SolidWorks Tutorials – Introduction
Welcome to SolidWorks! SolidWorks is a 3D parametric modeling software package and is probably the most commonly used 3D CAD software on the market today. A good place to begin your SolidWorks training is on the SolidWorks website at www.solidworks.com.
Fig 01 – The SolidWorks website at www.solidworks.com > Support > System Requirements
If you go to Support, and then choose System Requirements you can see what your minimum hardware requirements are for running SolidWorks:
Fig o2 – Hardware requirements for installing SolidWorks
In the image above, you can see the operating systems that are supported by SolidWorks. SolidWorks 2013 and later don’t run on Windows XP, and SolidWorks 2014 and later don’t run on Windows Vista. I absolutely recommend the 64 bit operating system; you will notice much greater speed and reliability.
Just a few words about 64bit vs. 32 bit operating systems. The 32 bit operating systems are actually slowly phasing out. Reminder that you are not able to install a 32 bit version of SolidWorks on a 64 bit system, and vice versa. The biggest difference when you work in 32 bit is the amount of RAM that SolidWorks can make use of; you’re basically limited to 2 or 3 GB of RAM. But when you work in a 64 bit operating system, you can use virtually an unlimited amount of RAM. So, when you’re working with big and complex assemblies, you will need a 64 bit operating system.
While SolidWorks eDrawing runs on a Mac operating system, the SolidWorks software itself is a Windows installation only, so if you’re using a Mac, you’ll need a virtual PC harddrive for your system.
The RAM requirement of 2GB is truly a bare bones minimum; I’d suggest working with at least 8 GB of RAM.
The free disk space requirement of 5GB is, well, kind of laughable. I don’t know if you’ve ever operated a drive with just 5GB free, but with such little free space, your entire computer doesn’t work very well. I’d keep at least 30% of your hard disk space free, and make sure you’re defragmenting it and backing up your data regularly. Defragmenting is a must when working in Windows, and generally it is important to develop a good, reliable strategy for backing up your data, not only for your benefit, but for that of your clients, colleagues and team.
For processors, the suggested minimum is also truly a bare bones minimum. I use multiple linked processors. A good starting point are I3 or I5 Intel processors. SSE2 Support refers to Streaming Single Instruction, Multiple Data Extensions 2. These days all processors support type of protocol, so this isn’t something you have to pay any mind to.
Frankly, most computers these days have enough juice to run SolidWorks. Unless you’re working with extremely large and complex assemblies, any computer gamer’s hardware requirements exceed yours! However, the place where SolidWorks can seem glitchy is with the graphics card, so let’s take a look at the video card list. You can just choose it on the left navigation panel:
Fig 03 – Graphics Card Drivers link
First thing to do is select your computer vendor, but if you built your own box or don’t know the vendor, you can select Any System Vendor. Then you choose the Graphics Card Vendor. If you don’t know what this is, you can look inside your computer, or check your list of drivers or the Control Panel for the device interface. In Windows 7 and later, you can right click on your desktop and select Graphics Properties. This opens up the video card driver interface, and from there you can find your make and model.
So, back to the Solidworks list of graphics card drivers. Next step is to choose the other specs for your computer like operating system, bit type, etc. I’ve got pictured below the detail view for my video card, one of the NVidia products:
Fig 04 – Checking on your graphics card to see if it’ll work with SolidWorks
Then you click on Show Results. From the results, you can see how your card will work with SolidWorks. Now, if your card is not on SolidWorks’ approved list of video cards, SolidWorks will most likely still run, but there may be some features, like RealView, that won’t be available.
Fig 05 – SolidWorks reviews your graphics card
SolidWorks lets you know how your card performs on its test. My card passes all tests, as indicated by the green checkmark. SolidWorks also links to the latest driver for your hardware, and if you click on it, you can download and install it. How convenient is that!
If you’re working on more than 2 monitors, you can use 2 similar video cards. Also if you use SLI technology, it has to be supported by video card and motherboard. You can link the video cards together with an SLI cable, and this is how you can share memory between the cards.
If you’re wondering if you can use two different video cards, such as a Quadro and a GForce, the answer is yes, in most cases. But most likely you’ll have to try a few different drivers, and from time to time you may have a black screen. You may also find that not all video players will work reliably on your systems.
By the way, here’s where you choose RealView Graphics in SolidWorks. This viewing mode gives you a more photorealistic view of your models.
Fig 06 – Choose RealView Graphics in SolidWorks
The other viewing modes are Shadows in Shaded Mode, Ambient Occlusion, and Perspective. We’ll be learning the difference between these in these lessons.
If you find that you’re still having some problems, like a black screen, or flickering screen, you should go to the Options window and select the Performance branch. Make sure you check the box for Use Software Open GL. Generally this will solve your viewing problems.
Here’s how you get to the SolidWorks Options dialog window, and you’ll be visiting this window frequently to adjust both individual “document” and system-wide basic properties and settings.
Fig 07 – How to get to the SolidWorks Options dialog window.
Fig 08 – The SolidWorks Options dialog window, Performance branch.
Check the Use software OpenGL box to help troubleshoot any display problems.