Most people think of SOLIDWORKS as a powerful design tool, full of robust features and well-developed workflows that allow engineers and designers to create incredible products. While all these people would be correct, the role of SOLIDWORKS software extends beyond design into other areas of the product lifecycle. One area that SOLIDWORKS excels at is the inspection process.
SOLIDWORKS Inspection is an add-in that allows users to create First Article Inspection (FAI) documentation with ease and efficiency. First Article Inspection reports are a formal method to report measurements of each feature of a product. The report ensures that the manufactured product corresponds to the specifications detailed in a drawing or MBD document.
At TriMech, we see around 85% of our customers performing inspection reports manually, which can not only result in errors and inconsistencies but is an incredibly time-consuming process. Bringing the Inspection add-in into the picture drastically reduces these problems, but how does it work?
SOLIDWORKS Inspection comes in two options – Standard or Professional. Both versions of Inspection include a direct SOLIDWORKS plug-in and a standalone software. The plug-in is ideal for creating FAI documentation directly from SOLIDWORKS part or drawing files, while the standalone software is built to handle PDF and DXF files with ease.
Standalone SOLIDWORKS Inspection Tool
The first method to create FAI documentation with SOLIDWORKS Inspection involves using the standalone SOLIDWORKS Inspection tool. Users pick a project template, which controls project information like the default unit system, and the layout of the inspection report. Next, users import a PDF, DXF or other supported file type, and are ready to start capturing inspection characteristics. SOLIDWORKS Inspection standalone uses a Smart Extraction feature to grab each required dimension or callout. Simply create a bounding box, and the tool knows how to digest the input and creates a detailed characteristic with any tolerancing info or other defining details. Finally, once the characteristic sheet is finished, simply export to Excel/PDF to create the FAI sheet.
SOLIDWORKS Inspection Plug-in
The other method of working with SOLIDWORKS Inspection is even easier, and users don’t need to leave the SOLIDWORKS 3D environment. Using the plug-in allows users to automatically capture inspection dimensions that are crucial to production and use the dimensions to generate characteristic reports, auto-balloon drawings and deliver information in an easy-to-understand format. Creating FAI documents with this method is as easy as creating a SOLIDWORKS drawing, choosing an Inspection template and pressing OK. SOLIDWORKS will automatically grab all dimensions, notes and callouts placing each one into a characteristic list that is completely editable. The documents are ready to be exported at this point into either excel or PDF formats.
Finally, we will take a look at the differences between Inspection Standard and Professional. Inspection Professional allows users to not only create FAI documentation from drawings and PDFs but also directly within SOLIDWORKS part and assembly files. This allows shops that don’t use drawings in favor of solutions like MBD to still access the features of Inspection. Additionally, Professional allows information to be extracted from other 2D/3D file formats. Once the inspection sheets have been created, Inspection Professional can import the CMM results for each characteristic directly into an Inspection project, displaying the dimensions in green, yellow or red values to easily determine which values are intolerance, out of tolerance or marginally within tolerance based on the imported CMM data.
SOLIDWORKS Inspection joins in the long list of products and add-ins that improve the user experience and allow engineers to complete big projects ahead of schedule, while eliminating any errors in the process.