SolidWorks Corp. recently sent trade press writers copies of SolidWorks 2009 Professional — the company’s latest version of its 3D CAD package for mechanical design. Being only a casual user, I wanted to learn more about 3D modeling, so I attended one of the developer’s training sessions at 3DVision Technologies in Solon, Ohio. What followed was an interesting and informative 8 hours that included an intro to sketching, basic part modeling, and simple bottom-up assembly modeling.

3DVision Techologies Corp.

3dvision.com

After installing SolidWorks on my laptop and opening the program, the instructor had us try the “Instant 3D” function. This basically lets users “pull” on an extruded part to make it longer. Next he showed nifty tricks such as pressing Ctrl + 7 for an isometric view and scrolling the middle mouse button to drag and rotate a part.

Starting a new part commenced with selecting a template, then either the front, top, or right plane. To fully define a sketch involved applying geometric relations such as parallel, colinear, or perpendicular between sketch elements such as lines, arcs, and circles, as well as applying dimensions. A wellthought- out display window in the lower right corner of the workspace lists what you are doing.

SolidWorks releases a new version every 10 months, with four or five service packs throughout the year. And SolidWorks was the first modeling package to work in the standard Windows O/S. In any case, the program is replete with familiar Microsoft Office-like menus and interfaces.

I then got a good dose of how to consider design intent. Solid- Works defines design intent as the plan for how the model should behave when it is changed. Several factors such as equations, automatic sketch relations, and added relations and dimensioning can all affect design intent.

By the end of the day, I had a new appreciation for how difficult it is to learn even the most-intuitive modeling programs. Most designers and engineers new to the software would probably need at least some formal training to use the program effectively.

— Leslie Gordon