so that you also can see the Property Manager and Configuration Manager.|
In SolidWorks, parts, assemblies, and drawings are created in separate documents, and all parts begin as sketches. Appropriately, SolidWorks 2000 includes new sketching tools, including an enhanced 3D Sketcher for creating pipes, tubes, wires, and 3D splines. The sketch environment also enables in creased control of splines, thanks to a new curvature evaluator that provides visual feedback of the slope and curvature of the spline, and a moving frame that provides a way to directly manipulate a spline without making it more complex by adding control points.
SolidWorks 2000 introduces new surfacing capabilities as well, including the ability to extend, trim, and dynamically edit surfaces. For example, you can use 3D handles to drag a surface to its desired shape, or input distance values in the Property Manager. You also can fillet surface bodies to smooth the edge between two adjacent faces that meet at an angle, apply a face blend fillet to combine multiple separate surface bodies into one surface body, or use a multiple radius fillet to assign different radius values when you join multiple adjacent surfaces.
The Hole Wizard in SolidWorks 2000 features a redesigned interface, with each hole type (counterbore, countersink, tap) identified by a tab. To insert a hole, you specify its type, size, and other parameters, and SolidWorks does the rest. A dynamic preview updates as you make your selections.
SolidWorks 2000 also includes several new fillet features, including multiple radius, round corner, and setback fillets. And, when creating a shell feature, you no longer need to select a face, but rather can simply hollow out an existing solid. You also can apply non-uniform scaling to a solid, useful to account for shrinkage when doing mold design. In addition, the program's rib features now enable you to create ribs from open sketch elements and from multiple, disconnected segments. It still lags behind Unigraphics' Solid Edge in these areas, however, lacking lip and groove features, for example.
In terms of assembly design, Solid Works claims the new version opens large assembly files more than two times faster than before, with some very large assemblies opening as much as eight times faster. SolidWorks also made numerous additions to drawings and detailing, including support for multiple layers, bi-directional associative balloons, cropped views, and annotation alignment tools. RapidDraft, the most significant addition in this area, enables users to open a drawing without opening its related parts. With RapidDraft, drawings open much faster (2 to 10 times for average-size drawings and 50 to 100 times for large assemblies), and you can send drawings to other SolidWorks users without sending the model files, and then later resynchronize changes to the drawings and assemblies. SolidWorks 2000 also ships with the eDrawings utility introduced last year. This utility makes it easy to share and view 2D drawings.
The program's import and export capabilities have been enhanced to enable you to knit surfaces in imported IGES, STEP, ACIS, and VDAFS files without trying to form a solid body. Because SolidWorks drawings now enable you to create multiple layers, you can export assembly components to different layers in DWG or DXF files. IGES files support the import and export of all 2D sketch entities, and you can export both surfaces and solids in the same IGES file.
All these enhancements make Solid Works 2000 a significant release. Yet the company continues to hold the price at $3995. As an upgrade, it should appeal to all existing users. For those considering a new purchase, SolidWorks 2000 is now more compelling than ever.
David Cohn is a computer consultant and technical writer based in Bellingham, Washington. He's the author of AutoCAD 2000: The Complete Reference. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Minimum system requirements:Pentium-class processor; Windows 95/98/NT/2000; 64MB of RAM