AAA Drafting Blog

A SolidWorks designer talks about stuff related to CAD and mechanical design

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Solidworks Design Library Steel Shapes Pros & Cons

Many Solidworks users may not have noticed the extensive steel shapes libraries included with solidworks version 2007 onward. These libraries include steel library feature parts for use with solidworks weldments. There are USA Ansi Inch,British BSI, Canadian CISC, German DIN and also GB, ISO and JIS libraries included.

To access these libraries make sure you have your toolbox add-in clicked and click on the right toolbar to bring out the design library. Underneath the Toolbox and 3D Content Central Icons is Solidworks Content. Click on the folder to show the steel shape libraries.

If you control click the icon representing the library you want, it will download a zip file into a directory of your choice. You will probably want to unzip these shapes in the same directory as your existing weldment library features. I copy my library features to a network drive location, so they wont get overwritten when I upload a new solidworks service pack. The network drive location also allows other solidworks users in the office to share the features.

One big problem you should know about is that none of the library features have the material properties set. This is a problem because weights will be displayed incorrectly in bills of material. They will show up ok in cut list properties and in mass properties but not in bills of materials. Since many shops bill jobs by weight based on the steel weights in the BOM this could be a real problem if it is overlooked.

Unfortunately you will need to update material properties in each library file and change them to "plain carbon steel". Hopefully this oversight will be corrected in future versions of Solidworks.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Solidworks used in designing new electric car

Piecing Together the Tango

When you’re building a car that’s only 3 ft wide — and calls for nearly 1,100 lb of batteries onboard — getting all of the high-tech componentry to fit in a limited space is much like piecing together a puzzle.

That was one of the primary challenges Commuter Cars faced when designing its ultra-narrow Tango, an urban, commuter electric vehicle that, given its unique size and shape, can fit in a 6-ft half-lane and park in leftover spaces between vehicles. “It’s a tremendous challenge to pack all of the features of a full-size car into one quarter of the space,” says Rick Woodbury, president and founder of Commuter Cars, in Spokane, WA. “Every piece has to fit in with no space left around it. There isn’t another car out there with space more at a premium than ours.”

SolidWorks’ 3-D CAD tool was instrumental in helping Commuter Cars see in advance, in a digital format, whether things would fit, before building any physical prototypes. Early on, for example, the engineering team was able to determine that the original motor and transmission design didn’t work in the space allotted. It then used SolidWorks to create a unique two-motor design, which allowed it to better accommodate the batteries and air conditioning mechanics. “We had to design the whole car around the battery compartment and what we achieved by the two-motor design was that it allowed the rest of the bottom of the car to be devoted to the batteries,” Woodbury says.

Another major design challenge was getting the weight low enough to balance the car so it has the same rollover threshold as a sports car. The Tango, which can travel from 0 to 60 mph in 4 sec, extensively employs stainless steel and carbon fiber materials. Woodbury says SolidWorks’ Cosmos simulation software will have a role in helping Commuter Cars lighten up the car’s structure a little going forward.

The Tango is priced starting at $108,000, so Woodbury says the design objectives had to strive for optimal performance along with providing a lot of the extras people are accustomed to on higher-end, luxury vehicles. “If you’re going to build a car that’s so different and so small, you have to do a lot of justifications, especially in this price range,” he says. “CAD has been a godsend.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Western Engineers - On the endangered species list

According to a report in the December 2006 issue of the International Fluid Power Society newsletter:

- Less than 6 percent of high school seniors in the US plan to pursue engineering degrees. This is down 36 percent from ten years ago.- In 2000, 56 percent of China's undergraduate degrees were in the hard sciences. In the US the figure was 17 percent.

- In 2007, China will produce six times more engineers than the US. While Japan, with half the population of the USA, has produced double the engineers in recent years.

- If these trends continue, 90 percent of the world's engineers will be living in Asia by 2010.

In 2008 this shows no sign of slowing down. So long as Indian and Chinese Engineers work for a fraction of the salaries that their US counterparts command, there will be a steady stream of US corporations eager to outsource their "costly" engineering departments.

There are already Chinese and Indian companies established in the USA and Canada, set up to feed their own workforces in China and India. Work in the USA and Canada is so prized that many qualified overseas engineers will work for free for a few months to get a foot in the door. There are even local government programs that encourage this.

Now there will always be a need for Engineers and Technologists in the west to handle local assignments. Sometimes theres no substitute for being there. But an ever growing portion of tasks the can be handled offsite, in another country, will be.

A free market economy is supposed to be good for all. Have we conciously made the decision that low prices for machinery and other goods is worth trading our engineering intellectual capital for ?

It gets worse when it comes to fluid power.The same study found 95 percent of all Mechanical Engineeringgrads in the US have not been exposed to fluid power.And the situation is similar here in Australia,at both degree and trade level.So is this a threat or an opportunity?I say it's both. If you're someone who hiresfluid power expertise - it's gonna get harder to find.And the law of supply and demand suggestsyou'll pay more for it.If you're a mechanic, fitter, technician or engineerit's an opportunity:Pursue fluid power as a specialization and you'll haveas much work and as many job options as you can handle.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Speak to Solidworks and tell it what to do

Software That Can Read Your Lips. This new development might be great for some Solidworks users. speech recognition software empowers SolidWorks® users to design with their voice, saving time and increasing productivity.

Now I can just see myself trying to get used to this piece of software. OK, Extrude, NO DARN IT, sketch...Oh Crap! Meanwhile the whole office is convulsing with laughter. But apparently this new stuff is developed by certified SolidWorks professionals and allows users to say commands, thus reducing overall hand movement and augmenting the use of additional navigation devices.

Saying, rather than selecting, a command with a mouse eliminates hunting through toolbars, menus and icons. According to the company, initial case studies conducted with SolidWorks tutorial parts show that using Xpresso reduces mouse movement an average of 60 percent and mouse clicks an average of 35 percent—these reductions add up to design that, on average, is 15 percent faster. Xpresso says less repositioning from keyboard to devices and back keeps designers eyes on the screen and mind.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

igetit Jobs for Engineers and free Slidworks courses

igetit is an education resource for users of all of the most popular CAD programs. Apart from selling great training videos presented through Camtasia studio they have also introduced job training for graduate engineers.

Young engineers can work with igetit to gain valuable experience. Training is a real sore spot for most companies. Its great that igetit is providing this needed service.

As well, the igetit portal is a great resource for full time engineering jobs for us regular folks looking for work.

To top it all off, just sign in to my igetit and get a whole group of free CAD courses just for you to try out. Anyway you look at igetit It's all good!

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

When do you need a bridge designer ?

One of the jobs I am presently involved with is the replacement of the main drive arrangement in a lift bridge. This job underscores the importance of maintaining civil engineering infrastructure items like bridges. I've posted some pictures on my bridge designer page. Even though most bridges look like they are built to last 100 years its surprising how often they need repair. Especially when you have the corrosive action of road salt, ice and snow to contend with.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

New 3D Doorknob for laptops

I jokingly refer to these 3D Space Connection Mice as "3D Doorknobs" I think if I ever were to own one I would like to dissassemble it and rebuild the whole thing into and old brass doorknob. That would appeal to my twisted sense of humour. But all kidding aside, some people who are a lot smarter than me swear by the Space Connection mice made by 3D Connexion. The folks at this company have come up with a new model for notebooks.

This should make all those people who use solidworks on their laptops happy and give them one more gadget to stuff inside their ever growing laptop bags!

The SpaceNavigator for Notebooks is a compact, mobile design better suited for laptops. It measures 1.81 x 2.68 inches and weighs 0.55 lbs, while the full-sized model measures 2.17 x 2.99 inches and weighs 1.06 lbs. A travel case is also included. 3Dconnexion continues to manufacture the full-sized unit for desktop use.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

New Page about Compressed Air Piping

The compressed air piping page is about a process air duct line I put together with a little help from a Google Earth satellite image. Having a picture to available to double check all the features in your model helps a lot when many dimensions are missing. Its the next best thing to a site visit.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

New Page about Modelling a Waterworks Clarifier

I recently added a new page about modelling a waterworks clarifier . This project was interesting to me because it was a great application for multi-body parts or weldments. The squeegee blades used in the tank are actually 16 seperate parts but through the use of multi body parts I was able to model all 16 as a single part using a single revolved cut to generate them.

At the drafting and detailing stage, all 16 blades could be detailed individually and sent out for laser cutting at the local steel service center. The big advantage of this model is the ease with which the blades could be modified in order to get proper coverage of the tank wall. Another advantage is that this model could easily be adapted to different sizes of clarifier.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Walking robots getting better all the time

Many posts have been made about the new exoskeleton - walking aid that has been developed by Argo Medical Technologies. See the video here. Another development which I found quite amazing was the "Big Dog" quadruped robot developed by Boston Dynamics. See the video here.

Whats amazing about the Big Dog is how it rights itself when the "driver ?" tries to kick it over. Some of these inventions are getting right into the realm of science fiction. But of course, they are real.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Jon Hirschtick, the founder of SolidWorks Corp in Concord Massachusetts is portrayed in the new movie "21" . While a student at MIT, he learned about card counting, and then used his skills to beat the blackjack odds in Las Vegas. His earnings helped him found Solidworks Corporation in 1993. Read about the story in this Wall Street Journal Article