April 18, 2014 · Posted in Instructional, SolidWorks Community  

As with so many aspects of SOLIDWORKS, there is no one way to go from a blank screen to having a designed solid in it. There are those who will sculpt a part and others who will build it up like a Lego® model. I tend to straddle the fence, utilizing whichever method suits my needs at the time. One thing, though, that I don’t deviate from is how I start the model.

I picture the model as I think it would look sitting on my desk. By doing this, I’m able to easily define the front, top and side of the part. Once those determinations have been made, I can begin creating the part. I always try to keep my part centered about the origin, but that’s not always possible to do. 99.9% of the time I use fully defined sketches. I’ll have the occasional construction line that’s not fully defined, but my actual geometry is always fully defined. Yours should be too, trust me.

I also don’t create the part oriented to how it will be in an assembly. This just makes no sense to me whatsoever. Unless the part can’t exist without the assembly, which would then change its definition, at some point it’s going to be lying on someone’s desk/workbench/floor so picture it lying there. One of the most jaw-dropping things I ever saw was when someone created all their models offset by the distance from which they would be located from the parent assembly’s center. Don’t do this. Ever. Seriously.

In the beginning, you’re not going to always know the sleek tricks to simplify your model creation and that’s no big deal. It’s just part of the learning process. There’s a lot of tools that are available, but not overly visible, that will make themselves known over time. Save some of your first models and go back and look at them in 6 months or a year. It’ll be a great way to gauge how far you’ve progressed.

One thing you should get in the habit of doing is naming your features. It’ll make life so much easier when you, or someone else, goes back in to edit the model.

During the conceptual phase of your design, you may end up with a lot of needless features that were created as the part morphed into its final iteration. Try to find the time to fix that. Those that come after you will thank you instead of curse you.

Keep in mind that while there is no right or wrong way to create a model, there are best practices. Hopefully, you have a mentor that can share said best practices with you.

 

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    April 8, 2014 · Posted in Software Review, SolidWorks Community  

    Every craftsman has his favorite tools and, aside from the fact that I’m no craftsman, I have mine.

    First up is my SpacePilot Pro from 3DConnexion. I absolutely love how little I have to use my mouse and the amount of control I have when moving my model around. The there’s the ability to map commands to the buttons at my fingertips, the view buttons that provide me with all 8 standard view quickly and just how cool it looks next to my keyboard. If you have one, you know what I mean. If you don’t, you should look into getting one. If you don’t know what one is, click on the link. 

    Next is the ‘Width’ mate. Located under the Advanced Mates drop down, the width mate is my favorite one.  There’s just something so simple about it. What some don’t know: without activating the mate tool, ctrl+select the four faces you need then select mate from the heads up display. The width mate is automatically applied.

    The hole wizard is next on my list. I like that I don’t have to figure out drill sizes for tapped holes. I like that I can create multiple holes with just sketch points. I like that I can then use the hole callout tool in drawings and all the info needed pops right in.

    Next comes the newest tool in my tool kit, the heads up mate tool. It just makes mating easier (insert childish giggle here).

    These are my favorites, what are yours?

     

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      April 5, 2014 · Posted in Instructional, SolidWorks Community  

      Templates are the foundation of your SOLIDWORKS design. By having your templates setup correctly, you’ll be able to automate data downstream. It’s amazing how many people, even companies, don’t realize this and fail to leverage the power of templates. Thankfully, you’ve found this post and will be able to rectify a situation you may not have even known that you had.

      Set up your part template so that information can be mined from it for your drawings. I recommend using the ‘Custom Properties’ tab located on your Task Pane (that’s the pop out on the right side of your graphics area). If there’s no template available, they’re easy to create. The nice thing about using the ‘Custom Properties’ tab is it’s right there, making it easily accessible. You can have the custom properties pull data directly from your model (mass, name, material), as well as quickly fill in data like supplier & supplier number, creator, date created, part number. This is all information that can then be automatically pulled into the drawing for the part.

      The same holds true for your assembly templates. Again, use the Custom Properties tab to input the necessary info. Bear in mind that you’ll need a different property template but it’s easy to create as well. As with the part template, you can automate some of the data and it can all be pulled into your drawing template.

      Drawing templates come in all shapes and sizes (pun intended). The great thing about them is how easy it is to pull the information in from its corresponding part or assembly files to propagate the title block. It seems that this actually gets easier each year too. One thing that you have to remember is that you not only need to save the drawing template, but the sheet format as well. Not doing so will illicit screams of frustration and accusations of SOLIDWORKS not working. 

      If you work in a multi-user environment, please do yourselves a favor and have templates available in a network location. This will help to ensure that everybody’s drawings have the same general look and feel. Consistency is a good thing, no?

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        March 6, 2014 · Posted in Instructional, SolidWorks Community, SolidWorks Tips  

        On an almost weekly basis, I see someone asking what the best way to learn SolidWorks is. The thing is, there’s no blanket answer. There are those who swear by VAR training. Others swear at VAR training and opt for online training. Still others go through the tutorials, then learn as they go along. There are also the ones who learn in a formal classroom with an instructor.
        What’s best for you depends on you, your needs and your learning style.
        Where I’ve experienced all of them as a student and/or instructor, I figured I’d give my esteemed opinion.
        With VAR training, you get a lot of info crammed into your brain in a short amount of time. Depending on the AE doing the training, it could be a lot of info crammed into your brain in a monotone voice. The upside is you do get formal training and a book and files you can take with you.
        It seems like every time you turn around, there’s another website offering training. The two biggest players, in my opinion are igetit.com and SolidProfessor.com. There are others, but I haven’t played with them enough to speak to them. The nice thing about online training is you can watch the lessons over and over. If you’re in charge of training for your group, some of the sites offer the ability to track each person’s progress. Some even offer DVDs should you want to go that route. The bonus here is it’s all self-paced training.
        I’m of the next group; I started with the tutorials, then trial by fire. It took time, but getting formal training wasn’t an option. Long after it was needed, I hd an employer send me for VAR training, which is when I realized I could actually be the trainer instead of the trainee.
        Last, but not least, is the formal educational route. I think people who can go this route are the luckiest. The training is usually spread out over 6 or more weeks with plenty of available one-on-one time with your instructor. You’re not under pressure to get work projects done, just classroom projects. You even get a student edition you can load up on your home computer.
        What does it all boil down to? That depends on you, and how you learn. For me, I like the learn on my own approach. I learn from my mistakes and also learn multiple ways to do things. That’s me. You? You’ll need to decide on your own, unless your employer decides for you. If I were to make a recommendation, it’d be to go the online route. I think you get more bang for your buck.

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          March 2, 2014 · Posted in Hardware Review  

          It’s easy to test graphics boards in desktop computers: you pop off the lid, disable the existing board, stick in the new one in a spare slot, reboot the computer, and install the new display drivers. But laptop computers are different, because the graphics circuitry cannot be disabled or replaced. There is no spare slot; you can’t change what’s inside of them.

          Another issue is that high-end graphics boards consume a lot of power, often 100 Watts or more. The computer needs a power supply that can provide the extra 100-150W. If the desktop computer’s power supply is too weak, you can pop in a stronger one. In contrast, laptops are designed to sip power to maximize battery life.

          So when it came time to test NVIDIA’s new top of the line mobile graphics, the no-spare-slot and insufficient-power problems would be solved if only NVIDIA could provide a loaner laptop already outfitted with their new graphics system. There was a bit of a delay as we waited for HP to start making and then begin shipping their brand new ZBook 17 engineering laptops.

          Although this is a review of the K5100 graphics board, I have to also talk a bit about the ZBook, because the two are integrated as one computer.

          NVIDIA Quadro K5100M Graphics

          As plain as its name may sound, the Quadro K5100M is a beautiful graphics subsystem from NVIDIA (see figure 1). The M is short for “mobile,” indicating it is meant for laptop computers. It uses NVIDIA’s new Kepler architecture, and so has more CUDA cores than earlier generations. And, it comes with up to 8GB of memory, which is useful for holding complex renderings entirely in its memory. NVIDIA reports that the mobile version is actually more powerful than its desktop equivalent.

          nvidia_k5100m_graphics_fig.1
          Figure 1: The K5100M’s GPU in the lower left corner, surround by eight 1GB RAM modules

          CUDA is short for “compute unified device architecture” and is NVIDIA’s system of performing parallel computations on the hundreds or thousands of GPU cores (graphics processing units) that power graphics boards. GPUs are designed naturally to run calculations in parallel, unlike the CPUs found in Pentium or iCore chips; these are better suited to sequential operations. While most CAD software does not lend itself to parallel computations, application such as finite element analysis and rendering are readily processed through parallel operations, and so suited to CUDA.

          Here are is full specifications list of the graphics board:

          • Parallel Processor Cores: 1,536
          • Maximum Memory: 8GB
          • Memory Type: GDDR5
          • Memory Interface: 256-bit
          • Memory Bandwidth: 115.2GB/sec
          • Maximum Power Consumption (TGP or total graphics power draw): 100W
          • OpenGL: 4.3
          • Shader Model: 5.0
          • DirectX: 11
          • Display Port: 1.2

          The K5100M supports NVIDIA’s collection of utility software, including:

          • 3D Vision Pro for displaying images in 3D
          • Mosaic for displaying a single image over multiple monitors (up to eight)
          • nView for display management
          • Optimus for switching between integrated (power saving) and discrete (powerful) graphics

          There are a whole lot of other features buried within the K5100M, but they pertain towards high-end rendering and gaming, two things that I don’t have enough knowledge about to speak to. However, I can talk about how well this card performed with SolidWorks. For instance, the 8GB of frame buffering means you won’t have lag with large assemblies and models.

          HP ZBook 17

          After the HP ZBook 17 mobile workstation arrived on my doorstep (see figure 2), I was able to get started. Being able to test out a top-of-the-line graphics card on a top-of-the-line mobile workstation is awesome. Sending it back will not be easy.

          nvidia_k5100m_graphics_fig.2
          Figure 2: HP’s Zbook 17 mobile workstation

          First, let’s talk about what’s under the hood of the laptop, shall we? The ZBook I received came with Intel’s Core i7-4900MQ quad-core CPU running at 2.8GHz, with 16GB RAM and Windows 7 Pro 64-bit. It’s expandable to 32GB of memory and 2.8 TB of storage.

          On the outside, it has a 17.3″ diagonal screen and a slew of I/O ports, such as three USB 3.0 ports and a Thunderbolt port. At 7.67 pounds, it’s just over a pound heavier than my 15″ Dell. Not too bad a tradeoff for the extra horsepower.

          I’ll admit it, it’s a sexy machine. While my Dell is only a year old, the HP makes it seem completely out of date and loud. The HP is a quiet, yet powerful beast. It’s sleek, has a great display and performs as well as any desktop workstation I’ve had in recent memory.

          Running SolidWorks

          My only other experience with an HP product was a tower which I was provided with at a former job, and I liked it well enough. But I loved how SolidWorks behaved on the new HP laptop. I messed around with it for hours, trying to bog it down – without success. HP has been a partner with SolidWorks for years, and so it stands to reason that they’d play well together; with the ZBook, they didn’t disappoint.

          Honestly, I could sit here and heap on the accolades for the rest of this article, but I won’t. I will, however, point out that the ZBook I tested out was their top of the line model, upgraded to the K5100M card and Intel CPU, which would cost extra. For instance, the K5100M adds $2,150 to the price of the laptop. On HP’s Web site, I was able to custom spec the machine in prices ranging from a low of $2,280 to a high of $10,230. HP also has 15″ and 13″ versions of the ZBook.

          The Challenger

          The downside is that I’d have to compare the K5100M to the AMD FirePro M5950 graphics in my Dell laptop. So be it. For comparison’s sake, the specs for the AMD FirePro M5950 graphics on my year-old Dell are as follows:

          • Frame Buffer: 1GB GDDR5
          • Stream Processors: 480
          • Engine Clock: 725 MHz
          • Memory Speed: 3.6 Gbps
          • Memory Bandwidth: 57.6GB/sec
          • Memory Interface: 128-bit

          So it’s not exactly a fair fight, but I think that the AMD’s specs are more common among graphics cards than those of the high-end NVIDIA. But by comparing the two, it’ll allow you to see how the other half lives, as it were.

          Testing

          The first 3D model I chose to test in SolidWorks was one that I had on my hard drive (see figure 3). While not huge, it has a large number of edges which tend to wreak havoc on the graphics when manipulating it.

          nvidia_k5100m_graphics_fig.3
          Figure 3: My 3D test model of stacked containers has lots of edges

          Here’s what I discovered: there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between the two cards. While the K5100M was slightly faster and smoother while rotating, I did not find it all that noticeable. To affect a difference, I applied different backgrounds and different materials, and changed system settings. But in the end it really made no difference.

          This does not come as a big surprise to me. We’ve long known that unless we’re doing high-end renderings or animations, that a high-end graphics card isn’t going to help much. Time and again, it’s been proven that large assemblies will perform quite well with mid-range cards and that a high-end card is simply overkill.

          Not content to accept such close results, I decided to run a test with a much larger assembly. Whereas the first assembly is about 3MB, the second assembly is a robust 61MB, chock-full of edges and patterns and configurations (see figure 4).

          nvidia_k5100m_graphics_fig.4
          Figure 4: : The 61MB test assembly of a lifting platform

          As one might expect, the K5100-enabled HP handled the assembly beautifully, while the Dell was sluggish. These results were present during Realview and shaded with edges. On the other hand, there wasn’t a noticeable difference between the two machines when the view was simply shaded.

          While I’m no rendering guru, nor do I have any special rendering software outside of Photoview360, I did see a speed difference when I rendered the above assemblies into the pictures below (see figure 5). These containers took 8:36 on my Dell and 7:29 on the HP – 15% faster.

          nvidia_k5100m_graphics_fig.5
          Figure 5: Rendering of the stacked containers test assembly with SolidWorks

          The platform, however, was a much different story (see figure 6). On my Dell, the rendering 1:45:18 (hours:minutes:seconds); on the HP, 1:05:49 – 60% faster.

          nvidia_k5100m_graphics_fig.6
          Figure 5: Rendering the lifting platform

          Granted, the HP is a more powerful workstation, but that’s not really the point is it? Most of the rendering processing is handled by the graphics board, not the CPU.

          Conclusion

          NVIDIA and HP both have come out with a great offering for those of us who need to use mobile workstations. The M5100-line of graphics boards shows a significant time advantage for complex renderings, as well as overall smoother performance for everyday SolidWorks designing. Together, they make for a screaming system that I’d love to keep.

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            January 28, 2014 · Posted in SolidWorks Community  

            When my journey started, I didn’t know it would end up here. Mostly because “Certified SolidWorks Expert” didn’t exist, but also because, at the time, SolidWorks was simply a means to an end. (Cue “back in time” special effects).

            I started using SolidWorks around 1998. I was employed at a machine manufacturer and had just been moved into the technical publications department as a parts manual writer. At the time, there was about a 2.5:1 ratio of writers to illustrators. The workflow was such that the illustrators would feed the writers, then the writers would create the parts lists. I was told that I’d have to wait before I could start on the manual as the illustrators were behind. Being the curious lad that I was, I’d spent some time talking to the engineers about their CAD software because I thought it looked cool. No surprise, it was SolidWorks. I knew that the tech pubs illustrators were using AutoCad and I asked why they didn’t just use SolidWorks to generate their illustrations. The response? They claimed you couldn’t get a true Isometric view. Challenge accepted. With a bit of finagling on my part, I was able to get SolidWorks loaded onto my computer and set about learning how to use it. Fast forward 6 months or so, and the first parts wholly derived from SolidWorks was completed. To do this, I’d had my fair share trials and tribulations, but had recreated the whole machine in SolidWorks and then created my own illustrations from the assembly. Over the course of the next few years, I learned more and more while creating other parts manuals. By the time I left the company in 2005, I was one of the most proficient users there. This was validated when I passed the CSWP exam in December of that year.

            Life moved on and I grew as a user. I started participating in forums and user groups and started writing this blog. I enjoyed helping other users overcome their issues and being able to help them grow too (still do). For a point in time there, I worked as an AE for a reseller which was a blessing and a curse. However, that’s not a story for today. I railed against the second generation of the CSWP exam, along with others who had taken the old exam. We felt it had been dumbed-down. The certification team then upped the ante with another revamped exam and then they started busting out the advanced exams. Then they rolled out the expert exam and raised things to another level.

            I saw all this going on, and kept telling myself that I’d sit for the advanced exams…someday. Fast forward to SolidWorks World 2013. The age of the CSWP special event had come to an end in favor of a CSWE event. Now, where I attend SWW as a member of the press, I figured I’d just sneak in. Mike Puckett wasn’t having any of it, though. He did make a deal with me. I could attend if, by SWW 2014, I promised to be a CSWE. I quickly agreed. (You can read about the party here.)

            Fast forward to December 2013. SolidWorks World 2014 is looming around the corner and I haven’t even taken the first of the four advanced exams needed just to qualify to take the CSWE. With almost 2 weeks off around Christmas, I bit the bullet and started taking the exams. I passed the drawing and sheet metal exams, got spanked by the surfacing exam, then passed the mold tools and weldments. While I didn’t ace any of the exams, I passed all but mold tools with a comfortable margin.

            Now it was time for the CSWE exam. I planned on taking it on a Saturday morning while my kids were still asleep. The last thing I needed was to be interrupted during a timed exam, one that I wasn’t 100% sure I’d pass. Coffee in hand, I sat down and fired up my laptop. After procrastinating a bit, I got Pandora going, put on my headphones and started up the exam. When I finished, I took a deep breath and ended the exam. I had just become a CSWE.

            For me, it’s a personal victory. While I’m sure that there are plenty of users out there who also possess the knowledge to become CSWEs, I think having done it is its own statement. For those of you who plan on going after it, be sure to do any practice exams you can, they’ll help you with how the real exams work. Don’t rush, there is plenty of time for each exam, for the most part. Pay close attention to models you create that will be used to answer multiple questions, one mistake will mess up all the answers.

            If you’re planning on going for it, or already have, I’d love to hear what you think about the advanced exams, as well as the CSWE.

            CSWE_MD

             

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              January 3, 2014 · Posted in Software Review  

              I’ve often heard people ask about SolidWorks training and what the best path is: VAR, self-learning, technical school, online or on-the-job. They all have their pros and cons, but I’m not going to debate them here, again. I’ve said many times that I think online training is the way to go, and I firmly believe that. However, should you want to hire me to provide you with some customized training…

              Anyway, I’ve spoken with the folks over at Infinite Skills a few times about my doing some training videos for them, but it’s never quite worked out, usually do to my schedule. That being said, they did ask me to check out their offerings and weigh in with my opinion, which is the ultimate reason for this post. I’ve spent a few hours this morning looking around and watching some of their videos to get a feel for how things are. For their newer SolidWorks videos, Infinite Skills recruited a couple of CSWEs, Matthew Perez and Dean Kerste, to create them. Matt Lombard and Alex Ruiz worked on earlier videos. One can’t really argue with the credentials of any of these authors, so let’s talk about the meat of the videos.

              Infinite Skills has over 23,000 videos covering everything from Microsoft Office to 3D to programming and everything in between. For those wanting to learn about SolidWorks, they have 11 video series for a total of 723 lessons. A fairly impressive amount, dating back to SolidWorks 2011, including videos on advanced topics like surfacing and weldments. Each video is broken down into chapters, which are then broken down into easy to digest bites. They’re laid out logically, and the authors take their time and provide a lot of detail with each step.

              Overall, Infinite Skills just reinforces my opinion that online training is the way to go. You can spend $25/month for unlimited access to their complete library, or jump in and pay $250 for a one-year subscription. Somehow, I think the ROI is easily justifiable to the bean-counters and check-writers. Just my simple opinion.

              As I’ve said many times before, I wish all these training resources were available when I started out. Things would have been so much easier.

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                October 17, 2013 · Posted in Software Review  

                No, that’s not a typo, it’s a term that I heard someone at SolidWorks use a couple of years ago and I decided to use it because I think it’s the perfect descriptor for the things I’m going to be talking about in this post. My favorite ‘delighters’, the things in SolidWorks 2014 that make me smile wide.

                First, I want to acknowledge Tom Spine and his team for their work in making this version of SolidWorks more friendly towards those of us who happen to be color blind. Just a bit of proof that they do listen, as I’ve been bitching about color signals for a few years now. Sadly, I just don’t know what Jeremy and I are going to banter about now. Though depending on the outcome of the ALCS, we might not ever speak again…I digress.

                Next up, the simple little change they made to the ‘Width’ mate. In the past, with the Width mate activated, you’d have to choose two faces of the first part, move your cursor over to the second selection box to activate it, then back out to the second part to select its faces. Not anymore, my friend, not anymore! Now, after selecting your first two face, the second selection box is automatically activated. This one is so awesome. Now I just need to break the habit of moving my cursor to select the second box…

                (This part may be a bit NSFW…) Let’s talk about mating, shall we? SolidWorks has had the context toolbar for a few years now, which has been especially great in the part and sketch environment. Now, you can use that same magical toolbar to apply standard mates when in an assembly. Can you say time saver? They also added slot mates. You can now mate pins and slots, shafts and slots or even slot and slot. Hell, you can mate slot-to-slot-to-slot for you “adventurous” types.

                While they made a bunch of changes in the drawing environment, my favorite is the ability to automatically find virtual sharps. So rather than having to remember to selecting two lines that intersect, and then click on the sketch point tool, all you need to do is right-click the sketch entity, select ‘Find Intersection’ then complete the dimension. Quite nice, no?

                So there’s a ton more changes that are in SolidWorks 2014, but these are my favorite changes and this is my blog. If you want to get more, in-depth, info, cruise on over to Dan Herzberg’s blog. He’s got a multi-part series going on a whole slew of the changes.

                I’m already leaning on the powers-that-be at work to get 2014 installed at work ASAP. I’ve been messing with it at home a bit, but not to the extent that I will be now.

                 

                 

                 

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                  October 14, 2013 · Posted in Software Review  

                  3DSync, based on Siemens’ synchronous technology, is touted to increase one’s productivity while working with imported data by a factor of ten. Basically, they’ve spun off a bit of their synchronous technology that they’ve had since 2008 and made it available to the CAD masses for US$1995.

                  It would appear that Siemens believes 3DSync has cross-platform functionality allowing other CAD software users to bring in non-native models via 3DSync which, in turn, will lessen model rework time. According to Siemens, 3DSync’s target market is ‘Any non-Solid Edge customer that has a regular need to redesign/edit nonnative CAD models. We do realize that other products  have direct editing capabilities. Solid Edge introduced these same capabilities many years ago in our traditional ordered modeling environment. However, we feel strongly that Synchronous Technology far exceeds the basic technology previously available.’

                  This is all fine and well but, if you’re not a Solid Edge user, once you’re done doing whatever editing it is you need to do, you still end up with a non-native file that you have to import into your native CAD system. As I discovered soon enough, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

                  When I started playing with 3DSync, I tried to forget that I’ve been using other systems for the past 14 years as I wanted to give 3DSync a fair shake. I perused the help section and looked at some of the videos available on Siemens’ website. If you have experience in other systems (which is likely as a D3D reader), there are things that you take for granted, there’s muscle-memory, certain actions that follow/lead into others and 3DSync doesn’t do those things the same way. Couple that with different terminology, and I found myself floundering a little bit.

                  I feel like I did when I first started using SolidWorks all those years ago: awestruck by this totally cool toy that I haven’t figured out how to play with yet. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to become as familiar with 3DSync. However, that shall not prevent me from doing my utmost to provide you with an unbiased opinion of 3DSync and its capabilities.

                  I began to wonder what the upside of 3DSync is versus the import/edit abilities of the system I’m most used to (SolidWorks). I wanted to know if Siemens’ $2,000 price tag was worth it. To that end, I used a simple bearing rest.

                  Data import: Using a history based system

                  To conduct an experiment I first opened the part data in SolidWorks. After asking me which template was to be applied, the system asked me if I wished to run ‘Import Diagnostics’. Nothing out of the ordinary there, however, upon clicking ‘Yes’, I was confronted with a faulty face. I didn’t know why it was faulty, it looked perfectly fine to me. The ‘Heal All’ option did the trick and I was on to the next dialog box: Do you want to proceed with feature recognition? Why yes, I do.

                  At this point, SolidWorks sprinkles some magic fairy dust and determines the various features that make up the model. It then recreates the model as a separate part. So, instead of just having ‘Imported1’ in the Feature Manager, you end up with a fully featured part ready for editing. If your plan is to just add or subtract material from the original imported part, there’s no need to go through the two previous steps. You can add or subtract material to the imported part as it comes in, you just won’t be able to edit the existing geometry.

                  Data import: using 3DSync

                  With 3DSync, you just open the part rather than ‘import’ it. While you are prompted to select a template, that’s the only “extra” step you need. From this point, you can start pushing and pulling faces or making whatever edits you want.

                  Because 3DSync checks for symmetry about the base model’s planes, you’ll see faces moving in unison if they’re detected as symmetrical. This works best when the model’s origin lines up with 3DSync’s origin. If not, it’s a few simple clicks of the mouse to get the model into a more acceptable orientation and you’re off and running. 3DSync doesn’t provide you with any high-end tools, just simple mechanical CAD tools: extrudes, cuts, holes, etc. No drawings or surfacing or anything.

                  So what can you do?

                  It’s 3DSync’s ability to recognize design intent that sets it apart. As I played with it, I came to realize just how much more powerful it was, how much more streamlined. Granted, I can only compare it with my experience using SolidWorks, so that’s a rather small data-set, but you get my point. By being able to recognize design intent automatically, it means you don’t have to be as conscious of it as you’re making edits. It takes away the need to remember to make sure you’ve updated both sides, or both holes, or both thinga-ma-jigs. It should be noted, too, that you can also edit multiple faces at once by using box select, speeding things up even more. But what if part of what you want to change is the very symmetry built into the part? Not to worry, simply turn off the ‘Live Rules’ and move features to your heart’s content.

                  Then there’s 3DSync’s ability to rotate features, faces or whole pieces of geometry. As I played and learned, I became more impressed. I began to see, too, the potential power of non-history based modeling. One doesn’t have to be as concerned with changing a feature created at the beginning of the design process as you would in a history-based model. This allows for quicker edits, and you can easily see, as you’re dragging things around, what’s going to happen. Honestly, there’s a whole other article on my thoughts regarding non-history versus history based modeling, so let me leave it at this: there are definitely pro’s to non-history based modeling in general, and 3DSync specifically.

                  The biggest flaw I see is, as mentioned earlier, you still need to still import a non-native file into your CAD system. But, how big is that flaw in reality? If your CAD system is incapable of editing imported data, it’s not a flaw at all; it’s a gift from the CAD gods. If it is capable, how capable is it? How much time will you save being able to use 3DSync’s ability to recognize inherent design intent? How much editing will you have to do in your software to reach your end goal?

                  Frankly, I think Siemens may be on to something here. I was initially incredulous, knowing full well the power of a history-based system’s capabilities when importing non-native files. It’s the editing aspect that is swaying me. With all the steps you have to do before you can start editing, then going in and editing sketches or features while having to remember to update any symmetric geometry, larger companies could justify the cost of a seat or two of 3DSync to complement their existing CAD system. Being able to import a fully edited file would certainly save hassle, time and as ever, that has a financial value in these harsh economic times.

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                    Hey! I’m still here!

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                    October 5, 2013 · Posted in SolidWorks Community  

                    I am still around, even if I haven’t had anything to write since June. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been so busy, but that wouldn’t be truthful. I’ve just been at a complete loss as to what to write about. The last thing I wrote was actually for Develop3D magazine, though it hasn’t been published as of yet. Even then, it was about Solid Edge…

                    What’s got me typing away today? I was thinking about a project we just finished up for the Amazon Paperwhite. By ‘we’, I mean Imagicorps. Anyway, we were tasked with creating an interactive area for consumers. There were various elements that needed to go into it: seating area, individual ‘pods’, a device bar, informational graphics and other bits and bobs. The coolest part, in my opinion, was the pods. They were designed in SolidWorks (duh) and are compound curves. While they didn’t seem like they’d be overly difficult to design, they did present some challenges. One half of one side is a door. Looking down from the top, the left and right sides are concentric, but the seating area inside is rectangular. Then there’s the round acrylic windows that fit in each of the side panels, including the door. Oh, and when the potential customer sat down, the acrylic had to go from clear to opaque.

                    There were other things, too, that we had to figure out, but my point of it all is this: you can design anything in SolidWorks. In the 15 years or so that I’ve been using it, I’ve designed a multitude of different things. From hydroforming presses to gate operators to sonar cases. Add in some anti-piracy training facilities, my girlfriend’s deck and other miscellaneous things (including a book case for the aforementioned project) and one can see the versatility in just my short resume. Add in all the other examples that are out there and it becomes even more evident.

                    As soon as I get 2014 up and running again, I’ll share my thoughts on it. Hopefully, it won’t be another 4 month gap.

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