January is the time when many companies preview some of the hottest new features coming out in the next version of their software. And SolidWorks World 2006 was no exception. CEO John McEleney wowed the crowd at his keynote address with a sneak peek at SolidWorks 2007. Due to ship this summer, the software's most significant new capability — gauged by audience reaction — is SWIFT (SolidWorks Intelligent Feature Technology). Though it's a built-in software help system, it promises to be nothing like Microsoft's scorned Clippy tool. Intended for those hairy situations — like when a model fails to regenerate and you can't figure out why without chasing down the resident Solidworks expert — SWIFT helps troubleshoot and fix the problem automatically. "We're basically trying to minimize the CAD overhead, so that the engineer can spend his time doing the creative stuff, instead of having to manually construct a fillet so it works," said McEleney. SWIFT also does things like a true tolerance stackup.
McEleney also promised 50 percent smaller file sizes in SolidWorks 2007 — though he was coy about exactly how engineers reduced the bloat. Even with memory on the cheap, engineers reacted positively to the news.
Altair has released an update of its HyperWorks computer-aided engineering simulation suite that includes new features focusing on four key areas of product design: performance optimization, lightweight design, lead-time reduction, and new technologies.
At IMTS last week, Stratasys introduced two new multi-materials PolyJet 3D printers, plus a new UV-resistant material for its FDM production 3D printers. They can be used in making jigs and fixtures, as well as prototypes and small runs of production parts.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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