Edited by Leslie Gordon

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

The software comes from SolidWorks Corp., 300 baker Ave., Concord, MA 01742, (800)693-9000, solidworks.com

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.

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 doing.

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 parameters.

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 word).

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 work.

In late 2007, SolidWorks’ parent company Dassault Systemes 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 BOM.

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 product designer.

— Mike Hudspeth

“Mike Hudspeth, IDSA, is a senior designer, artist, and author based in St. Louis, Mo. Contact Mike at words4all@yahoo.com