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Users of other CAD Platforms - there's no better time to move to SolidWorks 3D CAD
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Depending on your areas of interest, this may or may not be news to you. There were commercially available products well over 3 years ago and the topic is nearly 15 years old. However, if you’re reading this, you’re interested in CAD and if you’re interested in CAD you need to know about GPU computing. I’ll leave it to you to surf for the details, but I’ll get us started with some basics.
“In the beginning”, there was the CPU and it was good. Time passed, stuff changed and offloading functions from the CPU became a great idea. The GPU was one of the devices created for the extra workload. More time passed and someone decided that a processor is a processor is a processor. Said another way CPU, schmePU, we can do math with a GPU, too. GPU’s are smaller, do less and are less expensive than CPU’s. As with all things microprocessor, GPU’s got better – more powerful and more programmable. GPU’s became a more efficient alternative to the CPU for many applications.
Thus, the first acronym was born – GPGPU, General Purpose GPU – and the associated catch-phrase, parallel computing. In general terms, CPU’s are built for serial processing and GPU’s expect to be used in parallel. I know, I know, there are parallel CPU’s – multi-core and hyperthreading. I don’t plan to get into that discussion – I’m just reporting the basics here.
As CAD users, we’re familiar with using high-powered graphics cards for rendering, but if the GPGPU makers are successful, the day will come when we can run Simulation on our “graphics card”. And - work with me – since a graphics card is a plug-in device, it could be placed elsewhere, like in a small box on our desk or over a network or … in the cloud. And (you still with me?), if it can be on a network, then it can be shared. Distributed rendering, Simulation, you name it. Now all of the intensive math for things like rendering and Simulation can be done elsewhere as it is needed. CAD guys need to be aware of the possibility that’s coming our way.
As you may imagine, just like hyperthreading, using a bunch of parallel GPU’s instead of a multi-core CPU takes different programming. If you’re a GPU manufacturer, you’re presented with the classic business issue – I need programmers and devices, but each begets the other. But, there is significant progress being made. There’s a conference dedicated to this industry – GTC, GPU Technology Conference. SolidWorks’ VP of R&D Gian Paulo Bassi was at the 2013 GTC as part of a demonstration of nVidia’s Grid VCA product that includes – catch this – a SolidWorks license for up to 8 or 16 users. With products like the Grid VCA, we’re back to the 1970’s – relatively dumb terminals with centralized high-powered servers. However, I don’t consider a Macbook, iPad, or smart phone a “dumb terminal”, so maybe it's the 70's only better.
SolidWorks drawings are made up of three pieces:
- Drawing Template
- Annotations/Model Views
I didn’t make a mistake. There are three pieces. The drawing template includes a sheet format – three pieces.
- Drawing Template
- Sheet Format
- Annotations/Model Views
All of those combine to make up a drawing - *.slddrw.
SolidWorks gave us a separate sheet format so we can have the best of both worlds – standardized drawings at the tip of our mouse, but also custom title blocks and borders to match our company requirements. To save a sheet format, when a drawing with the one we want is displayed go to File > Save Sheet Format.
Check out the blog post from last year - http://www.caddedge.com/blog/bid/151868/how-to-create-multi-sheet-drawings-with-different-formats
The sheet format (*.slddrt) contains the border, title block, sheet size, and some other items. Check out all of the stuff in the FeatureManager under the sheet format:
To better demonstrate, here’s a page from the Drawings training class:
The sheet format (*.slddrt) is part of a drawing template (*.drwdot), as I mentioned earlier.
Drawing templates contain all the document specific information that is found in the Tools > Options > Document Properties dialog (i.e. units, standard, fonts, arrow sizes, etc.).
Combining the slddrt and drwdot with a model view and/or annotations makes a drawing (*.slddrw)
Let’s dig a little deeper.
With no other files open in SolidWorks, start a new, blank drawing. See that dialog?
The browse button will tell you the location of the sheet format – the slddrt – used for each drawing - Tools->Options->File Locations->Sheet Formats.
So, when we tell SolidWorks to start a drawing, it goes where we tell it in the File Locations for Documents TEMPLATES (tools->options->system options tab->File Locations)
In this case, I have two locations specified in File Locations for Document Templates -
a TEMPLATES folder and a TUTORIAL folder – those correspond to the tabs in the above screenshot.
When I select “Drawing” in the above dialog, SolidWorks goes and gets the drawing template (*.drwdot – not *.slddrw) from that file location.
So, if I want to change the title block on all of my standard drawings, I can either change the sheet format or the drawing template, because the drawing template contains the sheet format. Alternatively, if I want to change the arrowheads or the drafting standard – ANSI, ISO, etc. – I have to change the drawing template.
I recommend working with drawing templates to set up reusable formats such as company standards. It’s simple – just get the drawing to look the way you want and save the template (File->SaveAs->Save As Type->Drawing Templates). Otherwise, it’s just as easy to save the whole drawing with empty or no views to use as a standard.
Sometimes it makes sense to save the sheet format for reuse. The best reason I can think of to save sheet formats is a need for different formats for sheet 2. But for most Customers, saving the whole drawing with empty or no views is the shortest path to "done".
Sustainability is included with SolidWorks as an express product and also as a separate product. There are, of course differences between the two versions:
•LCA of individual parts
•Find Similar Material
•Environmental Impact dashboard
•Customizable Sustainability report
•Same capabilities as SolidWorks SustainabilityXpress plus…
•LCA of assemblies
•Support for Configurations
•Expanded reporting capabilities for assemblies
•User inputs for energy consumption and transportation methods
•Support for the new Assembly Visualization functionality
Sustainability allows SolidWorks Customers the ability to seamlessly evaluate environmental and financial aspects of the material and design.
First, some background. Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) is what I’m discussing – Sustainability is another term and in this case, the marketing term used by SolidWorks. LCA considers:
1. Raw Material Extraction
2. Material Processing
3. Part Manufacturing & Assembly
4. Product Use – Energy consumed during the planned life span of the product
5. End of Life – the percentage of the components of the product that are thrown away, incinerated, and recycled.
Transportation is also included in the assessment at each stage.
SolidWorks Sustainability categorizes the effects on the environment with four different environmental indicators:
Total Energy Consumed
The details of all this aren’t suitable for a blog post, and – read this the right way – I’m not aiming this at the group that is interested in the details. If you are in to the details, I think this product has a great story. I will tell you that the numbers come from PE International. They spent more than 20 years gathering material and energy input/output flows from a multitude of industries. The impact assessment factors for each of these flows come from the ―CML methodology http://www.cml.leiden.edu/research/industrialecology/researchprojects/finished/new-dutch-lca-guide.html .
However, I don’t like to focus on the numbers, the accuracy, and how they are calculated because the people who do like to focus on those things many times can’t agree with each other and I think all that discord makes designers and manufacturers avoid the effort. I think the SolidWorks Sustainability tool is a fantastic solution for both sides.
SolidWorks Sustainability can be used to make your product designs better for the environment and more cost-efficient at the same time without having to argue about whether a design change saves 1kg or 1mg of CO2. Sustainability gives Customers a way to make relative improvements in environmental and financial factors of their products. Regardless of the absolute value, 10% better is, well, better and Sustainability gives Customers the ability to calculate that in seconds.
See the 5 windows under Environmental Impact? Notice “Current” and “Previous”. “Better” – “Worse” – just like the optometrist. In seconds, Sustainability provides an easy visual cue on whether steel is better than nylon or 3mm fillets are better than 5mm chamfers. Add in SolidWorks Simulation for durability analysis and you can go toe-to-toe with any LEED architect – all without adding cost to your product development cycle.
There is a report generator for publishing results that can include the nice charts in the Task Pane. That provides some good graphics for your company’s web site or annual report, too. So give SustainabilityXpress a shot.
Welcome back to SolidWorks on a Mac. Macbook Pro to be exact.
During the discussions on whether to purchase the Mac, the most important realization was that while it’s easy to use SolidWorks and EPDM on a VM (virtual machine), that vm doesn’t have the horsepower to truly run everything. That’s where Boot Camp comes in. Feel free to surf for more details, but the short story is I reboot my Mac while holding down the OPTION key and I am presented a choice of booting as a Mac or a PC. Both directions get the full power of the processor and the RAM.
To get Boot Camp deployed was pretty straight-forward right up until it didn’t work. I followed the instructions to the letter and after selecting INSTALL, the Mac’s screen went dark and it started to whir and I got up to take a break. I returned to what I thought was a dark and unpowered Mac. I thought maybe that was how the install ended, but just in case, I waited. I had some things to do, so I decided not to rush it and headed off to work on some training files. I returned 45 minutes later to the same dark machine, but noticed this time that the screen wasn’t black – the backlight was still on. I figured there was a problem and kept pressing the power button for varying lengths until I got it rebooted. Upon reboot, I was greeted with a Bill Gates-looking error message about missing boot media. What?! I broke the Mac. Another reboot produced the same error.
Paige on Apple support informed me that holding down the OPTION key during reboot would allow me to choose whether to boot in Apple mode or PC mode. As it turns out (and unbeknownst to Paige), I had no Windows option, just Apple. Obviously, something went wrong.
After the reboot, everything looked the same as it was before – whew! Ignoring Einstein, I tried creating the PC again. This time I didn’t walk away, I stayed and watched what happened after I pressed INSTALL. Again, the screen went dark and the machine started to whir and … nothing. I forced a reboot holding down the OPTION key and went at it again. As it turns out, there are three steps in the install that look like you take them one at a time, but you take them all at once. Anyway, once I figured out how to use the software, Boot Camp proceeded right through that dreaded INSTALL step and as the Mac attempted to boot in Windows mode, I got another error. Jason at Apple informed me that “Windows 7 or higher” in the Boot Camp manual does not mean I can use Windows 8. I kid you not, by way of an explanation why I cannot use the current Windows Operating system on a machine I purchased a few weeks ago, he said “Mountain Lion was released before Windows 8.”
After creating a new “old” Windows 7 boot disc, I was in business.
Now for the very best part (so far): VMWare Fusion. First, the technical support is awesome – and that’s coming from someone who does it. Fusion is the Mac version of VMWare. We use vm’s all day for support and testing. It’s an invaluable piece of software. I have a couple of servers and clients so I can reproduce errors or test.
During the set up of Fusion, I was bitten by my lack of Mac experience. After installing Windows Server 2008 r2 on a vm, I accidentally hit LOGOFF instead of SHUT DOWN. As all you IT guys know, that simple slip-up results in a Windows server logon screen that requires a Ctrl+Alt+Del to login. That’s a problem since Ctrl+Alt+Del on a Mac isn’t the same. After some web surfing, FN+CONTROL+OPTION+COMMAND is the equivalent. Argh! Everything on a Mac is different from a PC. This reminded me of an old Steve Martin (comedian) routine; back in the 70’s in the arrow-through-the-head days. “Boy, those French, they have a different word for everything.”
Finally, during my setup, I found a bug in VMWare Fusion, which is how I know their support is so good. As it turns out, my Mac didn’t ship with the latest version of the OS. A quick upgrade to 10.8.3 stopped the SolidWorks crashing. So now I have a functioning system, but am stumbling terribly trying to design in SolidWorks. I’ll cover those adventures in another post.
I’m fixing and modifying my Jeep using 3DP (3D Printing). I made my own factory wheel center caps and I also had to fix my shifter knob. The chrome trim ring on the shifter (manual – all Jeeps and Corvettes should be) broke. I’m not sure when or how. One of the tabs broke at some point. I noticed it getting loose, but it didn’t occur to me to dig in and see if it was broken. The trim ring finally came off in my hand. I decided to design a replacement for myself.
I don’t have a scanner, so I had to reverse engineer a round, curvy part with calipers - not optimal. Also, to prevent worrying too much about the cost, I set a limit. I gave myself three tries – two misses and a final that works. The first design didn’t quite fit. However, it did look good and with a little sanding and shaving, I had a functional part.
I used that version in the Jeep while I worked on the second design. The part of the model that was really off was the snap hooks to retain the trim ring – the area that failed in the first place.
My second attempt was a laser shot … except for the snap hooks. The they didn’t come anywhere close to working and that was baffling. They didn’t click into place – as if they were too short. However, the fit was so good otherwise, that even without the hooks, it stayed in place. I called that a win – I only needed two tries not three. Since I had budgeted three, I decided to create a custom version. I added a thick dome to cover the decal with the shift pattern and embossed my own version of the Jeep 7-bar logo.
By the way, why isn’t the shift pattern displayed on the dash along with the arrow for the fuel filler? I can't text and drive, why should I have to stare at the floor and drive? If the auto makers think I don't need it frequently enough to take up dashboard real eastate, then a sticker on the sun visor makes more sense than on the top of the shifter.
BUT, the new domed design didn’t fit. After much too much time and thanks to a Dremel, I found that the clearance under the new dome was off. I really liked my design, but I had used my three budgeted attempts. Since I knew what was wrong and since I still needed to fix those tabs, I gave myself a mulligan.
The fourth design fits like a glove, stays put in use thanks to a very tight fit ... and the snap hooks still don’t work (argh!).
I’ll have to disassemble more of the shifter to figure out the tabs. But I have a working shifter replacement that I designed. It cost way more than a replacement from the dealer or even a mass-produced after-market part. But it’s all mine and the tech at the dealer approves.
Post by Wayne White
We’re back. We started this project a few weeks ago. Next we're going to create the spur gear used on each of the 4 Drone’s rotors.
First, activate the Toolbox, via tools, add-ins.
Since I have a Premium license, I have access to millions of configurable standard components, fasteners, nuts bolts and bearings, etc (this is included in the top 2 tiers of Solidworks).
The toolbox is easily configured per design standards including INCH and METRIC, etc.
Once configured, the toolbox component (the spur gear here), has smartly created sketches. These sketches have equations specific to the size options selected upon insertion.
Here we see the configure options, including module, number of teeth, etc. These would be your specifications straight from Machinery’s Handbook.
In this case, the spur gear gets us most of the way there- the suppressed features are items that I configured specific to this geometry.
In subsequent sketches, utilizing already existing part geometry where possible, I made use of convert entities and offset to capture the design intent and make it highly robust to future design changes.
We want to add geometry and leave the subtractive operations for last as to capture the geometry in the minimum design steps as possible.
Lastly, and a feature commonly overlooked is the ability to group features or operations into folders. Via right mouse button, I was able to clean up the design tree, smartly capturing features into groups.
Go ahead and practice with the included model set. http://www.caddedge.com/Portals/123005/docs/sw-parts-gear-blade.zip
That’s all for now, until next time!
Have a great Memorial Day weekend.
Earlier this month, I mentioned that there are places where Makers gather opening all over the country. One of my favorites is NextFab Studio.
Well, on May 11th they held a casting call for the reality TV show Shark Tank
Even Hollywood recognizes that these Maker spaces are the “next big thing” in innovation and entrepreneurship. So get in there and invent something (except another iPhone case, please) – and tell Mr. Wonderful I said “hello”.
Post By Wayne White
I picked up a first person image capturing device called the AR Drone 2 last week from a local retailer. Given its cool mechanical concept, coupled with the ability to take pictures with its onboard camera, I figured this would be absolutely a blast of a project to tie into Solidworks for our online blog.
I am going to dissect this piece by piece, noting tidbits of information of “to do’s” and things to avoid when designing some of these items in Solidworks. And, these posts will be geared toward Solidworks themes, not focused on improving the original design or mechanical concepts.
First up: The blade/ rotor creation
Given its complex bends, just how do we go about creating this?
First, you must remember, there are many ways to tackle this. But, come up with a thought process and follow it. I actually created this two different ways before I found a technique that worked ‘best’ for me.
Given the shape, I found that working with surfaces and more specifically a lofted surface would do the job. What can we do with a lofted surface that we couldn’t do with a boundary surface or sweep or fill? And why use surfaces, not solids?
In this case, the cross section changes only slightly throughout the length, and surfaces allow me to create nicer blend patches, and I can easily convert it to a solid at the end.
So, let’s define some cross sections for the loft.
I created the cross sections as 2d sketched splines. I ran the “Fit Spline” tool to create a smoother curve after the spline was made.
When using surfaces, it’s important to rename sketches and reference data- this only helps you later to remember the initial thought process. A slow left click or F2 will allow you to rename.
I created both a 2d and 3d sketch as guide curves. When working with 3d sketches, you’ll want to manipulate the spline points from multiple perspectives to give the spline a 3d presence. Additionally, make special note of the spline points or handles. You can control the vector at that point, so both magnitude and direction to get that ‘perfect’ curve.
You quickly run a lofted surface from the 2 profiles and 2 guide curves.
When operating with surfaces, you’ll quickly become familiar with extend surface. This allows you to create ‘reference surfaces’ that can later be used to aid in trim functions, hopefully creating water-tight volumes.
Creating a quick 2d sketch and extruding the surface in 2 directions gives me the terminating end condition for the surface extension on the right.
Here we control the end condition for the end condition; we’ve affectively taken our surface and extended it and linearly cut the end of it with a specified angle.
Mutual trim.. to prepare this for a knit surface operation.
I used planar surface to cap the end of the left side.
Then I created 2d geometry in space for yet another loft. This, I did on purpose. Typically your cross sections should have the same number of points- remember a loft is just an interpolation of information.
When we loft in this manner and mirror, we’re left with something that doesn’t look good and certainly is not smooth because of the dissimilar cross sections and number of points. Let’s delete those faces and recreate them.
Working with surfaces and solids collectively is not a problem. We’ll knit these pieces together, choosing the option ‘try to form solid’.
We’ll create some circular bosses offset from the blade. When doing the extrude-thin on the line, we get a rebuild error- no problem. We can copy the surfaces using the Offset command and magnitude of 0, and choose the proper end condition then as ‘up to surface’.
The final geometry…note the techniques used may not be the best design practice. However, it allows for multiple commands to be used, and exposure to some ‘solid’ surfacing techniques.
I have a Jeep. For me this is great, because other than the Series III Defender that can be disassembled entirely with a 7/16” nut driver, it is the easiest vehicle I know of to modify (yes, I’ve owned a Beetle). Since I have a seat of SolidWorks and an understanding of the 3D printing opportunities in the world, I have lots of things on my ToDo list. As it turns out, I needed to fix my Jeep before I got to modify my Jeep, so I combined the two.
The wheel center caps have an annoying habit of popping off. The first time, I found the center cap in my driveway before it was missed. The second time the center cap escaped, a replacement cost me $8. By the third time I needed a replacement 4 months later, it cost me $12. 50% increase – really?! Another few months went by and … the dealer broke one during a flat repair. They called me a few weeks later to pick up my free replacement. I strolled up to the parts counter, announced my intentions and was asked for … $32! The dealer straightened things out and I got my center cap gratis, but the prospect of having to pay $32 two or three times a year sent me in search of my calipers.
Here’s the result:
$27 on my front porch from Shapeways (www.shapeways.com) plus a can of metallic silver spray paint I already had hanging around. For less money than the dealer charges me, I get my own design – and I think a better one.
One of the design issues I ran into involves the retention system.
The Chrysler (or American Motors or Daimler or Wall Street) design includes a snap-ring to try … TRY to hold the cap in place. First – it desn't work or I wouldn’t be writing this. Second, I don’t know where to procure this snap-ring. Third, it’s difficult to reverse engineer the part to hold the ring in place. Here’s my solution.
Those spokes were "a flyer" figuring my first design wouldn't be exactly the right dimensions and would need tweaking anyway. As it turns out, the part fit just right and the 1mm x 2mm spokes work just like a spring. I assume the plastic will age and will lose tension, but it sure does snap in nicely – on the first shot! Even if it needs improvement, the good – no great news is that I can fix it right away and it still costs $27 four months from now.
If you come up with your own solution, you can open up a shop selling customized center caps right on the Shapeways site. Of course, you can’t use anything remotely resembling the Jeep 7-bar logo as I did for my personal use. But, how about a soccer ball? Tire tread? Whatever interests you. This Maker movement is empowering.