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Technologies Of The Year -- Demystifying CAD

Nov. 10, 2006
SolidWorks 2007 3-D computer-aided-design software has an expert built into the solution.

For many manufacturers, having a computer-aided-design (CAD) master on staff isn't always possible. And without someone there to help engineers diagnose and cure problems, delays in prototypes, production and delivery will surely follow.

To rectify the situation, Concord, Mass.-based SolidWorks Corp. set about getting CAD software to think rather than simply act. Included in the SolidWorks 2007 software is SolidWorks Intelligent Feature Technology (SWIFT). SWIFT enables users to focus on the product design, not the steps to complete it, according to the company. Those steps include feature order, mates and sketch relationships.

"When an engineer is designing in CAD, the system sometimes coughs and burps and spits it back up and says, 'I can't really do that,'" explains John McEleney, CEO of SolidWorks. "It takes some time to figure out why the system didn't allow the model to be rebuilt or regenerated.

"SWIFT knows a lot of the common types of challenges, and we've built that into the product, such that when it does cough and burp it will go through and automatically make the modifications."

Not sure if you want the system to tell you what to do? McEleney says you can reject it or you can hit the undo key, and it will go back to the way it was originally.

SolidWorks utilized the experience of a 20-year CAD expert to populate the software with the right tools, according to Chris Garcia, vice president of R&D.

"When he helped people fix problems, he realized that consistently he was going back and taking certain steps to say, if you did this first you won't have those types of problems. SWIFT puts all that information in algorithms and says if it's good for the great engineer, it's going to be good for the average or new engineer."

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