What’s New in SOLIDWORKS 2017: Chamfer, Fillet and Advanced Hole Features
SOLIDWORKS 2017 has officially been announced. In this latest edition, the engineers at Dassault Systèmes have paid special attention to user demands and implemented a number of new tools intended to speed up design workflows, lending engineers more modeling power.
Create multi-distance chamfers in a single command. (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)
Chamfer Updates Reduce Features, Design Times
To kick off the release, SOLIDWORKS has improved its Chamfer tool by adding many of the powerful features that you find in the Fillet tool. One of the most important additions to the Chamfer toolset is the new Look tool that gives users the ability to create multi-distance chamfers in a single operation. All a user has to do is select an edge, click the corresponding parameter dialog and key in the desired distance.
With the ability to set multiple chamfers in a single command, designers can cut the number of features in their feature tree all the way down to one. Not only does that make future interrogation of a design much easier, but it can also make it importing a part into a simulation software or geometry conversion tool much easier and less computationally intensive.
Beyond multi-distance chamfers, 2017 also includes a tool to make creating variable chamfers quick and easy. To create a variable chamfer users can simple select two face sets and the edges of a component, define a hold line and then hit “Okay.” With this new tool, the amount of work that was previously required to create the same feature can be tossed to the wayside. Variable chamfers are now simple to create.
Need a Fillet Where That Chamfer Used to Be?
Another powerful addition to this SOLIDWORKS update is the ability to change any chamfer to a fillet and vice versa. With this tool, any round or edge can be converted by defining a few variables.
Now, at face value, that might not seem like a huge improvement. However, if you’ve ever had to go back through a feature tree, change a fillet to a chamfer and watch many of the subsequent features crash, you know that this kind of quick and easy substitution can be a huge time-saver.
As an aside, whenever possible, save chamfers and fillets for the final features in a design. By doing so you can save a lot of headaches down the line, and it’s just sound modeling practice. That being said, it’s great that 2017 now has an escape hatch for those who are stuck toggling between chamfers and fillets.
Advanced Hole Enhancements
Complex holes can be created using a single command. They can also be saved for later use. (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)
The Advance Hole tool up close. (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)
Another useful new modeling features in 2017, the engineers at Dassault Systèmes have added a powerful new tool for creating complex, multi-diameter holes.
In previous versions of the software, if a designer needed to create a hole that had multiple diameters they’d have to create multiple features, or a complex revolve cut, to achieve their desired result. Well, in SOLIDWORKS 2017, users can create multiple diameter hollows within a single hole command.
Armed with a new fly-out pane, the Advanced Hole tool puts several types of hole definitions (tapped, counterbore, counter sunk, etc.) at a designer’s fingertips. Regardless of how many transitions a hole needs to undergo during its path, designers can add additional steps to the hole definition, changing the way the hole will be bored through their design. Regardless of whether a hole needs to taper or expand, the Advanced Hole tool can make that happen.
Though simplifying hole creation is valuable, the most powerful aspect of the Advanced Hole feature is its ability to save time. Because this new tool can group all of the diameters of an advanced hole into a single feature, that feature can then be saved as a “favorite” in the Advanced Hole fly-out so that it can be called out later in the design process.
If complex holes need to be repeated in a design, all a user has to do is call upon one of their tried and true favorites.
My Takeaway from SOLIDWORKS 2017
The latest edition of SOLIDWORKS has some great new features and most of the changes are refinements suggested by users. This alone points to the fact that SOLIDWORKS is a refined CAD package and the company realizes that it needs to continue to improve with every release.
However, relying strictly on incremental improvements is not good enough. While it’s important for a company like DS to address what its users need—after all, users are the best at road-testing a piece of software and delivering keen insight—it isn’t necessarily enough just to answer requests for enhancements.
It takes more than that to do something innovative. Software development teams should be taking a visionary approach to CAD modeling, imagining new paradigms and creating a deeper view of the future.
To that end, DS has been looking at the entire design-to-manufacturing process and how it can be improved. The company is focused on providing tools not just for design, but for what DS calls the entire design-to-manufacturing ecosystem.
For example, take a look at the new 3D Interconnect tool in SOLIDWORKS 2017. It allows users to use native CAD data from other 3D CAD systems directly inside SOLIDWORKS, meaning it’s possible to build an assembly or make a mold from parts and components from various CAD systems. Previously, these files had to be converted, but because they can stay in their native format, updates made to non-SOLIDWORKS parts will be automatically updated in SOLIDWORKS.
It’s also worth noting that the software is committed to MBD, which is useful for users who are moving away from 2D CAD drawings. Product design doesn’t end with 2D drawings anymore, so design software needs to be much more than a tool for creating geometry. It needs to allow integration with all aspects of design and manufacturing. MBD, which has its own set of enhancements for 2017, enables users to make design changes late in the product development cycle and have those changes ripple through to manufacturing. This will help free designers up to make continuous improvements on a design right up to the last minute. Design and manufacturing tools need to be more integrated, more flexible and faster to incorporate these changes.
The bulk of the improvements in 2017 are loaded into improvements in simulation, drawing, PCB design and much more. With those improvements, Dassault Systèmes is building out an end-to-end product design tool. And who can blame the company? End-to-end CAD software is the future and 2017 is making good strides at being the be-all-end-all for product designers and manufacturers.
I do hope, however, that as new tools like virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) begin to grow in popularity, they aren’t ignored. Adding that type of user interface and feature control could be groundbreaking for the design industry. We’ve seen the start of this integration with the introduction of VR in eDrawings this year, but hopefully we’ll begin to see the big names in CAD like Dassault addressing this emerging wave of technology in the more complex modeling stages in future releases.
About the Author
Kyle Maxey is a mechanical designer and writer from Austin, TX. He earned a degree in Film at Bard College and has since studied Mechanical and Architectural drafting at Austin Community College. As a designer Kyle has had vast experience with CAD software and rapid prototyping. One day he dreams of becoming a toy designer.