Time Flies When You’re Having Fun: A Brief History of SOLIDWORKS Enhancements

At SOLIDWORKS, we’ve spent a lot of time making our program powerful and easy to use so you can turn your best ideas into innovative products. We made this happen mainly by listening to our users. There are millions of people using SOLIDWORKS. When they tell us how to make our program better, we don’t just listen, we actually use the ideas in our future updates the software. This exemplifies what SOLIDWORKS is all about.

Here’s a brief look at how SOLIDWORKS tools evolved. Thanks to advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and invaluable suggestions from users like you, the future looks extremely bright.



SOLIDWORKS – The Little Startup That Could

In the 1990s the mechanical CAD software industry was beginning to transition from a purely 2D offering to incorporating 3D capabilities. This was a period of significant growth and development for the industry. Most CAD systems back in the day such as Pro/Engineer, SDRC Ideas, and Unigraphics required the power of UNIX workstations to run their expensive software, which cost about $18,000 to get started. Plus, learning the UNIX operating system was no quick or easy task.

When SOLIDWORKS arrived on the scene in 1995, at a significantly lower price point than other CAD systems and running on the well-known, less expensive, and easy-to-use Windows operating system, the bigger CAD companies collectively laughed, believing this young upstart would soon be filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The laughing stopped many years ago. The familiar Windows interface cut software training time from three months to three days. The rivals were puzzled by their competitor’s obsession with user feedback, which became the hallmark of SOLIDWORKS culture.



Abbreviated Historical Enhancement Highlights List

So much has changed in nearly thirty years of serving up the most popular mechanical CAD system in the world. Here are a few enhancement highlights. For a complete timeline of historical SOLIDWORKS enhancement highlights, check out the infographic Mapping the Evolution of SOLIDWORKS and Automation.

  • In the mid to late ’90s, SOLIDWORKS began an annual tradition of introducing its massive list of enhancements. It started with in-context assembly modeling, dynamic assembly modeling, and the ability to drag and drop parts between assemblies. In addition, a new snappy mating method—Smart Mates—was added to SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD. Now users could automatically add one or more mates to a component while it was being added to an assembly. Boom!
  • In 2003, Multi-Body Part Modeling debuted, bringing the concept of body manipulation, such as patterning and mirroring bodies, to all SOLIDWORKS users. 2006 and 2007 saw the introduction of both Smart Components and the Fully Defined Sketch tool. Smart Components brought associated parts and features to components. The Fully Defined Sketch tool enabled the user to calculate which dimensions and relations are required to fully define sketches or selected sketch entities. Pow!
  • In 2015, SOLIDWORKS delivered user interface enhancements that made mouse commands and gestures 20 percent faster. The 2016 Mate Controller feature enabled the manipulation of specific mates that control degrees of freedom for a design, making it much easier to align components. In 2018, SOLIDWORKS officially released 3D Creator and xDesign, an entirely online, browser-based parametric design tool created with many popular UI enhancements found in SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD. xDesign includes AI and machine learning technologies as SOLIDWORKS looks to the future. In 2020, SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD became fully integrated into the 3DEXPERIENCE platform with the release of 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS. Bang!
SOLIDWORKS xDesign and the Design Assistant


Continually Raising the Technology Bar

SOLIDWORKS cloud-based apps 3D Creator, 3D SheetMetal Creator, and 3D Structure Creator use a type of AI called machine learning in their Design Assistant features. These AI tools can take on boring, repetitive tasks, such as selecting edges or organizing parts, so you have more time for design, engineering, or other important things. Machine learning is a type of AI that gets better over time by learning from data: the more you use these Design Assistant tools, the better they become at helping you.

These state-of-the-art technologies will continue to be enhanced to make SOLIDWORKS even more powerful and useful for your daily work. If you’d like a demo of SOLIDWORKS browser-based roles and the Design Assistant, contact your local reseller today.

Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. offers complete 3D software tools that let you create, simulate, publish, and manage your data. SolidWorks products are easy to learn and use, and work together to help you design products better, faster, and more cost-effectively. The SolidWorks focus on ease-of-use allows more engineers, designers and other technology professionals than ever before to take advantage of 3D in bringing their designs to life.