CAD Manager—Your Life Just Got Easier

Jeffrey Heimgartner | Comments | December 1, 2017

SOLIDWORKS 2018 was released this September and Value-Added Resellers have been holding launch events ever since to highlight the latest and greatest features of the new release. As a CAD manager, I was interested in finding out what new or improved features in SOLIDWORKS 2018 could make my daily CAD management duties a little easier.

Dassault Systèmes notes that “ SOLIDWORKS 2018 provides four new solutions to help you simplify interactions between product development teams and ultimately improve your business. Accelerate product innovation and grow your business with these new processes: design to manufacture, distributed data management, designer to analyst, electrical and the Internet of Things.” I dove a little deeper to see what these new solutions, as well as other new features and improvements, could mean for CAD managers.

Licensing

One of the more critical tasks for our firm is managing the licenses for all the different software platforms we operate. I need to make sure we are operating within the contract agreement parameters for each license as well as make sure I have the correct seats available for our CAD design technicians when they need them. Ease of transferring licenses is a huge issue for us because, for obvious budgetary reasons, we don’t buy a copy of every CAD software package we might use at a given time for every CAD design technician we have.

SOLIDWORKS offers two main categories of software licenses to fit your specific business or project needs. One is perpetual, which includes standalone and network licenses—both available with an optional subscription service. The other is term licenses, which allow you to pay for usage in specific periods of time, like 90 days or one year.

Some of our CAD design technicians use laptops, while others are on desktop machines for various reasons. Those using laptops simply take them home when needing to work evenings or over the weekends. The technicians that use desktops at the office don’t have that luxury. That’s where the activate/deactivate function within SOLIDWORKS comes in handy when dealing with standalone licenses. You can install a SOLIDWORKS license onto as many computers as you like, provided only one computer is operating the software at any given time. So, we have those CAD users simply install SOLIDWORKS on their home machines as well as deactivate their office version and then activate it at home when they need to work from there.

For floating or network licenses, SOLIDWORKS 2018 has the SolidNetWork License Manager console to help manage access to the software. The console shows the total number of network licenses available and whether they are in use, borrowed or free to use. When a CAD technician needs to use SOLIDWORKS, they select a free license when the software starts up and then return it when they are done so that it is available for others to use. Users can also “borrow” a license for up to 30 days. If the user has not returned the license by then, the license manager will automatically do so.

SOLIDWORKS SolidNetWork License Manager. (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)

The term licensing is a great option for many companies due to the lower upfront cost. We may have a specific project that will require us to have two more CAD technicians operating SOLIDWORKS, but we also know that this project will only last around three months, and after its completion, our SOLIDWORKS capacity needs will return to normal. Thus, “renting” two additional seats for just those three months is the perfect solution.

Enforcing Standards

Managing multiple users working from multiple locations doesn’t help when it comes to enforcing CAD standards. It increases the risk of CAD technicians using their own modified templates, changing settings that we try to standardize to keep a consistent and professional look to our drawings. SOLIDWORKS 2018 has new features to help manage CAD standards.

Prior to the 2018 release, users could not specify a file location for a general tables template. Now we can consolidate styles and formatting by specifying a path for the general tables template in the Systems Options under File Locations. Having a consistent look and feel to our drawings when our client receives them—regardless of which or how many CAD technicians worked on the project—goes a long way to ensuring a professional deliverable.

Another great feature in this category is the ability to update and synchronize settings and options across multiple machines. You even have two control options when doing this—manual or automatic. With the manual option, you upload your desired settings to the cloud storage service and then download them to all the other machines. The automatic option allows you to synchronize all your machines with the cloud storage service. If I update those settings, they will automatically be applied to the other machines upon their startup or login. I even have the ability to vary those synchronization settings per machine. I could set certain machines for manual download and other machines to automatic; and any settings I want to lock cannot be overwritten by the synchronization. This gives me the ability to be stricter about enforcement with newer CAD technicians or those who typically have difficulty following the standards.

Additional File Formats Supported

As I mentioned earlier, we have several different CAD software packages that we utilize based on the client and their project needs. In addition, we receive files from both clients and vendors in a myriad of different formats. So, the ability for our technicians to work with those file formats in the software platform that they are most comfortable with is a very important factor to us.

While not new to 2018, SOLIDWORKS 3D Interconnect got some great updates that further improve the ability to work with third-party native CAD data within SOLIDWORKS. 3D Interconnect was introduced in 2017 and replaced the prior translation capabilities, allowing you to:

  • Insert third-party CAD data directly into a SOLIDWORKS assembly without converting it to a SOLIDWORKS file.
  • Open the third-party 3D CAD format in the SOLIDWORKS software with its associative link to the original part.
  • Update changes in the SOLIDWORKS file if you update the third-party CAD data in its authoring application by maintaining all downstream features created in SOLIDWORKS.

This worked for platforms such as CATIA, Autodesk Inventor, PTC Creo and Solid Edge. The 2018 release now supports STEP, IGES and ACIS file formats as well. SOLIDWORKS 2018 3D Interconnect allows you to read reference planes, user-defined attributes or custom properties from any of these formats.

A PTC Creo part opened and edited in SOLIDWORKS. (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)

In addition to the capabilities of working with third-party CAD files listed above, SOLIDWORKS 2018 supports reading the following information as well:

  • Assembly cut features
  • Custom properties
  • Material properties
  • Unconsumed sketches and curves
  • Reference axes from CATIA V5 files only

Conclusion

Minimizing my time managing software means I will have more time to work with our CAD technicians, ensuring they are supported and empowered. It also gives me more time to help coordinate projects and build relationships with clients. SOLIDWORKS 2018 has both new and improved features that will help me accomplish just that.

Visit the SOLIDWORKS website for more information and a free demo.


About the Author

Jeffrey Heimgartner photo2
Jeffrey Heimgartner has more than 20 years of experience in the computer-aided drafting and design field. He manages the Lincoln, Nebraska-based drafting and design firm, Advanced Technical Services. His main responsibilities include managing the CAD team, sales, scheduling and coordinating projects, drafting and design, as well as marketing and all IT functions.

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