Most students don’t have a lot of money to splash around, and unfortunately, students are not eligible for a SolidWorks free trial, as that’s only available to businesses. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of as many special offers, discounts, and free trials as possible. If the offer happens to be something that fits in directly with your studies, all the better.
Engineering and design students will be happy to hear that Dassault Systèmes’ SolidWorks Student Edition is quite often available for free if your school, college, or university already holds a licence. If you’re not sure, contact the head of engineering (usually mechanical engineering) and ask about it.
If it isn’t available for free, it may be worth considering the purchase of the Student Edition. This is considerably cheaper than the full version (approximately $99 or £99 compared to $6.500 or £6500).
This review will tell you all you need to know about SolidWorks Student Edition, so you know what you’re in for before committing to buying it.
How does Student Edition compare to the full version of SolidWorks?
The good news is that SolidWorks Student Edition is identical to the full version in terms of design features. You get all the 3D modeling tools and simulation resources that you would if you forked out the cash for the full-priced software.
The main differences are:
- The student version adds a watermark to all drawings and designs
- The licence is limited to 12 months from the date of activation
- The student version is one year behind the full version in terms of features and tools, i.e. SolidWorks 2020 Student Edition is equivalent to SolidWorks 2019 Full Version.
This review will focus on the SolidWorks 2019 release, so it covers the features found in the 2020 Student Edition.
Design tools and features
SolidWorks offers a wide range of design tools for both 2D drawing and 3D modelling. It was originally conceived as a CAD package for the 3D design of mechanical parts, and this is still where it excels today. Compared to other CAD programs such as AutoCAD, the 3D features of SolidWorks really stand out.
SolidWorks allows you to model each individual part of a mechanical assembly such as a motor engine, for example, then use the built-in simulator to virtually assemble it and test that machine’s performance (although please note that large or intricate assemblies will require high-spec hardware). The simulation tools allow you to find structural weaknesses in your design and rectify them easily, which is why SolidWorks is a popular option for prototyping.
The software allows simple and fast extrusion of 2D shapes and objects into 3D models by extending them along the z-axis. The way SolidWorks handles this is very simple and intuitive, reducing the complexity of your 3D design process.
SolidWorks contains many surface tools such as fill surface, trim surface and boundary surface, which all work well with curves and splines. You can also use advanced mesh modeling tools to optimise surfaces.
The rendering, illumination and photo-realistic effects tools are not as powerful as on other CAD packages such as AutoCAD, but they are pretty good and will suffice for the needs of most students.
There are also handy 2D and 3D sketch options, which contain a pared-down, basic suite of tools. They give you the option to quickly sketch concepts or outlines of parts.
Exporting and compatibility
A quick note on cross-platform compatibility – SolidWorks only works on Windows-based devices, so Macs and Android tablets are not supported. You may be able to access the web-based version of SolidWorks on an Android tablet, but it won’t necessarily function properly.
SolidWorks allows you to import and work with DWG, DXF, STL, STEP, and PDF file formats, among others. In terms of exporting, SolidWorks has been designed with CAM compatibility in mind. This means that you can design a part and almost immediately print it using a 3D printer, or use a CNC machine to cut it to size. SolidWorks integrates with CAMWorks which can connect it directly to most such machines and printers.
Solidworks Student Summary
SolidWorks Student Edition offers very good value for the money, as you effectively get the full premium version for a fraction of the cost. The catch is that you only get 12 months worth of access at that price.
In terms of features and tools, SolidWorks is ideal for any student involved in mechanical part design or product design. It’s exactly what most mechanical engineering or product design and technology students need.