Today, SolidWorks 2015 peels itself from the cocoon of the Dassault dev chamber and releases itself into the loving arms of users around the world. (Fly free, fresh software, fly free.) Adam, Simon and I were flown to Boston last week to snuggle up around a conference table at the SolidWorks Corp HQ in Waltham, Mass to hear about development plans, new software products and get a look at what’s hot in the new version of SolidWorks. What seems like a regular ol’ release with regular ol’ updates to this feature and that, turned into a few moments of slapping each other’s saggy jowls with shock, both about the features in this version of SolidWorks and what we found out about the SolidWorks development path.

What are the new features in SolidWorks 2015?

How do you sum up all the new features in SolidWorks 2015? Well, if you’re the Twitter’ing type, you can see our real-time reactions here. But for the click-fatigued among you, we’ve compiled a nice little list for you to zip through–clickety-clack not required, just let that scroll wheel fly.

  1. Choirs of Angles Sing: Surface unwrapping comes to SolidWorks

    Unicorns lift their dazzling ornaments aloft in triumph! A long-standing user request has finally come to fruition as of 2015: the ability to “unwrap” a surface onto a flat plane. The math-heads among us will point out that the process of flattening a surface with compound curvature will always involve distortion, and as such can never be really, reliably “accurate,” but hey, that’s why God made sandpaper.

    Flatten_surface1That right there is a surface. A surface being flattened.

  2. Tears of Joy: The “Split” tool can now split surface bodies

    That’s right, kiddos, no more “offset zero and split twice” gallimaufry: if you want to split one surface into two, you can now use the “Split” tool. Single clicky, BOOM, Adam smashes face against desk repeatedly in a combination of sheer joy and mourning as he reflects on the lost years of his life up to this day.

  3. Who’s Your Daddy: Parent/Child relationship appear in the Feature Tree

    Hover over any feature in the tree and its parents and children will be highlighted as well. This made us happy in ways we can’t discuss here on SolidSmack. We could do without the silly curling blue arrows pointing every which way–a simple highlight would have sufficed–but we applaud the extra effort.

  4. We love it: “Open Part In Position” is not as dirty as it sounds

    This one was a welcome surprise: when working in an assembly or drawing, you can select any part and “Open Part in Position” to open said part in a new window with the current viewport orientation and zoom–Hello you sexy beast part. This is a fantastic workflow improvement for… well… pretty much everybody. Merry Early Christmas.

  5. Serious dev love: The mighty, mighty “Move Face” tool

    Another chunk of red meat for the modelers out there: Move faces around via triad or dimension in the graphics view, or, even better, use End Conditions (Up to Surface, Vertex, Body Offset, etc.) Hally-frickin’-Looeya.* (*Spelled the way Josh pronounces the word.)

  6. Your new best friend: Profile Center Mate

    Center two face with each other, with one mate. Done. (Jazz Hands!) This one will seriously make many-a-CAD-monkey wiggle and writhe in Uriah Heep delight.

    Profile-mate1Profile Center Mate

  7. Drastically reduced file sizes = Happy Hard Drives

    Does anybody care about storage size anymore? We do. And SW2015 delivers a whopping 50-80% file size reduction for typical assemblies, and 30-50% for parts. Sure, this results in a 3-5% performance hit on opening said files, but that’s a price we’re willing to pay.

  8. Senses you flailing: Automatic Selection Filters

    This one’s tiny, but brilliant: Solidworks senses you trying to select a small face, and helps by briefly switching to face filter. The days of zooming waaaaaaaaay, way in just to select a tiny face rather than its edges? Over.

    SelectionSet1Better selections

  9. Patrick Swayze approved: Ghost preview for hidden parts

    Sometimes you’ve got 37 hidden parts, and you want to find a specific one. Tell me if this sounds familiar: “Show, Hide. Show, Hide. Show, Hide. Show, Hide. Show… EUREKA.” No longer, friends. As of SolidWorks 2015, if you select a hidden component in the tree, it temporarily appears in ghost form. YES.

  10. Hive-five, fist bump: The other million improvements

    That’s right, our 10th favorite new feature? The other Million. We’ll list a few more of them below for the feature freaks to enjoy, but hey, you’ve got the Beta and daily injections at lunchtime anyway, right? We’ll just say this, all the features we’ve seen and tried out round out current functionality to make the modeling process way smoother and way faster. Here are a few others you will want to use in the workflow.

A few more SolidWorks 2015 features we love:

  • Temporary mate fix

    When dragging a chain of assembled parts, it can be hard to control which ones move and which ones stay put. Now you can temporarily fix any part in the chain while positioning other parts, but without creating a lasting ‘Fix’ constraint that has to be deleted later. When Jeremy Regnerus of SolidWorks showed this, we’re pretty sure there was a halo glowing around his head. It was crazy.

  • Make independent

    Oh man, we be lovin’ this one to the ends of the earth and back. It’s just like ‘make independent’ used to work on Virtual Components, but now with actual file-based part files–It’s a thing of beauty.

  • Isolate parts based on a mate

    This one’s great: Select a mate in the tree, and SolidWorks 2015 can isolate the parts involved in that mate. Pure Zen.

  • Custom right-click menus

    You know those little HUD menus that pop up when you click stuff? Customize ’em. Bam.

    Shortcut-Toolbar-CustomizationContext-sensitive Toolbars

  • Selection sets

    Selection sets now include faces, edges, features, bodies, ANYTHING! (Mwwwahahahahaaaaaaa) Selection sets when combined with exploded views are pure sweetness. Radial exploded views? Also sick.

  • Zonal section views

    Multi-axis and volume-based “Zonal” section views now support three-quarter views and partial cutaways. Yup, you just upped your design review game.

  • Model break views

    Create multiple model break views with customizable spacing, end styles, etc. right on the 3D model. Thank you sir, may I have another.

  • Create sketch relations on the fly

    Adding sketch constrains as you draw? Hello! No more “Esc to drop selection, select two things, add constraint, then continue drawing” nonsense. Oh, and you know what else? Solidworks also highlights correct horizontal/vertical relation in pop-up menu. GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA (Adam’s “Happy Caveman” yell.)

  • Rectangles

    All rectangles,not just centerpoint rectangles, have the option to include centerlines through the corners, or through midpoints. Five people and a small chihuahua started hyperventilating at this point in the demo. It was embarrassing.

  • Midpoint lines

    New midpoint line goes back to regular line after first use. Nice.

  • Linear pattern up to reference

    YES. PLEASE. Select an end face, choose a spacing or number of instances and an offset distance. No more ‘curve driven pattern’ workaround silliness, just proper patterning the way it always should have been. Gorgeous.

  • Segment Sketching

    Segment lines and arcs. ’nuff said.

  • Delete instances

    Select instances in pattern and hit delete. The pattern is edited to skip those instances without you having to going into that PropertyManager thingy.

  • Variable pattern

    Adjust each pattern feature independent of the other. Pretty sure, all the SolidWorks user glut constriction on the excitement of this shifted the Earth’s tectonic plates.

  • Width Mates

    Ability to select limit, free, dimension or percent. Simple, easy and solves so many workarounds. Gotta admit, this one melted our brains a little bit. Not sure what happened for the better part of six minutes.

  • Interference detection

    Sort interference by largest to smallest, and ignore any interference smaller than a certain value. Super handy.

  • Confirm delete

    Select which mates to delete when you delete a part. Why didn’t SolidWorks think of this? Now they have.

  • Drawing leaders

    New option to turn balloon and note leader lines into adjustable splines. Good for patent drawings and freaking out the drawing checker.

  • Drawing zones

    Zone lines are actually useful on drawings now, showing up in BOM after set in Sheet Properties, Zone Parameters. And guess what? Evn the locations labels update. Boy howdy!

  • Rounding options

    Decimal rounding options to round up or down. So easy to cheat now without modifying the dimension!

  • Reattach centermarks

    Little brown centermarks sitting off in space. Happens all the time right? Reattach centermarks that have gone dangling and right-click select, Add to Centermarks to add more.

  • Zoom to Sheet

    Zoom the viewport to the sheet even with drawing views outside the sheet. No more hiding views! (Unless you want to.)

  • Paragraph Properties

    New indent and spacing options for notes. Handy for writing your novel, a blog post or response to this post while drafting.

  • eDrawings

    Completely new interface to match the eDrawings apps with a heads-up toolbar just like in SolidWorks.

  • The Other Stuff

    Are you seriously still reading this nonsense? Go check it out.

What Other SolidWorks Products are Coming?

SolidWorks 2015 isn’t the only item on the delivery dock. Dassault is building out the product portfolio on the SolidWorks side to the point it will have you thinking what’s to come. (It did for us.) There are now 26 products total in the SolidWorks product portfolio and room for talk of more. Here’s how the products lay out through the product development process. Image courtesy: Daniel Herzberg. (I know, we’re working on getting a better quality shot.)

solidworks-product-portfolio

MySolidWorks
First up is MySolidWorks, the website “for all things SOLIDWORKS.” Consider it the ‘Google’ for all of your SolidWorks-related needs… at least that’s what they tell us. To be honest we’ve never seen the benefit, but they’re really adamant that it’s a big step forward for SolidWorks users. (Shrug.) We have yet to be convinced. That said, they’ve added a lot more functionality to the site. They’ll be mixin’ together different cloud services from communication, sourcing (Manufacturer Network) to storage (MySolidWorks Drive) and sharing. MySolidWorks Drive is perhaps the most interesting with the ability to link any other online storage, including Box and Dropbox. It will come in three flavors: Base, Standard and Professional with Drive and Manf Network starting with the Standard version.

MySolidWorksMySolidWorks

SolidWorks Treehouse
Remember this from SolidWorks Labs, oh, about five years ago? Well, it’s back with a vengeance. With it you can build out the structure of your assembly before you even start a new part or assembly. You can add new parts and assemblies, existing parts and assemblies, and configuration information. You also have the option of dragging and dropping in an existing assembly to Treehouse, seeing it broken out with the option to add additional parts and assemblies. This one’s actually going to be a favorite new feature for many-a-SolidWorkser (can we start calling SW users “SolidWorksers”? Please?) Seriously, it’s pretty great: think of it like building your BOM before you even start modeling or, if you projectile vomit when you hear words like “BOM”, think of it like writing down the ingredients before you start trying to bake your cake. It just makes sense.

TreehouseSolidWorks Treehouse

SolidWorks Model Based Definition
SolidWorks is definitely ticking the box for Model Based Definition (MBD) with their very own product called SolidWorks Model Based Definition. While this is mostly relevant for DOD contractors at the moment, in the long run it’s clear that paper drawings will eventually be phased out in favor of some kind of 3D MBD. Not in the near-term, mind you, but eventually. Exciting? Meh.

Collaborative Sharing
This was subtle, but kinda big news. SolidWorks 2015 can now connect directly to the 3D Experience cloud, finally allowing it to interface directly with products like Mechanical Conceptual and Industrial Conceptual–at least in theory. This kind of Cloudy-Local hybrid is definitely going to be an important stepping stone as we move toward more connected MCAD workflows, and its nice to see that being recognized here. We’ve yet to see what this actually looks like, but the fact that it exists at all is a pleasant surprise.

solidworks-mbd

SolidWorks Industrial Conceptual

Don’t be thrown by the ridiculously long and deceptively nondescript (and oddly French sounding) grammatical mashup that is “SolidWorks Industrial Conceptual”: we’re actually pretty excited to get our hands on this bad boy. And yes, like the equally polysyllabic jumble that is “SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual,” it is a separate product on the “3DEXPERIENCE” platform (read: cloud), and is, for all practical purposes, completely separate from SolidWorks. That said, it looks really cool–cool enough, even, that we’d be more than willing to use a separate product if it meant having access to some of the juicy goodness we’ve been seeing. The plan from SolidWorks is to release SWIC in Q1 2015. Our guess is at SolidWorks World 2015.

Update: Things are looking promising: we **just might** be getting a demo machine pre-configured with SWIC on it for open review. That’s right, we’ll be doing a demo right here on The Smack just as soon as we can get our hands on it. Should be a gas. Stay tuned.

SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual

Ah, almost forgot. The ridiculously over-priced SolidWorks “Companion” product with zero interoperability and a name not even a mother could love? Yeah, they’re still going with it. And as for interop, it’s actually gotten some love on that front as well, since SolidWorks 2015 can now import quite a lot of data (mates, etc) from SWMC assemblies directly via the 3DEXPERIENCE link. It’s a cool product from a technical standpoint, so we’d be happy to see it become accessible to the typical SW user.

On a side note, we’ve actually been hunting high and low for SWMC customers to interview, and haven’t yet encountered one in the wild. That should speak volumes by itself. However, we’ve heard rumblings from afar to indicate they may have finally gotten the message on the pricing issue, so there may be changes on the way.

What do we think?

SolidWorks 2015 is, to our surprise and delight, one of the most solid releases to date with enough extra feature meat to chew on for a good long while. All the new features that we’ve tested during beta and have seen use examples of, are all features that would be used by the broadest sample of SolidWorks users across industries. It’s surprising because a lot of people thought (or wanted to think) that SolidWorks as we know it was being phased out. Bertrand Sicot, SolidWorks CEO, reinforced during the launch event that SolidWorks would “be around for 15 years, maybe longer.” They are, however, gradually shifting to more products in the product portfolio, allowing people to adapt to the whole 3DEXPERIENCE platform and how it handles data. While their Product Portfolio Powerpoint slide is filling up, the shift in product offering, pricing and how companies/independents will benefit is still something that hasn’t been communicated so well. Therein lies the mystery around the future of SolidWorks. The 2015 release is reassuring that they are still committed to dishing out the useful features to make product development a nicer place to be. If you’ve thought SolidWorks hasn’t had any dramatic updates in the past, be assured that SolidWorks 2015 is one of the most worthwhile updates we’ve seen from them in a few years.

Now everybody watch this video, point, and laugh:

Head over to the SolidWorks site to stay updated.

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