Archive for November, 2008

BlankWorks 4.0 is released

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

BlankWorks version 4.0 for SolidWorks 2008/2009 is now available:

What’s new:

  • New ability to unfold geometry onto another complex 3D surface (support surface)
  • Added the ability to unfold partial geometry while maintaining connection with the rest of the part
  • BlankWorks now uses FTI’s powerful Coupled Hybrid Inverse (CHI) solver
  • New automatic mesh generation
  • Mesh offset is no longer required. Instead, the thickness direction is specified in the property manager

I don’t know about you, but I have been waiting for the Coupled Hybrid Inverse solver for months!

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

PhotoView 360 Tips and Tricks #1

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Many of you may have used this new tool from SolidWorks.  It has been available since the beta program for SolidWorks 2009.  It is available to those who have a license of PhotoWorks.  PhotoView 360 is targeted at quick and easy renderings.  Open your SolidWorks file in PhotoView 360 and it will bring in the materials applied to your SolidWorks models.  Then just choose an environment and render.  It really is that easy.

But, what if you want to do something a little more custom?  Due to the fact that PhotoView 360 is a new direction for SolidWorks rendering, as well as a new release, it has limited customization options.  PhotoWorks is still the work horse for heavily customized renderings.  In PhotoView 360, you can select a material and drag it onto a part.  But, the selection of materials is the same as the SolidWorks material database.  This presented me with a problem, as I wanted to create a Christmas scene.  I had modeled a Snow Globe in SolidWorks and wanted to render it on a Christmas themed cloth.

Christmas PhotoView Example

Since there is no way currently to select a custom material or import a texture as a material, I browsed to the install directory to see if the materials were available in a recognizable format.  Sure enough, there is a material directory located at:

“C:\Program Files\SolidWorks Corp\PhotoView 360\resrc\presets\materials\”.

Under “material” is a “fabric” folder.  I looked through there and noticed that for every material listed in PhotoView 360 there was a texture and bump map.  The texture holds the image or color information and the bump map is a file that helps PhotoView 360 give depth to the texture. You can learn more about bump maps here.

I tried to add my own file Christmas_Fabric.png and Christmas_Fabric_bump.png to the folder, but they were not recognized in PhotoView 360. I wasn’t going down that easy. I then decided to rename my files so that PhotoView 360 would have to try to read them. It worked perfect! Here is what you need to do to use your own texture in PhotoView 360.  I chose to replace cottonwhite.png with my file, Christmas_Fabric.png

  1. Browse to “C:\Program Files\SolidWorks Corp\PhotoView 360\resrc\presets\materials\fabric”
  2. Rename cottonwhite.png to cottonwhite_original.png
  3. Copy your “texture.png” file into the fabric folder.
  4. Rename your file to cottonwhite.png.

Open PhotoView 360 and drag the white cotton material from the fabric\cloth flyout. It should look like your material. You can also change the scale of your texture.   Turn on the select tool in PhotoView and select the object that has your cloth on it. Now that the object is selected, go to the advanced tab in the material flyout.  Now you can use the “texture scale multiplier” to change the scale of your texture.  Additionally, you could make your own bump map, if you are really creative.

Scott High

Technical Services Manager 3DVision Technologies

They canceled Christmas?

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

I am sad. My most anticipated service pack ever (at least since 2001+) has been canceled.

I have drafted a letter to the SolidWorks Enterprise PDM developers and reprinted it here with my permission:

Dear SolidWorks Enterprise PDM Developers:
I have been looking forward to the new Item Centric functionality in Enterprise PDM since the glorious beta days this summer. I wept when I found out it would not be available until SP1. Yesterday I learned there would be no Enterprise SP1 and we have to wait until SP2?

I understand "this is a unique, one‐time event and will not lessen the number of software defects (SPR’s) that are fixed during the 2009 release cycle", but still -would you show a boy a new bike and tell him he cannot ride it until next month?

With love and disappointment,
Engineering Data Specialist Man

I suppose it will be worth the wait, but I want it now!

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

When should you upgrade?

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Ahhhh….SolidWorks 2009 SP1 is out and a young man’s fancy turns to upgrades.

When should you upgrade to SolidWorks 2009? Some people jumped in and started using it when it is still in the beta stages. Others won’t even open the box until it hits service pack five or higher. Who is right?

If you allow me to be vague, the answer is actually easy. The person who makes the most money with their decision. <duh> …but I say that to remind you this is a business decision, not something to decide on “just because”.

If you won’t even look at the software until it reaches SP X, you could be missing out on new functionality that could be saving you money. Every day is lost opportunity/income. If you incorporate software too soon [before your suppliers upgrade, or before a needed function works as it should] you may be painting yourself into a corner waiting for the rest of the world to catch up to you.

  1. Do some research. Read the newsgroups, forums, and blogs. Be aware that some people don’t know what they are talking about; doing something wrong; have faulty hardware; or using the software in a totally different way than you do.
  2. Talk to your VAR. Not your sales rep. He donno anything. The technical support guys. Ensure they know what kind of things you do with SolidWorks and ask them how many tickets they have been getting on different parts of the software.”What does life look like up there in the ivory tower?”
  3. Most importantly test the software yourself. “Trust but verify”. Ensure that you reproduce everything that you do when in production -from creating sketches to producing your BOM output. If something is different, the test environment is the time to find out rather than being under the gun and frustrated by a deadline.

It’s all about your return on investment. Choose wisely young grasshopper. Everyone works differently and has different objectives. No one can make this decision for you.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

More logic in control logic

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

The control logic in Enterprise’s datacards can only include logic based on file’s variables. Weak. Life is more than just variables isn’t it?

The admin training manual shows a nice little trick of how you can control what people see on a datacard using tabs. You can control which tab is visible depending on a few factors…but even that is limited and tragically you can only show one tab at a time.

So here was my recent real world problem. Imagine having a card containing several edit boxes. Each edit box can only be modified by a certain corresponding user group….if a user is a member of more than one group, he needs access to the proper set of controls -users could be members of any combination of groups.


Here was my solution:

  1. On the card, I created a checkbox for each group
  2. I set the control logic on these checkboxes so they would always be invisible. [Something like if the description contains the letter “A” or does not contain the letter “A” turn off the visibility. Even though they are invisible, you do want these to look rather neat because they can still be seen if being used as a search card.]
  3. I set the control logic on the edit boxes I ultimately wanted to manage to look at the proper corresponding checkbox created in step 1.  i.e if the checkbox was checked, enable; else disable.
    Control Logic Example(Click on thumbnail to enlarge)
  4. I wrote an Enterprise add-in that fires anytime a file is checked out. This addin ensures only the proper checkboxes are checked. (i.e. if he is member of the group, check the checkbox, else clear it.)

Setting the proper checkboxes automatically enables the proper edit boxes. That’s it. Four easy steps. You owe me a turkey sandwich pizza.

(There is no reason to bother clearing the checkboxes at checkin, they are always correctly set when a user again checks out the file, and when the file is checked in all controls are disabled anyway.)

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

I might be presenting at SWW…maybe

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

This summer, I submitted a “paper” to the SolidWorks World folks to present at SolidWorks World 2009.

I never heard back so I assumed I didn’t get accepted. A few days ago, I was browsing through the user agenda and I found my name! I guess I am presenting after all!

If you are curious, here is [was?] my planned synopsis: “Learn how to use existing designs to create new designs. Attendees explore what happens when parts change and customers do not use SolidWorks, how to create library parts for flexibility, and examine configurations, design tables, the API, mates, and DriveWorksXpress.”

….all in an hour presentation. I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

Randy Simmons was asked to come back for an encore presentation of his Toolbox hands on -so he knew he was in. Scott High found out he was presenting the same way I did. I wonder how many people will show up in Orlando to learn they have a surprise presentation due tomorrow!?

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Fancy SolidWorks input device

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

A fun thing about teaching SolidWorks is that every class is different.

This week, Matthew Carter is in my SolidWorks Essentials class. By the end of the first day he was tired of using 3DVision’s “tired old keyboard/mouse/monitor system” so Tuesday he brought in his own setup.

Several months ago Microsoft unveiled some of their touch screen computing input devices. Since, I have been wondering how useful these would be in the CAD world. I have never actually used one of these myself; but it appears after an eight hour day, you would be pretty tired flapping your arms around all day, and I wonder how accurate your picks would/could be using chubby little fingers as a selection tool.

Wacom usage

(Here we see Matt working on his Wacom Cintiq 21UX) The concept of the system isn’t really any different than a tablet PC -but the biggest advantage I saw is it is small enough to place in a good working position close to you, but sturdy enough to stand on its own so you can rest your arms on it. He seemed to be pretty fast on it!

Matt wouldn’t let me test my theory on if it was strong enough for me to rest my head and take a little nap on it….IMHO this would be a required feature! [Except in my SolidWorks class.]

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Inventor 2009 files do work in Enterprise 2009.

Friday, November 7th, 2008

This past week, I did my first SolidWorks Enterprise PDM install in a company that had been using Inventor and was switching to SolidWorks. I was a little nervous when I learned they were using Inventor and AutoCAD 2009. I was concerned Enterprise would not support these newest versions.

I like to show confidence when I have an entire engineering database in the palm of my hand. [Losing all of their data would not be a good time for “oops” or “sorry”.] So I tried to look cool….but I could not quit fidgeting as the first few legacy files were being dragged and dropped into their new Enterprise vault.

Turns out it did a nice job! Enterprise picked right up on the file properties, added them to the vault and was able to build BOMs right from the Inventor assemblies. They have a few engineers who will be using Inventor for a few more months during the transition. The Enterprise addin seemed to work pretty good inside of Inventor too.

From now on you can call me: “Mr. Cool as a Cucumber”

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

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