Ahh yes, it is that time of the year again. College football, no. Playoff Baseball, no. I am talking about the next release of SolidWorks. SolidWorks 2014 is just around the corner and I have to say that I look forward to this every year. Sure it’s a lot of work to read through the What’s New guide (193 pages this year), but it also means that GoEngineer hosted SolidWorks 2014 Launch Events are on the way. I love attending these events; it gives me an opportunity to connect with some old faces, and a chance to meet our new customers. It also means that I will never use the previous version of SolidWorks again. OK, I can’t say that but for the most part I will be fully absorbed in the new release and all of the new functionality and gadgets that it provides. Let me give you a sneak peak at some of my favorite enhancements and how I think they might help you too.
SolidWorks typically has a couple of broad categories that the new features are classified into. This year there are four main categories, Focused Design Tools, Integrated Workflows, Increased Performance, and Enhanced Visualization.
One of the subtle changes is a general overhaul of the property manager and really any user dialogs. ClearType® is a technology developed by Microsoft® and now integrated into the general user experience in SolidWorks. If you compare screen shots of 2013, and 2014 you will notice subtle changes in the colors and text that just make it easier to read. One of my favorite usability enhancements is a play on the context toolbar in sketches. When you Ctrl + select two faces or edges, or any other selection that you would choose for the standard mates, you now get a context toolbar that has the default mate available. I feel faster and more efficient in the assembly environment simply by not having to launch the mate tool after preselecting.
A useful tool for the companies that have not witnessed the advantages of SolidWorks Composer is the ability to include rotation as part of an exploded view. This should facilitate clearer exploded views in your drawings. For a couple of years now we have had the time saving slot creation tool in sketches, this year SolidWorks added an additional mate to allow you to utilize these features in the assembly environment. Speaking of mates, there has been a long argued topic in large assembly management on if you should add a mate to remove rotation from cylindrical parts. In SolidWorks 2014, there is now an additional option to include “remove rotation” when adding a concentric mate. I have always had the opinion that rotation should be removed, so this one will speed up my assembly creation time by reducing some mouse clicks.
SolidWorks Costing received a lot of attention from the development team for this release. Some of the highlights include the ability to create a limited access costing template. This is a great option for the machine shops out there that might want to let customers estimate the costs of building a part without disclosing the specifics of how those costs are generated. Also included are some great new tools to customize the Costing template, and the ability to export costing into an excel format. Overall, there are many enhancements that will improve the user experience when using the Costing options.
The Drawings environment has many usability enhancements that are sure to make the mundane task of creating drawings a little easier. Some of the highlights include enhancements to balloons, BOM’s, Sheet Formats, and my personal favorite split tables. Now, I know that we have been able to split tables in the past, but now you can specify a number of rows to include before a split takes place. This will allow you to predictably split your tables based on the number of horizontal rows that will fit on a drawing. The work in drawings is always the most appreciated by regular users and this year shouldn’t disappoint you.
SolidWorks Simulation has been improved with some time saving enhancements. If you are using toolbox fasteners in your assembly they will now be automatically converted to bolt connectors when you are setting up a study. My favorite Simulation enhancement is the new Contact Visualization Plot; this plot will allow you to verify that all of your parts are properly constrained before running your study. I know I am not the only one that has waited for a result only to see that I forgot to add a contact and one of my parts has flown off into the atmosphere. This will certainly save time running studies that will not give you any useable results.
SolidWorks 2014 includes many more enhancements that are sure to make you more productive. I hope you will take some time and come see us at a GoEngineer hosted SolidWorks 2014 Launch Event near you. I know that I am looking forward to the event, and I hope to see you there.