Convert Entities workflow change in SW 2010

Convert Entities tool in SolidWorks  is commonly used to pull modelled edges into sketches.  Previous to SolidWorks 2010, the user had to select each edge or face and then execute the Convert Entities tool.  If the user only had a few edges, this worked fine.  However, if the user had a lot of edges or a chain of edges, this method was cumbersome.  Even still, many SolidWorks users are familar with the old way.  In many cases, the old way is actually best.

So, what changed? 

Convert Entities now has a PropertyManager.  The user is no longer required to preselect the correct entity types before starting the tool.  They can now start the tool, and then make their selections.  In addition to selecting faces and edges, the user now has the option to select a chain, which allows them to convert contiguous sketch entites more quickly.

What’s wrong with the new method?

There are several message threads on the SolidWorks Forums where users are complaining about the changes to the Convert Entities workflow.  A particular point of contention comes from those users who have a shortcut keystroke convertentitiesassigned to Convert Entities.  In such cases, the user only has to select their entities and then type one keystroke to convert them to the sketch.  This is very easy and fast.  The new dialog box in the PropertyManager drastically slows this process by requiring additional input from the user to dismiss the Convert Entities tool.

Is there a solution?

For us experienced users, there is a solution.  The Convert Entities PropertyManager has a pushpin.  With the Convert Entities PropertyManager open, simply click on the pushpin and then OK.  This will allow Convert Entities to be in “expert mode”.  In other words, the tool will work the same as it did in SolidWorks 2009 and previous.   This task has to be repeated each time the user starts a new SolidWorks session.

To bring back the PropertyManager for Convert Entities within the same session, simply activate the tool without any pre-selected entities.  The pushpin can be reactivated.

Long term solution?

The new workflow for Convert Entities is great, but it needs to be just a little smarter.  There should be a system option in SolidWorks that allows the user to pull the pushpin on the PropertyManager by default, instead of requiring the user to do it once for each session.  If you have an opinion about this, I welcome your comments here and on the SolidWorks Forum.

SolidWorks 2010 More speed tests (Tune-up III)

So, I set out to make really bad use of Delete Face and Surface-Fill features.  This would be a completely outside the box type of screwing around that might not be expected, just to see if I can maximize the contrast between speed improvements from SolidWorks 2009 to SolidWorks 2010.

The motor-casing model that comes in the Samples folder of SolidWorks 2009 seems to tax SolidWorks a bit as is, all without any fancy features.  In SW 2009, I used the Delete Face feature to remove all of the internal walls in the main casing.  This was followed up with horrible Surface-Fill to patch the hole.  (Please take note of the rather unnecessarily wavy Surface-Fill results.)  After saving and Rebuilding twice, I checked the model’s Statistics.  The image below represents one of the better Rebuild (CTRL-Q) results I was able to achieve in SW 2009.  No surprizes.  Surface-Fill is on top and Delete Face is near the top.

Next, in SolidWorks 2010, I opened that very same file.  After saving in SW 2010 format, I closed the file and reopened it, then checked the Rebuild results there.  Strange….  I didn’t notice much of a difference.  This was starting to look a bit like my previous round of tests on another model (See the previous article in this series).  To check this further, another test needed to be done.

I deleted the Delete Face and Surface-Fill features and recreated them from scratch in within SW 2010.  Three things happened.  First, I was able to more quickly access both the Surface-Fill and Delete Face commands.  Second, SolidWorks made a much more logical choice in how to form the Surface-Fill feature.  Note how smooth it is versus the same feature created in the same fashion within SW 2009 (predictable results when creating features is another area where SW 2010 has improved). Third, look at what happened to the Delete Face Rebuild times!

Surface-Fill time reduced from 5.13s to 3.16s.  Delete Face time reduced from 0.63s to 0.09s!  It may be that the Surface-Fill time is more a factor of the simpler form than improvements in the underlying code.  However, since the software did make a more logical choice in the formation of the Surface-Fill, this still kinda counts.  Either way, the big news is the time savings on Delete Face!

Who really cares?!

OK,  OK, now the question from many comes up, “I’ve never use Delete Face; who cares about it!?”  In fact, in my test here, the difference in Rebuild times is entirely traced back to the Surface-Fill and Delete Face features.  No other Rebuild improvements are witnessed in any of the more common features.  So where does this leave individuals whose focus is on machine or sheet metal parts, where Delete Face would generally be very bad practice?  Well, as mentioned in the previous article, other areas have also been improved.

Improvements to multibody parts and related commands, Weldment cutlist updates, and equation performance have been reported by SolidWorks Corp.  Other areas may have also been improved, but I have yet to get confirmation of those.  The funny thing is that performance improvements aren’t really covered in the SolidWorks 2010 What’s New file!

In the What’s New file, I only found information about selecting a large number of entities within a sketch to create blocks as being “much faster”, and that Copy and Paste within Sketch mode is faster.  Nothing else readily comes up!  So, why does it seem that SolidWorks Corp is letting one of the more significant improvements in SolidWorks 2010 go under-reported (practically by word of mouth)?  I only found out about these improvements because the faster times for Delete Face was briefly demonstrated at the recent Blogger Event at SolidWorks HQ in Concord, MA.

The cynical side of me might say they’ve made no big announcement because they don’t want to make a big deal about how slow SolidWorks has been in the past.  However, the devil’s advocate might say that they’ve made so many improvements, they may not have a collected list of those items even now (as the case may actually be), and certainly didn’t have that list when the What’s New file was released.  Either way, it is almost fun trying to find the speed improvements, like an Easter Egg hunt (pun intended…and if you understand why that is a pun, you are truly a geek).