Surfacing isn’t as scary as I thought

Posted on July 23rd, 2012. Posted In SolidWorks Community

For years I shied away from surfacing. It was organic. It was an uncontrollable animal that I had no idea of how to use. Frankly, it scared me. On top of it’s alien-like qualities I felt it possessed, it also seemed to require an infinite amount of patience to actually create something. Tons of splines and points that FLOAT IN THE AIR! I mean they aren’t even on a plane.Over the past couple of years, however, I’ve been forced to face my fears and learn to use surfacing. Y’know what? It ain’t that bad. While pro surfacers (Mssrs. Lombard and Perez come to mind) would probably giggle like schoolgirls at my work flow, I’m happy to say that I can now create useable, and identifiable, surface models.

What I’m enjoying more, though, is being able to repair surface models. There was a time where I’d see a feature tree like this and give up before starting:


“But, Jeff, how did you do it?” you might ask. Perseverance, my friends, as well as the want to know how. One of the things I’ve always liked about SolidWorks is how user friendly it is. Add to that the plethora of independent users sharing their knowledge of various facets of the software, and you have an environment ripe for learning. (Good God, I sound like I’m working for a marketing company) You have to add in a lot of trial and error, too. The trial and error may be the most powerful learning too out of all of them. By paying attention to the results you get while trying to fix that stupid, tiny, completely annoying, dammit-how-did-that-happen hole, you’ll learn a ton of what not to do’s. It’s one thing to read how to/how not to in a book or watch it in a video, it’s completely different to feel the joy of winning, or the agony of defeat, yourself.

While I’m not ready just yet to design the next super car, I am comfortable enough to try. What are some of your memories from when you started surfacing?

The actual title is SolidWorks Surfacing and Complex Shape Modeling Bible, but that was just too much to put in the title.  Written by Matt Lombard, this book is part of the “Bible” series published by Wiley. Matt also wrote the SolidWorks 2007 Bible and is about to release the SolidWorks 2009 Bible.

On top of being a published author, Matt is also an accomplished engineer and a friend of mine (not that being a friend of mine is worth anything). That will have no affect on this review though. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t pull punches. However, anyone who knows Matt knows he’s good at what he does and he doesn’t do things half-assed. The Surfacing Bible is no exception. Matt takes the time to not only explain the “how”, but the “why” as well. For someone like me, who has limited surfacing experience, this info in invaluable. As with his other books, this one is for intermediate to advanced users. You do need to have a pretty good understanding of SolidWorks, and its related terminology, to be able to adequately use the book.

The book takes you from laying the groundwork to specialized techniques. There’s a great section that explains what surfaces are that then seques into when to use them versus solids. There’s a whole chapter on surfacing tools and how to use them, too. Throughout the book there are cross-reference links so you can easily find associated content. Matt also includes some excellent information on splines and 3D sketching.

One of the best features of the book, aside from the learning, is how Matt talks about limitations with the software and how to deal with said limitations. Bear in mind, this isn’t done maliciously but to help. It goes a long way to making your job easier to know what to expect, and not to expect, from the software.

The actual “lesson” chapters are clear, organized and easy to understand. Matt takes the time to not only show you how, but tells you why and mentions other ways this or that could have been accomplished. The illustrations are easy to understand, as is each step. There’s a chapter on evaluation geometry that covers all the various tools available to check your model (the check tool, curvature combs, etc).

As I’ve come to expect from Matt, this book is extremely thorough, even diving into post-processing (PhotoWorks, eDrawings). While I would have preferred a CD with the model files on it, a decision was made for a “Companion Website”. I suppose, though, that by doing it that way it allows for changes/fixes to be made to any files that may need it. I could actually write more about this book, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Matt’s knowledge of surfacing is well-known and he, seemingly, has put it all into the SolidWorks Surfacing and Complex Shape Modeling Bible. If you haven’t done so already, I strongly suggest you buy one today.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago (see this post) the fine folks at SolidProfessor hooked me up with their 2009 suite. Where I already know how to use SolidWorks, and I went through their 2008 stuff not too long ago, I decided to approach their 2009 offering a bit differently. I enlisted my 15 year-old son, Nico, to go through the 3D Skills portion. I figured if he could learn the basics of SolidWorks via SolidProfessor’s tutorials, that would speak pretty well for them. I mean, c’mon, we’re talking about a teenager here! It doesn’t take much to distract one. A pretty girl on TV, some (c)rap song playing, innumerable text messages; you get the idea.

I’ve been watching Nico as he’s been going through the lessons and he hasn’t looked up once. He also hasn’t called me over to explain anything. This, in my opinion, says a lot about how well SolidProfessor explains the lessons. He completed the lessons, and not too badly for a first time user of both SolidWorks and SolidProfessor. It wasn’t perfect, but how could you expect it to be? In talking to him about it, there was some terminology that he didn’t fully understand, but was able to figure out what he needed to do. He’s a gamer, not a CAD jockey. Nonetheless, I think he, and SolidProfessor, did a good job. If I can, I’m going to see if he’s willing to give the Core Concepts section a try.

Next up for me, some of the advanced lessons. First one I’m going to tackle is Advanced Surfacing. I don’t have much experience with surfacing, so I’m hoping to learn a lot.

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