Introduction to SOLIDWORKS xShape

By Wayne White on June 17, 2019

Over the years, I’ve dabbled in many surface editors. I have spent too many hours creating human faces, cars and other complex geometries only to have the most extravagant shapes not make the jump to hyperspace from surfaces to solids willingly. Perhaps, you know from experience, the let-down in creating something with surfaces that looks great in CAD, only to fumble into getting in a solid form so it can be 3D printed.  

Long gone are the days of industrial designers’ convoluted network of processes. Starting with a sketch, creating a network or wireframe of edges to construct various surface types or things like network surface, edge surface, boundaries, knitting, trimming and repeating. SOLIDWORKS xShape is upon us, and the ability to create complex, non-prismatic shapes quickly and intuitively is now.

SOLIDWORKS xShapesolidworks xshape

SOLIDWORKS xShape is an application that runs in the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. This is a thin client, so as long as you have an Internet connection, you can run it. This is beneficial for a myriad of reasons, most notably hardware resources and application deployment. It is also great for running in a MAC environment.

The social collaboration pillar is an exciting new way to share, design and interact with other users in our tenant. As a first test of this exciting new app, I used a simple plastic ladle as a benchmark. This would be a reasonably difficult shape to produce quickly in a typical 3D CAD modeling environment.

>> Read our blog post: SOLIDWORKS on a Tablet or Smartphone

Developing Shapes

Starting in xShape, we begin with a primitive. This is a paradigm shift in how we create complex shapes. This primitive is essentially a piece of clay that we can push and pull geometry quickly and easily. We have explicit control of our shape using intuitive tools like dragging on a triad with respect to edges, faces, vertices and can easily toggle between curvature continuous blends and sharps, too. It no longer takes hours to create the best blend, delete face and reconstruct surfaces to drive things like C1 or C2 continuity.

For the ladle, I first insert a box primitive. As you can see in the graphic, there are various shapes we can use to begin our design.

Once inserted, the user can control the number of elements in three directions. Think of a 3D spline. If we are trying to create an exact curve just the way we want, we insert spline points so that we can manipulate the magnitude and direction of that control point on the spline. This is similar to what we are working on here. In 3D space, our mesh cage or our subdivided faces allows for discrete control in specific areas of the box. 

xShape SOLIDWORKS square

xShape sketch quick align toolOnce we’ve inserted the box, then we can easily work with the quick view manipulation tool at the top right of our app. This helps in controlling the shape from various perspectives of our geometry.

I’ve edited one side of the box, using the sketch quick align tool. This allows me to come up with conceptual edges on the fly. I can sketch in the command to shift the faces to the precise location I desire. I can continue to edit that shape until I get the exact contour I want.

xShape edit shape

Further edits, in this case, from the right-side view allow me to get the ladle’s base heightened just a bit so I can remove some thickness to achieve our scoop for the ladle.

xShape right-side view

Here is the final shape. As you can see, it is just a number of steps to get a complex, watertight solid that I can 3D print.

xShape ladle

Editing is easy and natural. Once the primitive is inserted, we have an excellent start. Subdivision modeling allows us to extract just the right movement of faces and edges in a way that doesn’t require more than an idea.

Now, we can create cool, complex shapes quickly and within minutes, not days or weeks. Engineers, designers and creators can now make their own unique products without a laborious background in industrial design. xShape has stripped away the clumsiness of making aesthetically pleasing products, and it has given us a powerful asset in our creator’s portfolio.

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