The funniest experience of last week for me wasn’t my daughter’s accidental polar vortex ice dance, my rewatch of Office Space (for real, have you seen it lately?!), or even my nightly late night talk show viewing.
No, it was an engineering meeting about 3D modeling software. Honestly!
Gary Davis, a Senior Designer here at Glide-Line, presented a Lunch & Learn event about tips and tricks for SOLIDWORKS. His topic, How to Reduce Time Spent Modeling, was not only informative, it was also made lighthearted with his constant stream of (lame but hilarious) dad jokes. If I get enough comments on this post, I’ll ask Gary to write his own post of just SOLIDWORKS puns. ;)
I’ll also use one more word to describe the meeting: therapeutic.
First, I’d like to preface this with a few universal truths about engineers:
Engineers are very, very precise people – they are perfectionists whose job depends upon attention to the smallest details (understatement)
Engineers take tremendous pride in their work. The quality of their designs, their precision, and getting things ‘right’ is what drives their determination
Engineers love SOLIDWORKS. It is one of the most powerful CAD modeling tools on the planet, with infinite flexibility and power. They enjoy setting up models the right way, with a clean structure, using the best modeling techniques.
One topic of particular interest for this group of engineers was configuring, downloading, and modifying vendor models from online sources. The general atmosphere in the room shifted from elated laughter to dismay as the audience discussed their frustrations with two major pain points.
1. Almost ALL models downloaded off the web are heavy.
The engineers expressed that the models they download have far more parts than they need. These extra parts bloat the overall assembly model, slowing down their machines and constantly adding delays to their day. They buy the best machines money can buy, and yet, these extra parts are slowing down their automation systems.
When designers are working on something, they are ferocious; they want to get done yesterday. The recommended workaround from others in the room was to strip the model of all unnecessary components as soon as it’s downloaded. This could take five minutes, or 60. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how long it takes; it’s a waste of time. The engineers do this begrudgingly because they want “their model” done right, and don’t want their model rebuild time to slow down their day. Curses and frustration were found in abundance around this topic.
2. Most models cannot easily be modified in the SOLIDWORKS environment.
The engineers in our lunch and learn event also lamented about the inflexibility in their favorite tool. If they wanted to stretch a simple conveyor to a longer length, they felt that should be easy. But, it’s not. Gary demonstrated all the steps that had to be done in order to accomplish this seemingly simple feat. Step after step, only to stretch the conveyor 12 inches! What ever happened to pulling a fence selection tool over a block in AutoCAD and simply stretch it 12 inches? SOLIDWORKS simply doesn’t work that way. Its great power seems to reduce its simplicity and if the model wasn’t designed to do just that, it just won’t be that easy. To an engineer, the time wasted completing tasks that seem intuitive is frustrating, and deservedly so, in my opinion.
The recommended solution to these issues is to reconfigure the re-sized parts online, redownload and reinsert. However, the huge drawback is that it’s redundant work. Sure, sometimes this is better than modifying models to the point where an engineer can make them work in their assembly, but still, this is work they’ve already done. Why do it again?
Here’s the kicker that really gets to me. Once the engineer cleans up the model to make it streamlined, and changes it to the desired design, this still a “dumb”model. It can’t tell the engineer any information or correct anything that’s wrong.
For example, using the example above with the stretched conveyor. First, the engineer may or may not have stretched the model correctly to reflect how they can receive it from the factory (which is a huge risk to the integrity of the design if they are mounting items to it, have tight quarters, etc.). Second, any part numbers or pricing they may have received prior to modifying the conveyor is extinct. To obtain updated information, they need to go back to the website and reconfigure, or contact the vendor for a quote. This might mean that an engineer would have to pick up the phone and talk to somebody, or worse, leave a message and be interrupted at a later time when they are in the middle of solving a problem. They don’t have time for this.
I’m not poking fun by any stretch; engineers are the heart of our company. They make it all work, all the time, no matter what – but loss of efficiency is loss of time and profit.
So, yes, I was listening to this with interest, knowing we already have a solution: Glide-Line’s IMPACT! configuration tool solves all these issues. In our latest version, we have lightweight models with only the critical details that you need to know and see. On-the-fly configuration that allows bespoke configuration directly in SOLIDWORKS is the whole purpose. Not only that, but up-to-date part numbers, application review, and instant pricing all populate directly as you’re designing. I know it’s not quite as good as hearing Gary’s corny dad jokes live, but hey, I think this might be even more useful.
Learn more about IMPACT! and start using it today. Download now.