While the latest upgrades to major CAD systems don’t make major changes to the way those programs operate, they do include significant updates. Here’s a look at some of the biggest enhancements and key features of these programs.
Jean Thilmany, Senior Editor
CAD packages continue to see regular updates, whether a major release, or the minor updates that happen throughout the year. Some updates include major enhancements or new features, as is the case with NX, which now includes machine learning and artificial intelligence features. The company will quit bringing out yearly NX updates, as the software is now offered on continuous release.
Other popular programs like Creo, Solid Edge, SolidWorks, and Autodesk Fusion 360 have seen changes as well. More than one company has changed the way in which they name the new versions of their software and several boast new or enhanced simulation capabilities.
Here’s a look at the most recent updates.
NX from Siemens PLM
In February, Siemens announced an update to its NX CAD software, which now includes machine learning and artificial intelligence features that, by following users’ patterns over time, come to automatically predict their next steps and anticipate their needs.
The programs do this by monitoring the actions of the user and following their success and failures. In that way, the features determine how to serve up the right NX commands and also modify the user interface accordingly, says Bob Haubrock, senior vice President, product engineering software at Siemens PLM Software.
Machine learning is increasingly used in the product design process because it has the power to process, analyze, and learn from large volumes of data, he adds. In this way, designers can more efficiently use software to increase productivity. The ability to automatically adapt the user interface to meet the needs of different types of users in various departments can increase CAD adoption rates at a company, continues Haubrock.
In another recent change, Siemens PLM Software began delivering NX using a continuous release model. This means the software updates are produced in short cycles and are released when needed, at any time.
The model gives NX users faster access to new enhancements and quality improvements, while reducing the efforts needed to effectively deploy NX, Haubrock says. “With automatic updates, customers do not have to search for updates online and will not miss critical fixes. The NX Update mechanism will automatically notify and install important updates as they become available.”
With continuous release, users can turn on “automatic updates” within their system to ensure they always receive the updates. The approach helps reduce the cost, time, and risk of delivering changes by allowing for more incremental updates to applications.
Thus, NX will no longer be identified by a release number and will only be referred to as NX. In other words, there will be no NX13.
The CADmaker says it’s the first major CAD, CAM, and analysis vendor to deliver its products in this way.
The company says the new approach will enable Siemens’ NX users to:
–Receive enhancements faster to help boost productivity
–Have a consistent schedule for updates
–Better plan for the adoption of new technologies
–Reduce deployment costs
Creo from PTC
In February PTC released Creo Simulation Live, which allows engineers to perform simulation in real time on their parametric models because ANSYS simulation capabilities have been integrated with the Creo CAD tool.
“Every time you make a change in your model, you’ll see the consequences instantaneously in the modeling environment,” says Brian Thompson, PTC senior vice president, CAD segment.
“The goal is to remove the barrier between the CAD and CAE world,” says Andrew Leedy, a PTC applications engineer. “This is targeted toward the engineer or designer rather than the analyst.”
The simulation software runs linear, structural, thermal, and modal analyses. The solver uses GPU rather than CPU for instantaneous analysis, Leedy adds. “So as soon as you make changes to the model it updates the graphics that drive the simulation.
The capability to simulate and design simultaneously helps engineers understand the implications of what they’re making, he adds.
The integrated tool also eliminates the need for the engineer to mesh the model before running a simulation and does away with the post-processing step.
The integrated simulation software from ANSYS is called Discovery Live.
“Engineers can ask ‘What if I add this hole, what will it do to the model?’” he said. “This works on top of the model, it works directly within the environment an engineer is used to.”
The CAD software does require a graphics card that supports the ANSYS tool.
Solid Edge from Siemens PLM
Solid Edge 2019 brings a new naming convention to the tool, which will now be referred to by the year in which it is released. This makes it easier for engineers to identify the release they’re using as well and to identify the products within the Solid Edge portfolio, says Ben Weisenberg, applications engineer at product lifecycle management company Prolim. Weisenberg frequently details Solid Edge updates to the CADmaker’s user community.
The most significant updates for mechanical designers are tools that allow engineers to model and simulate the entire production process along with the final product, Weisenberg says.
These include the convergent modeling tools that designers can use to integrate mesh models directly into their workflows. They can use these tools for the milling, casting, and molding of generative designs and 3D printed designs.
Manufacturing constraints allow engineers to optimize the weight and strength requirements of their model. A new design-for-cost feature shows the anticipated cost of the part, to help keep product development on track and within budget.
Updated simulation capabilities include:
–Enhanced structural and thermal simulation, including transient heat transfer.
–Time-based history analysis enables simulation of thermal and cooling performance.
–Free surface flow simulation, lighting and radiation capabilities allow digital “what if” analysis.
–The ability to display simulation results on geometry faces to help engineers make more informed judgments about the model.
SolidWorks from Dassault Systèmes
New features to the program, released in September 2018, let product development teams better manage large amounts of data and capture a more complete digital representation of a design. The program also offers new technologies and workflows that improve collaboration and enable immersive, interactive experiences during design and engineering.
Other new features include the capability for engineers to interrogate or rapidly make changes to a model through an enhanced large design review capability. Another upgrade gives teams a way to communicate with others not involved in design. With this feature, viewers of the CAD design can add markups to parts and assemblies and then export the marked-up designs as a PDF.
The most recent update from Dassault Systèmes involves the Works portfolio, which will bring applications like SolidWorks together with business solutions like a company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Typically, ERP systems track all pertinent companywide business processes, including accounting, supply chain, and human resources.
When parent company Dassault Systèmes launched SolidWorks 2019, executives stated that the CAD tool was “powered” by the company’s 3DExperience platform, which runs the CAD, simulation, and other tools on which designers and engineers rely.
Those applications continue to run on the company’s 3DExperience platform and are tailored to SolidWorks users and mid-market companies. They have been folded in the 3DExperienceWorks portfolio.
SolidWorks executives term the new portfolio a “business experience platform.” It provides software solutions for every organization within a company—from design to enterprise resource management, says Bernard Charlès, vice chairman and chief executive officer for Dassault Systèmes. “It’s a way for mid-market companies to tie all processes together, from design to manufacturing.”
Use of the applications across the platform should improve collaboration, manufacturing efficiency, and business agility, he added. Companies can accomplish their work using one cohesive digital innovation environment instead of using a complex series of point solutions that requires jumping between applications and interfaces, Charlès, says.
The software on the platform includes SolidWorks, analysis, simulation, manufacturing, and ERP applications. It is available on-premise and in the public or private cloud. The platform connects data and streamlines business and design processes by providing dashboard templates, managed services, access to industry-focused communities and user groups, and applications specific to a variety of job roles, Charlès says.
Like other CADmakers Autodesk has consolidated its design, simulation, and other computer-aided engineering capabilities in one product, Fusion 360, which is available as a cloud-based product. The product unifies design, engineering, and manufacturing into a single platform, according to Autodesk.
Fusion is a 3D modeling took that includes simulation, visualization, rendering, CAM, and other functions within a single interface. It also includes a 3D animation tool and 2D drawing tools. The product runs on both Windows and Macintosh systems.
In March, updates to that product included the capability to know when a teammate is working on your design at the same time to avoid doing work that will be over-ridden by another designer. When someone is working on the same design, an icon is displayed in the toolbar. By using a mouse to hover over the icon, a designer can see who is working on the same design. If one person makes a change to the design and saves it, the icon in the toolbar will change, letting the designer know that the design now has a newer version.
The toolbar has been updated to include quick access tools and documents tabs that line up with one another for more space on the design desktop.
Also new is a hole-tap tool called taper tapped, which allows designers to choose among a variety of thread types.
Autodesk also maintains its AutoCAD and Inventor CAD tools with no plans to immediately discontinue those products. Those two CAD systems usually see a new release in March of each year; though as of press time Autodesk hasn’t announced 2020 versions of AutoCAD or Inventor.
At Autodesk University in November 2018, Greg Fallon, vice president of business strategy at Autodesk, did announce updates to a collection of tools that work inside Inventor as well as a suite of specialized toolsets now available with AutoCAD.
Two years previously at Autodesk University 2016, company officials said they expect to maintain Inventor for another five to ten years and plan to continue updating it and enhancing functions. The Inventor emphasis will continue to be on industrial machinery design, officials said at that time.
While Inventor may be phased out in favor of Fusion 360, this has not been explicitly stated by Autodesk executives.
As ever, there are too many CAD packages to include in a single roundup. Other applications include IronCAD, TurboCAD, OnShape, Catia, and KeyCreator. All these will include new and updated features in future updates.
As designers and engineers know, when it comes to CAD software, the key phrase is, constant evolution.