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. […Read More…]

Learn SolidWorks, Win an iPad!

Posted on December 11th, 2010. Posted In SolidWorks Community,SolidWorks Tips

My good friend, Ben Eadie, has a new teaching website (usingsolidworks.com) and to help get things going, he’s giving away a 32GB iPad. Check out the video for all the pertinent info.

Using SolidWorks Giveaway

Like what you see? Go here to sign up.

SolidWorks Simulation

Posted on August 25th, 2010. Posted In SolidWorks Community,SolidWorks Tips

Today, while running a simulation, I saw on Twitter that Roopinder Tara had put up a new blog post titled ‘Practicing FEA Without a License’. Naturally, I surfed on over because, well, the title described me. The gist of his post was that CAD jockeys shouldn’t be doing analysis, it should be left to PE’s.  That’s what I took away from it anyway.

Here’s my thing, I don’t necessarily disagree with him. To a point. Yes, I run analysis, but they’re based off of input from the guy who signs my checks. In previous positions, the input would come from someone at that same level. We’d discuss what needed to be included, forces, restraints, etc. But, when it came down to setting up the simulation I had to do it because I was the one who knew the software. I was the one who was hired to do it, among other things. I suspect that that is the same in many companies, as well as with resellers. Frankly, it doesn’t make sense for a reseller to hire a PE as a Sales Engineer. Seems like a waste of a couple of very important initials. So, yes, the sales engineer is going to be a CAD Jockey. No harm, no foul.

When I was working for a reseller, I never had the opportunity to demo Simulation. I’m not sure I would have wanted to, either. Not because I don’t think it’s a good product, but because it’s outside my comfort zone. I don’t know anywhere near enough about FEA to say whether its results are always dead nuts on. One of the things that Roopinder brought up in his post was how just adding an extra zero when setting up a simulation could totally hose the results. Makes sense, but I don’t think it’d be just CAD jockeys making those mistakes. To that end, adding an extra zero while doing hand calcs, would have the same effect, no?

Here’s what it boils down to for me. You don’t have to be a PE to run Simulation, but I also wouldn’t stake my reputation on the solely on the results. You have to have someone that knows FEA double-check your inputs and results. I know I do. If I mess something up, people die and I sure as hell don’t want that on my conscience.

Yeah, yeah, boring title, I know. I was pretty limited in my options here, y’know? I suppose I could have gone for some long, convoluted title, but why? I’m mean, when all is said and done, you’re here now aren’t ya?

SolidWorks has put out a great self-study guide, but I’m a bit late to the party as far as reviewing it. Rob Rodriguez, Gabi Jack and Deepak Gupta have all done reviews, but I’ll add my 1/2 cent as well.

This 511 page, 35 chapter manual, including a Tips and Tricks chapter, is the perfect manual if you want to learn how to create animations in SolidWorks. Complete with a DVD that contains all the files you’ll need to complete the lessons within. It’s obvious that the anonymous authors did their due diligence in writing this book, as well as thinking about the intended audience. Each chapter contains easy to understand steps that slowly build upon each other. Chapter one explains, in detail, all the various interfaces within the Motion Manager so you, the audience, will understand all the terminology as it’s used in the rest of the manual. Using a liberal amount of images, the user is walked through each step necessary to create everything from a simple animation to a large assembly animation.

If animation is, or is going to become, a part of your workload, you’d be doing yourself a favor making the investment in this book, available for $89.95 in the SolidWorks Store or from your VAR.

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.

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.

By a show of hands, how many of you have tried SimulationXpress, or any of the ‘Xpress’ products available in SolidWorks? Sure, they’re meant to be like gateway drugs, tempting and teasing you into purchasing the full-blown product, but that doesn’t mean that they’re bad for you.

SimulationXpress is a decent, first-pass, analysis tool. It’ll let you know if your part is in the ballpark, though I wouldn’t base my final design off of it. You can find it on the ‘Evaluate’ tab of your Command Manager, or under the ‘Tools’ dropdown. It’s a simple tool to use just by following the prompts. The wizard walks you through the necessary steps to run an analysis of a part so that you can have an idea of how it’s going to react. It is limited to force/pressure analysis but, again, you’re just going for a ballpark idea here.

Where SimulationXpress, and its fellow Xpress tools, are already in every seat of SolidWorks, don’t you think you owe it to yourself to try them out? As I’m so fond of saying, if I can do it, anyone can do it.

Back in June, I posted a quick SolidWorks T & T post that seemed to be well received, so I figured I’d post another one.

  • ‘Ctrl’+8 will change view to Normal to. Hitting it again will flip to the opposite side.
  • F5 turns your filter toolbar on/off. F6 clears enabled filters.
  • To created geometry without snapping, hold down ‘ctrl’ before or after dragging to disable inferencing.
  • Repair broken sketch relationships by dragging, or manually repair by using relations.
  • Name your features, it’ll make your life easier down the road.
  • If working in a multi-user environment, enable multi-user environment to receive update notices (Tools->options->collaboration).
  • If you use variations of the same part, you owe it to yourself to check out DriveWorksXpress.
  • Always use fully defined sketches. Trust me.

Tips & Tricks sessions are always popular at SWUG meetings and at SolidWorks World. It looks like there’s a least 5 different T&T sessions at SWW’10. If you’re planning on attending, make sure you get there early, you’ll want to be able to take notes.

I’m the only SolidWorks user in the company and, up until now, haven’t been using PDMWorks. Part of the reason is I don’t trust our server. We’re a small company and the server’s stability worries me. Presently, I have everything on my computer, with a backup on an external hard drive. The only things I put on the server are pdf’s of completed drawings.
I’ve been contemplating creating a vault on my hard drive, with a backup on the external drive, for a while now. The thing is, I’m just not convinced it’s the way to go. I’ve used PDM plenty of times, and think I’m pretty well versed in the positives in a multi-user environment, but I just can’t quite wrap my head around using it solo. Yes, I’ve heard the “what if the company grows” argument, but it just isn’t enough to get me to make the switch.
Are you using PDMWorks in a solo environment? If so, why? How do you feel it enhances your work flow? If you’re not using it, why not? Curious minds want to know.

I’ve been slammed at work lately, but knew that I should come up with some sort of a post. How about a bunch of random SolidWorks tips & tricks.

  • Holding ‘Ctrl’ and dragging a part in an assembly will copy the part. This is true if you click on the part in the tree or the graphics area. You can do the same with a sub-assembly out of the tree.
  • Hold ‘Ctrl’ and dragging a plane will create a quick parallel copy of said plane.
  • Dynamic Line/arc creation – Hover over the line endpoint to switch to the arc tool, or press ‘A’ to alternate between the two.
  • F9 will hide the FeatureManager, F10 will hide the toolbars, F11 hides all.
  • F5 turns your selection filter toolbar on and off. F6 clears enabled filters.
  • Holding down ‘Shift’ while dimensioning arcs will auto dim to ‘Max’.
  • If you use the ‘Shell’ command without selecting a face, you’ll create a hollow part.
  • Use Multi-mate to speed up mate creation in assemblies.
  • Did you know that you can rotate, in 3D, a view in a drawing?
  • Use a surface cut to quickly remove half of a model.

Ok, that’s it for now. Just a quick post!


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