SolidWorks 2014 Looks to Improve User Experience

SolidWorks has been helping engineers and designers all around the world develop new and innovative products since 1993. In fact, more than 2 million engineers are currently using SolidWorks to help them design their new products. The latest installment, SolidWorks 2014, is looking to provide users with a more simple and intuitive product to help increase their productivity and efficiency.

The main changes implemented in the new version are features that make drawing and analyzing complex shapes easier. For example, a very convenient and useful new feature is the ability to smooth out splines. Previously, users may have created splines, which may have looked good and smooth, but applying the special technique of zebra stripes to it would quickly show that it may not have the most optimal curvature. That said, the new spline tool can be used to take that existing spline and optimize its geometry to create a more perfect product.

In addition, there is also a scaling tool included. After finishing a design or working your way through a design, you can add a dimension to any part of the object and the tool will automatically resize the entire drawing for you. Added dimensioning features also include better functionality for angular dimensions, along with the ability to add "running dimensions" to angular parts. This is a functionality that was previously only available with linear dimensions.

Other new features include a "lasso" selection, which allows a user to outline a set of parts and pick only the pieces within the selection. A new smart mate mechanism is available, which will allow parts to be moved around more easily without snapping to every possible location. For instance, previously, moving a part around in a drawing while holding the alt key may have resulted in that part trying to snap into locations, which it determined were suitable. However, in the new version the part will not snap into place until it has remained in the area for a sufficient amount of time. This will surely make working with complex drawings much simpler. Another little nuisance that has been resolved in the new version is default mates. In past versions, SolidWorks would always try to make edge-to-edge pieces coincident. Now, when beginning to line up two edges, if coincident cannot be done it will default to parallel.

There are also additional mating features for an improved user experience. These include a quick mate toolbar, and increased slot mate functionality. Beginning with the toolbar, it will allow you to line up two parts and easily place them together. They may be concentric or coincident, but the software will automatically choose the most logical part to connect. If for some reason you disagree with the part in which to connect, it can be manually chosen. As for the slot mate functionality, screws and pieces with an axis can now be seamlessly placed together and adjusted to the right position. This can be done with radial, cylindrical, or linear slots. Additionally, a whole separate piece with a slot of its own can be mated to a slot on another object. This too can also be moved and adjusted until it is in its suitable location.

Many other new features also exist in the new SolidWorks release. These include updates to Circuitworks, sheet metal designs, and simulations. The sheet metal design feature has included additional control over stiffening ribs on designs. It also has more accurate and controllable corner treatments. Therefore, it will include accurate information on the bending that a piece of sheet metal may be expected to tolerate.

Circuitworks has a feature now that will let designers examine the thermal properties of a PCB before manufacturing. The thermal properties are displayed in a color-coded manner and will simulate power being dissipated through all the components. It is not 100 percent clear how much power it is simulating through each component, but I would believe that the simulation is running with the maximum power through each component. A flow simulation is also available for mechanical designs. This simulation will allow engineers to test pre-stress and residual stress within their designs. In doing so the designer will be able to see how the model will cope with these situations and make sure everything is functioning properly.

Overall, the new version is chock full of new features. Most of these features were made to create a better user experience. Eliminating the annoying features such as a bolt trying to snap into every possible location makes the product much easier to work with. One last additional feature, which will make developing much more recordable, is a history feature. This will allow users to track who has manipulated what part, and when it was done. This will always be available through a tab and will constantly be keeping track of changes made to drawings.

While the software may not include any major overhauls, it will make designing more convenient for engineers. I am not sure if this will be enough for companies to make the purchase and upgrade to the new software package -- that will most likely depend on how much an engineer may utilize those new features. However, with 20 years gone by, it's good to see SolidWorks striving for perfection and an improved product.

Hopefully, I can get my hands on SolidWorks 2014 and take the new features for a spin in real-world designing.

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