We are a medium sized progressive die shop who has been trying to migrate over to SolidWorks from Autocad for about a year. The ride has been slow and frustrating. We design large highly surfaced stampings with a majority of our data coming in IGES. We chose Solidworks over the competitors on a basis of price and what seemed to be very good functionality through our salespersons demos. We were promised a 40% increase in productivity from what our current system was. If you ever take a look at SolidWorks adds they say about the same. My first few designs were run on Solidworks 2004 with all the required service packs installed (seems like their were around 100 of them) with very slow performance. I contacted my AE with my problems: Slow Assembly performance, slow mate times, slow rotation, extremely slow 2D Performance. My system requirements were at the top of SolidWorks recommendations. How could this be? We tried everything. Large Assembly Mode, Lightweight Components, Detached Drawings. If a CAD system has to have all these options it should say something about its performance out of the box. Autocad, the last time I checked, doesn't have a large drawing dumb down button. By the end of all the checking and testing they notified me that it must be the way that I modeled my assembly and it had nothing to do with SW performance. They hadn't heard of any problems similar to mine. I must have been dreaming. SW is better. SW is better. SW is better. That's what their salespeople are trained to force-feed you. I was still feeling pretty good about the product until our SW salesperson told myself and a colleague that he wasn't going to waste any more valuable time diagnosing our problems if were weren't committed to purchasing the remaining 3 seats we were looking to buy. OUCH!!!! Strike #1.
Low and behold the introduction of SW2005. They have a new feature. Can you guess what it is? It's a new slider bar under the PERFORMANCE settings called Level of Detail. That solved about 30% of my problems in the 3D performance arena. My other performance increase came by the way of mate times. When I had my AE do testing with me in SW 2004 I was having mate times upwards of around 30 seconds. It must have been the way I modeled my assembly I was told. Wrong! I loaded the same design into 2005 and tested the same mates. They were instantaneous in 2005. No waiting. I contacted my AE and told him about it. He tested it and had the same results. Hmmmmmm, SolidWorks doesn't state anything in the list of improvements for 2005 regarding increased mate performance. Was I dreaming again? SW is better. SW is better. SW is better. I would challenge any SW user to test mating between2004 and 2005 on a large complex assembly. Have fun! Strke #2.
I think my third and final strike with the software is coming as I write this. It is something that has plagued me with SolidWorks from the onset and it regards 2D performance. SW2004 and SW2005 have a bad case of the "I don't do 2D" syndrome. Our industry still relies heavily on prints. Our diemakers build from these sheets and rely heavily on notes and section views. We cut anywhere from 6-12 sections through a die assembly. We label each component in the section views and the Autoballoon function works really well to start. Once you load up that many 2D sheets in this software your in for the long haul. Expect 10 minute load times and gathering any information is like pulling teeth. And just wait until you find a screw up. Reload the model and change. Now wait another 10-15 minutes for all your 2D sheets to update. I could have stretched and pulled in 2D in a fraction of the time. The only way this software can function is if the 2D is translated into a 2D system. I think Solidworks knows this and that's why they have products like E drawings and now they have the 2D emulator. Which I might add doesn't work very well with detail unless you're trying to converse a box. If any of you SW jocks out their are still brainwashed to the SW is better thinking take a look at PROE's new document titled: The 10 Ways that SolidWorks Slows You Down. Check it out. It underlines everything I've just stated. Don't get me wrong. I can model just about anything in SolidWorks pretty fast now with the mysterious improvements in SW2005. The package as a whole however still needs work. Up to this point utilizing SW for doing everything I am 125% slower over my 2D package. If you can muster doing 3D in SW and 2D in Autocad I think you'll have a winning package. The search still continues for us on an all around solution however.