SOLIDWORKS Composer Check is an add-on module for SOLIDWORKS Composer, a popular tool for creating graphical content from existing 3D CAD models. Composer itself, while part of the SOLIDWORKS family of products, does not require users to also have SOLIDWORKS. In fact, it supports a wide variety of other CAD formats.
Composer already has an impressive host of tools to aid in the creation of photorealistic images, technical illustrations, animations, etc. The Composer Check module gives users the ability to check for design problems such as component collisions. It also helps with the pre-planning of component paths to prevent difficult, or even impossible, to assemble designs from ever making it to manufacturing.
Back in the days of 2D design, whether on a drafting table or a 2D CAD system, certain types of design defects were easy to miss. We all have our mental limits. Accurately visualizing a complex assembly in your head with nothing but 2D drawings to go by, much less imagining how it will go together and come apart, is a hard thing to do.
Designing with 3D models makes foreseeing problems easier, but we can still miss small, critical issues resulting in unpleasant conversations with our manufacturing team. Nobody likes wasting time and money building prototypes that don’t work. Scrap piles are not our friends.
Something else nobody likes is a product design which, while technically free of collisions and interferences, is extremely difficult to put together or take apart. Occasionally products are designed which work fine in a static CAD model but are later discovered to be impossible to assemble as there is no viable path to get a part or tool where it needs to be.
I suspect anyone who has worked on their own car has found themselves in a situation where getting an old part out and a new part in seemed next to impossible. (This is why I don’t do my own auto maintenance anymore!) I always wondered how many man-hours were wasted when a simple design change could have made the job much faster. When it’s your own manufacturing floor, wasting time with difficult assembly procedures is worse than scrapped prototypes, which only cost you money once.
That’s where Composer Check can help. Let’s take a quick look at the extra tools the module brings to the table.
Clearance Checking Workshop
This workshop helps you qualify service and assembly procedures. You can define a working set and working mode to specify exactly which actors (aka components) will be checked. Limiting your selections to only actors where you think there may be problems helps to manage system resources and reduce processing time.
The control type determines which test to perform:
- Clash Test detects where actors come into contact or interfere with each other. In a CAD model, it’s possible for two components to share the same physical space. This does not work out so well in the real world. A few minutes spent here could spare some prototypes from the dreaded scrap pile.
- Clearance Checking allows you to specify a minimum distance required between the actors in the working set. Any cases in which actors are closer than that will be detected.
- Minimal Distance identifies and reports the smallest distance between actors in the working set.
In addition to these three tests, the workshop can generate reports of the results and save them as XML, HTML, CSV or Excel files.
Interactive Collision Detection Workshop
This workshop checks whether actors collide with each other during the movement of a selection or an existing animation. There is also an option to detect if actors in the working set already had collisions.
The exact path a component will follow during assembly or disassembly can be planned out while creating an animation, then tested in this workshop. Collisions along the path can then be corrected by editing the paths in Animation Mode.
Display mode options determine how collisions are displayed. The Lite option illuminates collided parts, the Color option displays collided parts in red and blue, and the Ghost option makes non-colliding parts transparent.
Collision detection can also be set to stop in the case of a clash and to zoom in on the clash area.
Chances are you’re already creating graphical content from your CAD data for technical documents, marketing, users manuals, etc. SOLIDWORKS Composer is an easy to learn and use tool which creates great content fast. By bringing two extra workshops focused on detecting design problems to the table, SOLIDWORKS Composer Check gives you an extra line of defense against costly manufacturing defects. If your shop is creating unacceptable levels of scrap from failed prototypes or your assembly line is too slow due to difficult builds or unclear documentation, you might want to take a look at this useful optional module.
Note: An optional module called SOLIDWORKS Composer Path Planning has been retired. Support for this product ended on March 31, 2018.