The Top Ten Hits of SOLIDWORKS 2021

SOLIDWORKS just gave us our first taste of the latest release – SOLIDWORKS 2021. They showed dozens of enhancements during a recent live stream. Our hot take follows.

While there’s nothing 100% new in SOLIDWORKS 2021, it is so good you can’t miss it! It has some of the most significant improvements ever, earning SOLIDWORKS 2021 the title of the best release yet.

As you can see from the agenda, this live stream lists all the greatest hits of SOLIDWORKS. They showed the improvements to things including the UI, Parts, Assemblies and Drawings. We’ll break this down and touch on some of the biggest improvements to the tool and come up with the top 10 best enhancements.

Quality & Performance

The amount of time given to SOLIDWORKS R&D was impressive. The event began with John Sweeny, the Senior Director for Product Development at SOLIDWORKS, who had 20% of the program to personify the improvements to quality and performance showcased in SOLIDWORKS 2021.

Every year at about this time the entire SOLIDWORKS community gets together to wait with eager anticipation of brand-new tools or features, giving them a compelling reason to upgrade. Something like a new simulation tool, or perhaps a surfacing feature or even a sheet metal or weldment tool. But shiny new bells and whistles like those won’t make a huge impact on every user—not like 2021’s performance improvements.

The can’t-miss improvement to SOLIDWORKS 2021 is performance. The enhancements to quality and performance in SOLIDWORKS 2021 will improve the life of every single user.

10. Enhanced Graphics Performance

SOLIDWORKS 2021 is the culmination of a multiyear effort to completely rearchitect the entire graphics engine. This is what drives the model and essentially paints the pixels on the screen. It is covered in “Enhanced graphics performance” in the system options.

The enhanced graphics option has been there for three years now. It was first introduced in SOLIDWORKS 2019, but to take advantage of it you had to know it was there. Many users never saw it. With SOLIDWORKS 2021 this option is on by default and it’s available for parts, assemblies and even drawings. Right out of the box, SOLIDWORKS 2021 will have significant performance improvements for all users with a certified graphics card.  During the live stream, they showed off some impressive time savings with this option.

9. Collapsible Command Manager

By collapsing the Command Manager, users can now work in a simpler environment—taking advantage of every pixel on the screen for designing.

This doesn’t just clear the clutter, but makes it easier to use, especially on a smaller screen like you might have at your home office. To me, there’s an elegance in the simplicity of a UI with nothing distracting you from your model.

8. Search for Commands in Customize

Although this functionality was shown using the Shortcut Bar (S-key), it is not exclusive to the Shortcut Bar. You can use the search bar to search for commands to customize the Command Manager and even the Heads-Up Display.

Although many power users already take advantage of customizing their commands, this new feature in SOLIDWORKS 2021 makes it easier for even beginners on day one to customize the interface and work how they want.

7. Evaluate Equations in Custom Properties and Cut Lists

With SOLIDWORKS 2021, custom properties now natively support equations, which are fundamental to intelligent parametric design.

6. Color Picker for Appearances

The new color picker tool makes an appearance, and with it you can get the right color for your parts. Use the color picker to mouse over and select a color on anything on your computer’s display—a website, PDF or any document.

5. Flip Mate Alignment Default Option

By setting the default option for “flip mate alignment” in assemblies, you can minimize the number of things that can get in the way and reduce productivity.

We all have been in the situation at least once where you are building an assembly by putting the pieces together using mates. It happens when the alignment of previously defined mates need to be switched or over define the assembly. With SOLIDWORKS 2021, the default response to the dialog box asking if you want “to change mate alignment” can be set as a default system option, thus removing one dialogue box interruption from your mental workflow.

4. Export Interferences to Excel

Automatic interference detection has always been a key advantage of solid modeling over 2D, 3D wireframe and surface modeling. Solid modeling has allowed us to put our parts together and see how they interact in 3D. SOLIDWORKS 2021 expands on the capabilities of interference detection.

You can take interference detection a step further and export an Excel sheet of each interference along with a thumbnail image to visualize the interference. This will make design review meetings or collaborating with colleagues or clients much easier.

3. Save Silhouette Defeature as a Configuration

The Silhouette Defeature had some of its capabilities extended with SOLIDWORKS 2021. Now instead of just a separate file, a simplified “silhouette,” or outer surface of the model can be captured in a configuration, making an already powerful process much more useable.

2. Dynamically Load Lightweight Components

When working with assemblies opened in lightweight mode in SOLIDWORKS 2021, the components resolve automatically by simply expanding the item in the Feature Manager. This removes a big downside to lightweight mode and sets up users for incredible performance gains in SOLIDWORKS 2021.

1. Detailing Mode for Drawings

Detailing mode for drawings, introduced in SOLIDWORKS 2020, has been greatly enhanced in SOLIDWORKS 2021. You can open massive drawings in seconds.

The drawing shown was made from a 2,400-part assembly with multiple sheets and many drawing views. It opened in less than 5 seconds. Just remember it’s a drawing “mode,” meaning there is a list of things you can’t do. However, that list got a lot smaller this year as the capabilities of detailing mode were expanded. With SOLIDWORKS 2021, here’s what detailing mode can do:

  • Create and modify break views.
  • Create and modify crop views.
  • Create and modify detail views.
  • Add dimensions and annotations to those views.
  • Add and edit hole callouts.
  • Edit dimension tolerance values.
  • Edit dimension characteristics.
  • Add and remove dimensions in sets of chain and baseline dimensions.
  • Edit annotation characteristics.

Essentially, you can detail your drawing. It’s especially useful for those times you just want to open up the drawing, look at it and maybe move some things around. If you need capabilities beyond the detailing mode, no problem. You can always resolve the drawing and get the full drawing capabilities.

For more about SOLIDWORKS simulation-driven design, check out the whitepaper Design Through Analysis: Today’s Designers Greatly Benefit From Simulation-Driven Product Development.

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