SOLIDWORKS and AI

There’s no doubt that AI is currently causing quite the stir in the media and that it’s possibly the most hotly discussed topic in technology today.

In this article, we’ll be exploring how it can be used to improve design and, more specifically, how SOLDWORKS are integrating the technology to help make life easier.

AI and Design – What are the Benefits?

AI is not a new concept in the design world and the developers have always made the most of what’s been available. For decades now, designers have been using computer-aided design (CAD) tools to create digital models of their products, simulate their performance, and generate manufacturing instructions. However, traditional CAD tools do have some limitations, including:

  • They require a lot of manual input and intervention from the user, which can be time-consuming and error prone.
  • They are based on predefined rules and parameters, which can limit the creativity and innovation of the user.
  • They are often disconnected from the real-world context and feedback of the product, which can affect its usability, appearance, and quality.

Modern AI will help overcome some of these limitations by using machine learning (ML) algorithms to learn from data and make decisions or predictions based on it. ML is a specific approach to AI that enables computers to learn from and make decisions or predictions based on data. Some of the benefits of AI for design are that it can help:

  • Automate and streamline tasks that are tedious, repetitive, or complex, such as selecting edges, creating mates, or optimising shapes.
  • Provide design guidance and alternative solutions, leading to the discovery of entirely new ideas or design approaches.
  • Incorporating real-world data and feedback into the design process, such as user preferences, environmental conditions, or market trends.

How are SOLIDWORKS leveraging AI Technology?

The R&D Team at SOLIDWORKS are constantly evolving the software to incorporate new technologies and features that enhance performance and user experience. One of these technologies is AI.

SOLIDWORKS has already been integrating AI technology into its cloud-based solutions, including 3D Creator for parametric design, 3D Sheetmetal Creator for sheet metal design, and 3D Structure Creator for frame design.

These solutions use ML algorithms in their Design Assistant tools. These AI-powered tools are designed to automate time-consuming and repetitive tasks, such as selecting edges or working with mates, which frees up time for creativity and other less mundane tasks.

The Design Assistant tools use geometry recognition to make suggestions based on the user’s input. For example, when the user makes a selection whilst working on a CAD model, they can activate Selection Helper in the Design Assistant, and it may suggest a range of other selections based on the geometry’s size, shape, and orientation. With each selection the user makes, the Design Assistant predictions become more intelligent and more relevant. If the user agrees with a prediction, a simple click gives the Design Assistant the go-ahead to choose all suggested edges automatically.

The Design Assistant tools also use real-time feedback to improve their performance. Because the SOLIDWORKS cloud solutions are cloud-based, the ML algorithms adapt in real time to the user’s workflows and provide constant up-to-date suggestions as they provide more input.  The more they’re used, the better they will become.

Whilst they’re no doubt seemingly very intelligent and cool, like all current AI tools the Design Assistant tools are not meant to replace the user’s decision-making or creativity.

Rather, they are meant to enhance them by providing smart assistance that reduces manual work and increases efficiency. You can always override or ignore the suggestions made by the Design Assistant if you prefer.

What are the challenges?

  • It requires a lot of data to train and validate the ML models, which can be costly and difficult to obtain. It will take while before AI’s ‘ideas’ are anywhere near perfect.
  • It can be unpredictable in its reasoning and outcomes, which can raise ethical and legal issues. It’s not always obvious why it makes the choices it does and it’s not always easy to understand the process that it’s followed.
  • It can create a gap between the human designer and the CAD Tool, which can affect the emotional and social aspects of design.  Although they are no doubt (seemingly) very clever, they can sometimes ‘see’ things far too literally and, as such, make decisions that seem a little strange.

AI shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for human designers, but rather as a tool to augment our skills and capabilities and to help speed the design process. You’ll still need to oversee the design and make sure that it’s reaching both the aesthetic and safety standards required for a successful product that people will actually want to a) buy and b) use.

In summary

AI is undoubtedly a powerful technology that can improve the world of design by automating tasks, providing guidance, and incorporating feedback. However, AI currently also has some limitations and challenges that need to be addressed and worked around carefully.

SOLIDWORKS is one of the leading CAD Vendors that is leveraging AI technology to enhance its capabilities and user experience. It already uses AI-powered Design Assistant tools that help users to streamline their workflows and explore new possibilities within the cloud-based apps.

It’s an exciting space and one that SOLIDWORKS are embracing to full effect to improve users’ day-to-day experience.

We’ll keep you posted on further developments.

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