With the recent release of SOLIDWORKS 2016 and the flurry of “What’s New” events behind us, I started thinking about new features that have been introduced in the last few years. Every new SOLIDWORKS software release brings brand new functions and tools, plus enhancements to existing commands and features. Here are a couple of my favorites you may have missed.
Feature Freeze Tool in SOLIDWORKS
Have you ever wondered what the yellow bar at the top of your part Feature Manager tree does? What yellow bar, you ask? Quick! Turn it on under Tools > Options > System Options > General > Enable Freeze Bar to gain this functionality.
If you work with complex parts with many features, or with computationally demanding features such as helices or large patterns, you’ve experienced the frustration of changing a feature then waiting for the feature tree to rebuild.
The Feature Freeze Bar can help with that. This tool can dramatically reduce rebuild time, particularly in the latter stages of design. This will also help prevent unintentional changes to your part model.
With this option turned on, you can drag the Freeze bar to any point in the Feature Manager tree, or right-click on a feature and “freeze” up to that point in the design. Now, features above the Freeze bar are frozen. You cannot edit them, and they are excluded from rebuilds of the model. Frozen features are indicated with a lock icon and gray text. If any changes occur to your model that cause frozen features to go "out of date," they get flagged with the rebuild indicator (traffic light). To update these features, right-click Option on the Freeze bar. They are rebuilt then set back to a frozen state.
There is also an option to defer updates to inactive configurations. To get a real sense of the rebuild time savings, use Tools > Evaluate > Performance Evaluation (formerly Feature Statistics) both before and after freezing features.
Dimension Doubling in SOLIDWORKS
Smart Dimensions in a sketch have some really…..smart capabilities. SOLIDWORKS can automatically double your parametric linear dimension value when one of the objects selected is a construction line. This is very handy when dimensioning a sketch that you intend to use with a revolve feature or if you are modeling only half a feature with the intention of mirroring it later.
Here’s how it works. Within a sketch, activate the Smart Dimension tool. Select a construction line then select a solid object (line, endpoint, arc center, etc.). Immediately, the preview of the dimension text shows the actual distance between the objects. But wait – don’t place the dimension yet. Drag your cursor to the opposite side of the construction line and voila - the dimension value instantly doubles!
Locate your dimension and when you key in the value, you can think in diameters or full-length numbers. No more fumbling for a calculator or keying in math operators. Previously, you had to re-select the construction line for each doubled dimension, which was very tedious. Now, when you double a dimension, all subsequent dimensions are doubled until you hit Esc. Then, you’re back in plain old dimensioning mode. Finally, SOLIDWORKS 2015 introduced angular dimension doubling by simply pressing the Shift key before locating the text.