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From CAD User Mechanical Magazine Vol 22 No 10 - OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2009
DriveWorks Solo, found in the latest versions of SolidWorks, guides inexpert salesmen through the realms of Rules-Based Design, according to David Chadwick, who has seen the other side!
Yes, I've done my time in sales. My first 'territory' was a half-mile block of tenement offices in the centre of Manchester - the textile quarter - and I was trying to interest them in the latest 'accounting machines' (they didn't even have the sophistication to be classed as calculating machines, let alone computers). The skill I learned, if you can call it that, was in squeezing the illusory needs of a Jewish tailor into the limited facilities of these early magnetic stripe ledger card devices (256 bytes per card - and no I didn't miss the K bit!). I think that probably sums up a lot of the early sales effort in the computer industry - browbeating pliant clients into computing straitjackets because they hadn't the nous to know when they were being mis-sold. It probably accounted for a large proportion of sales in other industries too. This time, however, because of the difference between the cost of massproduction, you took what everybody else had and modified your working processes to accommodate it, and the cost of custom-produced or modified equipment. That's all in the past, now, though - or at least it could be! Your local sales rep doesn't need to turn up with a completed contract and spend his time working out how to get a signature appended, but can now go through specific requirements with the client, helping to put together a piece of equipment that exactly matches his complex requirements.
HOW IT WORKS
Rules-Based design is not a complicated subject. It involves extracting a completed model from SolidWorks and imparting a set of rules, based on simple logic, to each component - the model geometry, its dimensions, features, materials and so on - which will govern the configuration of multiple variations on the design.
New projects can be created using existing templates or from scratch. The structure of the SolidWorks base model is captured, to reappear in a right hand task pane within DriveWorks Solo. DriveWorks have provided Wizards to make it easy to bring in entire assemblies, complete with their model trees, which will also appear in the DW Solo task pane.
To reconfigure a model, rules need to be assigned to individual elements - the most obvious, of course, being some of the dimensions. The component in question is selected from the model in DriveWorks and placed in the DW Solo task pane under Capture Models. You can give it a new name to easily identify it in the new configuration. Clicking on the component in the view window will show its dimensions, and the user selects which of these are going to be used to alter the products configuration.
To do so requires some means of input - and that takes us back to the Custom Input form. The Form Design feature, found within the Project Designer in DW Solo, is merely a blank sheet where the designer can set up a project and its rules. A dimensions input box and its title is created and simply dragged and dropped into the form in a suitable place.
To add the rules that govern the dimensions, you select Model Rules and Rule Builder. Clicking on each of the modifiable components showing in the DW Solo task pane allows you to specify the type of dimensions that are going to be used to rebuild the model and to attach the rules using Rules Builder, selecting appropriate logic based rules from a list of variables. Alternatively you can create your own, setting up your own algorithms.
DRIVING THE WHOLE MODEL
A similar path is used to select features that need modifying. You open up the model in DW, check on the feature that you want to drive and then, within DW Solo, build the rules to drive the feature.
For more complex models, an extended list of features will appear in the task pane, which can be selected and opened up within the Project Designer. There’s even an option to include custom properties, selected from a number of subsidiary task bars below the task pane, which can be used to add things like text annotations, and so on. The processes are repeated to allow modification to materials, colours, textures and other model features.
Rules can also be set up to capture replacement models, breaklines, annotation text and dimension positions. As the form will be in the hands of an inexpert CAD user, DriveWorks has ensured that a Navigation path guides the user through the whole process, using custom-built Form Warnings to prevent them straying!
CAPTURING DRAWINGS AND VIEWS
Amongst the task bars mentioned above is the Drawings tab, which allows you to capture and set up drawings to accompany the model, browsing within DW Solo to capture and import model drawings from SolidWorks. The drawing is brought into the Capture Models list.
It can be opened using Project designer and by clicking on the drawing section within the task pane. This allows the user to set sheet dimensions and the scale of the drawing (there is a neat little algorithm that can be used to calculate the latter, if necessary).
Sheets can also be used to capture model views and convert them into DXF format - the scale of these, of course, being 1:1. You also need rules to drive the forms, and, as part of the process, you can configure the input form to ask whether you actually need to produce DXF drawings or not.
Once again, Project Designer and Rules Builder are used to set up the rules, and to ask the question. The tick box, and its title, are dragged across to the input form, and rules set up to query whether a true/false response is given in the tick box. If the box is ticked a DXF with 3D views is output, if not, the model view sheet is not printed, but discarded.
Finally, there are loads of tutorials and 'how to' videos on the Internet, plus some sample projects giving new users a 'quick start' into the DriveWorks philosophy. There’s even a 30 day free trial offer to!
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