There are a few topics that generate high interest-levels in our office. “Tips and Tricks”, “FAQs”, “How-To”. You may have even landed here by surfing for just such terms. In any case, I asked our AE’s here (Application Engineers) for a list of those types of topics to help me out with content for this blog. I got a really good list from John that I immediately went through since he’s one of our best. I picked one topic at random to investigate – modeling threads.
My first reaction is to tell you that no one needs to model threads. We (AE’s) all say that, right? It’s heavy geometry. And yes, I’ve actually had jobs where we designed and built stuff using fasteners and threaded items like ball-screws. I can think of a few situations where I would need threads, though.
After I decided I would present this topic, I bounced the idea off of one of my rules – more of a guideline really – that I took from Gabe, another top AE here: create original content for the blog. To follow Gabe's lead, I searched for internet content demonstrating how to create threads in SolidWorks and as it turns out, there’s a lot. So, John was right, it's a good topic, but there's lots of other places to find it. So much for threads. What about knurls? Well, that one has some promise. There’s not a lot of content out there compared to threads, but not only have we posted about it here before (knurl), there’s a step-by-step guide on GrabCAD. I was headed to the next topic on John's list (check back here later), but GrabCAD interested me, so after looking through the “About” link on their home page and following some other links, it turns out they have a pretty good story and a vision for the future of our craft.
GrabCAD is a site where designers like us get to show off and also pick up some freelance work. It’s a big deal now, but was just an idea in Estonia in 2010. The original concept was a site where people could submit their designs and get back a drawing from 3D CAD in 48 hours for $25 per drawing. I know first-hand, there are a lot of people out there with napkins and notebook paper sketches of ideas they are covinced is the next big thing, but they don’t have our skill set. We (CADD Edge) get approached at trade shows all the time.
One of the by-products of this community of designers and engineers is rich environment for companies seeking good designers. Companies look through the models on GrabCAD to seek out the designers they think can help them. There’s a great story about an engineer who was unemployed for six months and designed a motorcycle while he looked for a job because he really likes motorcycles. He posted his motorcycle design on GrabCAD for anyone to download – six months worth of design work for free. Now he has more design work than he can handle designing things like a submarine. Companies saw his work and sought his services. When he was asked why he would offer six months of effort for free, he explained that he just wanted to give back to the design community.
Here’s the commonality between GrabCAD, the motorcycle designer, and the people with the next big thing sketched on a piece of notebook paper: Passion. As I mentioned, GrabCAD started out as a contract design website. Send them your design and they send drawings back. But the creators of GrabCAD were designing stuff other people were passionate about. GrabCAD focused on their passion - creating a design community.
Threads and knurls don’t get modeled very often and sweeps need a pierce relationship between the helix and the profile, so we get a call. We’re happy to answer. But consider taking that knowledge plus some other tips and tricks you have, finding a project you want to work on, and design it in SolidWorks with the goal of posting it – and everything new you learn in SolidWorks along the way, like how to model a knurl (go to GrabCAD, select Tutorials and search for “knurl”).