SOLIDWORKS is not just a CAD application. The integrated add-ins and supporting applications make it a complete engineering solution. I recently took advantage of these tools to complete a project that has been at the back of my mind for some time. It was a great opportunity to show how to use the SOLIDWORKS integrated platform from design all the way through the manufacturing and post-manufacturing process.
Choosing My Project: Building a Better Widget Mount
This is my bicycle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. Whenever I need to clear my head or want to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather, there’s no better way than to go for a ride.
I love my bike, but I’m always looking for ways to improve my experience with it. I have a great mount for my phone on my handlebars that allows me to run Strava and Google Maps. I also have a mount for my GPS cycling computer on my handlebar stem. This shows me a live readout of my speed, distance, time riding, and more.
It mounts using a small plastic quarter-turn bracket and elastic bands. I always felt the elastic bands were a weak point of the design and knew that I could improve the mounting solution.
The mount for my phone has a couple of holes underneath it where accessories, such as a GoPro case, can be installed. This would be a perfect location to mount a small extension to place the GSP computer right next to my phone, giving me a more cohesive “cockpit” and eliminating the elastic bands.
STEP 1: Design & Render
I had a general idea of what I was looking for in the bracket. Using that idea in the back of my head, I was able to design my new extended mount using SOLIDWORKS Professional. That model looks great, but if I needed to pitch my design to get it approved for production I can take it a step further and create a rendering.
SOLIDWORKS Professional includes SOLIDWORKS Visualize Standard. Visualize allows me to use real-time ray tracing technology to see exactly what my mount will look like after it’s manufactured. The renderings are close to photos taken in a high-end photo studio, without the need for all of all that expensive photography gear. I can also produce the renderings before I have a physical prototype. Having this high-impact content earlier in the design process allows me to impress decision makers when presenting potential designs.
STEP 2: Drawings for Production
Traditionally, designs are detailed for manufacturing through 2D drawings. These drawings often require interpretation to envision how the 3D part will be completed. They are also prone to errors when 3D models are updated and 2D drawings are left outdated. More and more organizations are moving towards a 3D definition of their designs. This is commonly known as Model-Based Definition. SOLIDWORKS MBD allows you to detail your models and conveys your design intent and dimensional information through a 3D model.
Unfortunately, not everyone has SOLIDWORKS available to view this information directly on the part or assembly file. To make this information viewable to anyone, SOLIDWORKS MBD can publish 3D product and manufacturing information to eDrawings or 3D PDFs. This allows for this information to be viewed on any computer in 3D. Models can be rotated, panned and zoomed, and dimensions can be selected to view the features to which they’ve been applied.
STEP 3: Manufacturing Tool-Paths
Now that I’ve clearly detailed my design using SOLIDWORKS MBD, it’s time to generate an operation plan and toolpaths for my CNC mill. SOLIDWORKS CAM Professional makes this easier than ever. With the model in SOLIDWORKS, I can automatically extract machinable features based on the 3D geometry. I can also specify my stock size and generate an operation plan based on my machinable features.
Additionally, I can manually add machinable features or tweak my operation plan to match my desired outcome. Once the operation plan is in place, I can generate toolpaths using my own specific tool crib. Those toolpaths can then be simulated and animated in 3D, allowing me to spot any issues such as collisions with the part or fixture. As the design evolves and changes are made to the original model, the operation plan and toolpaths can be updated to reflect those changes without having to start from scratch.
Step 4: Quality Assurance
Once the first articles have been machined, we’ll need to inspect them to ensure they are dimensionally accurate. SOLIDWORKS Inspection allows us to specify inspection dimensions directly on the 3D model, or within SOLIDWORKS drawing. These dimensions can be extracted from the sketch and feature dimensions, or from your SOLIDWORKS MBD dimensions. 2D PDFs and Excel spreadsheets are automatically generated according to the inspection standard. Common standards such as PPAP and AS9102 are available in predefined templates. Templates can also be customized to match your organization’s unique requirements.
The SOLIDWORKS bundle of manufacturing products provides four powerful toolsets at a formidable value. When you consider all the add-ins within SOLIDWORKS Professional, such as SOLIDWORKS Visualize, the Toolbox hardware library, and SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard, the value proposition grows even more. Every tool within this bundle is designed to not only integrate with one another but also bring even more power and flexibility to your SOLIDWORKS parts and assemblies. If you’re looking for a turnkey solution to take your designs from a concept and produce all the necessary documentation for completion, look no further.
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