Well, props to the mom’s of 1,000,000+ designers and engineers who, for reasons unbeknownst to them, gave a collective high-five from the sheer excitement of their sons and daughters learning SOLIDWORKS 2018 was indeed released and now available.


If you had to sum up SOLIDWORKS 2018 in one sentence, you would say, ‘SOLIDWORKS 2018 is a robo-ninja CAD-artillery mech with auto-deploy model-to-manufacturing melee battle action and the flexibility of jointless machine tool operator.” If that didn’t explain things sufficiently, you can say, “Look, SOLIDWORKS captures the whole scope from prototype to manufacturing with new mesh data manipulation, sheet metal features, generative design and topology studies, model-based definition and inspection capabilities, and more ways to capture it all with branching and merging in SOLIDWORKS PDM, process management in SOLIDWORKS Manage, and automated PDF creation.”

Here’s a quick introduction if you only have 2 minutes 35 seconds before the noodles on your stovetop start boiling (keep an eye on the mouse cursor):

YouTube video

Now, if that video answered none of your questions about the new features actually in SOLIDWORKS 2018, let take a look at some of the highlights.

SOLIDWORKS 2018 Features

Mesh Bodies

In SOLIDWORKS 2018 you can import mesh data, turn mesh surfaces into SolidWorks surfaces, and convert mesh data and solid bodies into Mesh Bodies. The Mesh bodies show up in a Graphic Bodies folder in the Feature Manager (below the Surface Bodies and Solid Bodies folders). Though you can’t work the mesh like a 3d poly editor, you can use other SolidWorks features on the mesh body.

YouTube video

Tab and Slot Feature for Sheet Metal

Huge. SOLIDWORKS 2018 has a new Tab and Slot (aka Mortise and Tenon) feature that creates both in one go. This is at the part level though, so you’ll still need to position a tab and a slots for separate parts (hint: drive both with a sketch). Still, this feature will save an enormous amount of time for tab and slot creation on single parts.

YouTube video

Assembly Features

SOLIDWORKS 2018 now allows you to rotate linear pattern instances. You can use the Alt-key to hide surface to select others geometry for mates and override mates that go all wonky. When you create exploded views you now have the option to add Smart Explode Lines with a lil’ click and a chuckle.

YouTube video

3D CAD Interoperability

You now have neutral file format import support, no need to translate STEP, IGES, ACIS, and JT. If you’re migrating to SolidWorks, your legacy data will come in with all that sweet meta data/custom properties and even reference geometry in some cases.

YouTube video

Touch Device Sketching

SOLIDWORKS meet hand, hand meet SOLIDWORKS. Wacom users will LOVE this as will those who can draw with a twitching finger reasonably well after five cups of coffee and 12 hours at work. The new Pen commands are available under the new Sketch Ink menu. You can select Pen color, size, trigger Auto Shape, or toggle Auto Sketch Entity, which turns it immediately into a sketch entity.

YouTube video

Model Based Definition Updates

More MBD in the Monitor. You can add datum features to patterns and define an overall profile tolerance. There’s also support for the import of annotations from other software like PTC Creo, Siemens NX, CATIA and also for STEP. On top of this, SOLIDWORKS Inspection can grab that data to create inspection documentation for SOLIDWORKS files and the other CAD formats. It also gets integrated with SOLIDWORKS PDM.

YouTube video

Branch & Merge

Yes, you will use this – if you use SOLIDWORKS PDM, that is. It now allows you to branch (create a new file version) and merge (use a selected file version). From the Vault you simply right-click to Branch a part/assembly or right-click and Merge the preferred part/assembly. Totally removes the need for all that save as, replace reference trickery you’ve gotten so good at over the past 10-20 years.

YouTube video


SOLIDWORKS CAM, powered by CAMWorks, is completely integrated inside SOLIDWORKS. It has the feature recognition capabilities with the mill setup laid out automatically. You can go on to generate a plan and toolpath or simulate the toolpath process. Along with this, the CNC operations can be generated directly from GD&T applied to the 3D model based on tolerances you’ve set up.

YouTube video


SOLIDWORKS Manage is a new file-based process management tool to help handle change requests, change orders, notices and provide a better scope of where everything is at. It’s in between PDM + ad-hoc excel, binder system you use now and a full-blown PLM system. Here’s how they explain it:

SOLIDWORKS Manage combines the ease of use and familiar Windows® Explorer interface of SOLIDWORKS PDM with advanced capabilities that allow teams to manage project timelines and resources, complex business processes, and advanced item management.

SOLIDWORKS Manage takes the place of the separate disconnected tools that an organization might use to manage engineering resources and processes. It is compatible with many existing tools, and works to more efficiently and effectively maintain the integrity of enterprise information.

There’s loads in this release of SOLIDWORKS, and plenty we’ve not even touched on. They had over 240 features and improvements added with over 50% of those CAD related. The user interface also has some great new enhancements from a new welcome window to color coded folders, improved selection and up to 12 mouse gestures now. You’ll want to check out the Simulation tools as well if you have that as it now has Topology Study and Generative Design capabilities. Oh, and if you’re wondering about licensing updates, they’ve moved it online to allow faster setup of SOLIDWORKS on any machine.

SOLIDWORKS officially releases September 26th, so be on the lookout for launch events and those upgrade notifications. There’s more on the new features and a hefty amount of eBooks to read at launch.solidworks.com. We would love to know your fav new feature. Let us know in the comments!



Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.