Your New 3D ContentCentral

3D ContentCentral (3DCC) has recently been overhauled and drastically expanded.  It is now organized into these tabs: Home, Parts, Features, Blocks, and Macros.  Each tab has a Top Rated area and a Recently Added area.  For parts, there is a section where you can make requests for new parts.  These requests can be filled by other members of the 3DCC.  There is even a contest for who can fulfill the most requests; it has some cool prizes each month.

Parts is divided similar to how it was before, but now it is visually organized for easier identification of each area.  Featured categories, suppliers and user libraries are still available.

The Features tab is divided in many useful categories, with weldments heavily represented.  There is plenty of opportunity for us to populate these areas.  That’s the nice way as saying that Feature categories are currently pretty bare of content.

Blocks is another area that boosts the opportunity for users to populate its categories.  Some categories have a good start, while others are very bare.  Surprising to me is the fact that electrical componentry is currently highly represented in this area.

Macros is being populated fairly quickly by users.  There is already a decent selection of macros to choose from in various categories, such as Add-ins, Assemblies, Drawings, etc.

3DCC now give users the ability to both rate contributions and to comment on them.  This will be useful to determine if a download is worth your time.

My only complaint about 3DCC at this time is that it takes too many steps to get to these areas from within SolidWorks (at least in SW 2007).  Click on Design Library, then 3D ContentCentral, then User Library, then the Home icon.

Have fun with the new layout and content.  I hope to see many new additions soon! 🙂

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.


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.

SolidWorks World 2008 Day 2 (Jan 22) Breakout sessions and such

Finally, after two days of being strangers passing in the night, Chris MacCormick and I finally had a chance to meet up on this day.  But more of that later.

After the General Session was over, my first breakout session of the day was the Hands-On Session Creating SolidWorks Add-ins.  Although I dabble in creating and editing SolidWorks API to help shortcut common functions, I still am just a hack at VBA programming.  I had hoped this session would’ve been useful to continuing my exposure to VB.NET and making add-ins for SolidWorks.  I was very dissatisfied with this session.  This was particularly disappointing because this was my only Hands-On session for the entire SWW8, even though I had logged-on to the SWW8 website at the right time to allow me to get any Hands-On sessions I wanted (way back in 2007).  The session didn’t start off well.  There was a typo on my schedule card that pointed me to the wrong room.  Once I found the correct room and sat down, it took too long to get the session started.  Once the presenter started, he asked a question to check every-one’s experience level.  He asked the question so quickly, I do not believe anyone understood what he said until he uttered the words something like, “Good, everyone will know what I’m talking about.  Let’s get to this.”  Once he did start with the lesson, he flew through so fast, most everyone just gave up trying to follow along.  It took forever to get his attention to tell him no one know where he was in the lesson.  He just wasn’t paying attention to the attendees.  Worse yet, very few of the computers were even configured correctly to allow us to successfully follow along, even if we tried.  By the time some of us finally were able to bring this to his attention, half the session was over.  Many of us had not passed the first few steps.  He then discovered our computers had a wrong setting.  As we moved on again, we again found we couldn’t follow along.  He found out that yet another setting on the computer was wrong.  Basically, the presenter did not make sure the classroom computers where set up properly for his lesson.

At that point Chris MacCormick gave me a call to check when and where we were going to meet up for lunch.  I was so frustrated at the poor quality of the session, I answered the phone without apology. Chris and I planned to meet up in a few minutes.  I then just walked out with 15 minutes to spare. By that time, I was about the fifth person at a Hands-On computer to walk, and I wasn’t the last.  Also, almost all back of the room observers had left by that point.  What did I learn?  Know when to hold them; know when to fold them; know when to walk away; know when to run.

I finally met up with Chris just before the cafeteria opened.  It was about time.  He turns about to be a cool guy with a lot of dynamic energy.  Lunch provided by SWW8 was pretty good.  (I had given up on the SWW8 breakfasts by this time.)  We were later joined by Richard Doyle and another acquaintance of mine.  Chris had missed the SWUGN Annual Summit Meeting on the day before, so Mr. Doyle filled him in on some of the details.

After lunch, my first breakout session of the afternoon was Chris’ own Using the Power of 3D to Teach GD&T.  This session was geared towards being an interactive event between educators.  There were a lot of others who attended that may not have understood this paradigm.  Chris went into detail about the DimXpert and how to use this an other functionality to demonstrate GD&T, including possible limitations or dangers with relying too much on the software to define specifications.  I’ll let Chris go into more detail about this and his other session if he chooses. His session did spark a lot of dialogue between educators.  After the session, I witnessed more people flood up to the front of the room to talk to him than any other presenter at any other session I attended throughout SWW8.

Chris MacCormick

My final breakout session for the day was Exploring the SolidWorks API from a Battleship.  This session was more of a demonstration of how to use SolidWorks and its API creatively for unusual tasks.  The game of Battleship was completely modelled and emulated within SolidWorks.  It was very cleaver and extremely comprehensive.  The presenter did go into his methodology for writing API.  In part, these are some of the points:

  • Identify goals and level of user interaction.
  • Build API ready SolidWorks data (in the model and any files that will be used in the program).
  • Outline the code and define variables; including organization of classes and modules.
  • Explore SolidWorks API for automation.
  • Use clear naming convention for variables.

Because of the nature of the demonstration, this session proved to be a bit self-serving to the presenter.  However, this is also why this particular session was prolly the most entertaining of the day.

SWW8 Pre-Day (Jan 20, 2008)

Flying in on the afternoon of Saturday, I was greeted by beautiful San Diego weather.  It was the sort of picture perfect day that one tends to take for granted in San Diego.  Sunday was just a beautiful, but I didn’t know that from personal experience.  See, I was at the first day of SolidWorks World 2008, buried deep in the heart of the San Diego Convention Center.  In the morning, I attended two Focus Group sessions, the Design Checker Focus Group and the Surface Model Functionality Focus Group.

Now, I know what you are thinking, “Who cares about Design Checker, and in fact, who even uses it?”  Well, this is likely part of the reason SolidWorks held a focus group on the topic.  Participation was a little light.  When invited to the focus groups, participants were told that the group size would be limited to 12 people.  The group for Design Checker hit 9 people, and that was including the two SolidWorks employees there were putting it on.  Points discovered in the meeting basically revolved around the fact that Design Checker is not nearly as flexible as people need.  For example, there’s no way to create custom checks for type of items not included within the software.

The Surface Model Functionality Focus Group was brimming at the edges with over 15 attendees.  Most of the comments during his session revolved around increased functionality and ease of use for the various surfacing features.  SolidWorks staff was on hand to both take the suggestions and immediately respond when someone mentioned a bug-like issue.

After that, I attempted to take the CWSP test.  I got hung up on an apparent error in the test that turned out to be an acceptable part of the test.  I will need to leave some feedback about the issue since it has the distinct appearance of being unintentional.  If it is intentional, it’s an issue that should be evaluated at least, since it is distracting to say the least.  It is frustrating to see a flaw in the model only to find out I got the problem correct (after wasting half my time trying to resolve the issue).

After that, I attended the Attendees Reception in the main Exhibitors hall.  I found a few familiar faces among the vendors’ booths and fellow attendees.  I didn’t walk out of the Reception with nearly as much swag as I would’ve expected.  That is prolly for the best since I forgot my backpack.  Oh yeah, let me tell you about this backpack.  This is the best swag I’ve ever received.  It’s like a million pockets.  However, there is one area where SWW8 was woefully lacking.  They didn’t provide pens!  I can honestly say I have never been to a technical event where pens where not provided, either as swag or just as courtesy.  But despite this frustrating point, the overall experience was great.