A Sneak Peek into the Future of SolidWorks

Last week at SOLIDWORKS World 2013, SOLIDWORKS shared three glimpses into the future of its products.


Mechanical Conceptual Preview

It’s a mouthful of a name, but it’s a brand new product that’s been in the works for the last few years.  It’s SolidWorks’ very first product that will be based on Dassault Systèmes’ 3D Experience platform, and it’s designed to compliment SOLIDWORKS by taking care of the upfront conceptual design stages.  It’s focused on ease of use, creativity, and ease of change to provide an unprecedented amount of design flexibility during these early stages.  Mechanical Conceptual is targeted to replace the simplistic processes of sketching on a napkin or a drawing board while providing an output with so much more intelligence, communication, and (of course) translation into SOLIDWORKS for the detailing and manufacturing design phases.

The product seems to use a similar interface to the SOLIDWORKS we know today (e.g. context menus and mouse gestures), but when you see it in action, it performs/reacts very differently.  Everything changes and moves without any menus, checkboxes, and drop down lists cluttering the screen and overwhelming the designer.  The 3D Experience platform allows it to combine the benefits of feature history parametric modeling and direct editing into a single environment.  It looks incredibly simplified, yet it’s capable of providing advanced design feedback such as dynamic assembly motion, stress analysis, and even a never before seen motion envelop.

Communication is probably never more important than during the brainstorming phases of our designs.  So, Mechanical Conceptual has also incorporated a social media-like communication platform that will allow us to operate with the influence of public or private networks consisting of stakeholders such as customers, vendors, managers, investors, etc.  Not only will this fall in line with SolidWorks’ commitment to collective intelligence, but it will open doors to unique design workflows and levels of team collaboration that were never before obtainable.

We’re going to be able to get our hands on this product as early adopters/testers in May, and the product should be available to general users in the October/November time frame.  Expect much more information then.  Very exciting!

[youtube width=”640″ height=”355″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mH0dWFw02d4[/youtube]


Top Ten List

Each year, SOLIDWORKS asks its users to generate and vote enhancements (via forum.solidworks.com) they’d like to see in future versions of the software.  The list is then revealed at SOLIDWORKS World, and historically speaking, SOLIDWORKS has delivered about 3/4’s of the requests.  So, expect most of the functionality listed below in a SOLIDWORKS major release in the near future.

  • Make rebuild time faster – Who wouldn’t want this?  SOLIDWORKS has actually been doing a great job of optimizing the coding behind many of its popular features throughout the last handful of years with great success.  It’s good to know the trend will continue.
  • True backward compatibility – This was introduced last year in a way that only lends itself well to assembly modeling workflows.  I guess the users want feature history to propagate to prior releases too.  I’ll be amazed if SOLIDWORKS finds a way to pull this off.
  • Slot mate – This is going to align (no pun intended) beautifully with one of the 2014 bullet points listed below.
  • Cylindrical mates need an option to lock rotation –   I always tell my trainees never to add unnecessary mates that will slow down assembly performance (e.g. parallel mates to keep fasteners from rotating in holes).  So, as long as this doesn’t add any time to the rebuild time of the mate, I’m cool with this.
  • Provide a version of the eDrawings mobile app for Android devices – Wow – that was fast!  You’ll see below that this is already coming out this summer.  I’ve been asking for this one for a while.
  • Option for equal spacing on linear patterns – The current work around is a curve driven pattern, but this would be so much easier.  This was another longtime request of mine.
  • Default concentric mate for axis to cylindrical surface – To be honest, I never knew this wasn’t the case.  This definitely makes the most logical sense.
  • External thread wizard for all thread types – Sounds more versatile and easier to use than the current Cosmetic Thread features.
  • Draw a line segment starting from the midpoint – We already have this functionality for circles, rectangles, and other sketch tools…  why not lines?  I like this idea.
  • Create auxiliary line for dimensioning angles


SOLIDWORKS 2014 Preview

Each year at SOLIDWORKS World, we also get a preview of the next year’s major enhancements that are currently in the works.  This is typically the most entertaining part of the show.  Below is a list of the features and a few personal notes.  For a more complete list (I omitted Simulation, Electrical, CircuitWorks, and Drawings)  and detailed explanations of each new feature, check out RickyJordan.com (he does a great review of these enhancements on an annual basis).

DISCLAIMER:  The functionality listed below is not guaranteed to be in SOLIDWORKS 2014.  It’s still in its early stages of development, and all of the functionality hasn’t made the final cut just yet.

User Interface

  • Environment Themes – This allows you to save toolbar layout work spaces.  I’m used to using this functionality in applications like Photoshop.  I think it will work great in SOLIDWORKS for people that participate in a diverse set of modeling workflows.
  • History Folder – This new feature tree folder will store your most recently edited features in a similar style to the 2013 Favorites Folder.
  • Flexible Assemblies context menu – Quickly toggle subassemblies to by calculated as flexible rather than rigid from the context menu.
  • Streamlined Save As Copy – Best part is the new copy will now stay open on your screen.

Features & Skecthing

  • Slots in Hole Wizard – I told you the request for the slot mate will eventually come in handy.
  • Path Length Dimension – Combine arcs and lines and assign a driving overall length dimension.  If you add linear length and arc length dimensions to the individual entities, you’ll probably have to leave one (or more) under-defined for this to work.
  • Fixed Length Spline – YES!  I have been wanting this for a very long time.  This allows you to add a dimension to any spline to drive its overall length.  A lot of very intelligent models are about to get made in 2014.
  • Style Spline – This looks like an easier way to draw and control splines while also producing a better quality spline (i.e. very smooth curvature combs).
  • Replace Sketch Entities – This allows you to swap sketch entities while maintaining connected relations.


  • Smart Mate Delay – Honestly, I’m not a fan of this one.  But as long as you can adjust the timing to zero, I’ll be happy.  I like my graphics to update immediately.
  • Feature Driven Component Pattern – Component patterns that reference component patterns.
  • Rotate Exploded Views – Wow, you thought the current ‘Animate Explode/Collapse’ functionality was cool?  Wait until we can rotate our components.  Extremely detailed assembly video instructions will be able to be composed in SolidWorks.
  • Quick Mate Context Menu – I’ve always said mates in assemblies are synonymous to relations in a sketch.  It’s about time they’ve become just as easy to add via the context senitive pop-up menu!  This is most definitely going to be a fan favorite in 2014!  Very slick!!

Sheet Metal

  • Sheet Metal Corner Gusset – This was possible to do with design library features, but very hard to manage.  This tool is going to be great!  And the formed faces automatically get ignored during the flat pattern calculation.
  • Lofted Bend Transitions – The lofted bends are now actually visible in the formed state, so you have a more realistic idea of what the manufactured part is going to look like.


  • Order Independent Transparency
  • Sunlight & Sunlight Animations – Brilliant!  Add a light that mimics the sun and locate it by defining your location and time of day.  Amazingly, you’ll be able to created animations that capture the path of the sun/shadows throughout the day/night.
  • Network Rendering Animations – In 2013, they introduced the ability to network render images by up to 10 workstations at a time.  Now you will be able to use this same functionality for rendering animations as well.  Next week, we’re actually upgrading our Cleveland training lab to 10 new mobile workstations with 8 processors each.  I CANNOT wait to hit the ‘Final Render’ button in PhotoView 360 and see 80 little rendering squares dance around on my screen.


  • eDrawings for Android – Woo hoo!!  About time!
  • Augmented Reality – You have to see this in action to understand how cool it is, so check out the video below.

[youtube width=”640″ height=”355″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksBHZI-5sfE[/youtube]

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