Do you know why its called “Complex Surfacing”? Because its complicated! I have spent several years specifically working with complex surfacing inside Solidworks.
For awhile now I have been working on concept cars, motorcycles, consumer products and general ‘shape-y’ type stuff. I love the parametric design process, and I deal with all aspects of Solidworks from API to Simulation to a lot of the options like Composer, Electrical etc, but my focus is always Complex Surfacing.
We all run into hurdles in the design process and the hurdles I have to help most people deal with is Surfacing. If you are crafty enough you can work around most hurdles, but everyone knows that there are Parametric CAD programs and then Surfacing programs, and unfortunately for good reason. Sure you can spends lots of money and get them wrapped up into one, but there is a better (and cheaper) way!
Years ago at Solidworks World I heard about some 3rd party plugins coming to the market that helped with this surfacing enigma most of us find inside Solidworks. Even though I consider myself as somewhat of a surfacing expert, I am sad to say that it wasn’t until recently that I gave in and began looking into the plugin support options for surfacing.
Within about 10 minutes I made something, and no I don’t mean just a blob. I was able to make a pretty ‘shape-y’ car mirror. Within 15 minutes I was hooked and contacted the president of the company. The reason is that this program gave me so much freedom to create complex organic shapes right inside of Solidworks. I didn’t have to model something in another progam and have a “dump solid” in my tree, but it gets better! You can go back and edit this single feature in your tree and have the rest of your tree update like any other feature. That alone is priceless! Now lets talk about the nitty gritty stuff.
The program is called Power Surfacing from nPower. The software works in the background and has its own tab in your command manager as well as a drop down menu up top. Your shortcut key or a ‘right-click’ can access the tools you need as well as the previously mentioned menus. Accessing the tools within your existing SolidWorks UI is that simple. The workflow might take a little adjustment if you have never worked with SubDivided modeling before, but you will pick it up quickly!
To test the real power of Power Surfacing, I did a case study on a concept Ferrari front fender:
Just the front half of the front fender done by conventional means in SolidWorks took 78 features and had a near-4 second rebuild time. For such a small part of the car, details like this matter:
When the same section was created with Power Surfacing, there was a 0 second rebuild time:
…Not only that, but it was also produced much quicker. I would say once you have the process down you can create the base complex geometry in at least ¼ of the time. Of course the small details still need to be done the conventional way, but the shape-y stuff just got supercharged. For those interested, I will be releasing a video tutorial of the process soon and it will be featured here on SolidSmack.
The program is an amazing asset for anyone working with complex shapes in Solidworks. Not just surfaces, because that’s only one part of it. The main focus is actually starting with primitives like Cones, Boxes and Cylinders then making a solid body out of these. You can quickly and easily make your organic Class A surfaces and shapes with the freedom needed rather than making up to 10 sketches per feature just to get those complex shapes right.And how many times have you made that really cool surface in Solidworks only to have it fail during a thicken or shell? No more! You can thicken right in Power Surfacing and manually control the inside and outside faces of the thicken if there are problem areas.
nPower is going to release a version 2.0 soon that has some great additions as well. I don’t want to spill the beans just yet but I am looking forward to the updates and you should too!
Now I don’t want you to walk away thinking it does the work for you. You still have to understand the process and use the tools properly. It is just like any other tool, but I think the SubD methodology is going to be much more freeing to product designers.
Matt likes long walks on the beach, Supermoto and Computer Aided Design. He spends his nights as an Applications Expert for SolidBox tacking Engineering Projects and training users how to use Solidworks to its fullest. Armed with some duct tape, paperclips and Solidworks, Matt is ready to solve any problem!