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Design Engine

Design Engine

How SolidWorks Knowledge can Translate Across Different Programs

SolidWorks is a premier CAD program for new engineers or people who don’t have the budget to buy Dassault Systemes Catia, Siemens NX or PTC Creo. However, people need to know that skills from SolidWorks can translate to other programs quite easily. SolidWorks is usually the program that most mechanical and drafting engineers learn in universities and seems to dominate job boards.

The Gemera by Koenigsegg modeled in Solidwork

What Is SolidWorks?

SolidWorks is a computer-aided design tool for mechanical engineers. It’s a parametric modeler used to design parts the same way you would a piece of raw material. It features simulation tools and a parts catalog that makes it easy for users to design a fully functional machine using off-the-shelf components. It is used in consumer durables and many other industries, but it can also be used to create vehicle designs. The most prominent use of SolidWorks in that area is for Koenigsegg. A line of hypercars built by a manufacturer in Sweden. SolidWorks sees a lot of use in many other industrial applications. This tool makes it easy to communicate with other departments like marketing, manufacturing, and even make graphics for the packaging.

SolidWorks Features

Prominent features of SolidWorks are its ease of use and how much functionality design engineers get within an affordable package. The student edition is available for $99. For commercial designs, it can run under 4K or more with the addition of simulation tools like FEA. It is also one with a lot of functions that other commercial competitors don’t have, such as rendering, in-built simulation, part and assembly design, etc. If you want to get into computational fluid dynamics, finite element analysis, surfacing or solid part modeling, then this is the perfect tool for your needs.

There is often the question of whether the skills you learned in this tool will be transferable to other tools. The answer is “yes”. However, the user interface will be a lot different from one tool to the next. The basics of Solidworks could be found in an online CAD course, but there are features you can only master by using this tool.

Benefits When You Move into Other Programs

SolidWorks isn’t the only CAD program in town. The information you have learned will easily translate to the many other options available. You or your employer may decide to switch CAD packages. For example, other programs may work better on your specific computer hardware. Price may play a part in your consideration. However, they are the same parametric modeling programs at their foundation, with the main difference mostly being in the form of a new interface. There are several benefits involved, if you choose Solidworks.

  • Parametric Modeling
  • Simulation and FEA
  • Manufacturing and Exporting

Parametric Modeling Benefits

The easiest crossover will be the modeling capabilities. All 3D CAD modelers are the same at their core. The fundamentals of CAD drawings will never change. The main difference is that some CAD kernels perform worse than the one you find inside SolidWorks. You also have benefits of having a deep understanding of building a part and assembly step-by-step.

Test Stand Deflection with FEA by Lynn Discenza

Simulation and FEA Benefits

The main difference in simulation and finite element analysis will be in how the user interface of these features work. Computational fluid dynamics(CFD) involves the same numerical equations, so you won’t have to worry about something not working from one program to another. Finite element analysis(FEA) is similar, where the main difference will be in the form of the terminology. You should also note that different versions of SolidWorks will offer extra features for both CFD and FEA.

Manufacturing and Exporting Benefits

Another main functionality that transfers over to other CAD programs is the manufacturing optimization side of SolidWorks. It gives you the ability to export your finished part and assembly into a format that can be manufactured using a CNC router. However, not every other program will have the same feature set, so you should learn if the other CAD program has these features. For example, SolidWorks can create animations and realistic rendering, while other CAD systems may be specifically designed to work in 2D.

The Take Away

As a college student, SolidWorks has provided to me the best introduction to solid modeling, and computer-aided engineering design. SolidWorks includes from the most basic to the more advanced tools, making it the best learning tool for a young engineer on computer drawing and modeling. These skills not only translate very well across different programs, but the user can gain the methods of learning that will help them adapt and excel in various different programs.

Kari Oakley is currently studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah and writes blog articles in her spare time. We are pleased to have Kari contribute to Design Engine as a guest author this month.

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