For those of us who use SOLIDWORKS on a regular basis, it can be easy to view the software as nothing more than a tool to create the 3D models needed to convey our design concepts. And that in itself is powerful, but the problem is this: if we are limited to seeing SOLIDWORKS only as a design tool, we end up selling ourselves short. It’s like purchasing a brand new smart phone and then only ever using it to make calls. Yes, that was the purpose of the original invention, but nowadays what aren’t cell phones being used for? In a relatively short period of time, these devices have replaced cameras, watches, and now even wallets – not to mention satisfying a million other smaller needs, unique for each individual user.
The progression of SOLIDWORKS in the 21st century is not unlike that of the cell phone. Back in the 90s, SOLIDWORKS was introduced for one major purpose: to aid engineers in the generation and documentation of 3-dimensional geometry, this being one leg in the much longer journey from basic concept ideation to finished marketable product. Over time, SOLIDWORKS has given us more and more capabilities to leverage our 3D geometry throughout the entire product development process, fulfilling needs that have existed since long before the most archaic of CAD programs were introduced.
SOLIDWORKS Simulation was one of the first additions to the SOLIDWORKS product family, giving us the ability to virtually test our designs in a variety of real world scenarios in order to ensure that our products are safe, effective, and long lasting. Since its introduction, SOLIDWORKS Simulation has expanded to include modules for fluid flow analysis and plastic part design, but the base functionality of strength analysis continues to be improved upon in ways that often remain undiscovered to even the most powerful of power users.
For example, were you aware that there is a user-friendly Simulation mode (available in SOLIDWORKS Premium) that allows you to mix and match various loading and constraint scenarios in one simple table-driven interface? Gone are the days of bouncing between different studies to make sure all your bases are covered in anticipation of whatever combination of stresses your design may encounter in the real world. The Load Case Manager is an organizational Godsend that helps save time not only in set-up, but study run-time as well.
SOLIDWORKS PDM is another well-known solution that was introduced with the vision of improving the entire product development experience. Establishing a database management system like SOLIDWORKS PDM can go a long way in enforcing important approval and ECO processes, however the real heart of the product (now available for all SOLIDWORKS Professional customers) is its ability to track changes that have been made to a design over time. Regardless of how simple or complex your database is, any file that is stored within the system has a complete history documenting its evolution. At any point in time, a past version of the file can be recalled, making it easy to float seamlessly between past and present, leveraging whatever 3D data is important to you, as you need it.
SOLIDWORKS Simulation and SOLIDWORKS PDM are only two of the many ways SOLIDWORKS has grown – and continues to grow – into a full service product development platform that can see your designs through from ideation to next generation. If you find that SOLIDWORKS is still only a 3D design tool for you, you owe it to yourself to ask: “What else could SOLIDWORKS be doing for me?”