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Utilizing SolidWorks


We’re all aware that in today’s work environment that time equals money, and an increase in the efficiency that we complete tasks directly reduces the bottom line of operations.

With respect to design engineers, the utilisation of CAD software from virtual prototyping through to releasing manufacturing drawings has undoubtedly increased the efficiency of the design life cycle – but are you using the CAD software as efficiently as possible?

With this Tip & Trick we’ll show you some simple tools that you can use with SolidWorks to reduce the time it takes to get those valuable manufacturing drawings to the shop floor.

Freeze Bar
When working with complex models with many features, do you spend time twiddling your thumbs watching the spinning “busy” icon when waiting for your model to rebuild? The freeze bar tool may help reduce your model rebuild times.

Introduced in Solidworks 2012 was the Freeze Bar feature, activated under System Options, click “Enable Freeze bar”.

SWFreezeBar

A classic resource consuming feature is perforated plate. In most cases, the perforations are a fixed constant and are included to visually display the design intent. In this example, a 1.0m2 perforated plate takes 38.50 seconds to rebuild.

SWFreezeBar1

To freeze features, drag the gold bar sitting under the Perforated Plate icon in the feature tree down to the bottom of the feature tree as shown below. Notice how the features are greyed out and have a padlock beside them to indicate that they are frozen.

SWFreezeBar2 SWFreezeBar3

Now the features are frozen, the rebuild time has been reduced to 0.00 seconds! To re-activate the features for editing, drag the gold bar back up the feature tree.

Task Scheduler (premium licence only)
An easy way to save time is to pack and go models with their accompanied drawings from previous projects and modify them to suit your current project’s needs. Although you can rename components through the pack and go tool, you cannot directly modify the custom properties of each component e.g. project name, designed by, dates etc. You may go through and individually open each component and update the properties, this is a painful and time consuming process but there is a better way!

Under Start > All programs > SolidWorks 20XX > SolidWorks Tools > SolidWorks Task Scheduler

You can import the top level assembly and use the Update Custom Properties tool to update the custom properties for each part within the selected assembly, all done from one convenient place!

Macro’s
The utilisation of macro’s is one area where you can save large quantities of time. One of our favourite macros is one we developed in house to convert drawings to PDF’s and DXF’s. Instead of opening each drawing and saving it out as a PDF or DXF, we utilise the macro to convert multiple drawings at a time! This is extremely handy for large assemblies; it only takes seconds to convert hundreds of drawings at once.

If you are interested with getting your hands on this particular macro free of charge, please contact Wayne LeSueur: Wayne.LeSueur@motovated.co.nz

Housekeeping – file location and structure
This may seem quite obvious, but setting up logical and sensible file locations with naming conventions can save heartache and precious time. It can be hard to notice if you have been working for an extended period at a single place but your file structure may present a headache for new employees or employees from other divisions. This not only applies for establishing project directories but flows onto specific SolidWorks files such as:

  • Weldment profiles
  • Hole Wizard data
  • Parts library’s
  • Drawing templates

Additional house keeping things to consider:

  • Revision control, only work on the latest models
  • Within a project, use archive folders to store old versions of parts. This reduces clutter within the folder, ensures everyone works on the latest models and provides an easily accessible history of the project.
  • If using the PDM, regularly (daily) check in the parts you are working on. A history of files is created each time you check the file in. By doing this you effectively create a backup history from which you can utilise if things go “pear shaped.”
  • Keep the drawings in the same folder as models, this allows you to directly open the drawing from the part.
  • If you want to separate drawings from models, the drawing folders should always reside above the model folder-drawings reference models and computers search downward for files, not upward!
  • Are you using multiple versions of SolidWorks, say 2012 & 2014? Don’t let your part library parts get dragged to the latest revision and not be able to use them with the older versions of SW. When upgrading software, copy out your library and save it to a new folder (in a logical place with a sensible name though right) for your latest software to reference.
  • Develop a generic user profile for new employees. Let the new guys hit the ground running by utilizing a generic user profile that is customised for your business. You can save out a copy of the profile so people can customise it to their liking. Things to consider:
    • Toolbars
    • File locations
    • Short keys
    • Drawing/part/assembly templates
    • Macros

To save out a user profile, set up SolidWorks with generic settings tailored to your business (short keys, file locations etc) then close SolidWorks. Under Start > All programs > SolidWorks 20XX > SolidWorks Tools > Copy Settings Wizard follow the directions and save the profile to a logical place.

HANDY TIP: Save your profile to a USB and wherever you go you can quickly and easily load your favourite shortcuts and tool bars! (N.B file locations will have to be updated to suit)