Design Automation – This is a broad topic, with lots of variations. Design Automation, in the context of this presentation, simply means using an application to speed up design creation while making sure you don’t violate company standards / rules. When a company employs the concepts of Design Automation, designers and engineers can get back to designing and engineering and let the software take care of some of the repetitive tasks. Biggest Challenges – Implementing Design Automation has several obstacles that must be overcome for companies to start earning back from their investment. Often times, there is a conflict between people that want to develop the entire system before introducing it to the company and the people that want to start very small and grow it. Both ideas have their own pros and cons. My experience has taught me that the most successful implementations start small and grow into a full, robust system. DriveWorks has built their product line around this concept. Another big challenge is getting people to agree internally on how things are actually designed at their company. The best advice I have for that situation is to simply take your time, get it right and then start developing your automation. Scalable Solution – For no additional cost, SolidWorks designers can use DriveWorksXpress to automate their designs. They may then scale their project all the way to include web-based forms that kick off commands to an unattended server to build all kinds of files.
Where does DriveWorks fit? - As the range indicates, DriveWorks is somewhere in the middle of the range for allowing users to automate their designs. As to be expected, there are certainly downsides to everything. On the low end of the scale, templates are easy to set up, but are quite limited in what they can actually automate on their own. On the high end, custom applications are obviously costly, require you to keep going back to the original programmer to make edits and updates. The more custom applications will allow users to have more flexibility to design completely custom interfaces. The limits would only be with the programmer’s capabilities and, of course, what the SolidWorks API allows. DriveWorks products are meant to be a method to automate designs without the need for learning a programming language. Many designers and engineers already know how to use functions inside Excel and that’s what DW builds on. That’s why their slogan is “DriveWorks is the easy to use, Rules-based Design Automation tool for SolidWorks.”
DriveWorksXpress Fit – DriveWorksXpress is, naturally, going to be limited since it is included with SolidWorks at no additional cost to the users. That being said, it can be found helping designers all over the world automate their parts, assemblies and drawings. DWXpress won’t build quotes, read information from your ERP system or allow your sales team to fill out forms over the internet, but it can still help users make designs off of rules with little effort in little time. Where it’s Used – DWX is used in many different industries. Check out the User Feedback on the website to see examples of how DWX has helped companies that make: Conveyors Combustion Boiler Burners Racking and Storage Equipment And Process Automation Equipment (how cool is it to automate automation equipment?) Who can use it? – I hear all the time that people can’t use DWX because their products are always different. There can still be a fit for companies that have one sub-assembly of one product from their entire line of products that they automate. Picture a company that designs automation equipment. Their designs are very different depending on what product they will be manufacturing. It is still quite common that a large percentage of the machine bases have similarities. So, if you use DWX to get the overall layout, tube steel thicknesses based on weight or span, electronic controls locations, Plexiglas or lightbars, castors or jackscrews, etc. you have still captured a lot of information that can be used to generate a model very quickly. Don’t forget, you can also get drawings made at the same time; something you can’t do with configurations.
DWXpress uses MS Access to store everything it needs for your custom application. You don’t even need to have Access installed to use it. You will need MS Excel though. DriveWorks will use a simple Wizard to guide users through the process of: Creating the database, Capturing model features and dimensions, Building the user interface form, Writing rules to drive the designs based off of how the users fill out the form, And then, once these steps are complete, allow users to run their projects.
These functions are just some examples of neat things you can do with Excel functions. Left – Maybe you want to put the first 3 letters of the selected company name into your Job Number and then put that in your file name. Concatenate – Use concatenation to join together strings. These strings could gather information from several prompts in the user form and then put them all in the same SW Custom Property, for example. Next, start using them all combined. Let’s play with these samples in Excel for a moment. Now imagine using all this logic to come up with a very powerful file-naming convention.
You’re probably wondering what resources there are that can help you get started, so let’s talk about a few: The DriveWorksXpress website is a great place to get started. There are samples, tutorials, videos and forums to help you get started. There’s even a built-in tutorial in the SolidWorks Help menu to get your hands on the software without having to download any models. Many of the downloadable videos from the DWXpress website have been uploaded to YouTube so you can watch without downloading to your drive. A couple of years ago, Ian Yates (DW employee) started a blog with lots of great pointers regarding DWX. Ian also wrote The Little Book of Rules which is great at pointing out some of the functions available to you in DWX and DW. These books are not How To manuals, but are instead written as reference guides. Be sure to look here first when you get stuck. These books are available for free on the DWX website. Just click the link on the side of the screen to Request Free Book. There may even be some available in the back of the room. Get Ian to autograph it for you at the Partner Pavilion, Booth 432. Don’t forget that DWX uses formulas based on Excel, so you’ll want to familiarize yourself with how some simple Excel functions work to really take advantage of DWX. Your SolidWorks reseller should be able to help and support you. Most resellers have engineers on staff that understand the product well enough that they can train and mentor you. A good rule of thumb is that a half-day on general DWX functionality and a half-day on a simple example from your company should get you well on your way to being the next great DWX master.
Delete – Use “Delete” instead of “Suppress” for unwanted features. It will leave the Feature Manager a little cleaner. Overload the Assembly – Okay, don’t overload it, but since you can’t use alternative parts in assemblies, go ahead and load parts on top of parts.
Let’s now take a look at building a project completely from scratch. We’ll capture some features, dimensions and custom properties. In the end, we’ll have a simple form to automate the design of this 3-sided steel door frame. It is a very simple example of what DWX can do, which will make it easy for you to see how to get started with DWXpress.
Introduction to DriveWorksXpress Michael Jolley – Applications Engineer TriMech Solutions