SolidWorks 2008 Preview – Part 1: New UI & SWIFT Functionality
One of the first major changes users are going to notice is that the UI has had a major overhaul. They have reduced the number of mouse clicks required by adding customizable pop-up toolbars to access most functions. The Command Manager layout has also changed: tabs are now used for accessing the different task Toolbars. I know some people have mixed feelings on these changes. Personally, I like it – once you get used to the changes. And I also use a lot of keyboard shortcuts, so some of the UI changes don’t affect my workflow as much. Hopefully, you will be able to customize the entire UI to suite your tastes.
Also a major change in the UI is the capability of modeling in a more realistic environment, using real-time materials, lighting, reflections, and shadows. The new RealView engine provides these capabilities, along with the ability to use pre-made scenes to approximate realistic enviroments. This can be a nice option to have when one is staring at a computer monitor all day, but if you have an older system, a video card upgrade will probably be in order to take full advantage of RealView.
Although I actually like most of the changes to the UI, I can see it causing a few issues, especially with users who are generally adamant about change. I’m sure I will get several questions and complaints from my users here when we roll out SolidWorks 2008. Although with time, I’m sure most will grow to love the new interface.
SolidWorks has also added more functionality into the SWIFT suite. One enhancement that looks interesting is the new Instant3D capability, which enables users to easily create and modify geometry by dragging most features and dimensions in real time. When dragging one of the drag handles that appears when a face/egde/dimension is clicked on, a ruler pops up to give you dynamic dimensional feedback with snaps. Click here to see a demonstration of Instant3D in action.
There is also an extension to Instant3D, Live Section, which is similar to the existing SolidWorks dynamic Section View. The difference in Live Section is that one can drag section profile edges in order to change the design intent while in the command.
Another SWIFT updated technology is the SketchXpert. It now displays dimensions and relations to be deleted with a strikethrough and cycling through different solutions is faster.
DimXpert has been updated to work with parts. Now, users can apply automatic geometric dimensions and tolerances according to the ASME Y14.41-2003 3D specification. These dimensions and tolerances can then be automatically placed in the 2D drawing and manipulated like any other annotation. DimXpert will show you if your model is fully-, over-, or under-constrained by highlighting the model in green, red, or yellow, respectively. Click here to see a demonstration of the new functionality in DimXpert.
The AssemblyXpert will analyze your assemblies and make suggestions to help improve performance. In some cases, users can have SolidWorks make the changes for them.
FilletXpert has been updated with Corner Alternatives and Edge Selection. The Corner Alternatives option will present users with different types of corner blends possible and make the necessary changes to the feature order in order to obtain the selected blend. The Edge Selection option will allow for easy and intuitive edge group selection for the Fillet command.
I personally am excited about the additions to DimXpert and FilletXpert. I know that I will defintely put them to use in my work.
SolidWorks SWIFT technologies does seem to help users focus more on their design and less on the CAD system. SWIFT also seems to level the playing field, so to speak, between power users and new/casual users. Some folks think that this is a "dumbing down" of modeling. In a way, it is; I only hope that it doesn’t discourage the use of good fundamental modeling practices.
Check back soon for Part 2 of my SolidWorks 2008 Preview. It will focus on more of the new and updated tools to help you "Focus on Design, not CAD", including tools to help with large assemblies, and drawing and analysis enhancements.