SolidWorks 2010 tackles material properties sustainability head-on

I’m sure you have all heard about the “duck pond syndrome”. Everything seems to be serene and calm above the waterline, but a scuba diver would see a lot of frantic paddling below the surface.

0 October 8, 2009

For the 2010 product release, Dassault Syst√ɬ®mes SolidWorks deviated from past practice. Instead of hosting a mass media event, we were flown to SolidWork’s offices in Concorde, MA, individually for one-on-one sessions.

During my session, Jeremy Regnerus, Product Manager for Dassault Syst√ɬ®mes SolidWorks, stated that there were very few “wow” features in SolidWorks 2010 and that they had focused their efforts below the water line where things don’t show directly. Their major development efforts have gone into making SolidWorks 2010 faster, more stable, and more reliable.

Okay, Jeremy may have stretched the truth a bit when he said that there were very few “wow” features.

Life Cycle Assessment

Dassault Syst√ɬ®mes SolidWorks 2010 adds the “SustainabilityXpress” module. Begin by designing a part as you normally would, and specify a material for it. Now specify where in the world the part is to be manufactured and where it is to be used. SustainabilityXpress then analyzes everything and produces several environmental impact reports. Background data used in the evaluations starts from producing the raw material through producing and using the part and ending up with its eventual disposal. It even factors in the ship’s engine emissions if the part crosses an ocean.

Video demonstration:

The actual numbers produced in the evaluations are probably not as significant as the fact that it is very easy to vary the parameters and play “what if” games in order to reduce the total environmental impact. To this end SustainabilityXpress also includes a “Find Similar Material” functionality. If you specify a particular material it will try to find other materials with equal or better physical properties but lower cost and a smaller environmental impact.
Jeremy stated that SustainabilityXpress will initially be offered for single parts only, but it will be expanded to include assemblies.

Environmental Dashboard

When evaluating all of these stages, four environmental impacts are measured. 
• Carbon Footprint – production of greenhouse gasses 
• Total Energy Consumed – self explanatory 
• Effect on Air – specifically the contributor to acid rain 
• Effect on Water – which results in algae blooms in coastal waters

The values for these impacts update in real-time as you make changes to your design. This comprehensive view will give you confidence that the design decisions you make are truly better for the environment.

User Interface

For the new user interface, they have introduced mouse-gesturing command selection. All you need to do is to right-click and then drag in one of the four ordinal (N, S, E, W) or four cardinal (NE, SE, SW, NW) directions. This causes a halo of commands to surround the cursor. Highlighting emphasizes the one you are about to select. You can customize the mouse-gesturing interface to suit your own preferences.

Third Party File Editing

If you receive “dumb” 3D solids exported from other 3D CAD applications then Dassault Syst√ɬ®mes SolidWorks 2010 includes additional support for direct editing of them. In a bit of a bizarre twist, however, it still doesn’t offer direct support for native CATIA files even though the same parent company owns both programs. Fortunately there are several third-party applications that can handle the conversions.

Several new capabilities and functionalities have been added to part modeling. One such enhancement includes the fact that a single part machined from a solid billet can easily be converted to a multi-body sheet-metal weldment with no need to switch to a different modeling environment.

As a further enhancement, a single part file can contain multiple bodies and each body can have individual materials applied to it. An obvious use of this would be for a purchased sub-assembly. You want to handle it as a single part, but you want its mass properties to be anatomically correct in order to get correct analyses of your assembly.

Motion Simulation

I love an interesting new functionality added to SolidWorks Simulation. Actions in a motion simulation do not have to be purely time-driven, but they can now be triggered by specific events. For example, a hydraulic ram will extend until it triggers a photoswitch, which will then actuate a gripper mechanism, which in turn activates a rotator, which operates until it hits a limit switch causing the gripper to release. To really put the icing on the cake, the sequence data can easily be exported for use in programming PLC control units.

The Create Property Manager dialog box has been renamed to the Configuration Publisher. Okay, that’s not quite true. It is probably more accurate to say that the Configuration Publisher has replaced the Create Property Manager. You can use it to create alternate configurations of assemblies and then publish them to 3D ContentCentral. Now your customers can log in to 3D ContentCentral and select the options they want to get the assembly variant that suits their needs. This is obviously much simpler to set up and to use than the older brute-force method of pre-building every variant.
Other members of the Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks 2010 family also come in for their share of improvements.

3D Publishing File Sharing

3D Via Composer, the DS 3D publishing platform, is now able to access more of the SolidWorks model data, and it is associative back to the SolidWorks files. If you change the model in SolidWorks 2010 then the 3D Via Composer renderings update.

Enterprise PDM adds improved management capabilities. Heading the list is the capability to set up master configurations and then push them directly down onto client machines on a network without having to configure each machine separately.

Okay, let’s end up where we came in by taking a look at the speed issue. Jeremy demonstrated a part that performed a rebuild 95% faster in SolidWorks 2010 than in SolidWorks 2009. Obviously “Your results may differ” depending on the complexity of the part and on the type of features used to build it. You shouldn’t expect this magnitude of improvement all the time in every part, but it is indicative of the Duck Pond Syndrome of their development efforts. Besides, a 95% improvement on a 5-second part is not as significant as 95% on a 3-minute part.

This review has just hit the high spots of the 200 or so additions and enhancements to Dassault Syst√ɬ®mes SolidWorks. Not bad for a release that “doesn’t have much of a WOW factor”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *