My 5 Favorite Little Things about SOLIDWORKS 2018

Sean O'Neill | Comments | January 25, 2018

During my time in the SOLIDWORKS reseller environment, I’ve always loved going to yearly rollout events. It’s a great chance for me to reacquaint myself with the customers we work with on a daily basis. It’s also a great chance to hear not only how these customers leverage current iterations of the SOLIDWORKS software, but also how they plan to leverage the upcoming version as well.

Over the years, while I haven’t taken on the mantle of serving as a main presenter for one of these events, I have served in a variety of capacities. On some occasions, I managed the “marketing”-level aspects of the new release. On others, I either presented during a breakout session on new functionality in a certain product segment or simply served as a technical resource for customers attending the event.

What’s annually piqued my interest is the reaction some customers have to a feature that, upon first glance, really didn’t seem like a huge deal to me or the main presenters during their preparation. We’ve all presented at some point or another, right? As such, we all know there can be times during a given presentation when you don’t get a reaction when you expect to, and vice versa.

At a SOLIDWORKS 2016 rollout I attended, for example, we had some audience members clap when Dan Wagner of Fisher Unitech went over the redesigned reference triad (seen when moving, sectioning or exploding components inside the software, then and now). It’s not a reaction I initially expected for a simple redesign of a triad utility, but I understood why these customers really loved it. It made daily operations they perform easier, both practically and “on the eyes.”

Fast forward two years later, and here we are: SOLIDWORKS 2018. Most live rollout events happened this fall, and, as always, presenters from around the world tackled the task of fitting a huge document (to be exact, 239 pages worth) full of enhancements into a morning’s worth of tech tips.

I tried—really, I did!—to lighten the load on these presenters with the #SW18in140 SOLIDWORKS 2018 tweet series I did (visit @ServicePackSean to review all of the tweets from October through November). But 239 is an inescapably large number of pages to get through, even with my supplementary tidbits.

As such, in this article, I’m going to highlight five of my favorite “little” enhancements in the latest release. As I alluded to earlier, my hope is that you will find one or two of these “little” enhancements a little bigger than some might initially perceive!

  1. Temporarily Hiding Faces When Selecting Mates

In the software, when you’re inside of the Mate command within an assembly, the process of selecting component faces that are not readily accessible from within the viewport just got much easier.

Over the course of using assemblies within our 3D CAD programs, we’ve all been in scenarios such as the one seen below. Pictured below is a spot where I’m trying to get the backside face of the grey component. The problem? I can’t see it currently. My assurance that the face exists does not help my mouse one iota when it comes to selecting this face:

By highlighting over the planar face blocking my view of the backside face and pressing the Alt key, I can temporarily hide this planar face for the purposes of this mate only. Once my Profile Center mate is added between the desired faces, the planar face formerly blocking my desired selection fully returns to the viewport as if it never left. No further action is needed to bring it back into the fold.

And with one mate and one temporary hide operation committed, we’re on our way. The assembly is fully defined at this point in the software.

  1. Performance Evaluation Tool Enhancements

Those of you who know my CAD side best know that I am a huge proponent of the Performance Evaluation tools available when analyzing SOLIDWORKS files. A wise man named Neil Sardin as once told me: “SOLIDWORKS is full of a million simple things.” I find this commentary fittingly applicable to the performance settings and criteria governing our software experience.

As a senior SOLIDWORKS support engineer, I believe I’m reasonably well-versed in what makes SOLIDWORKS “tick.” However, if you’re reading this, it probably isn’t your day job to answer questions about why SOLIDWORKS works the way it does. With the 2018 release, the software has simplified the task of analyzing assembly performance criteria by offering more accessible ways to decipher this data.

When you open Performance Evaluation in assemblies (Evaluate>Performance Evaluation), you get an instant look at true key performance indicators related to the underlying components of the assembly. It’s fairly true to say that an assembly is little more than the compilation of its parts (or subassemblies) fit together to portray and test the dynamic motion and positioning of these items in conjunction with one another.

With that said, assembly performance is dependent on component characteristics to a large degree. When evaluating assembly performance overall, this understanding is paramount. As such, the Performance Evaluation tool gives you a look at open times, whether any components are older version files, graphics triangles count (generally, how detailed a component is), shaded image quality (slider settings per component, as set under Document Properties>Image Quality) and more.

The tool itself is not new. What’s new in this release is the simplicity with which you can view what many would regard as the first and easiest things to consider when diagnosing assembly performance drains (such as open time, shaded image quality, etc.).

  1. Updating SpeedPak Configurations Automatically

It still makes me happy whenever I run across a customer who is using the SpeedPak configuration functionality inside of assemblies. SpeedPak is a fantastic way to limit the amount of fully-considered topological detail inside of your assemblies. Essentially, it is a configuration that visually mimics its parent configuration, while only leaving behind some small subset of edges, faces, etc. These edges and faces are typically used to maintain mates, enable dynamic measurements and more.

The rest of the geometry, you ask? It’s effectively kept visible as graphics entities. You can always switch back to the fully-loaded configuration as you wish. You can also add additional faces and edges to remain available when the SpeedPak is in play.

One thing that’s always bugged me a bit is the need to instruct the software manually to update a SpeedPak configuration if, for example, its parent configuration was changed to any degree. In SOLIDWORKS 2018, this is no longer the case when saving files with SpeedPak configurations available.

From System Options>Assemblies, you can instruct SOLIDWORKS 2018 to update out-of-date SpeedPak configurations when saving files.

  1. Reading Custom Properties from Non-Native CAD Formats

We all know how much work and consideration go into making sure the metadata stored within our CAD files is true and current. This transcends SOLIDWORKS. Whether you’re using Inventor, SolidEdge or CATIA, this remains a concern for many CAD users for a variety of reasons.

When SOLIDWORKS 3D Interconnect introduced the possibility to import these file types (and more), it made the task of inter-CAD collaboration seem much more realistic. You could establish active linkages to non-native CAD files like Inventor, CATIA, SolidEdge and more, without necessarily dumbing the process down to a “one-and-done” import of the geometric data into SOLIDWORKS.

Previous versions of 3D Interconnect would show geometric changes made to an Inventor or CATIA file in their native platforms after the original import of these file types into SOLIDWORKS. Now, in 2018, you also have the ability to import the custom property-level metadata from these file types into the software as well. This should ease certain anxieties that may exist for many users regarding cross-CAD collaboration and/or the use of legacy CAD data inside of SOLIDWORKS.

  1. Controlling Dismissed Messages via the Settings Administrator

A true “last but not least” for me, this enhancement has the potential to save CAD administrators from a lot of confusion-generated headaches. As annoying as it might be to answer questions from software packages when you’re “just trying to get your work done,” the answers to questions asked by SOLIDWORKS can matter a great deal.

For instance, consider the following question: “Unable to locate the file bracket.sldprt. Would you like to find the file yourself?” When asked this question, you have three possible selections to choose from in order to instruct SOLIDWORKS on what to do in this case.

You can either: (1) browse for the file yourself, (2) suppress the component or (3) suppress all components found to be missing during load. You also have a checkbox designed to allow you to dismiss this message in future sessions.

If you choose “suppress all components…” and instruct the software not to show you this message again, you may find it confusing when, in future sessions, components are unable to be suppressed normally because they cannot be found. For CAD admins unfamiliar with System Options>Messages/Errors/Warnings (where you can reintroduce dismissed messages), this can be a pain.

With the newfound ability to control dismissed messages when using the Settings Administrator, CAD admins can avoid these sorts of confusing scenarios.

As I mentioned earlier, the task of internalizing every enhancement to the software can seem impossible. Whether it’s through articles like these, my #SW18in140 series, the “What’s New” document or SOLIDWORKS 2018 resource centers, I hope you continue to learn new and exciting ways to enhance your workflows with the latest edition of the software!


About the Author

Sean O’Neill is a senior SOLIDWORKS support engineer at Fisher Unitech and a graduate of Villanova University.Based out of the Philadelphiaarea, he is a Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert (CSWE), a former SOLIDWORKS World presenter and a former SOLIDWORKS VAR marketing manager. You can follow him on Twitter (@ServicePackSean).

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