Stumbling onto “new” things

Posted on July 31st, 2008. Posted In SolidWorks Tips

So I’ve stumbled onto a couple of things in SolidWorks that I thought I’d share. I’m hoping that these weren’t common knowledge…

First, have you ever brought a huge piece of equipment into a new assembly only to find that the assembly template’s planes are miniscule? Did you know you can right click on the plane and select ‘Auto-size’? I stumbled across that one two days ago.

Next, and I’m really feeling like an idiot over this one, is renaming. I spent a good portion of yesterday fighting with a renaming macro. As you may recall, I’m dealing with non-native assemblies. When you import said assemblies, all the lower level parts are named "Import1", "Import2", etc. When you have multiple assemblies that you are going to combine into one large assembly, all those like-named parts cause problems. This is why I was fighting with the macro yesterday (many thanks to you guys on eng-tips!). Just as I was about to strangle the kid we hired to help us out, even though none of this was his fault, I "discovered" something in the ‘Save-As’ dialog. You know how you can choose References when doing a save-as? And then you can change the file paths for all those lower level parts? Well, there’s an option button there, too. Damn if you can’t add a prefix or suffix to the file names. I’m honestly embarrassed about not knowing that.


Posted on July 28th, 2008. Posted In Software Review

I just spent almost two hours in a webmeeting, and on the phone (thank God AT&T has rollover minutes!), with Matt Cummins from TactonWorks. I have to say, in all honesty, I’m impressed with what I saw.

What/who is TactonWorks? Well, it is Knowledgebased Engineering software. They are part of Tacton Systems AB, and a SolidWorks Gold Partner. Their approach to KBE is a bit different than what you may have seen in the past.

With most KBE systems, the user essentially "programs" the interface. Inputting all the data, what if scenarios and associated error messages. With TactonWorks, the user, for the most part, simply inputs all the pertinent data and TactonWorks provides the answer. Granted, I’m oversimplifying the whole process, but it was pretty impressive nonetheless.

The examples I was shown didn’t appear to be "canned". I know for a fact that one of them wasn’t as the originator of the file is a member of the Blog Squad. Of the demos I did see, and I certainly hope I can mention it here, the Sudoko Puzzle was the most impressive. After inputting two numbers into the puzzle, TactonWorks sovled the remainder of the puzzle for you. You could then randomly change a number and, in about 1.5 seconds, the puzzle would update again. What impressed me most was how few rules were involved. If I remember correctly, it was 10.

I’ve been promised an evaluation copy, I’m just waiting to get my seat of SolidWorks. Once I do, I promise a full and complete review of TactonWorks. So, stay tuned!

I’m gonna kill Mike…

Posted on July 28th, 2008. Posted In SolidWorks Community

Not just any Mike, though. Specifically, Mike Puckett. I love SolidWorks World, but I try to keep thoughts of it at bay until necessary. I’d been doing quite well, too…until today. Then Mike had to go and talk about the SWW website (see it here) and now I’m off in la-la land thinking about SWW ’09.

All I can think about is all the presentations, the vendor fair, the food, catching up with old friends. (You were one of those friends, Mike, now I’m going to have to rethink that). On top of all that, SWW ’09 is going to be in Orlando, Florida from February 8th-11th. I live in Seattle. Have you ever been in Seattle during February? It’s wet and cold. I’m thinking that by the time SWW rolls around, I may be taking a much needed vacation. Spend a few extra days basking in the Florida sun…

Anyway, keep an eye out for the announcements regarding SWW, and start hammering on your boss about the value of sending you. You still have a good 6 months to work on him/her.

Importing Non-native Files…

Posted on July 24th, 2008. Posted In SolidWorks Community

…can be a royal PITA!! If things continue this way, I’m going to end up bald. Frankly, I don’t want to be bald. It’s bad enough that I have some gray coming in. That’s right, I’m not aging gracefully. I’m fighting tooth and nail to stay young. However, the ACIS file I’ve been dealing with is making an already difficult battle even more difficult.

I know, I know, SolidWorks handles ACIS all the time, along with a slew of other file types. I know. Not this one, though. This one is wreaking havoc on my mental well-being. The file originated out of revit and is 143MB sat file. When I first imported it, I spaced out and did it across the network. Hush, I know I screwed up. Thankfully, it only took 14.5 hours to convert…no, that’s not an exaggeration. Unfortunately, everything came in suppressed. I tried unsuppressing everything all at once, but that turned out to be another mistake. SolidWorks stopped responding (read: flatlined), and I had to pull the plug (FYI – Computer specs: Dell T3400, Core2Duo E6850 @ 3GHz, 8 Gigs RAM on a 1GB network). Meanwhile, my partner-in-crime here, Mike, did the smart thing and moved the ACIS file to his hard drive and opened it from there. It only took 5 hours to get it to open up in SolidWorks. (I should mention here that, once opened, there are 3500+ parts in the assembly.) He was then able to get everything to unsuppress in 30 minutes. Yee-ha! We saved the assembly, moved it, and all its associated parts, onto a memory stick and transferred it to my computer. I opened up the file on the stick and…where’s the assembly?? We went back to his computer but it wasn’t there. It wasn’t on the stick. It was gone. How the hell does that happen?

I’ve been on the phone with the local VAR (Quest Integration). Those guys have been great in dealing with me. I say me, and not the issue, because I can be a handful when I get aggravated. I’ve talked to some other users and a couple of people at SolidWorks, but have yet to find a solution.

As I sit here writing, the assembly is up on my other monitor and everything appears to be unsuppressed. Unfortunately, SolidWorks also appears to be locked up. Again. I don’t want to bring up my task manager as I know what I’m bound to see (SolidWorks Office Premium 2008 x64 Edition…Not Responding).

What’s my point here? Why am I rambling on nonsensically? Because I’m hoping that one of you out there have been through this before and can either give me a fix, or commiserate with me. Thank God it’s Thursday (I work  4/10’s). Tomorrow I’m going salmon fishing. Saturday, I’m relaxing. I’ll come back here on Monday, refreshed, and go at it again. So long as I don’t go bald, it’ll all be good.

SolidWorks Routing – Got any advice?

Posted on July 17th, 2008. Posted In SolidWorks Community

Ok, as most of you know, I’m self-employed now. A job opportunity fell into my lap so I started my own company, JRM Consulting & Design, Inc. Not a super catchy name like Matt’s (Dezign Stuff), but it’ll do for now. I’m still not used to referring to myself as "President", but that’s a personal issue.

Anyway, the project I’m working on is going to require routing in the not too distant future. I’ve done a bit of routing in the past, but nothing like what I’m going to be doing. It’s going to be a huge undertaking on a pretty massive scale. I already know that some of what I’ll need to route (HVAC) probably won’t be doable with Routing, but I figured I’d solicit some advice from the community.

While I can’t be overly specific, I’m working on a large building. Part of the job entails routing all the piping, HVAC, power, plumbing, etc. Have any of you done anything on a scale such as this? Cable runs of 2000’+? 10" drain pipes? How about a 110V circuit? I know there are users out there who have a lot more experience with routing and I’d love to hear from you guys. I’d hate to think of the amount of 3D sketching I’ll have to do if I can’t use routing for most of it…thank God it’s an hourly contract!

Weldments and my IPod

Posted on July 17th, 2008. Posted In SolidWorks Tips

What do Weldments in SolidWorks and my IPod have to do with each other you might ask? Nothing, aside from the fact that I’m listening to ITunes as I write this post. I finally broke down and bought an IPod Nano a few weeks ago and have now spent more money on song downloads than I did on the damn player. Right now, I’m listening to my 80’s playlist, reliving my high school years…

Now for the meat of this post, Weldments. Up until recently, I never used the Weldments function in SolidWorks very much. Lately, though, I’ve been using it on an almost daily basis. Have you used it? I know that there are some that don’t like it very much, but I don’t see why. I’m enjoying the hell out of it. It really makes things easier if you ask me. With a fairly simple skeleton sketch, you can create a nice weldment, complete with a cutlist, in no time. As with so much in SolidWorks, it’s pretty intuitive as well. Granted, I use to teach how to use weldments, when I was on the "other side", but it didn’t take me long to get the hang of it. Now I’m not claiming to be an expert at it. I’m sure there’s some tricks that I don’t know on how to make it even more simple, but as I’ve said so often before, if I can do it, anyone can.

If you’re in a field that creates welded structures, I strongly recommend you check out weldments. There’s a tutorial in SolidWorks to get you started, then dive right in and started creating your own.

If you’ve used weldments, and have some tips and tricks, I’d love to hear from you!


Wanna win $20,000?

Posted on July 8th, 2008. Posted In SolidWorks Community

SolidWorks and NASA are sponsoring a "Create the Future" contest with a top prize of $20,000! Just go and enter your awe inspiring dream. Remember, I only expect 10% of your winnings…

Good Luck!

I remember when I first saw SolidWorks back in about 1998. I had just become part of the Technical Publications team at Genie, charged with illustrating and writing parts manuals. At the time, the illustrations were created in some convoluted process that included AutoCAD, CorelDraw and an EPS converter. I happened to walk by one of the design engineers, saw him working with SolidWorks and wondered why we couldn’t created the illustrations from it. When I asked some of the "old timers" from Tech Pubs about it, I was told that you couldn’t get a true Isometric view from SolidWorks and "we’ve always done it this way". Well, that last part is what got me started on SolidWorks. I hate that answer. Plus, I knew that you could get pretty much any view you wanted from SolidWorks. Much to the chagrin of the aforementioned "old timers", I illustrated my first manual completely from SolidWorks drawings. Last I heard, all the manuals at Genie are now done that way.

Fast forward to present day. As I wrote some weeks ago, I’m no longer working for a reseller. As a matter of fact, I’m my own boss now. An opportunity fell into my lap and I started my own business (JRM Consulting & Design, Inc. – for those of you wanting to know). The company I’m working for saw a potential for SolidWorks to do some great things for them and took the leap and purchased a few seats. That’s where I come in, along with another consultant. While they had an inkling of what SolidWorks can do, we’ve shown them even more. The coolest thing for me is how enthralled they are by the power and versatility of SolidWorks. Whoever initially showed them SolidWorks must have only scraped the surface. Hell, we’ve only scraped just below the surface and these guys look like a group of kids on their first visit to Disneyland. Not that I’m complaining. It’s because of their excitement that I spend 4 days a week away from home working.

What’s my point? The people I’m working for have been in, and around, engineering for decades and are just now taking the leap to 3D. All it took was one person to show another person the power of SolidWorks for it to happen. It seems to me that there is a very small segment that truly can say 2D is all they need. The rest of the engineers, designers, drafters, etc, that haven’t made the leap just need the right person to show them. Are you that person, or do you still need to make the leap?

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