Archive for September, 2009

Are you sure you are backed up?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I just got off of the phone with a SW Enteprise PDM administrator. I was getting ready to change some database settings and decided to make a backup of their database first. (Better safe than sorry, especially with someone else’s data!) I while making the backup I noticed there were no other backups in existence. Turns out for the past two years this company has not made a single database backup!! The IT guys assumed the Engineering department was making them, and vice versa.

This is the second company in two weeks I have found in this situation.

Backing up your data files on the archive server is NOT the same thing as backing up your database. Please put your mouse down, call your IT guys right now and confirm your company is backing up your Enterprise database.

Stop dancing on the mine field.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

DriveWorks Solo is here

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

The email bag has been overflowing with my blogging fans upset with me about last week’s blogging tease over DriveWorks Solo. To all of you who complained, especially to you “Over Constrained and Angry in Athens Ohio”, I am sorry.

First, I haven’t yet found the time to install my own copy of DriveWorks Solo, so my review is simply of a demo Maria gave for me. I hope to be able to review the installation for you soon, but for now you and “Waiting for DriveWorks 7 in Indianapolis” are going to live with what I give you.


Here are the highlights I saw. Hold on, there is a lot here:

  • Solo works in the SolidWorks task pane!
    • This does make the dialog boxes a little simpler than DriveWorks, but years ahead of DriveWorksXpress. Another nice benefit is that you can see the SolidWorks model as you build your specification
    • The task pane can have multiple pages, giving you the ability to have multiple input tabs, giving you control over the specification flow
    • You have several controls available to you as you design your Solo interface: combo boxes, check boxes, text boxes, even dynamic pictures make the specification process easier
  • The rules you create still follow Microsoft Excel’s format, but they are much easier to create than in DWX
    • Variables are available for use, to make the syntax of the Excel functions easier to read and write
    • There is a nice little rule builder page to help you write the functions and several debugging tools available to help if the formula are returning values different than what you expect
    • There are filters in the rule builder to help manage rules for larger assemblies
    • Support for lookup tables-This means you wont need to embed a zillion “if…then” statements as you build your rules
  • You can determine where your cloned files are saved, the location doesn’t have to be the same as the master files as in DWX (someone give me a High 5!)
  • Can produce more than just SolidWorks files. This can be helpful if you want to automatically generate quotes, BOMs, order acknowledgments, etc.
  • Some drawing control
    • Not as much control over drawings as DriveWorks, but you can control the position of your views -and that alone is a nice step up from DWX
  • Replacement models
    • This one is difficult to describe, so let me give you an example of how this could be used. Imagine that you had a bearing in your assembly and depending on the specification you wanted to be able to swap one bearing for another. Rather than having to drive all the dimensions in a bearing you can simply swap the entire part in for another one. This alone can reduce the number of rules you need to create significantly!
  • Can export files in all file formats SW can produce: IGES, SAT, STEP, etc

I’ve saved the coolest for last:

  • Live preview of assembly & drawings
    • If, as you are building your specification you wonder…”Hmmm I wonder what changing this value would do?” Simply change the value, click update and the model will update in SolidWorks right before your eyes! -Great for doing “What If'” scenarios or ensuring the final assembly is going to look like what you expect.

I think it is going to be a productive product. Jump over to to learn more. (They have even installed the product so you can see video rather than reading about it.)

I’m with you “I Don’t Read Blogs from Louisville Kentucky” – -DriveWorks Solo…I don’t get the name either. What does it mean? “SweeneyWorks” would have been a much better choice.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Property Tab Builder

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

File properties. I’ve been singing their praises ever since I was a little Engineering Data Specialist Man. A few days ago when I was visiting a customer I noticed they were still using this interface to populate their file properties:


I asked if they were still rubbing two sticks together to make fire. That interface is so last year, yet after taking an informal survey I learned many are still using it! Do yourself a favor and look up the  “Property Tab Builder” in the help file. It will help you build an interface that looks something like this:


Much nicer?! Checkboxes, radio buttons, drop lists all to make this boring data entry easier. It’s very easy to set up, you certainly will get a ROI after using it a few times. To help get you started, the file I used to create this custom tab is located here.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

The uPrint is Go

Friday, September 11th, 2009

So, I took advantage of the “Cash for Clunkers” deal and purchased a new Honda Fit.(Sorry, I’ve been loyal to Honda ever since I worked for one of their suppliers).Anyways, I traded in my 99 Ford Explorer for a pretty small hatchback that’s been averaging almost 40mpg on the highway.Its first true test came when we had to relocate one of our 3D printers – the uPrint.Below is a photo of the results…


It fit in the Fit (thanks to the portability of the uPrint and the hand grooves on the bottom of it)!We even managed to take the wash tank (used to wash the soluble support material off the finished parts) on the same trip with ease.With my Honda Fit priced at just over $16k and the uPrint priced at just under $15k, I nearly doubled the value of my new car.

It really surprised me how easy the uPrint was to relocate.The setup is not much more involved than the setup of a networked paper printer.Considering the size, the quietness, and the ability for it to be run off a standard 115v 15-amp line makes it just as office-friendly as well.The future is here.You can now create fully functional prototypes in the comfort of your very own office space for less than $15k.Amazing!

3DVision Technologies

Your destination for design and manufacturing technology

Customizing Enterprise Addin Interface

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Years from now we’ll be sitting around the campfire telling our grandchildren of how EPDM 2009 was the version where they greatly improved the SolidWorks addin. The kids won’t believe us when we tell them how hard our lives were before.

That little pane in the bottom of the task pane is pretty sweet eh?
…but did you know you can customize it? You can add additional variables to display here too! (By default we only get Description)

In SolidWorks, go to Enterprise options, the view settings tab, find the variable you wish to display


then chose to “display in the preview”. This is a personal preference so any settings you do here are for you only, you don’t have to worry about upsetting Larry and is precious setup….but just for fun switch the order of his little troll dolls.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

DriveWorks Solo comes out in October (or sooner?)

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Today DriveWorks fans have two choices: DriveWorksXpress and DriveWorks.

DriveWorksXpress is a nice little application…does a lot of things and even is a viable tool for some people….but let’s face it the interface is a bit old school and it typically doesn’t take long for you to wish you had more features.

DriveWorks is the big daddy. If you dream it, you probably can do it. Web interface, connections to databases, the ability to generate file types beyond SolidWorks, pretty dialog boxes, …the list goes on and on.

Until DriveWorks Solo comes out, you have your choice. Hot or cold. DriveWorks Solo comes in just between the two. I saw my first demo of it today, I think it will hit a nice sweet spot for many. I am hoping to get my copy early next week so expect a more in depth review soon! (I could give you more now, but the men in suits forbid it.)

How’s that for a teaser??

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Beta testing Enterprise PDM

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

We all know it is difficult to test new versions of SolidWorks. …but testing the newest version of SolidWorks Enterprise PDM is even more difficult -not only do you need to have a client machine with the new version, you also need a new version of the database and archive server too!

Tuesday Joy Garon wrote in her blog:

In an effort to alleviate part of the resource issue, the SolidWorks Beta team has created a “Hosted EPDM Beta Environment” that our EPDM customers can use to beta test with minimal effort.

SolidWorks supplies the database and archive servers and all the customer has to do is install the corresponding beta client. The customer has the ability to try out new functionality by creating their own vault or using a pre-populated test vault.

There will certainly be other things to test, but this is going to be a great tool to quickly and economically get your hands on the newest release. The sooner you get it tested, the sooner your users can start using the new time saving tools in Enterprise you have been paying for.

Jump over to her post to learn more and to sign up.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

SolidWorks to Adobe Illustrator

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Have you ever noticed you can save a SolidWorks file as an Adobe Illustrator file (.AI)?  Well, it works, but it’s not exactly as good as it sounds.  The entire purpose of Adobe Illustrator is to edit vector graphics.  However, when you save a SW file as an .AI file, it’s the same as saving it as a .JPG and then dragging that into an .AI file (i.e. it exports a raster image – no vectors).  It’s OK though because there’s another process that works perfectly:

  1. Create a drawing of your SW part/assembly in the orientation that you’d like it to appear in Illustrator.
  2. Save your SW drawing file as a .DXF.
  3. Import your .DXF into Illustrator.
  4. Voila!

You can now fully edit the vector version of your drawing view that you created in SolidWorks.  This means you can edit the stroke sizes independently, you can fill areas with solid colors and gradients, you can apply special filters and effects to the image, and anything else you might be able to do in Illustrator.

So that’s the solution for the guy that makes a handful of technical publications a year.  Beyond that, modifying all of your CAD pubs in Illustrator can become very inefficient.  What happens if a change is made to the solid model?  What if you’d like to reorient the angle of the view?  What if you’d like to move a few of the components around?  To deal with any of these questions, you’d have to go back to SolidWorks and start the entire process over again from scratch – making your previous hard work obsolete and useless.

The answer: 3DVia Composer.  I’ve been using this product for a few months now and I love it!  If you’re company makes technical publications based on your solid models, you need to check out the webinar I’ll be hosting on September 22nd, 11:00am-12:00pm.

3DVision Technologies

Your destination for design and manufacturing technology

A Rib Discovery

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

So, you know how (in 2009) you can specify the thickness of a drafted rib at the wall interface?  I always figured it found the thickest portion of the rib after the draft was applied and set that to the inputted thickness value…  That’s not how it works though!  It’s actually dependent on the sketch line that it’s created from.  So now, if your rib is going to extend into multiple flat surfaces, it DOES matter where you place the endpoints of your rib’s sketch lines!  To specify the surface that the rib’s thickness value will be applied to, you need to sketch your line so that it does not extend past the boundaries of that particular surface.  Check out the images below… a_rib_discovery …The first sketched line will produce unpredictable results because it passes over multiple surfaces.  The second sketch produces the 1.5mm measurement shown in the last image.

3DVision Technologies

Your destination for design and manufacturing technology

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