There is no real scene-stealing, game-changing 3-D CAD functionality in SolidWorks 2010. Rather, the new release ushers in a host of quick-hit, targeted capabilities designed to better integrate the tool into everyday engineering workflows and improve the overall user experience.
Building on the 2009 upgrade's focus on raw performance improvements, SolidWorks 2010 has been tuned so it performs basic operations more efficiently. There are also user interface enhancements that sped up steps like using mouse gestures as a shortcut to execute commands and new data migration and direct editing tabs for quick access to functions related to importing, repair and editing of data. In addition, new patent-pending rapid dimensions capabilities display new dimension placement alternatives and neatly rearrange existing dimensions - another example of how the upgrade has been revamped to help save time and effort related to design.
"Performance is more than raw speed," says Fielder Hess, SolidWorks' vice president of product management. "Engineers want the software to be predictable and to have their tools work smarter and faster."
Ricky Jordan, a well-known SolidWorks blogger and a certified SolidWorks professional, agrees that enhancements to the drawing package, along with the addition of mouse gestures and other interface shortcuts, are the highlights of the new release in terms of bolstering engineers' productivity. "The Dimension Palette and Rapid Dimension technology cuts down on mouse movement within the Drawing interface," he says.
In fact, SolidWorks spent 30 percent of the development time for the 2010 upgrade honing these kind of performance, reliability and predictability enhancements, not to mention, making the CAD tool more process oriented and integrated with the tasks an engineer does on a daily basis. "CAD is hard and it shouldn't be," Hess says. "I shouldn't have to know how to use my CAD tool to get my job done. I should know how to do my engineering work and the tool should augment that."
One of the more notable areas where SolidWorks applied that philosophy is in a new SolidWorks 2010 module called SustainabilityXpress. Included with every license of SolidWorks, SustainabilityXpress draws on the expertise of SolidWorks' partner PE International to help engineers determine the environmental impact of their design decisions. Engineers are presented with an environmental impact dashboard that, with the touch of a button, generates reports with simple color coding to clearly depict how a particular design or material choice impacts such green concerns as carbon footprint, energy consumption, air/water impact throughout the entire lifecycle, from raw materials sourcing through manufacture and end-of-life disposal. The tool leverages the vast databases of leading sustainability expert PE International and brings that knowledge directly into SolidWorks, without requiring companies to go through the time and expense of hiring specialized sustainability consultants. The module also has a new Find Similar Materials tool that lets engineers specify criteria they're looking for related to materials and the software will suggest alternatives that have similar mechanical properties, but with better sustainability in areas such as disposal or manufacturing, for example.
Other features of the new release include event-based motion simulation, for mimicking the way machines work, which is being worked on with partner National Instruments; new productivity features for preparing models and drawings for distribution, and new features in 3DVIA Composer to aid in the creation of product documentation.