With the public announcement of SolidWorks 2007 last week, several new enhancements related to surfacing were released and demonstrated. This release shows significant improvements in the area of C2 (Curvature Continuous) surfacing tools. One of the tools that provide this functionality is the Boundary Surface command. At first glance, it shares some similarities to the Surface Loft tool. After using the feature a few times, it is obvious that this tool is different and offers features the Loft tool doesn’t have.
The Boundary Surface tool first and foremost is designed exclusively for surface modeling. There is no Boundary Surface command for creating direct solid features. It functions much like the Loft tool in that the user inputs directional edge or sketch profiles in an effort to create a surface between them. The key difference between the two is that the Boundary Surface tool provides a second direction set for profiles that have equal influence on the surface as compared to the first direction profile set. (Profiles sets are actually called “Direction 1 & Direction 2). The “Guide Curves” set in the Surface Loft command tends to not have as much influence as the “Profile” set.
Start and end profiles in the Surface Loft command can have Curvature Continuous relationships to surrounding surfaces. Guides Curves however cannot. With the Boundary Surface feature, Curvature Continuous relationships can be added in BOTH directions.
Connectors are not new to SolidWorks as they have been present in the Loft command for the past few releases. The Connectors in the Surface Boundary command have new capabilities that are not available in Lofts. You can shorten a directional profile by simply dragging on the connector end. This can help save sketch creation in instances where a profile my exist, but is too long to create the desired surface.
OK…now we come to the author’s opinion area… In the testing I have done, the Boundary Surface feature seems to function faster as compared to the Surface Loft tool when enabling Curvature Continuous conditions. It also seems to be much better at allowing Curvature Continuous relationships to surrounding surfaces. I used to have about a 40-50% success rate with C2 in Lofts. From my use thus far, the Boundary Surface seems to have about a 80-90% success rate! This tool isn’t a replacement for the Loft tool. I have run into a few situations where the loft tool yielded better results (Particularly in situations where C2 isn’t required.) When constructing 4 sided surfaces, I’m already finding myself trying the Boundary Surface command first before the Loft and I have been pretty happy with the results. As with any new feature, the more you use it, the more you learn about it. One of my test projects for 2007 is the R/C car shown above. It uses MANY Boundary Surfaces. I’d like to hear what other users that have used this feature think. Please feel free to post comments!