SolidWorks World 2009 here I come

It’s one day before my trip to Florida begins.  Actually, it’s almost exactly 24 hours, as my flight takes off around 6:00am or so tomorrow.  Am I excited?  A bit.  Am I worried?  A bit.  Why?  Well, as soon as I’m off the plane, I have my first schedule event (for which I will be an hour late since getting from the MCO to the Swan and Dolphin is no skip across the pond).  Then right after that event comes another that will likely stretch my day out well into jet-lag zone; then I hafta get up early on Sunday because that is when convention really begins!  Maybe I’ll get some sleep Sunday night?

Backwards compatibility discussion with SW Dev Team

One thing that seems to come up constantly is the desire to have some sort of backwards compatibility between releases of SolidWorks.  It is mentioned on the various SolidWorks forum message boards at least once month (and sometimes almost daily).  Why does SolidWorks not provide for backwards compatibility.  Well, the cynic will tell you that it is intentional, as part of the overall SolidWorks Corp business model.  Others will say that it is due to new features and tools being added to each release which will not be supported by previous releases.

Right now, I cannot speak to reasons relating to business model.  I can say that the SolidWorks development team, some of which attended the T-VSWUG Sept 10th meeting, seem genuinely interested in users’ desires and ideas regarding backwards compatibility. 

One suggestion at the meeting was to provide a way to simply save models for older releases.  The problem here is that once an unsupported feature is reached in the FeatureManager, it and all subsequent features would have to be dumb anyway.   On the other hand, the advantage is that as least some of the information in the model would useful.

Another suggest that had been on my mind was actually proposed by the SW development team; open, edit and create files native to their release level within a single session of SolidWorks.  Features and functions not supported by the release level of a particular model would either be grayed out or (when selected) display an error message stating that it is not compatible with the release level of the active document.

You know what?  I like this approach best.  I can image there are some technical issues which will need to be over come.  For example, how will SolidWorks handle assemblies with mixed release levels?  Regardless, it seems the SW development team is on top of this issue.  Hopefully, a working solution to this issue will be available sometime soon (2 years?).

Issues presented to SW Developers at T-VSWUG Meeting

At the T-VSWUG Sept 10th meeting, the forum was open to whatever happened to be on the people’s mind regarding SolidWorks.  Being face to face with members of the SolidWorks developers team brought out the inner need to express our frustrations.   Just some of the points brought up included:

  1. On drawings, dimensions and centerpoints to hole wizard holes should not detach when the type of hole is changed in the model.
  2. “Link to BOM” does not appear to be useful; or it is not obvious that this is the option to pick when it is needed.
  3. Make fly-out menus and menu bars more consistent (RMB clicks, LMB clicks, etc).  One problem is that the same function (such as Open Part) appears in so many different locations, depending on what is currently displayed in SolidWorks.  Make common functions appear in a more predictable fashion, relying less on context and more on general user interface consistency.  SolidWorks development team has started improving user interface inconsistencies since 2007.  2009 will further address these issues.
  4. Allow the user to use a logical center of rotation while in sketch mode.
  5. Generally, let the user choose a fixed point center of rotation within a model or assembly.
  6. Limitations preventing cropping and breaking out of detail views continues to annoy users.
  7. Create a weldment-like system for handling sheet metal parts with hardware, so that sheet metal parts can be a single file instead of an assembly.  My addition to this is that there should be a focus on creating a library of features for standard insert hardware (instead of a library of discrete parts for that hardware). 
  8. Support some sort of silkscreen function that will allow users to apply images to a part without jumping through hoops, and will not screw up a model when exported to other formats.  Maybe even develop this so that silkscreen documentation can be produced right from the model.
  9. SolidWorks Corp is attempting to apply ASME and ISO standards accurately for documentation relying of 3D models (instead of drawings), such as DimXpert.  However, the current 3D model standards (such as ASME Y14.4-2003)  are inadequate to address the growing reliance of solid models and the move away from drawings.  SolidWorks Corp should take a more active role in influencing the ASME and ISO bodies to implement useful future 3D modelling standards.  I suggest SW Corp work directly with these groups, and should even gain representation on their decision making boards.

These points, among others, were well received by the developers.  Some other points brought up already had solutions.  Some solutions involved functionality that which some may not have been aware.  Other solutions have been resolved on newer versions of SolidWorks, which some users are not yet using.

One point not received well (though politely) was the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that SolidWorks have a “What’s Lost” section to their manual to alert users to keystroke changes, menu changes, and any functionality that has been “removed” in the new release.  Perhaps, more detail about actual changes can be addressed in the “What’s New” section for each release.

I will address the discussions regarding SolidWorks release cycle, backwards compatibility, and running SolidWorks on Macs in up-coming articles.

T-VSWUG Sept 10th Meeting in Review

The Tri-Valley SolidWorks User Group Sept 10th meeting is one of those inspirational events that (upon reflection) seems bigger than perhaps any of us knew at the moment.  We had a productive face to face discussion with SolidWorks developers that really seemed to humanize the often corporate SolidWorks Corp.  Many topics were covered in this personable exchange.  In the end, I had the impression that these guys understand our needs and seem eager to fulfill our expectations.  Was I snowed?  Well, maybe, but I doubt it.  I will break up the discussion about this meeting in to several articles.  Stay tuned.