What’s new: SOLIDWORKS 2021 Assemblies

From productivity tools to graphics performance, Elite Applications Engineer, David Durston, takes you through the assembly enhancements in SOLIDWORKS 2021…


[Video Transcript]

Assembly Productivity Tools

Now while mating in SOLIDWORKS 2021 assemblies, you will find a new streamlined property manager. Instead of expanding sections for each group type, there are now tabs for each group, making it easier to find the correct mate.

Looking at the previously created mate, switching alignment presents the question as to how to handle the other components and mates impacted by this change. Choosing ‘No’, oftentimes means over-defining other mates to solve for the new alignment which creates more work to fix. Choosing ‘Yes’ would have avoided this issue by instead flipping the other affected mates making this task a simple fix.

In SOLIDWORKS 2021 assemblies, there is a new system option under Assemblies to choose to ‘Always Select One’ of these choices or retain the prompt. Choosing ‘Always’ will by default flip the alignment of other mates affected in this scenario. This saves time and confusion and ensures you always get the results you desire.

When creating mates to Slots in SOLIDWORKS 2021 assemblies, you can now choose the default type of position. In this example, the centre of slot has been selected as the default choice. Likewise, there is now the option to lock the rotation of slot mates similar to concentric mates. The default slot mate location is a new document setting found under ‘Mates’. This eliminates the need to regularly change the location type when adding new slot mates to your design, saving you a little bit of extra time and accidentally choosing the wrong constraint.

SOLIDWORKS has always offered the flexibility to change the configuration of each component instance within a pattern. However, sometimes you may just want all of the components to reference the original instance. This can be time-consuming to do one-at-time. New in SOLIDWORKS 2021 assemblies, is a new option to synchronise the configurations of all component instances created by the pattern. This new option also helps from inadvertently changing the configuration of any of these components from the quick menu drop-down and by locking this option within the ‘Component Properties’ dialogue. This ensures that as you make any configuration changes to the seed components of the pattern, those changes will be properly propagated.

‘Interference Detection’ is a powerful tool to quickly find issues within your design. SOLIDWORKS 2021 now offers the option to save these interferences out in a spreadsheet. You even have the choice to capture a screenshot of each interference so that they can be shared and reviewed with others inside of your organisation. This offers a new collaborative way to review interferences in a design and determine if they are intentional, due to fit conditions, or to collaborate with others what changes should be made to solve the interferences.

Chain Pattern spacing

‘Chain Patterns’ offer a great way to pattern and move multiple components along a path. The spacing of these components has always honoured the linear distance between parts, or chord length as found in a typical chain design.

SOLIDWORKS 2021 assemblies deliver more flexibility by providing a new spacing option to maintain the distance along the path, or arc length of these components when travelling around a curve. This option provides new ways to use the ‘Chain Pattern’ when components aren’t always connected by a rigid component, or even when you just want to maintain a set spacing between the components regardless of where they are on the path.

Assembly performance

Open times for both resolved and lightweight assemblies have been improved in SOLIDWORKS 2021. This 2259 component assembly opens in only 21 seconds, making getting into your design faster than ever. The larger the assembly, the greater gains you will see while opening them in ‘Lightweight’ mode.

To improve working with lightweight components, there is now also a more streamlined approach to accessing their assembly and feature information. Simply expanding a component from the ‘Feature Tree’ will now dynamically load those components on demand giving you access to the fully resolved sub-assembly or part. This prevents unnecessary loading of large assemblies, but allows you to quickly access and resolve the components you’re working on as needed.

Working with ‘Configurations’ in SOLIDWORKS 2021 is now also faster. Switching between and creating new Configurations are now significantly faster for assemblies.

The ‘Performance Evaluation’ tool within SOLIDWORKS has always been an invaluable resource to give insight into areas of a design that may cause performance degradation. New for SOLIDWORKS 2021 assemblies, is the analysis and reporting of circular references within an assembly. In this case, two holes on two separate parts have been found to reference one another. You can use this information to further investigate the design and determine how they are referencing one another to fix these issues. In this scenario, one of the components listed in the report contains a ‘Hole Wizard’ feature, where its location sketch has centre points that are referencing the edges of a hole in the adjacent part to locate them concentrically. This is a common top-down design practice to ensure that holes always remain aligned to one another.

However, investigation of the second component’s feature, also a ‘Hole Wizard’, it appears that the centre points within this sketch are likewise referencing the edges of the previously interrogated holes. This creates a circumstance where both features are trying to define the location of each other or a circular reference. To fix this scenario, the best course of action would be to remove the external references and redefine the location of the hole centres in one of the sketches. In this case, dimensionally to the part they reside within. Once the changes have been made, a quick rebuild removes any warning from the assembly.

You can use ‘Silhouette Defeature’, introduced in SOLIDWORKS 2019 on an assembly to create a simplified representation of it, or to protect proprietary information. ‘Silhouette Defeature’ provides an intuitive step-by-step workflow, to define this simplified version using a variety of geometry simplification tools. While you are selecting the components, bodies or sub-assemblies you want to simplify, you will always have a side-by-side view to show what your finished representation will look like. This ensures that you can capture the correct amount of detail. The methods you can use to simplify your geometry range from something as simple as a bounding box or cylindrical representation of the components, or something a little more complex like the polygon or tight fit methods which add a little bit more detail to final results. Perhaps some of the components in your sub-assembly are critical to show in a top-level design, even within a simplified representation. For those instances, you can choose the ‘copy geometry’ method to capture all of the detail of those components, bodies or sub-assemblies.

What’s new for ‘Silhouette Defeature’ in SOLIDWORKS 2021 assemblies, is the ability to save this simplified representation as a configuration within the same assembly from which it was created. This eliminates the need to manage a separate file that contains the simplified model. You may still want to use those other methods when using ‘Silhouette Defeature’ to remove proprietary information from a design to share outside of your organisation as a separate disconnected file. However, when using defeatured models within higher-level assemblies, it’s now as simple as right-clicking on the component and choosing to use the ‘Defeatured’ version. ‘Defeatured’ assemblies as configurations provide a way to both simplify complex assemblies visually and also add a performance boost in cases where all of the detail of the individual components isn’t necessary.

Enhanced graphics performance

This System Option, found under the ‘Performance settings’ tab, is now enabled by default in SOLIDWORKS 2021. To see the difference, we will compare this setting enabled and disabled side by side running a macro that performs 500 mouse rotations for consistency. It’s clear that graphics performance is significantly faster, but the numbers tell the real story. These actions took only 7.94 seconds and ran an average of 63 frames per second with ‘Graphics Performance’ enabled. Meanwhile, with this setting disabled, these actions took 161.72 seconds at an average of 3 frames per second.

If you haven’t enabled Graphics Performance yet in SOLIDWORKS, you’re sure to notice immediate gains when using Certified Graphics Cards. Additionally, new for SOLIDWORKS 2021 are two new enhancements that make Graphics Performance even faster. The first is when working in ‘Hidden Lines Removed’ and ‘Hidden Lines Visible’. Calculating Silhouette edges is a complex task graphically that was previously handled by the CPU. New in SOLIDWORKS 2021, all of these calculations are now handled by your graphics card. In the case of the assembly from ‘Square Robot’, there are a lot of silhouette edges to calculate across the model, and like before, the difference is clearly apparent. With ‘GPU Silhouette Edges’ the macro ran in only 4.71 seconds at an average of 107 frames per second, while with this disabled, it took 170.65 seconds and only averaged 3.94 frames per second.

The second new enhancement is the addition of ‘Occlusion Culling’ technology to Graphics Performance. Occlusion Culling is when it is determined that a model is out of view and doesn’t need to be rendered. With a special development built, the occlusion culling has been paused as this model is rotated. You can see that several of the components that were previously out of view were never rendered by the graphics card. Occlusion culling has a much more significant impact on performance, the more components are asked to be rendered by the graphics card. So, in this assembly, the gains may be marginal, but in much larger assemblies the gains are much more impactful.

SOLIDWORKS 2021 assembly productivity

SOLIDWORKS 2021 offers new tools to help you design more efficiently by streamlining and adding value to your common workflows. And, with these new performance-oriented features in SOLIDWORKS 2021, you will be able to work faster and more efficiently with larger and more complex designs.

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