Software Review: SolidWorks 2009 Pulls Out All the Stops
SolidWorks 2009 is out and looks to be the best version yet. The
developer has concentrated on three areas in this release: speed,
“design not software,” and quality of design.
For example, a capability called Speedpak lets users load only a
selected subset of a geometry. Say you are working with an assembly and
the computer is sluggish. Just turn off
unneeded model parts - on the fly. This speeds design because the
computer needn’t work as hard. You can still see the parts onscreen,
they just can’t be selected. Of course, users can change what’s turned
on or off at any time.
If you had to import a PCB file as a DXF, it would take you all day to
generate a model like this. CircuitWorks uses information from the
original PCB-layout software, which includes the configuration and
heights of all its components, to quickly build a SolidWorks 3D model.
A nice change is new capability in the rib command. Previously, it
was only possible to control the thickness of a rib at its high face.
Those worried about big sinks in a plastic part would have to adjust the
top of the rib and measure the base until it came within an acceptable
range. Now, users can control the rib thickness at the wall interface,
eliminating all that adjusting and measuring.
Another new feature provides menus of common lip-and-groove
configurations. Users need only select the edges for the lip and groove,
and type-in the parameters. The feature works something like a hole
wizard. Users can save the lip-and-groove parameters for later reuse.
And a lip-and-groove cross section lets users clearly see what they are
The software also can stretch sketches. That may not sound like a big
deal, but it is. For example, sometimes users draw a sketch and end up
needing it to go in the opposite direction. Before, it was necessary to
delete the dimension, stretch the geometry, and put the dimension back
on. What a hassle. Now, it’s just a matter of changing the dimension to
a negative number and the software does the rest. Also, the Convert to
Sheet Metal function is a welcome addition. Previously, users had to
build a complete model and then tell SolidWorks it was a sheet-metal
part. They then had to manually create corners and reliefs. The software
can now directly convert a solid block to a sheet-metal part. The
program analyzes the model to make a “best guess,” or users can specify
The Pin/Bolt Check analyzes a pattern of pins/bolts and figures out
where the most stress is going to be. This lets users rearrange and
optimize the pattern.
On the drafting side, V 2009 has some improvements. One I appreciate
a lot is the Dimension Jog. Drawings often tend to get crowded.
Sometimes there are two (or more) dimensions so close together it’s hard
to tell one from the other. What’s needed is a way to differentiate
them. Now, users need only add a “jog” to the extension line the way
they likely did on the drafting board (that’s right, I used the DB
This action allows the dragging of hole and chamfer callouts to other
features. Previously, users could drag a dimension to another view, but
the dimension would only go somewhere with the same feature. Now, users
can drag the callout to another feature altogether, as long as it’s the
same kind and the size. It is also possible to save and assign dimension
styles. Every piece of a dimension is available for changing. Thus,
users can change such elements as line width, arrowhead style, and
dogleg length. Users can also create custom symbols.
A nifty DWG Editor module maintains the value of legacy data in
AutoCAD files. Editor can open and edit files back to AutoCAD V 2.5.
This eliminates maintaining a license of AutoCAD any longer than you
want to. And should you change the source file, the drawing updates.
That’s a nice capability for those wanting to keep Auto- CAD for 2D
In late 2007, SolidWorks’ parent company Dassault Systems purchased
Seemage, now called 3DVIA Composer. It works with SolidWorks 2009,
providing powerful authoring tools for technical publishing. 3DVIA lets
users ready 3D models for product manuals, brochures, company
literature, and the like. It also links back to Solid- Works files so
everything updates when a change is made. A new Spyglass feature, also
from Seemage, lets users select what they want to see and zoom up on it.
New capabilities in simulation include a Pin/Bolt Check wizard. It
looks at sheer strength in patterns of bolts and pins. A parting- line
analysis for plastic-part mold design as well as well as die casting and
regular casting generates data depending on the direction you assign
your pull vector. And those working with composites will appreciate that
users can specify the lay direction of the fiber mat. Lay direction has
a big impact on strength analysis.
The software also includes powerful ways to model electrical
harnesses, conduit, piping, and the like. Users need only select where
connectors are to go and the approximate path the wire or pipe is to
take. The software does the rest. Users can then generate flat views to
go on a drawing that include component callouts, wire lengths, and the
I understand that service pack 1 will add new capability for ribbon
cable. SolidWorks bought Circuit- Works earlier this year so harness and
cable design should become even easier than before. Circuit- Works
imports files from PCBlayout software (using a standard XML format) and
uses the information to build a SolidWorks 3D model. Components are all
identified and contain 3D information.
This feature is a big time saver. The price for SolidWorks hasn’t
changed much over many revisions. Core, Office Professional, or Premium
range from $4,995 to $7,495. With its mix of solid capabilities (pun
intended) and ease of use, SolidWorks 2009 is a great tool for any
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