A while back I saw that SolidWorks had published a Self Study Guide on Large Assembly design. As this is always a topic of interest to our users I decided we should give it a look. I got the boss to order a copy for each office so if you come in for training some time feel free to peruse a copy. Amazon also has it available to preview online. You can view the Table of Contents, Index and first few pages. They also have a "Surprise Me" button which allows you to view other random sections of the book. If you are thinking about purchasing it this is a good way to check it out first.
Unlike the SolidWorks manuals that accompany our training classes the Step-byStep guides are a series of manuals intended for self paced study. In addition to Large Assembly Design, there are guides for Animations, PhotoRendering with PhotoView 360 and Productivity Tools, available for purchase in the SolidWorks online store.
The large assembly guide is a collection of tips, best practices, and reccomendations that are outlined in various training classes. The book contains information on SolidWorks and System settings that affect assembly performance as well as techniques to consider when working with large assemblies. Having taught the classes where this information is gleaned I did not find myself learning a lot of new information. However I do like the idea of having all this information in one location. I also found a few errors and reccomendations that seem to contradict advice I've gleaned from SolidWorks support. We will be redacting the office copies.
One chapter I really like was the hardware chapter. They describe the various pieces of your computer and describe how they affect SolidWorks performance. Hardware technology changes fast so they can't get into specific models motherboards or graphics cards, but the general knowledge gained can help you maximize your hardware purchases.
I was a bit disappointed with the book and planning to write it off as general reccomendations without any real data behind it until I got to the final chapter. This chapter presents the results of some benchmarking that was done using the various settings reccomended. There are actual numbers presented showing how the various techniques affected the times required to complete tasks in SolidWorks. The number 1 time saver based upon the data cited? Use Lightweight mode. We've been telling you that for a few releases now but its nice to see what the setting can do for you.
In conclusion $50 seems a bit steep for this relatively thin book, but it does contain a lot of good information compiled like I have never seen before. I understand its going to be a low volume seller and they may only be covering the printing costs, but why not make it available as an ebook? Also be aware the book is based upon SolidWorks 2011, so it does not cover "Large Design Review" mode which was added in 2012.
With the announcement of the HSMXpress I got to thinking about all the Xpress tools available to SolidWorks users. There are nine of them by my count. Generally an Xpress product is a lite version of an addin tool for SolidWorks. Often they have limitations that allow the user to gain an understanding of the tool and gain some benefit. The hope is they will see the power of the tool and compell them to purchase the full featured version. Since some of them require an independant download from the developer its easy to lose track of them all. Here they are with a little bit about what they do and my thoughts on them.
The Xpress tool that started it all. Originally CosmosXpress this is the FEA solution from SolidWorks that allows users to get their feet wet with Simulation. A wizard interface guides users through the process of setting up simulation studies that when complete mimic exactly the full SolidWorks Simulation product line. Users are limited in their mesh control, load types and fixtures (aka boundary conditions), as well as post processing analysis. When the study is complete they can even do a simple optimization study similar to the capabilities in Simulation Premium. Simulation Xpress is a great first pass FEA tool for the product designer.
FloXpress is a simlified version of SolidWorks FlowSimulation CFD solution. Users can study how air or water flows through their assemblies. They are limited to a single input and output.
DFMXpress is a tool from GeoMetric Technologies. This tool allows users to analyze there parts for details that make them difficult to machine. It check for things like inside radius and deep holes. I have little knowledge of the full versions of DFMPro. Geometric was the original developer of eDrawings for SolidWorks so they know their way around SolidWorks for sure.
DriveWorksXpress is a basic rules-based design tool based upon the offerings from DriveWorks. If you use a lot of design tables or do design or build-to-order DriveWorksXpress is a way to get started with Design Automation. Integrated into the SolidWorks Task Pane the tool allows you to capture model dimensions, features, and properties to automate with a user defined form. At the end of the process the system will make new versions of your parts assemblies and drawings for each custom job you specify. DriveWorks does a good job of explaining their limitations in their marketing literature for their entry level paid solution DriveWorksSolo.
SimpoeXpress is a tool for doing mold fill analysis. It came along to fill the void (pun intended) left after AutoDesk discontinued development of MoldFloXpress. The restrictions are the same allowing the user to add a single injection location control and choose from a preset library of materials. When the analysis is complete the tool predicts if your part will fill completely or if you end up with a short shot. I learned about it recently from a customer who was raving about it. I donwloaded it to try it and was quite impressed.
SustainabilityXpress is another tool based upon an offering from SolidWorks. This tool allows you to analyze the environmental impact of a single part at a time. It considers the material and manufacturing of your product as well as where its used and how its transported. The tool then produces a professional report on a number of environmental impact factors. If Green is a goal of your company SustainabilityXpress is a great way to demo it before investing in SolidWorks Sustainability, which works on full assemblies.
CAMWorksXpress is another CAM tool from Geometric Technologies. This is another 2.5 Axis machining option. Unlike most other Xpress tools it is not free. A free trial can be downloaded, but once the trial is up it lists for $995.
SolidCAM Xpress (download)
Another CAM tool available with an XPress version. SolidCAM Xpress claims to offer 2.5 Axis machining as well as 3 Axis Surface Machining functionality. A free trial is available but it also costs money. The price is not published.
That's quite a list. Let me know if I missed any. Or if you've had any experiences with the tools you'd like to share. I have not used them all and would love to hear your impressions of them.