It's been over a quarter-century since SOLIDWORKS 1.0 was first released in 1995. The manual was a mere 80 pages. So many features and abilities have been added since then there are now many SOLIDWORKS manuals, each covering a different set of tools. But what exactly are these tools? A bullet point on a product matrix is not always enough information to let you know if it's a tool you need or not. So let's take a deeper dive into what Standard, Professional, and Premium offer.
SOLIDWORKS itself now comes in three tiers: Standard, Professional, and Premium. Think of buying a new car. The base model (Standard) is fully functional with everything many people want. The mid-range model (Professional) has some nice additional options, and the luxury model (Premium) is fully loaded with all the options.
SOLIDWORKS Standard is a robust toolbox packed with tools for different types of CAD work. It has a host of tools for common design and production work. Professional and Premium are optional expansion packs with additional tools for more specialized needs.
This article covers details of all of the SOLIDWORKS PDM-level products, You can jump to each here if you know which you are interested in:
SOLIDWORKS Standard - The Base Model
SOLIDWORKS Standard has everything you need to create single and multi-body part models, assemblies, drawings, bills of materials, etc. It can also handle 2D layouts with sketches and sketch blocks, as well as 3D sketches. Design re-use and automation capabilities include the ability to create multiple configurations of models and assemblies, drive model changes with global variables, equations, and design tables. A customizable Design Library allows parts and part features to be dragged and dropped into models.
There are also built-in specialized toolsets for working with different types of models:
- Mesh Modeling
- Mold Tools
- Sheet Metal
- Structure Systems
- Surface Modeling
Additional tools included with Standard are as follows:
Prior to the introduction of this feature, importing models into SOLIDWORKS from other CAD systems required exporting them from their native formats to a neutral file format, such as a Parasolid, STEP, ACIS, or IGES file, then importing that file to translate it into SOLIDWORKS format. This results in a 'dumb solid' with no editable parametric feature history.
You can still do that, but 3D Interconnect offers an alternative. You can now open files from other CAD systems directly in SOLIDWORKS without having to translate them to the SOLIDWORKS format. A link can be maintained to the original file, so it can be updated in SOLIDWORKS if a revision has been made in the original CAD system. So, for example, you can use an Inventor or CREO part in a SOLIDWORKS assembly, and even add additional SOLIDWORKS features to it as needed!
Powered by CAMWorks, SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard is an entry-level computer-aided machining add-in utility. It provides 2.5 axis milling support from within SOLIDWORKS. If you need turning support, you'll need to upgrade to SOLIDWORKS CAM Professional. If you need 3+ axis machining you'll need to upgrade to CAMWorks.
DimXpert & TolAnalyst
With DimXpert, you can get started on properly dimensioning and tolerancing models before creating drawings inside the 3D modeling environment. Dimensions and tolerances are automatically or manually attached to features using DimXpert.
They can then be imported into drawings or used by TolAnalyst which analyzes DimXpert tolerance stack-ups in an assembly to help make sure your design will come together correctly, even in a worst-case scenario.
This stand-alone application is a robust tool for viewing CAD files. Models and drawings can be exported to eDrawings format and sent to anyone who needs to see them. It can also open SOLIDWORKS files and DXF/DWG files directly.
Extended Reality (XR) Exporter
SOLIDWORKS CAD files can be exported to GLB or GLTF formats for use in immersive Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and web applications.
This handy tool automates the process of converting imported 'dumb solid' models into fully parametric SOLIDWORKS models. FeatureWorks will analyze all or part of a model, your choice, and convert what it finds into editable features as if it had been created in SOLIDWORKS to begin with.
A tiny area in which two models are sharing some volume in CAD land can result in costly rework and scrap in the real world. Interference detection checks assemblies and multi-body parts to ensure components are not overlapping each other.
These freehand drawing and collaboration tools are available inside SOLIDWORKS parts, assemblies, and drawings and can be used whether or not you have a touchscreen device. After doodling whatever notes, circles, arrows, etc. you want you can export your markups as image files, such as PDF, JPG, PNG, and others.
Mesh File Import
Scanned mesh files can be imported into SOLIDWORKS as solid or surface bodies. Texture and appearances can also be applied.
This is a broad collection of tools used to examine models, compare files to each other, or dramatically speed up repetitive or time-consuming tasks. See help.solidworks.com for more information about the utilities in this list:
- Compare Document Properties
- Compare BOM
- Compare Features
- Compare Geometry
- Feature Paint (to copy parameters)
- Find/Modify Features
- Find and Replace Annotation
- Geometry Analysis (for FEA or CAM)
- Power Select
- Report Manager
- Simplify Features (for analysis)
- Symmetry Check
- Thickness Analysis
This stand-alone application lets you plan out the structure of a new assembly in advance using a graphical interface. You can use existing parts and assemblies, as well as designate new ones to be created. Once the new project is fully planned out, Treehouse will automatically generate all the necessary new files to give you a head start on the modeling work.
This automation tool is an often overlooked gem for users who find themselves creating different-sized variations of the same basic design over and over again. You can instead set up a rules-based project, plug in a few variables, and allow the tool to automatically generate new models of the required sizes.
This is a first-pass Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulation tool. It allows you to simulate the flow of air and water through models and generate reports of the results.
This is a first-pass Finite Element Analysis (FEA) simulation tool. It allows you to stress test part models against linear forces or pressures, generate reports of the results, and optimize parts to strengthen weak spots.
SOLIDWORKS SustainabilityXpress tracks environmental impact factors for a product’s entire life cycle, from raw material extraction to end of life. This product only handles part documents. The full version of SOLIDWORKS Sustainability which also handles assemblies is available in SOLIDWORKS Premium.
SOLIDWORKS Professional – The Mid-Range Model
For those who need capabilities beyond the tools listed above, an upgrade to SOLIDWORKS Professional may be in order. Let’s take a look at the extra options included in the mid-range package.
This upgrade to the standard eDrawings file viewer includes support for Virtual Reality. In addition, files can be saved in WebHTML format, allowing them to be opened and viewed with a web browser on a computer that does not have eDrawings installed.
Data created by electrical CAD (ECAD) applications can be imported using CircuitWorks to create SOLIDWORKS models of circuit board assemblies. These models can then be used as components in SOLIDWORKS mechanical assemblies.
Part models can be analyzed using data stored in templates to determine the manufacturing cost of the final part. Material, machining operations, material handling, painting, and other factors can all be included in the calculation. Cost reports can be generated to help with planning and quoting.
You can use this add-in to verify your work meets specified dimensioning standards and other design criteria. Requirements for evaluations are saved in a separate file for easy re-use.
This ‘Design for Manufacture’ tool is an entry-level version of DFMPro by HCL Technologies. It checks a model against a set of rules to identify potential fabrication issues with milled, drilled, turned, sheet metal, and injection molded parts. This helps designers make sure they aren't sending parts to production which can’t be made, or are too expensive to manufacture.
Photo Rendering - PhotoView 360 & Visualize
SOLIDWORKS provides two tools for creating high-quality rendered images and animations of CAD models.
PhotoView 360 allows users to work within SOLIDWORKS to create renderings with appearances, decals, background scenes, lighting effects, etc.
SOLIDWORKS Visualize is a stand-alone application capable of creating photorealistic images and animations.
Mesh or point cloud scanner data and mathematics software curve data can be opened in SOLIDWORKS using this functionality, prepared for use, then converted into surface or solid models.
SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard
Product Data Management (PDM) software is used to securely manage all types of files. SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard allows users to securely check files into and out of a networked PDM Vault which is shared by all uses. Files checked into the vault can’t be deleted or changed accidentally. Users must check out files to edit them, preventing multiple users from attempting to modify the same files. Revision control and workflow state are also securely managed by the PDM system, and every revision of a file ever checked into the vault is maintained.
PDM Standard is a good solution for small to medium groups, up to about 20 concurrent users. For larger organizations, or those needing additional features, SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional is available as a separate product.
SOLIDWORKS Task Scheduler
The Task Scheduler is a stand-alone application allowing users to set up tasks to be performed at a later time. Examples include converting older files to the current format, batch plotting, exporting to other formats, etc. A limited version of the Task Scheduler is available with SOLIDWORKS Standard, but most functions are only available with Professional or Premium.
Toolbox is a library of standard parts integrated into SOLIDWORKS. Using drag and drop functionality, you can easily insert bolts, screws, nuts, washers, etc. into your models. Toolbox supports the following international standards; ANSI, AS, GB, BSI, CISC, DIN, GB, ISO, IS, JIS, & KS.
SOLIDWORKS Premium – The Luxury Model
If all the above still isn’t enough, an upgrade to Premium will fill out your SOLIDWORKS license with a fully-loaded options package.
3D Interconnect - CATIA Support
Using the 3D Interconnect option SOLIDWORKS Premium can open CATIA models in addition to all the file types supported at the Standard and Professional level.
Costing for Assemblies
This upgrade to the Costing tool available in SOLIDWORKS Professional allows total costing data for entire assemblies to be estimated.
Advanced Surface Flattening allows users to convert complex surfaces, such as parts of a shoe or stamped sheet metal, to flat patterns. The tool also provides color-coded visualization of the stretching required to flatten such surfaces.
Linear Static Analysis for Parts & Assemblies
SOLIDWORKS Premium dramatically improves on the FEA simulation capabilities seen in SimulationXpress. For starters, in SOLIDWORKS Premium simulation studies can be run on assemblies as well as just parts. Additional options for controlling element size, choosing between different solvers, and using solid, shell, or beam elements enhance the accuracy of results.
Time-based Motion Analysis allows users to simulate the realistic movement of SOLIDWORKS assemblies taking into effect such elements as friction and gravity. Loads can also be calculated and used for FEA analysis.
The Routing add-in creates special sub-assemblies for applications in which variable-length route parts, such as wires, tubes, pipes, hoses, or ducts are connected between connector components such as electrical connectors, pipe flanges, etc. These routing sub-assemblies are modeled in the context of a higher-level assembly, allowing the designer to easily work around existing structures. Accurate lengths of routed parts are automatically calculated.
The full version of SOLIDWORKS Sustainability tracks environmental impact factors for a product’s entire life cycle, from raw material extraction to end of life. It handles both parts and assemblies.
The range of tools and options available in SOLIDWORKS Standard, Professional, and Premium are extensive. It can be difficult for users to keep track of exactly what they already have with existing licenses. It can be downright confusing for those who know they need a new SOLIDWORKS license but aren’t sure which one is the right match for their needs. I hope the short descriptions above are helpful, whichever of those boats you’re in.
Interested in training for one of these platforms? Watch our Online Training Free Preview! Whether you are looking for a new tool, keyboard shortcut, or concept, come experience a shortened sketching lesson and see what it is like to attend a training class with one of our instructors.