Monday we took a look at the interface enhancements for 2008. While there are things that can be improved, like being able to customize menus, I generally see it as an improvement because it gets you closer to your design. This is particularly important when you’re starting it out and that’s what we’re cooking up today.
SKETCHING AND FEATURES
Sketching is at the core of SolidWorks. It’s a sketch-dependent modeler. Everyone knows that right? You need 2D to make 3D. Sometimes I wish that wasn’t the case, because your feature is limited to what that sketch can do in the orientation it was created and the sequence in which they are created has to be well thought out.
I say all this because SolidWorks aim for 2008 is to, “focusing less on CAD and more on design.” How do you do that? I would say by completely eliminating sketches. I know, sounds crazy, but we still use them for now, so, while there is no evident shift away from SolidWorks being sketch-dependent, there are some great additions to make your sketching go faster and your features more robust.
With the additions made to Sketching and Feature when used in conjunction with the Interface enhancements you will be able to…
- Create your geometry easier
- Make changes dynamically
- Create and change features quicker
Create your geometry easier
I’m back and forth between 2007 and 2008 a lot through the day and I can tell you the sketch environment feels different. It’s easier in 2008. It’s like a calm sea. Ha. Not really. It wasn’t faster at first because I was use to moving all over the screen. Now I’m down on the sketch, in the model and away from the confirmation corner and the toolbars. It took getting use to, but now, I’m lovin’ it.
Some rectangles have been added and the property managers are cleaned up. Yep, not much new here, which is good. Most of the enhancements have been made toward how you use sketches. That being said, starting out a sketch in a new part still isn’t as intuitive as starting one when you already have a solid. If I select a sketch tool I wish the planes would light up so I can pick one to start on. This only happens if I have planes visible. Not a big deal, that’s just when you’re starting a sketch in a new part. However, once you have your initial solid you’re hardly ever off of it. This is great and has mostly to do with the new context menus that show up. Take a look.
One little extra thing that looks pretty cool is the ability to importing images to sketch planes. I’ve had only a few occasions to need this, but will use most likely use it to lay out some concepts. It will also be nice to have the ability to go back and forth from Photoshop with the new import/export .psd feature.
Make changes dynamically
Once you get you model going, things start to get a little more exciting, particularly if you’re conceptualizing. A new feature called Instant 3D allows you to modify you model based on the relations you have in the sketch. It’s kind of like a supped-up Move/Copy, but in some aspects it functions better. On parts created in 2008 you can change a boss to a cut and back, but you won’t be able to do it on models created in previous versions though. You can also create sections of parts and still change features. What would be cool is if it didn’t have to rely on the sketch so much, but still retain the ability to lock in constraints. If this tool is developed a little more, it has some real possibilities. Here are some shots.
Create and change features easier
You would think I’m referring to Instant 3D again, but I typically don’t work in under-constrained sketches, so I’m looking for functionality that helps me with things that are fully-defined. There are a few enhancements I’ve been waiting for that are finally here. The main ones that may interest you also are:
- Define a circular pattern by an edge
- Selection of multiple edges for fillets
- Reuse features from other parts
Defining a circular pattern was always a pain. Using an edge makes it really simple. What’s really nice about this is you can easily change the edge defining the pattern.
It seems like there’s always a fillet enhancement. This has been the best one yet in my opinion. If you didn’t use the Fillet Xpert in 07, you’ll want to in 08. You no longer have to pick every edge to fillet. You’ll get a selection box for different edge selections. The selection box isn’t the most descriptive, but just rolling over it cycles visually through the options. You can also choose alternates for corner blends.
With the search capable of looking all the way down to the sketches, you can now do a search for features you’ve used in the past. It also searches 3D content central so you can use parts and features others have created. This is really useful, but not a replacement for Library Features. It would be nice to have the ability to save searches or save features you commonly search for.
Like I said, working in 2008 has a different feel. If you’re wondering if it’s going to be a huge difference take a little time of actually working in and out of sketches and features and setting up things for how you work. I think you’ll find the environment becomes much more intuitive. Sketches and Features become easier to create and change because of additions mentioned above but mostly from how you will use the new context and shortcut menus. I like the additions they’ve made to sketches and features, but again I come back to hoping some more options are added to customize those context menus, so I can move as quickly as possible through each operation.
If you’ve done some beta testing, have you found the new sketch and feature additions to be helpful? How do you use them?