Archive for December, 2008

While things are slow fix what’s broke

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Looking for a silver lining in these slower economic times? Now is a good time to put in infrastructure in place to prevent the headaches you often run into when you are busy.

Think back to a recent time when you were doing 80 hour work weeks. How could this be prevented [okay lessened]? Perhaps there is some engineering overhead you could reduce….

  • Looking for files…then once you found them, trying to determine if you had the latest and greatest?
  • Printing and folding drawings?
  • Getting corrections to the shop floor (or fixing mistakes when they didn’t get there in time)?
  • Trying to find management to sign off on your change notice?
  • Entering BOM information into your purchasing system?
  • Making copies of files to send to suppliers?

The solution may include implementing a PDM system, writing some macros to automate repetitive tasks, adding more features to your feature library, improve your SolidWorks settings, increase your purchased part library, taking a SolidWorks class…

Let’s face it if you aren’t making product, it costs you money. Now is a good time to streamline the way you do things. Every change involves planning, implementation, and a learning curve. All of these are more pleasant to go through if you do not have a deadline looming.

You have to spend money to make money. I’m the Engineering Data Specialist Man, and I am here to help.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Load macro from the command line

Friday, December 19th, 2008

My Great Aunt Eleanor loves to write code that uses SolidWorks’ event handler.  ..but with all of that compiling and .dll registration she often complains “dag-gummit ” it would be easier to just write a SolidWorks macro.

While it is true that macros (.swp files) can watch events. I have never seen much value in doing so – because the macro needs to be loaded to work …and I always forget to load the macro. Thus whenever I wanted to watch events, I have always just written an addin -SolidWorks addins can be set to load automatically.

My buddy Jeff Cope* showed me how to load a macro via the command line at SolidWorks start up.

SW Shortcut

  1. Create a shortcut to your SolidWorks executable ["C:\Program Files\SolidWorks Corp\SolidWorks\SLDWORKS.exe"]
  2. Right mouse button click on your new SolidWorks shortcut and select Properties.
  3. In the properties dialog for the shortcut, append the “target” property (located on the Shortcut tab) to include “/m” followed by a space then the full path to the macro in quotation marks. It should look something like this:

Command Line

Now your macro will be loaded and run when you start SolidWorks, and you can watch events with a macro. Now Great Aunt Eleanor will have more time available to play Wizards of Warcraft.

*Even the mighty Engineering Data Specialist man is not above being a name dropper!

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

SolidWorks Tags

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

SolidWorks introduced “Tags” in SolidWorks 2008. Since you can tag parts, I’ve used them primarily as an easy way to filter parts when I use the Selective Open function. [They are also pretty handy when selecting a group of common parts.]


You can also use tags in features – as a way to quickly filter your features in the feature manager. Though I have to be honest, I don’t tag features very often. I prefer to use folders or comments as a way to navigate my feature manager. I love the concept; just find I don’t use it much in real life -even though I suppose they would save me some time.

Earlier this week, SolidWorks Labs released a new addin called “Tagger”. Tagger greatly improves the tags interface; which has been tags’ weakness till now. You can quickly see and edit all of the tags in a document at once. This is an application worth looking into!

Speaking of new interfaces. SolidWorks Labs just got a new one as well. Each application has a nice little movie associated with it, to better help you understand the application before you download it. Get some popcorn, go to the labs, and enjoy.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Linking your revision table to Enterprise

Monday, December 15th, 2008

I love simple elegant solutions. Especially when they help solve a problem that many people have – linking revision tables to your Enterprise PDM system.

<sarcasm>Imagine that you work for one of those companies that still puts a revision table on your drawings. If was good enough for engineers back in the 1930′s then it is good enough for you too right!?</sarcasm> (Where did this soapbox come from?)

Here is a cool little trick:

  1. Write a little SolidWorks addin that before a save [FileSaveAsNotify2] will read the last row of the revision table and write the needed fields into that file’s custom properties.
  2. Connect those custom file properties to your datacard.

From a coding prospective, there is hardly any error handling required! Here is why:

  • You don’t have to worry about ensuring the document is checked out, the user wouldn’t be hitting save otherwise
  • You don’t even have to make a connection to the Enterprise object; you are simply writing information into the file’s properties -let Enterprise add the file property information into the database for you
    • You don’t even have to handle cases if a user is not logged into the vault

Short. Sweet. Simple.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

New Blogroll

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Psssttt…look to your right. No! Not at your secretary! On the screen!

See, we’ve added a blogroll. Don’t see it? Drat. Yeah, that is because you came to this link directly. Come back here through the direct, top level link. I’ll go get a doughnut and meet you back here.

We are going to use the blogroll to store links to other external blogs that we hope will have value to you. Our charter member is the DriveWorksXpress blog written by Ian. DriveWorksXpressis quickly being a favorite tool for many of our customers, we felt it worthy of being the first on the roll. Jump over there and enjoy.

P.S. Tell  your secretary that Engineering Data Specialist Man says “hi”!

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

SolidWorks Completion Date Estimates

Monday, December 8th, 2008

So now you have planned your assembly structure with Treehouse, how do you estimate how long it will take to complete?

I like to use project management software to create my estimates.

Most people think project management software is only used to manage large civil or architectural projects with hundreds or even thousands of resources and tasks. In the early years of project management software this was the case, because the software was expensive and hard to use. Today many project management programs are Windows based and quite economical.

Think of your main assembly as a task. Each sub-assembly is a sub-task, each sub-sub-assembly is a sub-sub-task and so on. As you estimate how long it will take you to design each sub assembly the overall completion date is automatically summed up. Weekends, holidays and vacations can automatically be taken into account.

It is quick, and should be more accurate than trying to estimate the entire top level assembly.

Certainly Excel could be used if you kept it simple; but if you are going to do any concurrent engineering, project management software can also help you with your resource management -and help you find your critical paths to getting your assembly out to the shop floor [or beyond]….but that is another blog for another day.

Project Planning (Click on the thumbnail to see an example of a Gantt chart estimating time to complete a simple assembly. The critical path is shown with the red bars.)

Microsoft Project is a common example of Windows project management software; but the above example was created with OpenProj, an open source [free] project management program for Windows, Linux, Unix and Mac.

Would you use a spreadsheet as your word processor? Use the right tool for the job. There are many tools you can use to estimate your completion date but project management software was designed to for this exact purpose. The learning curve is small, and so can be the price.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Treehouse for building tree structure

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

Would you like a nice graphical way to plan and build your next project’s tree structure?
This week SolidWorks Labs released Treehouse, a great little free program that does just that. I was going to write a full review, but The SolidWorks Geek beat me to it, and certainly did a better job than I would have done! Thanks Alex.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Red Line SolidWorks File

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Did you know you can store red line markup information in the native SolidWorks file?

Red Line Example

Open a SolidWorks file in eDrawings [if red lining is enabled] red line to your heart’s content and save. Even if the part gets changed by SolidWorks, the red line information stays in the file.

Certainly this is great news for all Enterprise users since you can see red line information right in the preview window, but it is good for anyone who wants to red line but not have an additional file to maintain.

Now, will someone tell me why I cannot see the red line data in SolidWorks?! It’s enhancement request time!

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Numeric Sketch Input – No A key?

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

One of the most talked about new sketch functions in SolidWorks 2009 is “Numeric Sketch Input”. Why? It is a big time saver -you can add sketch entities and add dimensions all in one command. [Assuming you are the kinda guy who likes to add dimensions this early in the design process.]

Sadly when this new mode is on, the “A” key cannot be used to toggle from “line” mode to “tangent arc” mode.

A Key

All is not lost. The older method of changing modes still works. Draw your first line, then as you are drawing the second line go back and touch the starting point of this line, you will automatically switch to “tangent arc” mode.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Confirm Replace

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Let’s see what is in today’s mailbag:

Dear Engineering Specialist Man:
Often times while working in SolidWorks Enterprise I get a dialog box similar to the one below:Confirm Replace - Small
There are a lot of buttons there, and I don't want to make a mistake -because mistakes usually result in me either falling off of, or running into a cliff. Can you help?
Wiley C.,
Somewhere in the middle of a desert

Dear Wiley C.,
You’ll get this dialog box whenever Enterprise thinks than the version of a file in your local cache is newer that the version in the vault, and the command you have started (typically a “Get Latest”) is just about to replace the version in your local cache with the version in the vault.

It is a little confusing I know, you have asked to get the latest, but you already have the latest [in your cache]…so what will you actually get?

  • Clicking “YES” will replace the file in your local cache with the latest version in the vault. (The same thing as if you “undo checkout” and recheck the file back out.)
  • Clicking “NO” will keep the version of the file in your local cache intact, essentially “do nothing”
  • If you are “Getting the latest” of several files at once, the “Yes to All” and “No to All” buttons will save you from clicking “YES” or “NO” for every file you selected

It is good to see that you are using Enterprise to improve your designs, but perhaps if you didn’t specify so many ACME products you would stand a better chance of catching your dinner?
Engineering Data Specialist Man

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

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