Forethought vs. Crap

Posted on June 29th, 2010. Posted In Software Review

I’ve been busy lately, super busy. I figure I’m averaging almost 60 hours per week here at my new job. Why you might ask? Because of the crap I’ve been trying to polish.

I was brought in to replace a couple of engineers who just weren’t getting things done and, it turns out, what they were getting done wasn’t done right. I think the thing that bothers me most is that they were both AE’s in the past. (I shudder when I think of the damage they might have caused.) I’ve seen under-defined sketches, boss-extrudes to fill cut-extrudes, parts with features that have been suppressed for no apparent reason. This is stuff that was going to be sent out for quote or manufacture/machining. The drawings that had been created were no better. In looking at them, I seriously doubt either engineer had much experience, if any, with manufacturing or production. Don’t even get me started on the part naming and numbering convention…what a cluster that is.

Anyone who has been using SolidWorks for any length of time knows that there are half a dozen different ways to get from A to B. Often you’ll hear there’s no “wrong way” to do it. I’m here to tell you that there is, in fact, a wrong way to do it. Sorry, but it’s the truth. While it’s one thing to haphazardly model parts up during an R&D phase, you need to start thinking about machining, manufacturing, assembly, etc at some point during the design phase. If you don’t, you end up with the crap that I inherited.

  • Sometimes you need to take that super cool part and recreate it so that it doesn’t contain a slew of unnecessary features.
  • Sometimes you need to redo the end condition on those holes as “up to next” so that your hole callout doesn’t say a depth of 6.375″ when the part is only 2″ thick.
  • Sometimes, while you’re fixing that end condition, you need to add the other half of the holes (instead of mirroring) so that your hole callout recognizes that there are actually 12 holes and not only 6.
  • Sometimes you need to not remove features that have been linked externally to other parts, or at least remember to delete the damn link so that a part doesn’t open with a bunch of friggin’ x’s!
  • Sometimes you need to remove your head from your a…

Listen, just because you think you’re the ultimate CAD jockey doesn’t mean that you are. Do you take the time to think about how that totally awesome part is going to be made? Have you thought about the machinist or mold-maker? If you don’t do your own drawings, have you made your design intent clear enough that your drafter is going to get it? Hell, do you get it?

I realize that what I came across here may only happen once in a while, but even that’s too much. How much forethought would it take to design parts, even in the R&D phase, that, in the end, will work for everyone downstream that needs them? Yes, I realize that parts are extremely fluid during the R&D phase but they do start to solidify.

Something else to consider: when naming parts try to not be a complete tool about it. Naming a part “Intake Bushing, Rev A – Final – Final – Final” does nothing for my confidence that the part is actually the final one. Worse yet is having said part in two different folders where the older one reports to the assembly and not the newer one (based on last saved status). It’s enough to drive a grown man to cry.

What this all boils down to is this: Put some thought into the big picture rather than focusing only on your little part of it. It’ll make for happy people all around.

If you watch College football, you’ve seen their products. If you’re a Chargers fan, you’ve seen their products. Bengals or Packers? Yup, you too. DJO, Inc. designs and produces state-of-the-art knee braces, among other things. 90% of NCAA Division I teams use them. Shawn Merriman, Mark Tauscher, Chad Clifton and Carson Palmer use them. What’s my point here you ask? DJO uses SolidWorks to design their products. Actually, they do more than just design with SolidWorks, they do all their surfacing, rendering and analysis with SolidWorks too. They create a wide array of braces, some of which I’ve used. That’s even more to the point for me. I love finding out that something I’m using, or have used, was created in SolidWorks.

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