Do you know about the Dynamic Mirror tool in SolidWorks? No? Well, stick around and I’ll show you.

The Dynamic Mirror tool is a sketch tool that allows you to dynamically mirror (duh) as you’re sketching. To use it, you first have to find it as it’s won’t be on your sketch toolbar, or ‘S’ key menu, by default. Hit your ‘S’ key, RMB on the menu and select customize. Go to the ‘Commands’ tab and select ‘Sketch’. There you’ll see the Dynamic Mirror icon:

Just drag and drop it to either the ‘S’ menu or to the sketch toolbar.

Now that you’ve got the button, let’s talk about using it. It’s quite simple, actually. Just like the regular ‘Mirror Entities’ command, you’ll need a centerline. It can either be a sketch, or an existing edge. Simply highlight it and click on the ‘Dynamic Mirror’ button. Start sketching and with each click of your mouse you’ll see a mirrored entity of what you just sketched. While you can, in fact, sketch on both sides of your centerline, you’ll want to stick to one side or the other to prevent overlapping geometry. Once you’ve finished with whatever you wanted to mirror, you can turn off the dynamics but clicking on the button again.

Dynamic Mirror is a great way to quickly, and easily, create symmetric sketches.

Who’da Thunk?

Posted on May 18th, 2010. Posted In SolidWorks Community

I’m constantly amazed at the stuff that’s designed in SolidWorks, or 3D-CAD in general. The layers of complexity, the swoopy surfaces, the level of detail; it all amazes and awes me. Then there’s the “everyday” stuff that it never even crossed my mind that it was designed, period.

How about this, from Crayola:

Yup, your kids’ markers may have been designed by 3D mechanical design software.

Then there’s this offering from Hamilton-Beach:

For you hunters out there, Federal Cartridge is in on it, too:

See those lights in the Nashville Symphony Concert Hall? Yup, SolidWorks:

What’s my point to all this? It’s two-fold, actually. One, the next time you look at something maybe you’ll wonder a bit about who/what/how when it comes to designs of every day items. The second point, and this is directed more towards the beginners, is take those everyday items and reverse engineer them. It’s one of the best ways to learn SolidWorks.

Toolbars: Yes or No?

Posted on May 12th, 2010. Posted In Rant,SolidWorks Community,SolidWorks Tips

Warning: this is going to be another of my opinionated posts. I welcome any, and all, well thought out comments. However, should you make things personal, I’ll be forced to call for the immediate removal of all your body hair so that you end up looking like this (yes, it’s safe for work). You have been warned.

A couple of months ago I was training some engineers on SolidWorks. Their company had been using SolidWorks for a bit and a couple of them had brought their laptops to the session. After going through one lesson, and having them start the examples, I was walking around and saw a screen similar to this:

I say similar because I’m pretty sure he had every possible toolbar turned on and I got tired going that far. I stood behind him for a moment, slack-jawed. Bear in mind, this was on a laptop with a 17″ screen. I’m not sure how he was ever able to design anything in the 6 square inches of usable graphics area , but I digress. So I asked him why he still had his setup looking like something from 2006. He gave me that look. You know, the look that says “why are you such an ass?”. Anyway, he went on to explain that it’s what he was comfortable with, that he didn’t have to search the command manager, he knew where everything was, yada-yada-yada. That was when I noticed that he didn’t have the command manager turned on either. I’m thankful that I didn’t hit anything when I fell over…

I took a deep breath and asked him about the ‘S’ key. He asked, a bit arrogantly, what I meant (thankfully, I was sitting down at this point). I then went on to explain to him the wonder that is the ‘S’ key and how it was customizable. How it was there only when you needed it. How, in his case, it could provide ten times the available graphic area, which garnered me “that look”, again. How his mouse travel would be greatly lessened. How all the cool kids were doing it. How, had the technology been around, there’d be 11 commandments instead of 10.

What it all boiled down to was this: it was outside his ‘comfort’ area. Now I don’t want to go and start belittling people who are uncomfortable with change. I’ve been there, I get it. However, there are times when not changing really isn’t the best course of action. I believe this is one of those times.

I know there are those of you out there who have a macro mapped to every single key. That’s awesome. Honestly, I’m jealous of you; I don’t have the brain capacity to remember what macro was mapped where. The ‘S’ key, though, I can handle. With one keystroke I have 95% of the tools I need at that particular moment. That, in my not so humble opinion, rocks! As I explained to him how versatile the ‘S’ key was, I could see that his mind was beginning to engage, that he was beginning to see the possibilities. That totally made it all worth it for me. I love teaching SolidWorks, especially when I see the light come on.

Here’s the thing, I know that there are still a number of people out there who still have toolbars active. There are those who don’t use the Command Manager much less the ‘S’ key. I want to know why. I want to understand what it is about toolbars that makes you stay with them.

Favorite User Group Subjects?

Posted on May 5th, 2010. Posted In SolidWorks Community

When it comes time to deciding whether you’re going to attend your upcoming SWUG meeting, what topic(s) would compel you to go? I know that everybody loves Tips & Tricks presentations, but how many can you actually see before they become mundane? SolidWorks employee speakers? Much easier to get for the east coast groups than anywhere. That doesn’t stop me from trying to get them, though. How about local users presenting on what they’re creating with SolidWorks? Is this something that interests you?

What would your ultimate SWUG meeting involve, outside of pizza and soda?

How does one go about reviewing a book, without bias, when said book was written by friends? Well, if you’re me, you just do it. I’ve never had a problem separating business and pleasure and, in this case, this is all business.

Alex Ruiz, with help from Gabi Jack, has written a SolidWorks book for beginners. SolidWorks 2010: No Experience Required is, truly, written for the beginner. It starts you off by going through system requirements, then into how to start the program once installed, to the UI. They go through the UI in great detail which, I suspect, is highly beneficial to new users. Alex does a good job of explaining what the toolbars do, what the Feature Manager is for, and what shortcuts are available out of the box. (Though I didn’t see any mention of ctrl+1 (front), ctrl+2 (back), etc.)

With step-by-step instructions, the book walks the reader through each phase of part/assembly/drawing creation and, in the end, the user will have created a desk lamp. With tips and tricks throughout, the user will not only learn the basics, but can glean info that will help speed up their design processes.

SolidWorks 2010: No Experience Required is a highly detailed manual, and would seem to be perfect for the beginner. I think adding a section on repairing/understanding errors would be highly beneficial, though. Being able to handle errors early on makes life so much easier for the newbie, if you ask me.

I also disagree with showing Instant3D. Frankly, I think it can cause the new user more problems than not. It doesn’t take much for someone to inadvertently drag a face and not fully realize what they’ve done. Instant3D, in my opinion, should be shown at an intermediate level or, at least, have some sort of disclaimer in bold about the possibility of hosing things up quite easily if you’re not paying attention.

Overall, I think the book is laid out well. It’s written clearly and concisely, if not a bit too simplified. I can see this book being extremely helpful to students especially. I give it a solid B.

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