NASWUG December 2 Meeting Notes

Another successful NASWUG year wrapped up in style.  Our year end meeting benefited from two very interesting and informative presentations.  Jim Wilkinson, Director of User Experience for SolidWorks, provided an insight into the development process for  SolidWorks usability and SolidWorks User Interface Customization.  The stated goal of Jim’s team is the User Experience mission.  So just what is the “User Experience mission”?  In a nutshell, it is everything that goes into providing a SolidWorks experience that continuously improves upon Ease of Use, Ease of Learning, and Product Consistency.  Where does SolidWorks get its customer input?  Glad you asked … each and everyone of us, the users, have direct input into the process with such things as enhancement requests, bug reports, phone calls with the VARs, customer visits, surveys, user forums,  etc.  Many factors come into play as to what is included in the final decision to make changes to the User Interface.  For those of us involved in rapid prototyping, the process seems familiar.  Prototypes begin with paper layouts that can be reviewed quickly and easily, followed by a flash simulation, and then a prototype release that gets the scrutiny of a focus group of users.  This focus group is representative of all SolidWorks users and from a user viewpoint probably the most important.  After Jim educated us on the interest and effort that SolidWorks puts into providing us with a good CAD user experience, he then walked through several examples.  Many thanks to Jim for a most rewarding presentation.

Next up was Bruce Holway, the Manager of Product Definition for SolidWorks.  Bruce brings 17 years of experience in the CAD industry to the table.  The Product Definition team he manages is responsible for developing new functionality specifications in SolidWorks.  Bruce presented on Using Blocks and Layout Sketches for Mechanism Design.  Now some of us may already use sketch blocks to produce quick concept layouts or at least have completed the block exercise in the SolidWorks tutorial.  But Bruce takes this idea to a new level.  He showed us how sketch blocks can be used to quickly produce parameters for mechanical mechanisms to achieve a desired physical motion.  Next was probably a very little used method of Layout Based Assembly Design.  This method begins with a new assembly.  On creation, click on the “Create Layout” button on the Begin Assembly Property Manager.  This opens a 3D sketch from which you can create various blocks of the intended mechanical mechanism.  This method allows you to switch back and forth between top down and bottoms up design.  You can create, edit and delete parts and blocks at any point in the design cycle without any history-based restrictions.  A great presentation, Bruce.

Ricky Jordan briefly reminded everyone about SolidWorks World 2009 coming up in February.  To save time and avoid duplication here, meeting announcements are published on the NASWUG website.  Thanks especially to Ricky for being the driving force for what this writer feels has been our most successful year yet.  And our group would not survive if it were not for the valued support of our VARs, ModernTech Mechanical, MLC CAD, Concepts in Production and particularly the financial support of SolidWorks for the free food each meeting.  As before we had some great year end prizes including our grand prize a Harmony Universal Remote Control from 3D Connexion who sponsored our year end event.

Here’s hoping each and every one of you have a great Christmas and holidays and we will see you back in January.  Ricky will be presenting on circuit board design and circuitworks which is a warm-up for his presentation at SolidWorks World 2009 in February.