Last month I covered an overview of Rhino and Grasshopper and I am following up that blog post with an overview of Solidworks. Solidworks has been around for what seems like forever (since 1995) and the software is produced by Dassault Systèmes. As its name suggests it is used to design and model more traditional pieces than Rhino with Grasshopper. It is widely used in the CAD world and is a very comprehensive software package. As such it also has a high learning curve with a couple of hours required to start creating basic shapes. It has been around for a long time so there are lots of training packages and youtube videos available to learn the tool and create many designs.
Designing in solidworks has a more traditional feel with one main window or view rather than the standard 4 views of Rhino. The software is also available in multiple languages and allows the user to switch between different languages if required (e.g. English to Spanish). Files are saved in a format specific to Solidworks. This is the .SLDPRT format but can be exported into 3D print formats for printing such as 3mf. This is useful for having greater control versus STL format files as to how the part is printed and also allows colours to be included within the part. It is also possible to design a new object in Rhino and then join that object with others in Solidworks using the assembly function. This feature takes separate parts and joins them together to form one final part.
Solidworks gives you the ability to select the material and to ensure that the software considers your part to be ready, you need to add dimensions of the part into the software. If you do this, it will also tell you useful information such as the weight of the part.
One interesting feature that has been added to the software during the last few years is the ability to optimize the design of the part to reduce weight whilst ensuring that the part or design meets certain requirements such as the ability to support a specific load. This feature is called topological optimization. Within Solidworks, you have to provide the part materials, what you want to optimize, the load points and load to support. The software then runs various iterations to optimize the part. The output can often be a completely different design than the one that you originally designed. The advantage of this feature is that it allows you to design and 3D print parts that use less material, weigh less, but can support the same load as a more traditional part.