SOLIDWORKS 2016 Adds Tools to Help Simulations and Validation

General Improvements to SOLIDWORKS Simulation: Online and New UI


SOLIDWORKS 2016’s release has been announced and it includes a significant number of improvements to the platform’s simulation and validation tools.

Stephen Endersby, director of product portfolio management for SOLIDWORKS, joked that a lot of the advancements are “fundamental but not necessarily sexy. But we’ve done a lot of things with functionality that will enhance the experience of our power users.” As a result, expect evolution as opposed to revolution in the SOLIDWORKS 2016 release.

Perhaps the biggest difference that SOLIDWORKS Simulation users will notice is an overall change to the SOLIDWORKS UI. The improvements are targeted to work better with Windows 10 and higher resolution 4K and 5K monitors. Though users will need to spend some time getting reacquainted with icon locations, changes like the “breadcrumb” menus near the cursor promise a significant improvement to productivity between SOLIDWORKS 2015 and 2016.


One UI change specific to SOLIDWORKS Simulation, Flow Simulation and Plastics is the Analysis Preparation tab in the Command Manager. The tab appears when your active document is a part and you have one of the aforementioned SOLIDWORKS simulation tools added into your platform. The tab is preprogramed with frequently used tools and can be customized with user specified add-in icons.

Click here to find out more about the SOLIDWORKS UI improvements.

SOLIDWORKS Simulation has also made the jump to a browser-based system with SOLIDWORKS Online. “The online experience will be a great enhancement for SOLIDWORKS Simulation,” said Endersby. “We are still carving out the level of what you can do with simulation [on the cloud] but you can imagine that you can maximize your performance by configuring your machine online.”

Unfortunately, the function to configure your machine within SOLIDWORKS online isn’t available just yet; it’s something Endersby envisions in the future. “If I have all of the Amazon data centers to crunch my numbers then I can go pretty fast. So cloud is a huge enabler across the board,” he said.

Currently, SOLIDWORKS online is only available to a few test users and for trial-based sales purposes. There has yet to be an announcement for a wide release or licensing options.

Get Internal Insight of the Simulation with Mesh Sectioning


Expert simulation users will be excited to see that SOLIDWORKS Simulation now boasts a mesh-sectioning tool.

With this tool you can better understand and interpret results by looking into the internal mesh density. This should help users feel more confident about their results, and help make the needed mesh adjustments before running a simulation.

“The mesh sectioning is something a more advanced user will look into as they look to understand the stress gradient through a part,” said Endersby. “Mesh sectioning will ensure that the mesh is good enough through the thickness, not just along the surface.”

The tool allows users to create mesh plots to see result variations across elements. Plots can also be made based on elements clipped by a section plane.

“If I’m looking at fatigue or strain hardening,” said Endersby, “then all of these things are intrinsically coupled with material modeling and you need to know that gradient and where it is affected to mitigate the stresses created during manufacturing.”

Minimize Tension When Flattening Sheets for 3D Surfaces


SOLIDWORKS’ flatten tool was first released in 2015. Though not a simulation tool, strictly speaking, the updated version allows users to validate and reduce the tension of a flattened sheet for 3D surfaces.

For example, if you need to design a metal sheet to be bent into a boat hull, or a label to be placed on your curved surface, then this tool would be of some benefit.

“The tool creates a thin surface over an existing part and then it looks at the surface morphology,” said Endersby. “The relationships of every thin mesh there are flattened down into a nominal flat surface you define.”

Traditional FEA tools look at a material stress strain curve relationship between nodes and elements. On the other hand, the flatten tool looks at a thin sheet that is meshed but based on surface morphologies, not the material properties. In other words, the tool will create a mesh and attempt to minimize the tension between the nodes while flattening the surface.

As a result you can use the tool to see a deformation plot to detect the problem places, but you will not be able to determine the thinning of the material. You can see where holes are stretched from a circle to an oval and areas where tears and bubbles might form when molding the surface into a 3D shape. This helps users find optimal locations to cut the sheet to allow for more stretching.

Movement Simulations Define Loads without Artificial Stresses


SOLIDWORKS has also put some focus in sequencing and part movements. The new intermittent fixture capability allows users to activate and deactivate displacements over a selected time sequence in a nonlinear study.

With this tool you can sequence the movements of your parts to accurately calculate the loads needed to perform the movements without artificial stresses.

“The movements define the loads that the components are subjected too,” said Endersby. “Once you apply those loads you can use them in the part simulation.”

Endersby notes that these loads can be applied to the adaptive mesh function in SOLIDWORKS. “The adaptive mesh function will do another simulation with a refined mesh. It will look at two solutions and decide if there is a big change. This will iterate with the loads affecting the refinement of the mesh. This year we made sure that the base mesh is as good as possible so you don’t need as many refinements.”

SOLIDWORKS Plastics and Flow Simulation


SOLIDWORKS didn’t just stop with their Simulation suite. They also made some significant improvements to SOLIDWORKS Plastics and Flow Simulation.

In fact, Endersby’s favorite advancement this release was FLOW Simulation’s new transient solver.

“It will allow people to solve problems much faster than they used to before. Things will go from days to hours, hours to minutes. It’s a strong piece of technology.”

Improvements to the transient analysis allow users to:

• Speed up the calculations using nest iterations and large time steps
• Observe the flow field under time averaged results
• Save storage by saving transient data for specific parameters, instead of all parameters

As for SOLIDWORKS Plastics, the program has a new mesher. Per user requests, you can now create a high quality quadratic element mesh to improve the accuracy of warp analysis results.

According to SOLIDWORKS, the Plastics solver provides upwards of 20-30 percent improvement in speed and performance. The new flow solver can track flow fronts based on a compressive interface-capturing scheme for arbitrary meshes. Additionally, users can now control the number of CPU’s to run their SOLIDWORKS Plastics simulation.

SOLIDWORKS Plastics users will note that the software got its own UI update. This was done to ensure the software better conforms to the rest of the SOLIDWORKS family. As a result, users of SOLIDWORKS will not have to learn a new UI when they open SOLIDWORKS Plastics.

Other improvements to SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2016 include:

• Simulation

o An alternate curvature-based mesher with new algorithms
o Algorithm automatically bonds for non-touching shells within a certain distance
o Using bolts and pins on the same part
o Custom define colors, maxima and minima results in contour plots
o Detect under constrained bodies with animations based on active degrees of freedom
o Plot response graphs at the center of gravity to be treated as a remote mass for dynamic linear studies
o Equation driven results
o Improved solver error messages with links to solution articles
o More report publishing options

• Flow Simulation

o Mesh settings for uniform mesh, control planes and quality plots
o Mirror results around a 3D symmetrical model
o Import solar radiation study properties

• Plastics

o More readable report template
o Assigning a part as a runner domain

For more on what’s new in SOLIDWORKS 2016, follow their release notes. What is your favorite news from the SOLIDWORKS Simulation release? Comment below.

About the Author


Shawn Wasserman (@ShawnWasserman) is the Internet of Things (IoT) and Simulation Editor at He is passionate about ensuring engineers make the right decisions when using computer-aided engineering (CAE) software and IoT development tools. Shawn has a Masters in Bio-Engineering from the University of Guelph and a BASc in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.

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  1. […] SOLIDWORKS 2016 Adds Tools to Help Simulations and Validation. – Oct 27, 2015. General Improvements to SOLIDWORKS Simulation: Online and New UI. online isn't available just yet; it's something Endersby envisions in the future. Though not a simulation tool, strictly speaking, the updated version allows users to. o Improved solver error messages with links to solution articles […]

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