"What do I really need SOLIDWORKS for?" This is a question I receive far more often than you would think. Yeah, if you are a product engineer or designer it's a pretty simple question to answer, but many are unaware of all the ancillary products SOLIDWORKS has to offer. The SOLIDWORKS product line stretches well beyond the design areas of your business, and if utilized effectively, it can improve the performance of departments all across your company. So, who really should be using SOLIDWORKS? Let's find out.
Engineers, designers and drafters
SOLIDWORKS has a wide-ranging portfolio that covers many different applications and functionalities. This first section will simply cover the core CAD package and focus on who can improve their productivity through the base-level offerings.
At its heart, SOLIDWORKS provides powerful design capabilities in an easy-to-use interface. Designers and makers are given the controls to capture and understand design intent however they see fit.
For starters, design teams across the industry spectrum can use SOLIDWORKS. Whether it’s sheet metal, molded, milled, or a welded structural system and beyond, SOLIDWORKS has the ability to take your part design to the next level.
SOLIDWORKS can take those parts and verify fit and function by placing them into an assembly environment. The assemblies can be flexible to confirm proper operating range of motion as well. Assemblies also automatically create a bill of materials for easy documentation.
Both parts and assemblies can have production-level 2D drawings created from them. These drawings link back to the source parts and assemblies to ensure that any downstream changes will dynamically reflect back into the drawing. This ensures that revisions don’t get lost in translation between functional groups.
This group will use the fully integrated SOLIDWORKS Simulation add-in to test the models for structural integrity. Fixtures, loads and connections are added to the models, and the completed study will provide analysis tools to understand and fix structural problems in a virtual environment. Modules for Simulation include structural (linear or nonlinear, static or dynamic), thermal, frequency and more. Paired with several optimization tools, the Simulation suite of products is very robust.
The Flow Simulation package allows for CFD studies with fluid flow and a Plastics package tests mold flow for plastic part design manufacturability.
These tools allow for teams to bypass much of the prototyping phase by testing any number of iterations before a physical product is built.
Built-in CAM solutions provide users the ability to program for milling, turning, Laser, Plasma and Waterjet processes. It uses rules-based machining that the software learns as the user provides more input. This Knowledge Based Machining streamlines the programming process and saves the user time.
SOLIDWORKS has a home for those who administer data and procedures as well. The Product Data Management (PDM) products have solutions to synchronize the processes and files relevant to different groups in an organization. The tools allow users to share information and collaborate on product designs. It does all of this while protecting design data with integrated tracking and version control to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Electrical System Designers
The Electrical packages streamline work between the ECAD and MCAD functional groups. Product offerings include a Schematic design tool or a 3D module that uses routing technology to automatically connect electrical components based on the schematics inside the 3D model. The tool determines optimal lengths for wires, cables, and harnesses.
SOLIDWORKS has the tools to effectively communicate technical product details. Robust technical illustrations can be created in SOLIDWORKS Composer. Use existing design data to create high-quality graphical assets that are fully associated with the 3D design. Instruction manuals, assembly documentation and interactive web content are just a few of the popular use cases of Composer.
SOLIDWORKS also has a rendering package called Visualize that takes 3D data and creates photo-realistic images and animations. It outputs high resolution images that are ready for print and web purposes.
Entrepreneurs and Makerspaces
There are special opportunities for startups and shared makerspaces as well. Resources include providing software, training and community opportunities to help launch new ideas.
Students and Researchers
Last, but not least, students and researchers make up the backbone of the SOLIDWORKS community. SOLIDWORKS is used in 99 of the top 100 engineering schools in the United States. Students and researchers are given a special opportunity to learn SOLIDWORKS and market themselves by knowing the most-used CAD program in the industry.
Written by Sam Oanes
Sam Oanes is an Application Engineer at Alignex, Inc. When Sam isn’t helping customers on the help desk or teaching SOLIDWORKS classes at Alignex, he enjoys running, camping and fishing.