SolidWorks Resources Availability

There was a time when online SolidWorks resources were far and few between.  When I started using SolidWorks back in 1998, I found nothing.  As time progressed, sporadic sites popped up and vanished.  This or that VAR would occasionally put up a page with macros or examples of models.  Many of these sites were never updated or were simply taken down later.  After a time, I stopped looking online for SolidWorks resources.

Then in 2005, I started looking again.  To my surprize, I found several useful sites.  Most of the sites were still limited to one or two pages of content, but they provided real resources.  Some had a page or two of macros, some How-to articles, career info, etc, such as Matt Lombard’s old site and Lenny’s site. A couple of sites where commercial in nature, selling macros, add-ins or educational services, such as Bitwright or SWTools .  Of course, some promote the individual’s consulting business while providing free content, such as Roland’s site Esox Republic and also Joseph Jones’ site NHCAD.  The most ambitious site was likely Mike J. Wilson’s Web Site, which used to have tons of models and the infamous SolidWorks based debunking video which proved the 9/11 Pentagon attack was by an airliner and not a missile (still available on YouTube here).

However, the one thing I missed was a comprehensive site with tons of files, FAQ’s and other SolidWorks items in one place.   My particular interest was macros.  I remember back in the AutoCAD days when I could go searching out LISP routines, blocks and customized menus in databases (even before the days of the modern internet).  CADalyst provided invaluable resources, some of which is still available in various forms such as books and their home website.  Nothing similar existed for SolidWorks. 

To answer this need, I created the independent site Lorono’s SolidWorks Resources.  My intent was to create a site for new, intermediate and experienced users looking to expand their knowledge and SolidWorks skills in a way that I wished was available when I started using SolidWorks.  It includes over 100 files, mostly focused on macros, data content, utilities.  It has tons of weblinks in a collection so big, I’ve not been able to find any others like it.  In this collection are links to SolidWorks related forums, resource links (such as the above sites), tutorials, online inquiries, general engineering and SolidWorks blogs.  

This brings me to the next point.  SolidWorks related blogs have exploded in the past year and a half.  I’ve been a participant in the online blogging community since 2001 and maintained my personal blog since the beginning of 2002.  However, I never thought about blogging on SolidWorks until Matt Lombard started up his blog in early 2007 mid-2006.  Then Lenny started up a great blog site in July of 2007.  These are not the earliest SolidWorks related blogs, but they are the first ones I noticed.  Mike Puckett’s blog goes back to Feb 2007.  Devon Sowell’s Blog goes back to June 2006.  He now has another blog as well which is specifically geared for PDMWorks and other similar software.   SolidWorks User Group Network (SWUGN) now lists 16 major SW blogs, and more are out there.  I attribute a lot of this growth directly and indirectly to the SWUGN and its leadership.  The blog has proven to be a very valuable tool. 

Another valuable tool is the new incarnation of 3D ContentCentral (3DCC), available as a link from within SolidWorks software.  When I first saw the new site, I started thinking that I would no longer need my own resources site.  However, they serve different purposes and have little overlap.  Many types of downloads on Lorono’s SolidWorks Resources are not available on 3DCC, and visa verse.  SolidWorks has done what it needs to do to keep 3DCC relevant and useful.  3DCC maintains its focus on 3D models from manufacturers and users.  There’s a new request line in which users can put in requests for models.  Another user can fulfill the request by uploading that model.  

I think the SolidWorks online community is finally providing the breathe needed to support its supposed 600000 users.  I have noticed that a slim percentage of those individuals are online finding what is available.  It seems the next step would be for SolidWorks to promote its online community aggressively to make the average user aware that free, comprehensive resources are available.  They started doing this at SolidWorks World 2008 by upping the profile of SWUGN.  More has to be done to get the word out.

I’m just a blogger who is blogging about blogging. 🙂 I’m doing what I can to help the effort.  I know others are giving demonstrations at user groups about what is available.  Hopefully everyone can get the word out, even if it is just to person in the next cube over.  I suspect that more people being aware of what’s out there will result in even more resources becoming available online.

Set up of Custom Properties for Drawing Template Use

Custom properties can be deceptively simple in purpose.  They can be used for a wide variety of functions.  One of the most basic of these is quickly inserting values into drawing templates.  This allows the user to quickly fill in the title block and other areas of a drawing with no direct editing of the sheet format or even the sheet itself.

For those people not familiar with custom properties and how to use them on drawings, I wrote a previous article about how to link custom properties to annotation notes on drawings.  Also, see SolidWorks Help.  The remainder of this article will assume familiarity with this function.  In this article, I wish to discuss the issue of when to use particular sources for the custom properties for the purpose of filling out a title block and other drawing areas.  I do not present my article as a final word on the issue.  In fact, I hope to create dialogue on this issue in the comments of this article.  So first, let me ask some questions.

Should one maintain the values for custom properties on the drawing itself?  Should one maintain the values on the solid model, and refer to those in the drawing?  Or, should one maintain some values on the drawing and some from the model?  If there is a mixed answer, which properties come from where?  Here’s what I’ve found.  (There is no absolute answer for every situation.)

The solid model is increasing become more important.  The drawing is the source for far less information in the 3D CAD realm.  Given this fact, utilizing the solid model’s meta-information at must as possible can prove to be very advantageous.  Custom properties are no exception to this.  Values for custom properties can be established on the solid model and utilized directly on the drawing.  This is very powerful because it allows the user to enter certain data only once in the model and have it applied parametrically to the drawing.  When the model changes, so does the drawing.

However, not all custom properties will have the same value in the model and the drawing.  For example, the originator and origination date may be different between the solid model and drawing.  There’s also the issue of multiple parts on a drawing (where drawing information isn’t necessarily driven by one or the other or either).   Imagine the use of workarounds to avoid being forced to directly edit the sheet format to account for these scenarios.

Other issues may arise.  Engineers may not set up models correctly in the first place; with all the required information properly filled out.  Many engineers tend to create their own part/assembly templates that may not interface with the standard drawing template properly.  Models or drawings may be from outside sources that have different schemes. 

In some environments, drawings tend to have more properties than the model due to notation standards.  Examples of this can be values for the watermark or inspection criteria.  I looked into this recently at my own company and I found that only 2 of the basic 7 properties are 100% common between the model and drawing.  I don’t want to create confusion as to where to fill out which properties.  I also don’t want people editing the sheet format because values from the model is different than the drawing; or still further to have some drawings work differently than other drawings because the method to obtain values was changed via the Properties dialog box.  So I left the custom properties as a function of the drawing and not the model (the model carries its own information that pertains to it).  Does one really want to have to open the model every time a text only spec is changed on the drawing?  Additionally, it is not necessary that a drawing have a model or assembly associated with it at all.  Where would the values for the drawing come from in that event? 

There are a lot of rules that must be in place in order for a clean use of solid model properties directly on the drawing.  Some people call these good practices.  I just call them rules because at the end of the day it’s 6 one way and 1/2 a dozen another.  For me, it’s just a matter of having flexibility on how drawings are created and used.

Bottom line, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution in the case of linking to custom properties from the solid model verses maintaining them on the drawing.  When setting up a system, it is best to determine what is most beneficial for that particular system.  I suspect in most cases, there will be a mix between which custom properties on drawings are linked to the solid model, and which are controlled on the drawing itself.

Some macros that allow copying of properties between files:  Rigid Custom Properties, Migrate Properties, and FixProperties.  Websites to explore for more of these types of macros are Lenny’s SolidWorks Resources, Lorono’s SolidWorks Resources, and Esox Republic.