An even more solid future for modelling

Tom Shelley reports from Las Vegas on the shape of 3D CAD software to come

Tom Shelley reports from Las Vegas on the shape of 3D CAD to come

Advanced surface manipulation and a great deal of intelligence will be built into SolidWorks 2007.

The preview was presented at this year's SolidWorks World event in Las Vegas as a 'Dating Game' with dreadful puns, For those who could take their eyes off the presenter, the demonstration included a new "Freeform" facility that could be used to take a cylinder and push and pull the surfaces into a handle shape with finger grips. CEO John McEleney told us, in an answer to a question, that this ability to manipulate surfaces was squarely aimed at the needs of industrial designers and he had no intention of going after the automotive surfacing market or offer the kind of functionality offered by companies such as ICEM. The company does nonetheless have automotive customers, because at dinner, we found ourselves sitting next to Christian Von Koenigsegg, designer of the Koenigsegg CRR, the world's fastest road car which has a measured top speed of over 242mph. Von Koenigsegg told us that his team used SolidWorks to design all parts of the car and its engine, except for the body surfacing, for which he used ICEM Surf.

Other planned new features in SoldWorks 2007 are to include the ability to link properties of the part to assembly drawing balloons so they update automatically when changes are made and the ability to drag leader lines around to make drawings tidier. Dimensions will space themselves out automatically as more are added and can also be moved around subsequently. All holes from different views can now be aggregated into a single table to assist manufacturing.

In sketching, rack and pinion motion can be simulated along with a better connection between cam and other complex motions. A new belt command only requires that pulley diameters be selected and which side a belt will pass to generate 3D working models of belts or chain coupled systems.

Whereas PTC has introduced "Fast" technologies, SolidWorks has "Swift" technologies. One of the most important of these is a Tolerance Expert that stacks up tolerances to reveal whether, for example, two close running rollers might interfere under worst case conditions if the tolerances were to stack up wrongly. Another 'Swift' technology can be used to automatically fillet an entire model and a FeatureXpert can be used to select a parting line and impose a draft angle on each side to allow mould removal.

Cosmos Works now supports beam elements, including those with welds, in conjunction with the ability to automatically extract cross sections. Cosmos Express now includes an optimisation facility that removes material from a part by an iterative FEA analysis and modify procedure, in order to fulfil pre-set requirements, such as a minimum factor of safety.

A new sheet metal module automatically calculates and displaces bend lines and can unfold flanges along curved edges. Copy design gathers all files needed to transmit a design by email. And a new 'MultiMate' command connects common components with a common reference, so that gears and shafts can be assembled by a single click.

Beta testing starts early April 2006.



* Freeform feature allows the pushing and pulling of a surface model into any desired shape

* Automatic design optimisation comes as part of the CosmosXPress module

* A wide range of features are included to allow the production of tidier drawings, associated with changeable models, plus improved sketching, sheet metal and assembly tools

Tom Shelley

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