Look Who’s Bending

I came across the following at efunda.com forum.

Question: “I am trying to send a Solidworks 2006 SP4.1 model to one of my vendors. He has Solidworks 2005 SP4.0. He cannot open files because of his older version. Is there any way to save my files as an older version?”

Answer: “Directly, no you cannot save a Solidworks file to an earlier version. You CAN save it as a STL, IGES, PARASOLID, ACIS, or some other standard, but the resuting geometry will no longer be parametrically editable. What you can do is save it as an edrawing and have him download the most recent edrawing viewer. This should solve the connectivity issue as long as you don’t need him to edit it.

“This is a major pain in the butt with Solidworks and I have ranted to everyone in the organization including the head honcho of Solidworks about this. The stock answer is that you cannot represent new features in the older version, but that is hogwash, you just make those features, and ONLY those features that are not directly translatable dump to imported geometry. Solidworks knows this, but the intent is to force everyone to maintain a subscription service and to upgrade often. But the problem is that the bugs in new releases usually make the new release virtually unusable until SP 2 or so comes out. But then you have problems where one company or division upgrades but the others don’t and suddenly nobody with the older version can open any file that has been touched by the newer version (just opening an assembly will convert all the subassemblies and parts to the new version upon closing). I have that problem now, one engineer at another location upgraded, forced the entire location to upgrade in order to work on his stuff, and now nobody at my location can open any of their stuff.”

[Clarification: “Just opening” a file in a new version of SolidWorks does not convert it. You have to save it for conversion to take effect.]

Other CAD systems have the decency to break “new features” so that they may be represented by “older features”. For example, AutoCAD 2007 breaks 3D solids into a wireframe of curves while saving to versions that did not support 3D solids. That way an AutoCAD Release 12 user can at least view a 3D solid model from an AutoCAD 2007 user, whereas an AutoCAD 2000 user will be able to perform boolean operations on the solids.

If they wish SolidWorks can at surely save solids containing new features as unintelligent bodies lacking feature information, just like how they import bodies from SAT, IGES, STEP, etc. files. Moreover, if a part does not contain any “new features”, then users with different versions can easily work together without any problems.

It’s ironic that SolidWorks has created DWGgateway, which by their own words is meant to “eliminate the need to upgrade AutoCAD licenses just to be able to share work and collaborate with other AutoCAD users”. They have posted a testimonial from a customer who claims that DWGgateway is “an excellent option for those who do not want to be forced to constantly upgrade their AutoCAD.”

Roopinder Tara mentioned a truly divine statement made by John McEleney, CEO of SolidWorks in his article titled “SolidWorks – Putting More in the Box“. John said, “Software should bend to fit the user, not the other way around“.

I am not quite sure who is doing the bending here.