TopSolid CADCAM 7: CAD

TopSolid CADCAM 7 is a more modern and more powerful CAD solution than SolidWorks is.

I'm sure that the statement above is a very hard thing for SolidWorks users to believe and accept. One reason for this is that  many SolidWorks uses have a background of using a CAM product like Mastercam, Gibbscam, Surfcam, Featurecam, etc. all of which started life as wireframe modelers. As time went on these products desperately needed solid modeling tools so they licensed Parasolid which was then grafted on to their existing wireframe modeler. Years latter it can clearly be seen that this approach to grafting the Parasolid kernel onto a wireframe modeler isn't the way to go and results in a cobbled together approach that's not very powerful, wastes a ton of time, requires wireframe extraction of geometry, forces you to tell it what you want to select, etc. When you compare SolidWorks to the solid modeling tools you get with Mastercam, Gibbscam, Featurecam, etc. SolidWorks looks like the best thing since sliced bread.

Reality is that the difference between SolidWorks and TopSolid 7 is just as big as the difference between the CAD in Mastercam, Gibbscam, Surfcam, Featurecam, etc. and SolidWorks. SolidWorks has become very dated technology and a close look at TopSolid 7 (see below) shows where SolidWorks is filled with old technology that can't be easily reworked or simply can't be reworked at all. The only real solution is for SolidWorks to be rewritten from scratch and Dassault (SolidWorks parent company / owner) knows this. Knowing how dated SolidWorks has become and knowing SolidWorks has to be rewritten from scratch is the reason why Dassault has announced SolidWorks V6 which will run on the CATIA V6 kernel and be a cloud based application.

TopSolid 7 blows the doors off SolidWorks in the following areas:

Built In PDM rather than PDM that's an afterthought and run as an external application. History based modelers create tons of complex file relationships that are very difficult / impossible to manage. This problem often can be clearly seen when SolidWorks assembly files refuse to load properly. Unlike SolidWorks, you can rename part and assembly files all day long in TopSolid 7 and never have a problem because TopSolid 7's built in PDM is managing the relationship and it doesn't care if you rename files. Additionally, many Solidworks users often make the mistake of using Windows File Explorer to move SolidWorks parts and assembly files thereby causing themselves a nightmare when they break the complex file relations that SolidWorks creates. This kind of problem doesn't happen in TopSolid 7 because its internal PDM manages your files and gives them a name only it can understand.

For many years SolidWorks did not support multi-body modeling. Because multi-body modeling was an afterthought in SolidWorks, when you use multi-body modeling in SolidWorks it's not as straight forward or as integrated as a product like TopSolid 7 were multi-body modeling was designed in to TopSolid 7 from the get go.

Frames (coordinate systems) are much more versatile and flexible in TopSolid 7 compared to SolidWorks Reference Geometry Coordinate Systems. Example: You can't rotate a SolidWorks Reference Geometry Coordinate System.





Planes are also much more versatile and flexible in TopSolid 7 compared to SolidWorks Reference Geometry Planes.

The user interface in TopSolid supports tabs. It's much faster and easier in TopSolid to manage multiple parts, drawings and assemblies with a tabbed based used interface.





SolidWorks is dependent on Microsoft OLE and Excel. OLE causes all sorts of errors and it never developed into a seamless, unified, robust solution. TopSolid 7 doesn't depend on OLE or Excel.







SolidWorks uses Siemens D-Cubed software components for its 2D and 3D constraint manager. Missler, the author of  TopSolid, created their own 2D and 3D constraint managers and they have advantages over D-Cubed's 2D and 3D constraint managers.







TopSolid 7 employes the concept of an Entity Manager which helps you easily manage your parts and assemblies. I'll be explaining the Entity Manager concept and posting screenshots shortly.

TopSolid 7 has primitives. SolidWorks doesn't. Primitives often save you time. 

TopSolid 7 is written by Missler Software. Missler Software has a much better understanding of manufacturing than SolidWorks does. Missler Software creates their own CAM and it's a superior product filled with unique and innovative ideas. SolidWorks doesn't create their own CAM. SolidWorks CAM is created by 3rd parties who integrate into the SolidWorks environment with various levels of success. SolidWorks is focused on design rather than manufacturing. In my opinion SolidWorks has never employed anyone who really understands manufacturing and sadly this shows in many ways. One example is former SolidWorks CEO Jon Hirschtick being impressed with Mastercam. Jon Hirschtick seems like a very nice guy but he's utterly clueless when it comes to real world manufacturing in the same way that SolidWorks fog blogger Matt Lombard is utterly clueless. The same can be said about Dan Staples father of Solid Edge. Even the terminology that Missler Software prefers to use is manufacturing based rather than design based. SolidWorks has a Hole Wizard. TopSolid 7 has Drillings. SolidWorks has Cut Extrude. TopSolid 7 has Pockets.

Compare this interview (which for me is really boring and painful to watch):




With this interview from someone who "gets it" and cuts right to the core of the problem:

Interview With Missler Software CEO Christian Arber


TopSolid 7 is faster at large Assembly loading that SolidWorks is:









The first major advantage I'd like to cover in TopSolid CADCAM 7 is built in PDM. Built in PDM is very different than a separate stand-alone PDM application. The core of  TopSolid CADCAM 7 is PDM code which means the PDM code was written first and then the CAD and CAM code was added not the other way around.  

Because the PDM code was written first in TopSolid CADCAM 7 the end user benefits from being in a full featured PDM environment without ever even realizing they are in one! TopSolid CADCAM 7 PDM is completely transparent to the user! Here is a video overview of how Major and Minor Revisions work in TopSolid CADCAM 7.  I recommend you watch this video first and then if you want further detail read the detailed breakdown below:






TopSolid 7 has the most powerful searching capabilities I've ever seen in a CADCAM product. Its searching capabilities are ridiculously powerful and totally customizable. The user interface can make use of the bottom of the graphics area if you choose to configure it that way. I'm of the opinion that most CADCAM applications make very poor use of the bottom of the graphics area and I really appreciate the option to use the bottom of the graphics area rather than the narrow right and left sides. For what it's worth, I'm told searching a PDM database is faster than just searching files.



TopSolid is first and foremost a parametric, history based, solid modeler. However, unlike SolidWorks very limited Move Face tool, TopSolid 7 has a suite of powerful direct modeling tools which can even be used to make a "dumb solid" a "smart solid".

I'm going to be very frank,  TopSolid 7's direct modeling tools aren't as good as the revolutionary Push / Pull direct modeling tools in SpaceClaim but TopSolid 7's direct modeling tools are easily good enough to make any modifications you wish to a "dumb solid" as well as to make a "dumb solid" smart. In the future, if  Missler Software wants to add a Push / Pull user interface to TopSolid 7,  I see no reason why they couldn't do so. The following videos show how easy it is to work with a "dumb solid" in TopSolid 7 using its direct modeling tools as well as how you can make a "dumb solid" a smart one.
















Here is an example of the kind of helpful direct modeling tools that new release of TopSolid 7 contains. I often work with electrical engineers who don't have the needed machining background. Frequently they specify counterbored holes where countersunk holes would work. Countersunk holes save money because they require less machining time. TopSolid 7.6 FreeShape Design will recognized drilled holes, countersunk holes and counterbore holes in a dumb solid and allow you to change them with a mass edit (per face). This is a major time saver when working with a dumb solid where the client expects you to update their solid model!





SolidWorks uses static previews for previewing parts and assemblies. This means you often have to open  your part or assembly to see if it's really what you're looking for. The next version of TopSolid 7 will have live previews for everything. Here is a video showing exactly how this works and how much time this feature saves:






TopSolid 7 PDM In Detail:




The screenshot below shows the TopSolid CADCAM 7 Project Tree which I consider to be the control center for TopSolid CADCAM 7's built in PDM:





A Project consists of Documents required for the design and production of a Part or Assembly. A Project generally includes many more elements than just the model itself. For example a Project can include descriptions written on word processing software or quotations made on spreadsheets. TopSolid CADCAM 7 allows you to manage all these documents regardless of the software used to create them. To do this, you need to first create a Project, i.e. define the set in which all the documents linked to an order will be
stored.

The red + symbol seen in the screenshot above means that the object whose name comes after the + symbol is located in your Work Space and is not yet in the Vault. (See below for a description of what a Works Space is and what a Vault is.) Every time you save your Documents, older versions will be deleted.

A red check mark symbol appears before the names of Part or Assembly Documents to indicate that the current Minor Revision  is no longer what is in the Vault and is being modified.

A padlock symbol indicates the Document is in the Vault.

At the main Level if a Part or Assembly Document is followed by a small black star it means the Document is open and unsaved.

Work Space:

In the Project Tree (screenshot shown above) all the Documents and folders are preceded by a + symbol. This + symbol indicates that you are saving your project in  "Work Space" which corresponds to the Work Space subfolder of the local PDM folder defined during installation of TopSolid CADCAM 7. If you look what this Work Space subfolder contains using Windows File Explorer, you will find a bunch of files whose names you will not recognise. The names of the files you see are managed by TopSolid CADCAM 7. This system build in to TopSolid CADCAM 7 allows you to modify the structure of your Project as you wish: names, locations, etc, and guarantees permenant links between Documents! No matter how you modify (rename, move) your files, TopSolid CADCAM 7 will always keep the relevant links!

The Vault:

A Vault is a place where you can securely store Documents once you are satisfied with the work performed on them. Newly created Documents are not initially stored in the Vault. They display a + symbol before their name in the Project Tree. Once you put a Document in the Vault the + symbol is then replaced by a padlock symbol, which indicates the Document is now in the Vault. You can  keep as many revisions as you want for each of the Documents in a same project. TopSolid CADCAM 7 will automatically manage the links between several Documents which can be the subject of various revisions, even in the case where the number of these revisions could vary from one Document to another. Checking Documents into the Vault offers you further advantages when you work in a client/server network with other partners but I'm not going to cover this topic here only Local PDM. For now know that the Vault consists of a Vault subfolder that you find on your disk along with a Workspace subfolder. You can see it with a Windows File Explorer, but you cannot manage it, as its management is exclusively handled by TopSolid CADCAM 7.

Level 1: Items:

Items have four information Levels: The first Level is the name of the document preceded by the icon which indicates the type of document.  This is the main Level, to which you always refer when not working specifically on a Revision other than the last in progress. Using a right click on the icon of the main Level you get used to calling up the contextual menu relating to the last revision of the document. This main Level corresponds to the notion of Item which brings together all the Revisions and variations of a same object. By default, this Item always refers to the document of the last of the Revisions.

Level 2: Revisions:

The second Level isolates the various Revisions of a part over time, and on the other hand: the other sorts of variations of the same item, such as copies of families which have this same part as a generic document.

Level 3: Major Revisions:

The third Level indicates the capital letter which identifies the Major Revisions of the document: A, B, C … etc.

Level 4: Minor Revisions:

The fourth Level groups together all the Minor Revisions of each major revision. The different Minor Revisions are distinguished by a number between parentheses (0), (1), (2), etc.

Major And Minor Revisions:

Minor revisions:

Revision A(0):

This is the first version of the document on which you work until you put it into the Vault. As long as a document only exists in the Work Space, its name will be preceded in the tree by the + symbol . When it is put in the Vault, this symbol will be replaced by a padlock which means that the state of this first version will now be kept as it is (called Revision A(0)). In effect, as soon as a Revision is put in the Vault, you will be able to consult it but no longer modify it. Its state is irreversibly frozen, because as soon as you launch a command for any modification whatever, TopSolid CADCAM 7 will automatically generate a copy of the document on which the modification in question will be carried out . By putting the document in the Vault, you also make it consultable by partners who would be working with you on a network.

Revision A(1): 

This is the copy of the A(0) document that TopSolid 7 CADCAM will create automatically in your Work Space as soon as you modify the A(0) put in the Vault. This copy of A(0) will be a new Revision which will have the index A(1). It is in this new Revision that you are going to carry out the modifications of the documents. As long as you only save its modifications in the Work Space, without putting it in the Vault, its name will be preceded by the + symbol , the latest version deleting the previous version each time. When you consider it a good idea to keep a new state of your work, you will put this Revision A(1) in the Vault and its name will then be preceded by a padlock meaning that its state is, in turn, frozen and unalterable.

Revision A(x):

Any modification made to the last document A(x-1) put in the Vault automatically creates a new document A(x) in your Work Space, without you even having to worry about it. Its name is then preceded by the + symbol which indicates to you that this Document is not in the Vault and that it is not therefore accessible to others. When it is put in the Vault, its name will be preceded by a padlock and this document will be irremediably frozen in the state where you put it in the Vault.

Major Revisions:

Design Step: 

This back-up process of Minor Revisions continues for as long as you wish to remain in in the design stage. You keep these Minor Revisions as a precaution.

Validation Step:

Is a point in the development of your design where you decide the state of your Document is usable by others. By Validating this Document, you ensure that the revision A(x) in progress will be kept as such and that it will be the last Minor Revision to have the Major Index A. Any subsequent modification will lead to the creation of a new Document which will now have the Major Index B and Minor Index (0). As long as you have not Validated it, the document is only usable in the Project in progress. After Validation, this Document also becomes usable in any other Project which would reference this current Project. The Validation act has two other consequences. When you export all or part of your Project, the Minor Revisions preceding the Validation of a Major Revision will not be reported in the Exported Package so as to reduce its size. Validating a Revision makes the Document indestructible, as it is then likely to be used in other Projects. Furthermore you will not be able to delete the folder, or even the Project that would contain a Validated Document. From the creation of the Document of the Major Revision B(0), the sequence repeats itself with the Minor Revisions B(1), B(2), … etc.

In the screen shot below you can see on the right hand side of the graphics area where this user has decided he wants to do PDM management. As I will get to later, the user interface in TopSolid CADCAM 7 can be customized based on how a user would like to interact with the program:



From the PDM management user interface built in to TopSolid CADCAM a  user can select an Excel file that they want to open and make changes to:


Lets say that the support arm (highlighted in green in the first screen shot) needs to have changes made to it. As soon as the changes are made to the support arm, TopSolid CADCAM 7 built in PDM alerts you that the changes need to be checked in as can be seen in the screen shot below:



Okay, so what happens if you make a ton of changes to your parts and assemblies and then you decide you don't want all those changes? This is where the value of built in PDM really becomes apparent. TopSolid CADCAM 7 built in PDM has been keeping track of everything you did. To go back, for example, say 100 steps, is very easy and automated. All you do is tell TopSolid CADCAM 7 you wish to undo the changes as can be seen in the screen shot below and you are back to where you started without having to spend hours redoing everything:




Here is a screen shot showing all the changes that will be undone:




Another huge advantage of having PDM built in at the core, instead of as a separate stand-alone application, is that PDM manages your family of parts so you don't need to store your Configurations in one file! Configurations that are all stored on one file often result in a massive file size. 


While the screen shot below is not related to the screen shots above, I've added it so you can see the PDM part of the user interface that's built in to TopSolid CADCAM 7 that allows you to visually compare different versions of your parts.




2 comments:

  1. I'm looking at buying desktop mainly for a bit of gaming (star craft etc) and bit of CAD work (solidworks). . For this price range what should i be looking at?. . Intel vs AMD. Nvidia vs ATI. single graphics card vs crossfire/SLI. . any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Solid works

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    Replies
    1. nVidia based systems obey the OpenGL ICD which is to say how OpenGL is supposed to work with OpenGL compliant MCAD programs. ATI has never been 100% compliant and so strange artifacts can and will happen especially when memory is stretched thin.

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