Archive for May, 2012

Feel guilty about over-designing?

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

If any of you are space enthusiasts like I am, you are probably aware of the successful unmanned SpaceX Dragon capsule’s trip to the ISS and its return today. As I listened to NASA’s broadcast of the vehicle re-entry, I could not help but think of the multitude of simulations Elon Musk and his team would have done in order to ensure success.

If I were a part of his design team, I can imagine the loads that this vehicle would experience – a huge mass hurtling at shocking speeds subjected to extreme thermal conditions and excessive vibration. And this metal enclosure needs to bring back fragile scientific experiments safely back to earth. And don’t forget landing in the ocean and the shock loads upon impact. The closest analogy that each of us may have experienced to something like this would be when we had to drop an egg without breaking it!!

Now, all of us might not be designing space vehicles that sees unearthly (no pun intended) loading conditions. But we cannot undermine the complexity of the types of models built today. Each design poses a variety of challenges from the various loads and work environments to the life expectancy of the product. The first lesson coming out of engineering school and walking into the industry has been to eliminate the effects of the loads and prolong life simply by over-designing way beyond what is optimal. When we ask ourselves why, we realize that engineering has often taken a backseat compared to other economic pressures such as consumer demand, first-to-market, customer expectations, and internal team goals. While product designs have transcended into the 21st century, we continue to design products with a 20th century engineering foundation.

In the utopian world, a product would go through multiple cycles of prototyping and re-testing until it is optimal cost-wise and outlasts its intended life expectancy. In reality, this vision may be closer to you than you may think. If your products are designed inside SolidWorks, then make sure you look into this special feature set called Design Optimization that is a part of Simulation Professional. All you are required to do is to set up a sample run of the loads that the product experiences, and then hand over the geometry to SolidWorks and Optimization.

The software takes the model and the permitted variables, and begins a design sensitivity analysis using DOE (Design of Experiments). Based on the local trend of each variable, and its impact on the other variables and the desired end results, it arrives at an optimal combination. Once you put this process to test, you would be surprised as to how you lasted without a tool like this for your product designs. For example, let us consider an impeller spinning at a given speed. An impeller consists of a number of blades that is optimized for best pressure and flow throughput for a fluid. The typical engineer would probably work on a few hand calculations and come up with the angle of the impeller blade, and the number of blades required. Imagine if the wheel could be at least modified, if not re-invented. You can tell SolidWorks the pressure of the fluid, the temperature of the fluid, the motor speed (to account for minimizing vibration and chatter) and the rpm of the impeller (to account for the centrifugal forces) and ask Optimization to give you the optimal number of blades, the thickness, the radii of curvature and the length of each blade. The output is a product that will meet the desired goals of minimal mass, least vibration, and enough rigidity to last many years in the field. This concept could easily be extended to any of your designs.

A month or so ago, I spoke to a product engineer who builds huge plastic crates. His design needs to withstand stack loads, and the weight of the products it houses. His challenges were immense – dealing with intricate features, and rising material costs and field-failure if the product is not designed correctly. He used optimization to determine how to define the corner braces on the geometry. The end result was a shape that he claims he could not have come up with at all without this tool. The solution is capable of being manufactured, and gives the model the desired rigidity, and gives him the edge over his competitors.

So the next time you are looking to decide how the thickness of your sheetmetal product, or the desired radius, or the number of holes on a pattern, or the desired length of that gusset edge, do not be left in doubt. And more importantly, do not overdesign simply because you are unsure and would rather place a safe bet even if it means money down the drain for your company. Instead, use Design Optimization to come up with a product that looks better, can be manufactured faster, and is, on the whole, cheaper!

3DVision Technologies

Your destination for design and manufacturing technology

How to Hide & Show Components Fast

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Here’s a cool shortcut, added in SolidWorks 2012, to hide and show components in an assembly; “Tab” key.

If you move your mouse over a component and press the “Tab” key, the component gets hidden.  If you hold “Shift“+”Tab“, it will bring the component back.  Try holding the “Tab” key down and moving your mouse over the assembly and see what happens.

You can learn some other good tips in regards to assemblies in the Assembly Training Class.  We will cover everything from Top-Down assembly modeling, to all the selection capabilities, to working with large assemblies.

Josh Spencer

Elite Application Engineer, CSWE 3DVision Technologies

Auto Arrange Dimensions

Monday, May 21st, 2012

One of my favorite enhancements to drawings over the past couple of years has got to be Auto Arrange Dimensions. This might be as close as you get to an ‘easy’ button in drawings. See the image below to discover a drawing view with the dimensions in a complete mess.

To fix this in flash, SolidWorks introduced Auto Arrange Dimensions the the 2011 release. This function will automatically arrange the selected dimensions for you. The procedure is as follows:

  1. Box-select all of the dimensions.
  2. Next, move the mouse pointer over the Dimension Palette rollover button     to display the dimension palette. (Incidentally, if you mouse AWAY from the Dimension Palette rollover button, it will disappear. To get it back just hit the CTRL button on your keyboard.)
  3. On the Dimension Pallete, click Auto Arrange Dimensions in the lower left corner
  4. Click in the graphics area to turn off the Dimension Pallete – Easy!

When you use Auto Arrange Dimensions, the selected dimensions are placed as follows:

  • Spaced from smallest to largest
  • Aligned and centered, if possible
  • Spaced with the offset distances defined in Document Properties – Dimensions
  • Adjusted to avoid overlapping
  • Staggered, if necessary

There are a number of other tools on the Dimension Palette that you will also want to check out for when you have multiple dimensions selected and you want to make some adjustments – including Space Evenly Linear/Radial, Align Collinear, Align Stagger, Justify Text and Dimension Spacing Value (either numerical input or thumbwheel). Enjoy.

Chris Snider

Application Engineer, CSWE 3DVision Technologies

2013 Beta Program

Friday, May 11th, 2012

SolidWorks 2013 Beta is coming fast (in June)!  If you’ve never participated in the program before, consider the following reasons to join the beta team:

  • If you want SolidWorks to get better, there’s never a more influential period of time to communicate directly with the SolidWorks development team.  About 90% of the feedback I gave them last year was implemented before SP0!  This is a period of hectic enhancement implementations.  If you want to see a tweak to the tools, interface, or any other bit of the software after SP0 has been released, chances are, you’ll have to submit an enhancement request and wait until next year  …that’s not the case in Beta though.
  • Most large companies do quite a bit of in-house testing before upgrading to the next major release of SolidWorks.  The premise of this testing is to ensure the new version of SolidWorks integrates with their custom processes and other business systems seamlessly.  If testing is going to be done before upgrading, why not do it during the Beta phase!?  Rather than being forced to develop creative solutions to problems on the fly, have the SolidWorks Beta Development Team fix that problem before it ever gets a chance to exist in the official release.
  • During the Beta phase, there are plenty of contests and prizes handed out to the most active participants.  This is the one time you’ll actually get rewarded for finding bugs in SolidWorks.  You’ll also have a chance to showcase your creativity with modeling and rendering contests as well.

If you’re a SolidWorks user, there’s absolutely no reason not to try out SolidWorks Beta 2013.  Just be sure to use ‘Pack and Go‘ to make completely separate copies of your existing data to test in 2013.  Remember, once you save a file in a later release, you won’t be able to open it up in a prior release  …right?  [wink, wink]  ;  )

3DVision Technologies

Your destination for design and manufacturing technology

Find the status of your EPDM search

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Remember back in SolidWorks Enterprise PDM 2011 when you did a search the results of the search would appear in the bottom left hand corner of the search window?

Then when EPDM 2012 came out and they integrated the search tool within Windows Explorer, we thought it was lost? I really missed it, oftentimes I wanted to know how many files were found in a search.

What once was lost is now found.

In Windows 7’s Windows Explorer, go to the view menu and turn on the status bar. (If you cannot see the menu, click the Alt key, it will appear.)


Now, after a search, look in the bottom left hand corner….presto!


Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

SolidWorks Launches eDrawings App for iPad

Friday, May 4th, 2012

3DVision Technologies is thrilled to annouce that on May 1, SolidWorks launched eDrawings for iPad.

Since its launch, eDrawings software has become a successful and much loved collaboration product. In the last year alone more than 2 million customers downloaded the eDrawings Viewer. With multi-touch gestures, eDrawings for iPad lets you pan, zoom and rotate 2D and 3D models; animate and explode your 3D views’ and view and animate drawings from:

– SolidWorks 3D design software
– DraftSight free CAD software
– AutoCAD software
– DWG and DXF files

The eDrawings for iPad is now available on the Apple iTunes App Store worldwide. The application user interface will initially be available in English only. However, it will support eDrawings files in all languages created with eDrawings publishers, SolidWorks and DraftSight.

So visit the Apple App Store today and download the eDrawings for iPad App!

3DVision Technologies

Your destination for design and manufacturing technology

Louisville SolidWorks User Group Attracts Special Guest Speaker, Mark Biasotti

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

On Tuesday, May 15 the Louisville SolidWorks User Group will host special guest, Mark Biasotti, Product Manager from SolidWorks Corporate.

Mark is a degreed Industrial Designer and has worked in the field as a professional for more than 25 years for such companies as Atari, Hewlett Packard and IDEO. After 16 years at IDEO in California, Mark joined SolidWorks in Concord, Massachusetts as a Product Manager helping to strategically guide the company in identifying commercial and consumer product design opportunities and working with development to enhance SolidWorks for product design.

For the past 2 years Mark has held the position of Product Manager for the New Product Concepts Group of which one of their first product offerings being PhotoView360. He is currently holding the position of Senior Product Definition Specialist helping to define a future SolidWorks product.

During the May 15th event, Mark will be covering Advanced Modeling Techniques with a focus on Surfacing. However, he has a wide array of knowledge and will be available to answer questions.

The event is being hosted at SAMTEC USA, 520 Park East Blvd, New Albany, Indiana 47150 from 6 to 8:30pm. To register for this event please email

3DVision Technologies

Your destination for design and manufacturing technology

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