I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to how SOLIDWORKS names the packages of their SOLIDWORKS and Simulation products, it is easy to get confused. I mean you've got the SOLIDWORKS Standard, Professional, and Premium and then on the FEA side, you've also got Professional and Premium. To confuse the matter even more though, you have a large chunk of the simulation tools included in the SOLIDWORKS Premium package as well...it's enough to make your head spin! I've noticed though, there seems to be a common misconception out there among the SOLIDWORKS user base about the capabilities of the FEA tools within SOLIDWORKS. More often than not it seems when I mention the simulation tools within SOLIDWORKS, peoples' minds automatically go to SimulationXpress. The SimulationXpress tool is part of a group of other "Xpress" add ons that SOLIDWORKS decided to put into each and every package of SOLIDWORKS whether it be Standard, Professional, or Premium. The purpose of these tools is to give users a small taste of of the add-on products available. The only problem with this is that the Xpress tools are so limited that in my opinion it really does a dis-service to the full blown product. Subsequently most users who are unfamiliar with the entire SOLIDWORKS products suite automatically think of the SimulationXpress tool when FEA and SOLIDWORKS are brought up in the same sentence. They then compare their experience of this tool back to well known names such as ANSYS and ABAQUS and dismiss it as a valid engineering tool.
The full blown SOLIDWORKS Simulation package however brings to the table many features that make it a tool that can be utilized on a professional engineering level along side tools like ANSYS and ABAQUS. The beauty of SOLIDWORKS Simulation though is that it works inside the CAD package that you are already using! Some of the main differences between SimulationXpress and the full simulation package is that SimulationXpress limits you to just a single part rather than being able to analyze full assemblies and the resulting contact stresses between the components. Another major difference between these two packages is the loads and restraints that are available to you. SimulationXpress seriously only allows you to completely fix faces! There is no fixing only edges or points, there is no other fixture types what's so ever. The full package give you a variety of methods of restraining your model. When it comes to the loads that you can apply to the model, SimulationXpress will only let you apply a basic force or pressure to a face. There is no applying gravity, torques, or a multiple of other load options to the model, you are really quite limited!
My goal in this was to hopefully dispel any remaining misconceptions out there about the capabilities of the SOLIDWORKS Simulation packages. If you'd like to see more of the differences between SimulationXpress and the full packages take a look at this page from the help.
By: Chris Olson, Applications Engineer