SolidWorks 2010 here we come!

August 24th, 2009

SolidWorks 2010 beta has been released. News press here. Below is a sneak preview of the new Installation Manager. If you want to get your hands on it, head on over to customerportal.solidworks.com I hope to blog about some of the new features I come across. Stay tuned!

SW2010Beta1

News

Note to remember when creating Weldment Profiles

August 6th, 2009

weldmentsWhile reading through some blogs the other evening, I came across this useful essential note to remember when creating weldment profiles.

Before you go “Save As” -> Lib Feat Part (*.sldlfp), you need to PRE-SELECT the sketch. Otherwise when you create the Lib Feat Part, it will be empty (initial sketch gone!).

I came across this note on SolidJot tips for Weldments which was in SW2006, and Yes, this pre-select requirement is still needed in SW2009. I remember this because it happened me a few times, and at the time I thought it was an intermittent issue.

Also just to point out that it is really easy to create weldment profiles, allowing you to easily create structures, frames, patio deckings, railings, chassis’s, etc.. Some people think that if a profile is not in the Ansi Inch or Iso, it can’t be done. Oh yes it can. And SW2009 makes weldments much easier by auto-trimming members, allowing to change the trim-order etc. A nice post including video can be found on rickyjordan.com

Note to Remember

3DVia.tv & SolidWorks Official Youtube Channel

August 5th, 2009
Comments Off on 3DVia.tv & SolidWorks Official Youtube Channel

Thanks to Josh at solidsmack I found out about the latest 3DVia web resource: www.3dvia.tv where there are indeed some nice tutorials on 3DVia Composer (and the other range of 3D Via products). Interesting to see that its powered by wordpress, and uses Youtube to store its TV videos. I have added the direct RSS feed to my solidworks planet so I’ll see the latest videos as they get added. You can do the same too ( http://gdata.youtube.com/feeds/base/users/3DVIAComposer/uploads ).
Some of the 3DVia Composer tutorials include:

  • Multi-Column BOMs
  • Toolbars & Hotkeys
  • Information about Textures
  • Kinematics and animation
  • Animating Fluid and Liquid movement

I’ve picked out one of my favourite videos from the 3DVia Channel:

SolidWorks Official Youtube Channel

When I went digging more, I found that SolidWorks has quite an updated Youtube channel with some tutorials (albeit only a few ). Again you will be able to get the RSS feed from http://gdata.youtube.com/feeds/base/users/solidworks/uploads. It’ll be interesting to see what appears there. One tutorial which caught my eye was on creating a chassis for a formula racing kart. The video covered creating a custom weldment profile, creating the 3D sketches, starting with the suspension and finally trimming all the members.

Well I hope to see lots of useful videos getting added to these two channels. On one hand youtube is a good medium for hosting videos, however on the other hand, youtube is blocked in many companies. Hopefully you’ll be able to get an exception or a workaround. The hardest part about the plethora of videos is that there are too many, and a lot of poor quality. Hopefully these will be good ones to watch.

Tutorials

How to Recover Virtual Parts in SolidWorks

August 3rd, 2009

recovering-virtual-parts-in-solidworksThis article outlines how I saved myself an hour of work by been able to recover virtual parts after SolidWorks crashed.

While I was working on an old assembly project, I took some parts, and went “form new subassembly”. It prompted me for a template and off I went opening up the New sub-assembly. I saved regularly. Little did I realise that I was working on a Virtual sub-assembly. After spending 60+minutes working on the sub-assembly, saving it religiously (thinking I had it saved externally). I went back to the main assembly and was fixing a few mate errors when, solidworks froze. I was a little impatient, thinking I had my sub-assembly and 60+ minutes work saved! After re-opening the assembly I saw no sign of my work, and was about to pack it in for the day.

After a bit of looking, I found my virtual assembly and virtual parts :-)
They were located in:
C:\Users\sburke\AppData\Local\Temp
After sorting by Date Modified, the parts were in a folder called “swx5792”. I copied the part out of there and to safety.

Phfew. Thanks SolidWorks. As virtual parts become more and more mainstream, I hope this tip will help somebody and save them some time.

How-To

Debugging SolidWorks – Part 1 (problems when running SW)

July 20th, 2009

This article outlines the methods I use to debug SolidWorks whenever it starts behaving badly, i.e. crashing or hanging on a consistent basis. Of course you need to be able to replicate the crash / hang in order to track down the problem. I will attempt to place these methods in order of how I would proceed when diagnoising an issue. This article, part 1 focuses on SolidWorks crashes / hangs when running or opening the program (as opposed to install problems which will be covered in a later article).

Why might crashes or hangs occur?

There are a number of reasons SolidWorks might start crashing or hanging. What is very important is “when” did SW start behaving like this.

  • Service Pack upgrade to SolidWorks
  • Recent install of other Software
  • Windows issues and Windows updates
  • Network issues and congestion
  • Use of SolidWorks Add-Ins or 3rd party software
  • Anti-Virus software

Step 1 – Replicate the Issue ***

It is extremely important to narrow down the cause and timing of the crash as much as possible. There is nothing more difficult to analyse than “my computer is slow today” or “solidworks is crashing all the time”. While you replicate the crash, write down the scenario, what files you have open, what method are you doing. Try replicating the issue on different files. If a person can say “When I do XYZ, ABC happens” then is makes things a lot easier.

Step 2 – Disable all Add-Ins **

Open SolidWorks -> Tools -> Add-Ins and untick everything.
If you can’t open SolidWorks to disable Add-Ins
START -> run -> regedit -> Browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\SolidWorks. Rename SolidWorks to SolidWorksOld and start SolidWorks. More specifically, the Add-Ins which are marked as for start-up are located in: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\SolidWorks\Startup\Applications\ I always find that it is much safer to rename folders rather than deleting them.

Step 3 – Use Software OpenGL

Being a 3D CAD package, SolidWorks makes extremely heavy use of the graphics card. If you get “blue screens”, computer shutdowns / reboots, then you need to try enabling Software OpenGL. Even better, however takes a little longer, is to check and upgrade your graphics card drivers.
Open SolidWorks -> Make sure there are NO open Parts/Assemblies or Drawings -> Tools -> Options -> Performance -> Use Software OpenGL.

Step 4 – Plug out the Network Cable *

A lot of people store everything on the Network, and as such work directly off the network. Thus if SolidWorks hangs for a while, a quick test is to plug out the network cable. Note: this is not an ideal method. Its better to disable the Local Area Connection Adapter. But if SolidWorks starts responding immediately after been disconnected from the Network, things are looking up. See the step below for “Process Explorer”. If you have a SNL network license, it should be ok, as SW has a network timeout period. If its a PDM issue, then your going to have to do connectivity tests (separate debugging required).

Step 5 – Research the SolidWorks Knowledge Base ****

It is essential for you to search the SolidWorks Knowledge Base for keywords describing what you are doing to cause the crash. It may be a Vista specific issue. It may be a 3rd party software issue. It is vital at this stage that you consult the KB to see if there have been similar issues. You will also need to know what version of SW you are using, and what Service Pack version you have installed -> Open SolidWorks -> Help (drop-down) -> About SolidWorks.

SolidWorks Knowledge Base search engine for issues or queries.

SolidWorks Knowledge Base

Step 6 – Log on as a Different User ***

The three stars in the heading shows that this is an excellent step to try. A user’s profile may become corrupt or have poor settings etc. Logging onto the computer as a different user, and starting SW will provide a new SolidWorks user profile. If it works OK for this other user, then you should be well on the way to getting this fixed. If SW works fine for the other user, then you need to look into and do the following:
START -> run -> regedit -> Browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\SolidWorks. Rename SolidWorks to SolidWorksOld and start SolidWorks. Then create a few parts and drawings and restart SolidWorks.

Step 7 – Consider upgrading to a later Service Pack (if available) *

While it might take 30-60 minutes to upgrade to the latest service pack, it is advised. It could save a lot of further work.

Step 8 – Try a “Repair of SolidWorks”

SolidWorks has a repair install option. To access this:
START -> Control Panel -> Add / Remove Programs -> (scroll down to) SolidWorks 2009 -> (right-click) Modify / Change
On the first screen of the SolidWorks Installation Manager, choose “Repair”. Note: This is not available on SolidWorks Installs done using an Administrative Install Image.

Repair SolidWorks Installation - 2009

Step 9 – Process Explorer ****

This simple tool, which can be downloaded here (local mirror), requires no installation, and has solved a number of problems for me. Process Explorer can show what files SolidWorks opens on startup and throughout, all network activity associated with SW, processes called by SW and a host of other features. SLDWORKS.exe will show up in the top screen. Once it opens, double-left click on SLDWORKS to bring up a properties dialog, from here you can choose TCP/IP.

process-explorer-1 process-explorer-2

Step 9.1 – Process Monitor

Process Monitor is better that the above Process Explorer. You can apply a filter for processes running and then view network, disk, registry and process activity. You can save and open Events for later analysis. Download from Microsoft. Use the Process Name “sldworks.exe” to monitor SolidWorks.

Step 10 – SolidWorks User Forums & Google

Typically I look at the SolidWorks User forms at http://forum.solidworks.comaround now. Having said this, the search facility in the new forums has improved and should speed up things. Note: Make sure you login to be able to search!! As you will see in the image below, there are other users out there who have gone through similar problems. I remember finding out about an issue with logitec drivers and freezes in the graphics area.

Googling a particular issue or dll or file which may be suspect from the Process Explorer may yeild some results.

SolidWorks User Forums

Step 11 – SolidWorks RX ***

SolidWorks RX is not only useful for recording a problem to send to your local VAR, it also has some very useful information which can help to track down what is happening. Go to -> START -> All Programs -> SolidWorks 2009 – SolidWorks 2009 SP4 -> SolidWorks Tools -> SolidWorks RX. More and more functionality is getting added to this tool which makes life very easy for diagnosing errors on other peoples computers. Some of the functionality RX has is as follows:

  • SolidWorks Safe Mode Options!!
  • Quick Diagnostics
  • Problem Capture (which can record information from a previous crashed session of SW)

In the resulting Zip file given by the Problem Capture, take a look at the following files: swxJRNL.swj (a macro of a SW session) and SolidWorksPerformance.log (shows idle time, total running time etc.). There could be an entire post on RX (maybe will post one later if people are interested).

Step 12 – Windows Pre-Requesites .Net, C++ **

As the SolidWorks software is typically newer than Windows (XP is many years old at this stage), several Windows updates and pre-requesites are required for SolidWorks to install and function correctly. For whatever reason, (AntiVirus etc.) certain dlls or pre-requesites may not get installed during the install or upgrade of SolidWorks. Whats more frustrating is that no immediate error might appear. Instead an error or “strange behaviour” may occur when using SolidWorks.

Windows Pre-Requesites must be installed manually when using an Administrative Image install method! Check if the install is created using an Administrative Image ( Add / Remove Programs -> Change/Modify SolidWorks. When SLDIM starts, if the only option is to Remove, its an Admin install image ). I’ve had quite a few headaches caused by incorrectly deployed Admin Images.

Of course all these details are in the “SolidWorks Installation and Administration Guide” which we all read, don’t we? ( SolidWorks 2009 Installation and Administration Guide ) On the previous page, go to: Multiple Installations -> Installation -> Deploying Installations to Clients -> Command Line Deployment -> Preparing Clients for Administrative Images.

If you “browse” your SolidWorks DVD you will find a “PreReqs” folder. Take a look at S-034736 on the SolidWorks Knowledge Base for further information. XP is more likely to require these updates, opposed to Vista.

SolidWorks Pre-Requesites

Step 13 – Complete Un-install and Clean Install ***

I will leave this for another blog post. Suffice to say:

  • Add / Remove Programs and Remove SolidWorks
  • Delete all folders and traces of SolidWorks from C:\Program Files\; C:\Program Files\Common Files; C:\SolidWorks Data;
  • START -> RUN -> regedit and remove all traces of SolidWorks under HKEY_CurrentUser and HKEY_LocalMachine.

Final Words

Of course the methods and procedures to debug SolidWorks are endless. Above are some of the ones I use. I do recommend that Windows does be wiped and installed a fresh. Everyone I have talked to agrees that reinstalling windows breaths new life into a computer. A combination of Windows updates, redundant software, excess software and plugins cause a pool of potential problems. Also, make sure to contact your local SolidWorks VAR and let them know of your issues. They will know the most common issues for particular service packs and versions and will be immediately poised to help you quickly resolve any issue.

Feel free to leave any comments below.

How-To

Old SolidWorks Video Tutorials

April 26th, 2009

sw-educational-resourcesDuring my postgraduate in the University of Limerick, I was both a Teaching Assistant and Lecturer in CAD Modelling using SolidWorks. As part of the module I taught to undergraduates studying engineering/construction teachers, I put a course of Video Tutorials on SolidWorks together.
SolidWorks 2003 was used in making the videos. It looks very different from SolidWorks today, without the command manager and RealView effects. Anyways the videos themselves (which have no sound/voice-over) are still very relevant. If your learning SolidWorks or going through a SolidWorks Essentials Course, you’ll find some exercises familiar.

SolidWorks Educational Material & Resources Website

I know there are a phletora of video tutorials available on SolidWorks, but seeing as they are my own, I said I’d post them here.

Tutorials

3dVia Composer Tutorials

April 26th, 2009

3dviacomposer_logo3DVIA Composer is part of the Dassault Systemes SolidWorks Corporation Product lineup. 3DVIA Composer is used to create documentation, manuals, instructions etc. for 3d models. 3DVIA saves you from having to take an endless number of screenshots of your completed model for use in an Assembly/Repair manual etc. 3dVia allows you to take snapshots and link these to a final document. If the 3d model/assembly changes in SolidWorks, the images and manual can update automatically.

Anyways, there is a nice tutorial website  (copy of website) setup. Here is a screenshot of it.

3DVIA Composer Tutorials Website

3DVIA Composer Tutorials Website

 If you want any more assistance or help on 3dVia Composer head over to the SolidWorks Forum (http://forum.solidworks.com). The SolidWorks Forum is an excellent place to learn more about a particular area. After the SolidWorks Knowledge Base (http://customerportal.solidworks.com), its my second port of call for information.

Updated Tutorial Links, Oct, 2010
Updated Tutorial Link, April, 2011

Tutorials

Create a Custom Excel BOM

April 26th, 2009

While using an Excel based BOM (as opposed to a standard BOM) is not as flexible as a standard Bill of Materials, there are various customisations which can be done. E.g. if you want a complete project costing (taking into account price per meter length of piping or weldments). Note: in recent versions of SolidWorks (2008,2009 etc.) it is possible to do totals and equations in standard BOMs, however they require some post manual tweaking.

This post shows how a custom Excel based Bill of Materials for a SolidWorks Assembly drawing can be created.

  • Find out where BOM templates are stored: Open SolidWorks -> Tools -> Options -> File Locations -> BOM Templates
  • Open bomtemp-all.xls  Look at the various Headings in Row 1.
  • Remove/Add Columns to suit making sure to type in the SolidWorks File Property name into the “Name Property” box (see image below).
  • Do NOT remove the Item No. Column or Part No. Column (otherwise your Excel BOM will act strange, adding several duplicate rows into the BOM.) (I spent quite a while caught on this.) FYI this fact is noted in the SolidWorks Knowledge Base. Customers on subscription can view the SolidWorks Knowledge Base at http://customerportal.solidworks.com
Name Properties used in Excel

Name Properties used in Excel

Its also possible to see all Name Properties in an Excel file: Insert -> Name -> Define (Excel 2000/2003)
(In Excel 2007, its called “Name Manager” and its on the Formulas button. Alt+m+n also works)
This shows up the list of Name Properties in the Excel file. Be extremely careful!

Once the Excel file is saved, go to SolidWorks, pre-select the view (typically the Isometric view) and then go: Insert -> Tables -> Excel Based Bill of Materials. Choose your template file, and voila. Note: The name you entered in the “Name Property” box in Excel must correspond with the Property in the PART. Go to the Part, File -> Properties -> Custom and make sure the Property name is present.

If you formatted the Headings in your Excel template, and wish for these to come through, make sure to have “Use the document note font when creating the table” unchecked when initially Inserting the Excel Based BOM.

In a recent Piping SolidWorks Project, I wanted a complete costing done on my BOM. I created several columns, including “Unit Cost”, “Pipe Cost”, “Total Unit Cost” and “Total Pipe Cost”. In the once-off parts I created a unitcost SW Property in the parts. For the piping (same with weldments), I opened the source pipe file (used in routing), and added a costpipe property (which had a cost per meter). An image of the completed table can be seen below. This Excel template file can be downloaded from here. (There are 2 columns containing calculations which are hidden. This level of detail would not have been possible in a standard Bill of Materials).

Excel based BOM used in Project Costing Example

Excel based BOM used in Project Costing Example

This level of customisation available within SolidWorks is just the tip of the iceberg!

EDIT ——————-

So I came across an issue with Excel BOM’s which caught me.
It is not possible to have properties such as SW-Title, SW-Author, SW-Filename, or any property with a hyphen ( – ) in its name in an Excel based Bill of Materials. This limitation is caused by Microsoft Excel. In the Name Property box for each cell, it is not possible to have a hyphen ( – ). The workaround given by SolidWorks (S-015804) (On the Knowledge Base at http://customerportal.solidworks.com ) is to create a Custom Property (as normal in SolidWorks). E.g. to have SW-Title appear in a BOM, you need to create a Custom Property called SWTitle and link it to: $PRP:”SW-Title”. Then when creating the Excel BOM template, insert the Name Property SWTitle. Of course if you have a project already created, and only realised this at the end, its a little more difficult. SolidWorks Task Scheduler may be able to add this Custom Property to all of your files.

Hopefully this will help someone, and me too in case I forget!
————————-

How-To

Test your SolidWorks Skills

April 26th, 2009

I recently came across SolidProfessor’s Online Tests/Exams. There are exams on several areas including PDMWorks, PhotoWorks, SheetMetal and Advanced Part and Assemblies. You can even make your own custom exam.

No registration is required. Simply enter your email, take a go at the multiple choice questions, and see how you get on. You’ll get emailed the results. The time taken to complete the exam is included in the email.

There are also a range of SolidWorks Certification Exams available including CSWA, CSWP etc. There are sample exams available here (cswa) and here (cswp).

If you know of any other online exams you can take to test and fine-tune your SolidWorks skills, leave a comment below.

Exams