"It's evolution, not a revolution," Senior Mechanical Designer Mark Termion tells his coworkers at Life Fitness who are resistant to change. The evolution he speaks of has less to do with the next exercise fad or the next fitness equipment to replace the currently popular elliptical machine, as it has to do with the behind-the-scenes design regimen of each of these machines.
Termion himself has been slow to evolve from running a 2D operation in 1987 to implementing Life Fitness's first two seats of SolidWorks 3D modeling software in 1996. And now, 87 seats of SolidWorks 2004 later, the company may be feeling the winds of change again as SolidWorks introduces its latest releases available in mid-summer: SolidWorks 2005 and COSMOS 2005.
Evolution seems to be a core theme within SolidWorks also, whether in pushing 2D users to 3D or recognizing globalization as a trend that needs to be considered in its products. Solidworks, SolidEdge and Autodesk have each introduced new versions of their 3D software recently. It's good news for users (We'll cover the SolidEdge and Autodesk releases in a future issue). "Those companies not using 3D won't be able to compete," says John McEleney, Solidworks CEO.
3D design updates
SolidWorks 2005, the latest upgrade to the company's flagship 3D design product, is made with the machine designer, mold designer, and consumer product designer in mind. Reducing redesign or file searching time, a parts library of pre-designed, commonly used parts may be incorporated directly into a designer's project. And weldment improvements offer features like automatic cut lists, automatic angle dimensions, and curve creation.
Moldflow Xpress, a plastic part design validation tool built into the solid modeling software, helps reduce cycle times and is unique to SolidWorks, says Aaron Kelly, director of product management at SolidWorks. Made to assist engineers in choosing the best injection location and reducing wall thickness, the tool is shipping with every seat of SolidWorks 2005. Users may also see the finished product removed from its mold, due to side core and lifter features.
As for catering to the consumer product designer, SolidWorks 2005 includes an indent feature that allows designers to create automatically an indention in a product based on an existing part's dimensions. A flex feature then enables users to change the design by bending and twisting parts.
To aid engineers in the evolution of 3D design, SolidWorks 2005 consists of a number of features geared toward speeding the design process, enabling global collaboration, and smoothing the transition from 2D to 3D. "A drawings compare tool gives users the ability to take two versions of drawings and compare them side-by-side, and show what was changed," Kelly says. The integration of PDMWorks may also speed the design cycle with its project copy feature, which allows engineers to reuse design projects.
Other upgrades include the change notification page, which may be adjusted to notify engineers every minute or so of any changes to the design being worked on. And the company's eDrawings are included in the software, enabling users to share designs in small, password-protected files.
According to numbers from SolidWorks' own survey, 51 percent of data sent/received in January 2004 was in 3D, compared to 38 percent at the same time in 2003. This migration to 3D—and consequent need to familiarize former 2D users with new design tools—is one area SolidWorks has consciously adopted into its latest release. AutoCAD-compatible, SolidWorks 2005 lets users save in both a SolidWorks file and also in an AutoCAD DWG file, eliminating the need for users to support multiple applications.
Traditionally, engineers require one software package for design and another for analysis. SolidWorks 2005 has integrated the two packages so that its COSMOS 2005 line—COSMOSWorks™, COSMOSFlo-Works™, and COSMOSMotion™—operates seamlessly.
According to SolidWorks' Aaron Kelly, among new mainstream analysis features within COSMOSWorks 2005 is an industry first: the drop test. The test lets engineers analyze the stresses, deformation, and secondary impact when dropping a product from a given height. COSMOSWorks 2005 also includes embedded non-linear analysis, embedded fatigue analysis, and improved thermal analysis.
With COSOMOSFloWorks 2005, users may notice improved features such as a vorticity plot to study swirling flows, faster convergence of transient analysis, and a new parametric study tool. And COSMOSMotion 2005 enables its users to find exactly which part to analyze with its automatic mapping.