Archive for September, 2011

Should I Flow with a Recommendation for CFD?

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

It is interesting to note that the notion of complexity created by past CFD users is gradually getting replaced by a new era of acceptance and willingness to dabble in it. Of course, most of these early adopters are considered exceptions to the rule, and quite probably outcasts. However, they are probably not speaking out enough because they no longer have the time to speak out. Business is booming for them because they have products that are superior. They really have no more time!

Louver Model

CFD in the present age is a blessing well disguised. It hides behinds the curtains, on the monitors of a select few individuals who sit in those dimly lit cubicles in the corner of the office. For the most part, it is nothing but a blip on the screen – a process in the task manager, where no-one sees its burden rate. However, what has changed is its presence in the 3D world. With models flying around faster than the internet took over the universe, the traditional nerdy CFD specialist has been replaced with an engineer with a little extra time in his hand.

The neat thing about the product is that it speaks for itself. 3DVision recently did a consulting project for a customer on an industrial application. The model in question was moving air at a very high volume rate, and was encountering numerous obstacles on its way. Upon solving their model using Flow Simulation inside SolidWorks, we presented the results live in front of their management and engineering audience. As we approached the summary of results, one of the management members commented – “What you have shown us is an MRI of our design. In the past two hours, you have provided us with answers to questions that we have been raising internally over the past 2 years about the integrity of the design and its performance.” Such is the power of the software! This customer went on to purchase the software, and get trained in it. They are currently attempting at replicating the same workflow that we had adopted, on a different but similar model.

From concept to completion - Fluid flow around a Seascooter

The beauty of concurrent CFD tools like Flow Simulation is its versatility. While being extremely powerful functionality wise, it can be easily adapted to virtually any industry – valves, Industrial regulators, electronics equipment, medical devices, HVAC applications, commercial gen-sets, automobile drag and lift, and so forth to name a few. The underlying theme is the same – define the properties of the fluid, its inlet(s) and exit(s) locations, add any heat generation sources, create a mesh, and solve. And to top it off, the software gives the user the luxury of viewing results real-time to make any changes necessary right inside the SolidWorks graphical interface!

It would be noteworthy also to investigate the cost of not doing CFD, especially when the application involves moving fluids. In a recent study done by the Aberdeen Group (click here to read the post), the author identifies the top business pressures that force companies to investigate virtual simulation, and the leading impacts of not using CFD. The article underscores the need for companies to approach CFD with an open view and showcases how virtual simulation can very quickly become an integral part of product development.


An important cog in the wheel of decision making has to be implementation. Not installing the software, mind you, but on learning how to use it, and getting good at it. I always tell my training class attendees that as easy as the software is, learning it is not an overnight skill. But the moment you digest the methodology and adopt it as a necessary step in your design evaluation, the benefits are enormous. Furthermore, it is so easy to customize it. For example, a customer of ours in the valve industry was adjusting their current design to meet a certain flow coefficient (Cv), a design requirement. Their methodology was to tweak a few variables, and perform a bench test. They went through 8-10 prototypes to get to the final model. Upon investing in Flow Simulation, they were not just able to run multiple iterations simultaneously and digitally prototype in minutes and hours, but were also able to create custom goals (an equation goal that determines Cv, and graphs it out for each run). Such equations can be created to monitor any parameter, such as efficiency of designs, maximum heat on components, drag coefficient values, etc.

So the next time you find that your fluid-filled product is failing in the field, or better yet, you are developing a new concept that needs some validation, be sure to examine Flow Simulation. Its needs are few, the benefits endless!

3DVision Technologies

Your destination for design and manufacturing technology

A Few Drawing Tips

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Here are a few drawing tips that might help you out.

Save a rotated 3D view

  • When you go to View>Modify>3D Drawing View, you can choose any view and rotate it any direction.  When you choose a view that you like, it will stay like that.  That way you can get a great view on the drawing with a short amount of time.

Combine notes

  • If you have multiple notes on your drawing but you want to combine them, before you would need to copy and paste the text.  All you really need to do is just drag and drop one note to another.  They get combined.  If the main note is numerically indented, when you drop the other note on it, it will follow the same order.

Edit multiple dimensions at once

  • If you select a bunch of dimensions, you can edit them all at once.  You can add tolerance information, text, precision, etc.

I hope these tips help keep you productive.  If you have any questions about these, please contact 3DVision.

Josh Spencer

Elite Application Engineer, CSWE 3DVision Technologies

SolidWorks 2012 Rollouts

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Today’s the first day of fall. It is the best time of the year. Football and hockey is starting (though I’m not sure hockey season ever ends). Baseball and soccer playoffs are soon starting and the new release of SolidWorks is published.

SolidWorks 2012 has a little something for everyone in this release. Watch for the 3DVision team to be publishing articles here in the blog, or better yet we hope to get to show you first hand at our rollouts.

They’re free and a very efficient way get more continuing education. Sign up here:

Hope to see you!

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Southern Kentucky Launches New SolidWorks User Group

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Launching anything new these days is a feat just in itself but Steve Fye from Span-Tech is taking on the challenge with energy and excitement.

Their first meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 20, and the Southern Kentucky SolidWorks User Group is planning BIG things.

With a goal to organize a local community of SolidWorks users who want to make the most out of their beloved software, Steve hopes to use this group to help spread knowledge, best practices and more.

Interested parties are asked to submit a simple online registration form which can be found here.

The first meeting is scheduled to begin at 5pm and will include food (always a plus), an open discussion between officers and new members, a presentation of SolidWorks 2012 “What’s New” by our own Chris Snider of 3DVision Technologies and most importantly, a raffle for a Nvidia Quadro 4000 graphics card.

As a supporter of all things SolidWorks, those of us at 3DVision Technologies encourages all users to join a SWUG near them.

For more information on the new Southern Kentucky SolidWorks User Group, click here.

3DVision Technologies

Your destination for design and manufacturing technology

SolidWorks 2013 Will Not Install on Windows XP

Monday, September 19th, 2011

It’s official – if you plan to upgrade to the latest and greatest version of SolidWorks next year, you will NOT be able to do so on Windows XP.

SolidWorks 2012 software (including CAD, Simulation, Sustainability, and Enterprise PDM) will be the last release that supports Windows XP.  This action is being taken as a follow up to Microsoft’s retirement of the Windows® XP operating system in April of 2009. SolidWorks 2013 will not install on Windows XP. For additional information please refer to the System Requirements page on the corporate website.

Chris Snider

Application Engineer, CSWE 3DVision Technologies

Enterprise’s Label Function

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Remember that kid that was always picked last to be on a kickball team? I think SolidWorks Enterprise’s Label function was that kid.

Rodney Dangerfield makes fun of the EPDM’s label function.

What good is it?

I have seen it used three different ways.

First, versions that have a label are never cold storaged. Add a label to a version and you will always know it will be there when needed

Second, you can search for text inside a label. Imagine you have a group of files that you use often. You can give them all the same label, then when you search, you can have them all come up together for quick access. (Think favorite search!)

Lastly, you can use a label as a milestone in your file’s history. Perhaps: “This is the version approved by the FDA” or “Customer rejected this version” or “This file was rolled back because of…”.


An interestingly unique trait of labels is that you can change and even delete them. I don’t know of any other entity stored in a file’s history that can be deleted.

I think that little kid just kicked a ground rule double!

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Solver Selection – Does It Matter?

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Choices. Everyone wants choices. We make simple choices like ‘paper or plastic’. Or one of my favorites, ‘domestic or import’! In SolidWorks we can be faced with decisions like ‘assembly or multi-body’! While these are simple examples, what do you decide when you’re faced with the decision ‘FFEPlus or Direct Sparse’? Which solver should you select? While this question does not have an easy answer, there are some guidelines you can follow to help in your selection. Understanding the two solvers is the first step in making a smart decision about which to use.

Before discussing the solvers, let’s recall the fundamental equation being solved by Finite Element Analysis, which is the resultant forces acting on a body are equal to the product of the stiffness and resultant displacement of the body. We express this with the following matrix equation: [F] = [K] * [U]. Regardless of the solver selected, this equation has to be calculated such that equality exists.

The FFEPlus solver is an iterative solver. After you have the CAD model set up with the appropriate boundary conditions, the FFEPlus solver makes an educated guess about the deformation, [U], of the model. Then it evaluates the matrix equations to see how good the guess was, and adjusts the deformation accordingly, depending upon the error in the calculation. This process repeats until the calculation balances.

The Direct Sparse solver is just that – direct. This solver will create the entire matrices used for the numerical FEA solution. This requires generating the stiffness matrix, [K], as well as the inverse of the stiffness matrix, [K]-1. Once calculated, Direct Sparse solver has to compute a simple multiplication problem, written out as: [K]-1 * [F] = [K]-1 * [K] * [U]. Computing the inverse of the stiffness matrix is resource (memory) intensive.

Now that you know what the solvers are, let’s discuss and compare the two solvers, at least as far as how they may relate to your Finite Element Model. If your problem has 25,000 degrees of freedom (DoF) or less, the Direct Sparse and FFEPlus solvers are approximately equal in terms of memory usage and solution time. For problems that approach 300,000 DoF, the Direct Sparse solver usually runs entirely in your system’s RAM, which provides for a “fast” solution. When you exceed 300,000 DoF, the FFEPlus solver is more efficient than the Direct Sparse solver in not requiring as much of your system’s RAM. There are times, however, regardless of the problem size that you may need to use one solver over another. In assemblies with a lot of contacts, assemblies with greatly varying material stiffness between components and contacts with friction, the Direct Sparse solver is usually a better choice. In frequency studies with Rigid Body Motion and problems exceeding 300,000 DOF, the FFEPlus solver is usually the appropriate choice.

What do you do now? You know what each solver is doing at the core. You have a general understanding of what each solver is good at. How do you decide? It’s actually a very simple answer – let Simulation decide for you! In SolidWorks Simulation, there is a system option to let the program decide. To access this, from your pull-down menus, select “Simulation… Options…”, then change to the “Default Options” tab and click on the line for “Results”. Then look at the section for ‘Default Solver’ – we have ‘Automatic’, ‘Direct Sparse’ and ‘FFEPlus’. Set your Simulation system options to ‘Automatic’, and let SolidWorks Simulation decide which solver is the most appropriate for your Finite Element Model. With that decision made for you, you now have time to make your products better with SolidWorks Simulation!

2011-0913 SimSolverOptions

Bill Reuss

Elite Application Engineer CAE Technical Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Turning Parts into Assemblies, Assemblies into Parts (Part 2 & 3)

Friday, September 9th, 2011

This is a series of blogs from me about turning Parts into Assemblies, and Assemblies into Parts in SolidWorks.

To see Part 1, go here:

This blog (Part 2 & 3) will show you TWO ways to turn an ASSEMBLY INTO A PART.

Why would you ever want to do this ?
How about if you download an assembly from the internet or your customer or colleague gives you an assembly and all you care about having is a PART file. The PART file will be smaller in file size/details and will perform better.
Perhaps you want to send your assembly to someone else but first want to “lock it down” so there will be no feature tree so they can’t change it.
Maybe you don’t want to accidentally screw up some mates in the assembly, so making it a part would accomplish this too.
I’m sure there are other great reasons…

Here is how you do it.

Simple as can be, but a lot of people would never even dream of trying it…
Open your assembly, do a SAVE AS, and change the “Save As Type” drop down box to PART.
There are some options that show up then asking what exactly you would like to be saved.
Just the Exterior Faces ? The Exterior Components ? Or All Components ?
Done, easy, finished…
This method is a “one shot deal” though. It is NON-ASSOCIATIVE.
i.e. the part WON’T UPDATE if the assembly is changed.

2nd way (ASSOCIATIVE):
If you want your resulting part to actually UPDATE if you ever make changes to the Assembly it is coming from, this is the method you need to use.
The command you will use is INSERT–FEATURES–JOIN.
However, when you are in an Assembly file you can not do an INSERT–FEATURES– anything…
So the first step is to make a NEW empty part IN the assembly.
INSERT–COMPONENT–NEW PART. Select a face or plane in the assembly that you want to be the FRONT face of the new part (doesn’t really matter for what we are doing). A “side-effect” of the Insert New Part command is that it puts you into a SKETCH on that face you selected. Usually this is great, but in this case we don’t need it, so just EXIT THE SKETCH.
Now you are in EDIT PART mode in the new part, and you CAN go to INSERT–FEATURES–JOIN.
Select the parts you would like to join together into your PART file (don’t have to select them all) and hit OK.
Now if you SAVE that new part, you will have what you wanted, an ASSEMBLY TURNED INTO A PART !

In that Part file there is an external reference (the “->” symbol in the tree) showing you that any changes in the Assembly WILL propagate down to the PART.

Furthermore, if you don’t want the resulting part to be a MULTI-BODY part, you could use our boolean COMBINE command and the ADD option.

Hope you can find some uses for this !
Let us know !

Stay tuned for Part 4 !!

Randy Simmons

Application Engineer, CSWP 3DVision Technologies

DriveWorks Colors, Part 37

Friday, September 9th, 2011

I had no idea that a simple topic of colors could have so many options in DriveWorks.

Today I received an email from Glen Smith. (Yes, though you cannot prove it by his blog, he is still alive.) …. To show he still has some sweet automation skills, he made a little DriveWorks Live page showing three other color selection methods.

Goto: Log in as “Jeff” and leave the password blank.

After you’ve read the directions, click on the color picker, then play with the three modes at the top of the dialog.


Just more cool ways to select colors with DriveWorks Pro.

(Play with the transparency values to see the little Easter Egg Glen left for me.)

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Colors in DriveWorks Pro

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Since my post about color selection in DriveWorks Solo, I’ve had several questions if DriveWorks Pro had better options.

It does. With Pro, you have a lot more control over your input forms…you can replace your typical radio buttons, check boxes, etc. with pictures.

As a simple example, in the image below, it may appear you are looking at six color swatches, but actually those are radio buttons! Your users can click on the color picture.


You still can use the list method I described in the previous blog for Pro too, in fact it has advantages when you have many colors to choose from -but most of the time, a picture is better than words.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

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