SWW09: Focus Groups (Drawings and Sheet Metal)

As previously mentioned, I attended two focus groups (also called roundtable discussions) this year.  These are generally held on Sunday before all the major SolidWorks World activities begin on Monday.

Sheet Metal

The first group I attended was for sheet metal functionality.  Though attendence was very light, the number of different methodologies and opinions was high.  My own interest in the topic is the problem with being forced to use assemblies to fully document sheet metail parts with inserts.  This is an issue because if you start a drawing of a part, you cannot later replace that part with an assembly.  So, if you create a sheet metal part with no inserts and then you need to add inserts on some later revision, you are forced to recreate the drawing practically from scratch.  This is a horid time and resource sink.

Others in the group talked about using K-factors to determine the material used by the sheet metal part (for flat patterning), while others disregarded K-factors in favor of bend reduction techniques.

One request that seemed to get common acceptance is the idea of creating a table of all the bends of a part with their full characteristics, with the ability to highlight each bend by clicking on it within the table.  When this table is on a drawing, it was suggested that details be added to a specific layer.

The session  also revealed that some used work arounds to use the SolidWorks model to instruct sheet metal tooling to perform certain actions (either via direct or translated input).  Some use alternative features which do not match the final design in order to instruct a tool to produce the feature desired in the final design.

One work around solution did come out of this session.  Right now, the material mass number changes from bent state to flattened state.  Although this difference is minor, over a large quality of parts, the error multiples and can create issues in part handling.  Use a non-configuration custom property to link to the the material property (of a specific configuration?).  Use this custom property as the source for the mass regardless of the configuration or part state.


A large portion of the drawings discussion revolved around printing and saving issues with Drawings.  It seems many people are experiencing similar problems.  When saving as a PDF, views randomly disappear.  When printing as a PDF, text locations get shifted.  Also, changes to parts at lower levels of an assembly may cause errors and view changes in higher level assembly drawings; meaning the the company has to open up all levels of a product’s assemblies to make sure that any change did not affect the drawings in unexpected ways.  It seems more people are having these kind of issues that I originally thought.  Many of the problems are magnified by use of PDM’s.

The meeting also focused on DimXpert and how to handle its dimensions.  One comment is that it should place dimensions per current standards within the model.  Another comment noted that datums and feature frames should drive the model.

I voiced my other major concern as well.  Symbols from the Gtol.sym library file should be stored within a drawing.  Right now, I cannot give native drawings to others outside of my organization because they will not be able to see symbols that we employ.  When a symbol is used within a drawing, it should be included in that drawing’s file and not require editing of any other user’s Gtol.sym file.

SolidWorks World 2009, Pre-day and the pre-preday

There are officially four days for SolidWorks World 2009, Sunday through Monday; though, sometimes Sunday is sort of considered a pre-day even though its called “Day 1“.   However, activity begins even before Sunday.  I guess Saturday can be called the pre-preday.

Saturday fun

My Saturday was mostly spent flying from San Jose, CA to Orlando, FL, with a layover.  I met up with Alex the SolidWorks Geek in our Houston stop.   This is his first, and my second SolidWorks World.  We made it to the Swan & Dolphin resort in Orlando just in time to catch the tail-end of a secret meeting.  After that, many of us Twitters converged at the lobby bar for some drinks for a tweetup.  It was great meeting up with a lot of the bloggers and consummate SolidWorks users from around the country.

Sunday so far

So, Saturday was indeed a very long day.  Though I prolly should have a hang-over right now, I don’t (never really get those).  My Sunday started bright and early with attendance to some focus groups for SolidWorks sheet metal functionality at 8:30AM and drawings at 10:00AM.   These are sessions where SolidWorks users from various industries meet up with SolidWorks employees in face to face open discussions.  The fact that these sessions happen is a sure sign that (despite the appearance otherwise sometimes) SolidWorks does put forth significant effort to improve their software based on customer input.  These focus groups are good because users give first hand accounts about how they are using the software, including their likes, like-to-haves, frustrations and such.  I may go into specific details about these focus groups later.

It’s lunch time now. I hunger.

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.