Create CAD Standards (SolidWorks environment)

Creating a drafting standards within a SolidWorks environment is an important task.  The task may seem daunting to those of us who haven’t done this before, particularly if our company has no pre-existing documentation methods.  These can be new companies, or companies moving from a lack of control into standardization.

Fortunately, there is a lot of help available.  Actual drafting standards already exist.  Also, many of us have been through this before (sometimes multiple times).  ASME provides American National Standards for many of the areas that need to be covered.  ISO provides international standards for these too, however I will focus on the use of ASME since this is what I used myself.  On the other-hand, creating SolidWorks specific standards requires a little more reseach and upfront work.

Here are my very general suggestions for documents and tasks to create a company’s standard.

  1. SolidWorks Templates (basic overview)
    1. Create a basic solid model template.  The setup within this template will become the backbone of everything within SolidWorks. This will be the most used document.  Establish custom properties that detail the part.  (Use of existing properties can be leveraged to simplify this task.)  Creation of this first template does not preclude the creation of other solid model templates. Instead, it will be used to create any others. For details about templates, goto SolidWorks Help and search titles only for the words “document templates”.
    2. Create a solid model assembly template.  Many of the general settings of this template should be duplicates of the settings of the solid model template.  Some planning is required.  Determine the best method of assembly structure for your company.  Several practices exist as guides, such as Top-Down, Horizontal Modeling, Bottom-Up, and Configurations.  It is important to note that there is not one-size-fits-all method for all companies.  Research each and make the determination based on company needs.  Setup the assembly template to support the chosen method.  However, do not become overly reliant on any particular methodology since situations may require flexibility.
    3. Decide how the drawing templates will interact with solid models. This includes deciding to have any pre-defined views, use of custom and other properties, etc.
    4. Create sheet formats and templates for each drawing size that will be commonly used.  Include annotation notes linked to custom properties, such as part number, material, revision, originator, origination date, surface finish number and/or type, etc.  See SolidWorks Help search for “Link to Property”.
    5. If in a network environment, place the templates and sheet formats within a folder where all SolidWorks users will have access.  Point all SolidWorks installs to this location.  This can be done within pulldown menu Tools>Options>File Location>Document Templates and Sheet Formats.
    6. Create a company standard for shortcuts and macros that speed up SolidWorks operations. Set up a network location for the company macros.
  2. Create the following standard operating procedures.
    1. SolidWorks Performancethat covers computer system requirements, Windows settings, SolidWorks installation, working folders, and standardizing files.
    2. SolidWorks Best Practices and Standards
      • Solid models: discussing preferred methods for creating features.
      • Assemblies: cover methodologies (when to use top-down or bottom-up; and what part should be the primary fixed component) and how to avoid circular mating, etc.
      • Drawings: covering how to use templates/sheet formats, shortcuts, common macros, etc.
    3. Drafting Standards, which can rely on ASME Y14.100 (umbrella engineering drawing standard), ASME Y14.5M (GD&T drafting standard) and possibly ASME Y14.41 (3D model drafting standard).  List exceptions to the ASME standards within the procedure.  If relying on these standards, make sure to have copies of them on hand. This will allow the procedure to be short and to the point.  If not relying on a standard, this procedure can potentially be very long.
    4. Source File and Document Control, which covers how to handle file management (SolidWorks files) and documents.  Be sure to cover processes for control of SolidWorks files in folders and/or the PDM application.  This may be a procedure that is supplemental the company’s general document control processes.
    5. Revision Control, which covers how to revise engineering documents.  This can rely on ASME Y14.35.  If the company uses a ERP or PLM, this procedure may be supplemental to those processes.

For references for further research, check out SolidWorks resource links, such as weblinks that can be found here on Lorono’s SolidWorks Resources.  Also, check out Blog Squad sites such as Matt Writes.

Drill and Tap; and calloutformat.txt (Part 2)

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Hole Callouts
*This article is continued from Part 1.*
*Updated some references to support current SOLIDWORKS versions [4/21/2019]*

Tip to use Simplified Threaded Hole Callouts

SOLIDWORKS has an usual method to control hole callout formats. Most other types of callouts are managed from with SOLIDWORKS settings.  However, hole callouts are controlled with an obscure file buried deep within its folder structure on the hard drive.  That file is calloutformat.txt (X:\Program files\SOLIDWORKS Corp\SOLIDWORKS\lang\english).  Additionally, there is also a calloutformat_2.txt.  What’s the difference between these files?  Calloutformat.txt is the default file which SolidWorks uses to determine how to form threaded hole callouts created with the Hole Wizard.  This file establishes the rules to show both the nominal drill diameter and the thread detail in a leadered note.  This is the most common method for threaded hole callouts. However, as mentioned, this method has flaws.

Thankfully, SOLIDWORKS provides an alternative with simplified callouts.  The user doesn’t have to go through and modify each and every callout instance in calloutformat.txt.  As obscure calloutformat.txt is, one would expect the alternative to be even more obscure; and it is!  The alternative file is calloutformat_2.txt, with no identification or in-file description to tell anyone of this fact.

Tip/Trick

Here’s the tip to use simplified threaded hole callouts. Before SolidWorks is started, launch Windows Explorer and goto X:\Program files\SOLIDWORKS Corp\SOLIDWORKS\lang\english (or similar, depending on SOLIDWORKS installation location). Rename calloutformat.txt to calloutformat_1.txt. Rename calloutformat_2.txt to calloutformat.txt. (Make a backup copy of course.)

The one drawback is that SOLIDWORKS uses different methods to callout the thread between the calloutformat.txt and calloutformat_2.txt.  This places a # in front of every threaded hole callout in this simplified format, and leaves off the series designation.  The work around for this is to simply open calloutformat_2.txt with Notepad, then use pulldown Edit>Replace to replace “<hw-threadsize> <hw-threadseries>” with “<hw-threaddesc>” in all instances prior to the renaming.  (Again, always make backup copies!)

Additional Networking Tip

Once calloutformat_2.txt is modified and renamed to calloutformat.txt, copy it to a network drive location that is available to all other SolidWorks users.  On each system, goto pulldown Tools>Options>File Locations>select Hole Wizard Favorites Database.  Point the folder to the network location of the new calloutformat.txtAlso point Hole Callout Format File to the same new folder. There are various methods to save this setting for future installs and updates, such as  Copy Settings Wizard or Admin Image.

P.S., Cosmetic Threads

One caveat to this whole story is how SOLIDWORKS automatically labels cosmetic thread annotations on ANSI standard drawings.  When you create the drawing view that contains the cosmetic thread, you get a surprize; something like “8-32 Machined thread” is added. It doesn’t really conform to any standard, and cannot be edited at the Part level within the cosmetic thread feature (unless you use a customized thread called “None”).  This callout can be inserted on drawings of other standards, such as ISO, by right-clicking on the cosmetic thread and selecting “Insert callout”.

If edited manually in the cosmetic thread feature properties, one can enter anything they want, and that will be the callout for the cosmetic thread on the drawing. If you want your threaded holes to say “Stop poking me!”, your hole callout will say “Stop poking me!”.  But there is no automated method to use the correct callout without directly entering it within the cosmetic thread’s property field and using a custom thread. One advantage is that if this field is edited, it does automatically update drawing where it appears.  However, if I’m relying on Hole Wizard information, I wouldn’t want to use the cosmetic thread annotation callout on my drawing anyway.

Drill and Tap; and calloutformat.txt (Part 1)

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Hole Callouts

Sooner or later, the topic of how to callout a threaded hole comes up in pretty much everyone’s career in the Mechanical Engineering field.  I’ve seen the nature of those discussions be straight forward, but I’ve also seen angst riddled arguements.  Though this isn’t a SolidWorks specific topic, it is important to its users. This is because SolidWorks specifies hole callouts differently in different scenarios.

The conventional rule (within ANSI Inch) is that a threaded hole should be called out as a leadered note showing its nominal drill size and depth on the first line, and the thread size, threads per inch, thread series designation, thread class and thread depth on the second line.  This is common practice, so most people are comfortable using it.

Example (without use of symbols):
2X .190 DIA .190 DEEP
8-32 UNC-2B .164 DEEP

Of course, this method has flaws, which I’ll get into later.

I’ve seen two extremes as well.  At one extreme, the threaded hole callout has the actual drill bit size listed in addition to specification for the tap and drill.  I gather it would look something like this:

2X .438 DIA .25 DEEP WITH 7/16 Q DRILL
.438 UNC-2B .375 DEEP

Of course the basic flaw with adding the drill size is that this is a specification of process, which is generally disallowed by ASME Y14.5M-1994.  It is equivalent to having the note “FORM THIS PART WITH LATHE MODEL XYB”  or even, “JUMP UP AND DOWN THREE TIMES AND SPIN IN A CIRCLE BEFORE USING THE MILL TO CUT THIS HOLE”.  Hyperbole aside, this practice is not appropriate.

On the other end, one might find a hole callout that simply states the thread size, such as “TAPPED HOLE”  This is a bad case of under-specification.  I haven’t seen this method often on formal drawings, but it is very common on preliminary sketches.  There just isn’t enough information.

What is just-enough-information for a threaded hole callout?  Well, this answer is easy.  Thread size, threads per inch, thread series designation (sometimes considered optional), thread class, thread depth, and sometimes drill depth or end condition.  The “nominal” drill diameter isn’t actually needed.  There’s several flaws with including the drill diameter.  First, the actual drill diameter is not based on the callout, but rather the thread itself.  It is over-specification.  Second, drill diameter is stated as a dimension, so it is not nominal.  Because of this, the standard drawing tolerance must be applied to that dimension.  Again, this is over-specification because the thread has its own tolerance for its final size.  Simply by stating the thread class, its tolerance is called out.  Third, because of these other points, specifying the drill diameter is actually a specification of process.  Given all that, I always callout a threaded hole as so:

2X 8-32 UNC-2B DEPTH .165

In the rare event that drill hole depth or end condition is necessary to call out, then simply state that specification in the callout, or show it dimensionally on the drawing view itself.  How this relates to SolidWorks and the calloutformat.txt file will be discussed in Part 2 of this article.




How to add Watermark to SolidWorks Drawing (with linked value)

How to add a Watermark to SolidWorks Drawings
By Matthew Lorono
For whatever reason, watermarks are sometimes necessary, even on drawings. Since SolidWorks has no watermark feature, and does not allow the user to change the order of certain drawing entities, a workaround is necessary. Here the most effective and powerful method useful for Drawing Templates and Sheet Formats.
1. Open the drawing.

2. Create a drawing layer by choosing the layer icon.

Layer Toolbar

3. Change the layer name and description to something identifiable.Then click on the color block in the Color column and choose a very light color.Select OK.

Layer Window

4. Goto pulldown menu File and select Properties.
5. Add the property Watermark.As a place holder, give this property the value of “PRELIMINARY” or something similar.

6. Edit Sheet Format.

7. Use Annotation Note to create and place the entity that will become the watermark.

8. Edit the properties of that Note to adjust its font, angle, size, etc as desired.Then, link the Note to the custom property Watermark, as shown in the figure.Select OK.

Annotation Note Properties Window

8. Change the layer of the Note to the newly created layer.

**UPDATE: New functionality in SolidWorks 2013 makes steps 9 and 9.5 no longer necessary, please see this article for details: Sometimes it’s the little new things – Watermarking **
9. Right Mouse Button click on the Note and select Make Block and accept.

9.5. Due to some funky behavior that I’ve discovered by SolidWorks when loading a watermarked template into an existing drawing, I’m adding this one step: Once you make the block, change the layer of the block to the same layer you set for your Note.
10. Save the Sheet Format (under pulldown menu File and select Save Sheet Format).

11. Edit Sheet.The Note will now appear underneath all other objects on the Drawing Sheet.

12. Save this document as a Drawing Template (under pulldown menu File and select “Save As”, then change Save as type to “Drawing Templates”).
This creates both the Drawing Template and Sheet Format with an embedded watermark.To change the text of the watermark in any drawings that use the Drawing Template, simply go back to Files>Properties, and edit its text value.To remove the watermark, simply replace the current value with a space.These instructions are geared towards SolidWorks 2007 or earlier. SolidWorks 2008 or later instructions will be similar, though how to access some of the functions may have changed.

Macro to add Revisions to Drawing Revision block table

A while ago, I created a SolidWorks macro that allows the user to quickly add new revisions to a drawing’s revision block table. It’s called RevBlockControl. I’m fairly proud of this macro because of its flexibility and easy of use. Within SolidWorks, it can be used for any ASME Y14.35M-1997 compliant revision block table and even supports not so compliant layouts. One cool feature is that it supports revision block tables that start either from the top or bottom of a drawing. The macro even provides an option to update a revision custom property (though the name of the custom property is stored in the code). This one function, of course, is not as useful for those who update their custom properties within the part model. Another requested feature that was included is the addition of buttons to insert some common special characters like line feed and the +/- symbol.

RevBlockControl 1.01

Image of an early version of the RevBlockControl

This macro will not work with manually drawn or excel based revision blocks. It only works with a SolidWorks revision block table.  One area of the macro needing improvement is that of settings. Currently, the settings are stored within the code itself, or user selected each time the macro is run. Also, it does not validate if the current revision block table matches the user selected settings. However, it does have clear instructions within a detailed help area that will allow even a novice user to quickly modify the code to establish their settings preferences. There is currently only one known bug involving the form X button. Use the actual Cancel button if quitting the macro without making changes to the revision block table.

One big plus of the macro is that it has a simple preview area that allows the user to visualize how their revision entry will appear. The preview updates to match whatever settings are selected, and any data entered into the input fields.

The macro may be downloaded here: RevBlockControl.  It may be freely distributed. For additional details, see its .txt file and its help area.  Feedback is always welcome.

Create a SolidWorks Drawing Watermark

For whatever reason, watermarks are sometimes necessary, even on drawings. Since SolidWorks has no watermark feature, and does not allow the user to change the order of drawing entities, a workaround is necessary. Here’s a method I recently discovered.(I am currently using SolidWorks 2007 SP3.1.)

 

  1. Open the drawing.
  2. Edit Sheet Format
  3. Use Annotation Note to create and place the text that will become the watermark.
  4. Edit the properties of the Note to adjust its font, angle, size, etc as desired.
  5. Highlight the Note and change its color using the Line Color function.For best results, assign a very light color to the Note.
  6. Right Mouse Button click on the Note and select Make Block and accept.
  7. Edit Sheet.

 

The Note will now appear underneath all other objects on the Drawing Sheet. This tip is based on the SolidWorks Forum discussion which can be found here:http://forum.solidworks.com/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=6&threadid=1989&enterthread=y

*UPDATE*

I have written an article detailing a more advanced method that will link the text of the watermark directly to a custom property here: Create a SolidWorks Drawing Watermark (with linked value).

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UPDATE for SolidWorks 2013

SolidWorks 2013 now has the ability to set any annotation note on the sheet format to appear underneath all drawing elements to act as a watermark.  The method mentioned above is no longer necessary to achieve the desired results. Please see SolidWorks 2013 What’s New – Display Note Behind Sheet.