Archive for April, 2010

EZ Enterprise Dashboard Graphs

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Everyone loves dashboard graphs – especially managers. Imagine going to management Monday telling them you can provide them real time graphs -showing them the status of anything you are storing in SolidWorks Enterprise PDM…all for free.

Yeah, I see a big raise in your future…maybe even a trip to the tropics as a bonus. Don’t forget the Engineering Data Specialist Man helped get you there!

/* WARNING: This blog contains SQL & VBA programming. Readership discretion is advised.  However, I promise there is not a lot…I’ll step you through. Once you see how easy and powerful these are you’ll know they are worth it. /*

In this example, let’s imagine you would like to be able to have your manager double click on a desktop icon and have a graph display showing all of the engineering change notices that have been created on a month by month basis.

First thing (and perhaps the most challenging) you’ll need to do is come up with a SQL statement to retrieve the information you’ll need:

SELECT COUNT(Documents.Filename) AS NumberofECNs,cast(month(VariableValue.ValueDate) as varchar(2)) + ‘/’ + cast(year(VariableValue.ValueDate) as varchar(4)) as ‘Month’
DocumentsInProjects ON Projects.ProjectID = DocumentsInProjects.ProjectID INNER JOIN
Documents ON DocumentsInProjects.DocumentID = Documents.DocumentID INNER JOIN
VariableValue ON Documents.DocumentID = VariableValue.DocumentID INNER JOIN
Variable ON VariableValue.VariableID = Variable.VariableID
WHERE     (Projects.Path = ‘\ECNs\’) AND (DocumentsInProjects.Deleted = 0) AND (Variable.VariableName = N’Date’)
GROUP BY month(VariableValue.ValueDate),year(VariableValue.ValueDate)

Teaching you SQL is quite a bit beyond the scope of this blog entry. If you have a SQL statement in mind that you need help with, there are tons of people who can help you in the SolidWorks forums or certainly your VAR can help. Besides this isn’t the cool part yet.

In short, the above SQL statement counts all files in the \ECNs\ directory and groups them by month as defined in the “Date” variable. Thus a typical output may look like this:

NumberofECNs Month
500 12/2009
250 1/2010
375 2/2010
507 3/2010
423 4/2010

Certainly we could take this output, paste it into an Excel sheet with a pre-made graph…but can you imagine someone in management being able to do all of these steps? Instead, make a spreadsheet that will automatically update itself every time it is opened. This way you can be assured you are looking at data as fresh as the moment the file was opened.


This Excel file does exactly this. As soon as your user opens the file [via Sub Workbook_Open], it connects to your Enterprise database, counts all of the ECN files via a SQL query, and puts this information into the spreadsheet. The graph is set to automatically scale, so there is nothing left to do except sip on the margaritas.

I’ve added tons of comments in the Excel VBA code. Look in the “This Workbook” module to find it. [The first time you open the file, you will get a VBA crash message, because the routine is trying to connect to my vault, you'll need to modify the code's connection string to connect to your vault for it to work properly.]

This was an easy, free solution. Because all of your data is stored in SQL, the sky is the limit for the amount of reporting you can do. I’ve seen pie charts showing how many ECNs were created by each user, then if you pick on a pie piece all of the ECNs created by that user appears in a chart -with hyperlinks to the actual ECN – using Internet Explorer as the interface. Cool, cool, cool.

If you want to get into some of these fancy charts,  read up on “Business Intelligence” built into SQL Server….or stay tuned here, I’ll probably blog about it someday.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Three Enterprise PDM settings for you to fall in love with

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Usually default settings are what the average user wants to use. I think there are three that SolidWorks really missed the boat on. Consider changing these three options under the view menu from within the Enterprise vault. You’ll be glad you did.

  • “Set focus to active configuration”
        With this option on, Enterprise will always display the datacard with the configuration tab open when selecting a SolidWorks part or assembly. It seems a majority of companies want to store their meta data in at the part [@] level instead. With this

    option off

      , the @ tab datacard will be the one displayed by default.
  • “Show bitmap for SolidWorks files.”
        Not many things in life are cooler than the eDrawings preview for SolidWorks files from within the Enterprise interface. Downside – using eDrawings, it takes a second or two for the preview to load. With this

    option on

      , the preview will show a bitmap of the file instead. -Making stepping through files much faster! If you do want to see the file in eDrawings, click the bitmap and the file will be loaded in eDrawings. Spin, view markups and measure to your heart’s content.
  • “Show full UI in SolidWorks preview.”
        With this

    option on

        , Enterprise will display an eDrawing toolbar in an eDrawings preview. It takes up a bit of real estate, but the way real estate prices have been dropping, this option on is a “no brainer”.



Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Attention Greater Cincinnati

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Tuesday, April 20 is the Greater Cincinnati SolidWorks User Group meeting. The meeting starts at 5:30 and is hosted by Balluf Inc.
For more information: Click Here for the link to the GCSWUG page.

I hope to see you there.

Josh Spencer

Elite Application Engineer, CSWE 3DVision Technologies

Named BOMs – An additional key to stable item numbers in Enterprise

Friday, April 16th, 2010

This morning: 3:18 a.m.

I awake to the sound of quiet chanting and the smell of incense.

“Hippies” was my first thought as I looked out my bedroom window and saw long haired people sitting on blankets for as far as the eye could see. -They probably would have had flowers in their hair if my flowerbeds hadn’t been trampled upon last night.

Then I remembered the promise I made last night to the angry mob of Enterprise users… “Oh the SolidWorks Enterprise PDM folks!” I shouted as I dashed for my robe and projector.

My speech to the masses began:

“Last night I showed you how to see a SolidWorks BOM table inside of Enterprise and I promised to show you another method for working with item numbers. While it is true a calculated Enterprise BOM does not have item numbers, a named BOM can!

  1. Take a calculated BOM and save it saveas
  2. You can add position [item] numbers with this buttonpositionnumbers

Don’t forget a named BOM is dead. It will not update as your assembly changes like a calculated BOM does. Usually this is a good thing. However if Enterprise sees the calculated BOM has changed since the named BOM has been created, you will see an alert icon  update next to version number. Clicking this icon will fold the calculated BOM updates into the named BOM – still keeping your item numbers in tact!

Thanks for the applause…now get off my lawn!”

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Easiest 3D Sketch,… EVER.

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Creating a Weldment frame, a layout for a lofted feature or surface, or ANYthing that needs a 3D Sketch ??
Want to create that 3D Sketch in the EASIEST way, EVER ?!

Just make an EXTRUSION of the shape you need, then start a new 3D Sketch. Turn on your EDGE filter !! (“e” key for most people), and WINDOW SELECT the entire part, and CONVERT ENTITIES !!
E-A-S-Y !!

(you may want to go to Wireframe mode before window selecting, depending on your settings for TOOLS-OPTIONS-SYSTEM OPTIONS-DISPLAY/SELECTION-Selection of Hidden Edges)

You could THEN just HIDE the solid, or do a DELETE BODY on it.

Think how much easier this is to EDIT for changes !!

easy 3D Sketch

You can of course get A LOT more complicated than my example with multiple extrudes, extrudes up to surfaces, trimming with planes or surfaces first, etc….

Have FUN !!

Randy Simmons

Application Engineer, CSWP 3DVision Technologies

Enterprise Users Want Their Stable Item Numbers

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

I awoke this morning to an angry mob at my front door. Millions of SolidWorks Enterprise PDM users with pitchforks and torches. Apparently they had read yesterday’s blog where I had given the SolidWorks nation the information they have been yearning for on keeping stable balloon numbers for the components in their assemblies.

[I suppose it is logical. This group of users is typically very interested in sharing BOM information with other systems -yet Enterprise's calculated BOM doesn't have balloon numbers?]

We want our stable item numbers!!” they shouted.

I quickly pulled out my projector & trusty laptop and displayed this image on the side of my house:


Look!“, I shouted

Any BOM table you put in your drawings or assemblies can be displayed in the ‘Bill of Materials’ tab. They are available in the dropdown list under BOM type! So if you followed yesterday’s blog correctly, all of the work you put into that BOM table can be displayed here for everyone to enjoy!

Now, you! Pick up that blood! …and if you all come back peacefully tomorrow I’ll show you another way to get item numbers into your Enterprise BOMs!

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Stable Balloon Numbers

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

In the beginning (1995) Jon created SolidWorks that had the ability to assign balloon [item] numbers to parts…and these numbers could be added to the bill of material. And Jon saw that it was good.

The problem was that if you changed the order of your parts in the assemblies the balloon numbers changed. This wasn’t terrible because the drawings and BOM always stayed up to date, but a little bit bad because if you passed your BOM information to external systems it was difficult to match line items up from one revision to another.

Throughout the years things got a little better – balloon items no longer changed when you reordered the components in an assembly, but if you deleted a component, all the components in the list below would move up in the BOM order taking the deleted component’s place – and its balloon number.

And we wept.

Then in [I think] SolidWorks 2009 along came this little BOM table property!


Select this little golden nugget to prevent BOM item numbers from updating when you change item numbers elsewhere.

I’ll grant you that we have had very good control of our Excel based BOM tables for a while now, but I haven’t used Excel based tables since we’ve been given the ability to update component’s file properties in the SolidWorks based BOM table.

Jeff Sweeney

CSWE Engineering Data Specialist 3DVision Technologies

Want to be more Flexible?

Monday, April 12th, 2010

I know you’re all good SolidWorks user and use sub-assemblies all the time…right?  Sub-assemblies improve performance because SolidWorks doesn’t need to solve all the mates of the sub-assemblies.  The less top-level mates the better you will be.

Well let’s say you need to show some motion of a sub-assembly but you get the message that it is fully defined.

Cannot move

You can make the sub-assembly behave like a top level assembly.  You will need to RMB on the sub-assembly and choose Properties.  The Component Properties window will open up and in the bottom right corner, there is an option to “Solve as…”.  You will want to choose “Flexible”.

Enjoy your new “flexibility”.

Josh Spencer

Elite Application Engineer, CSWE 3DVision Technologies

“What I Learned @ SolidWorks World 2010″ PT.2 (more uses for Select Other)

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Have you ever tried using SELECT OTHER when you are in a SKETCH ??

Well, WHY NOT ? It works there too !!

You can use it to select a point that is on top of an end point or mid point of a line.
To select a line on top of another line or construction line.
To select a circle on top of another circle. etc. etc. etc…

The possibilities are endless !

WOW ! Where ELSE can you use Select Other ?

TIP: the “list” box really helps when using it this way…

Randy Simmons

Application Engineer, CSWP 3DVision Technologies

3DVision annouces partnership with the University of Cincinnati

Monday, April 5th, 2010

On May 4, 2010, seniors at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering and Applied Science will display their technical know-how by displaying their completed senior projects at the Duke Energy Center Technology Exposition.

Doors open to the public at 10 am EST and patrons will be able to view the student projects as well as visit several company sponsored booths featuring breakthrough innovations and new methods of manufacturing.

In addition to being a proud sponsor of the event, 3DVision Technologies will be offering a free special presentation entitled, “SolidWorks Solutions for Design, Documentation & Manufacturing”. This presentation, presented by our very own Josh Spencer, will allow visitors to see how SolidWorks is used in Industry today as well as learn how DimXpert and SolidWorks Simulation can help validate your designs. This free presentation will take place at 10am and again at 12:30 pm EST. There is no charge to attend.

So come on down May 4 to the Duke Energy Center and visit us at the UC Technology Expo. For more information on the event, visit

Carrie Patrick

Marketing Manager 3DVision Technologies

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