Purchasing Solidworks 2010

I started at a new position a few weeks ago where the job description included designing new products and updating existing designs. This meant learning a new software package as the only one available was Autocad 2004. None of our customers or suppliers had demanded 3D files and the engineers on staff were all accustomed to Autocad so there was no reason to upgrade. Luckily though, management moves quickly in making decisions and I was able to convince a few people that there were some benefits to getting a new package. Thanks to my past role and recent Solidworks ESP I was confident enough to push for them getting a seat and the buying process began.

Things ran smoothly getting setup. My reseller contacted me a day after I submitted a request for quote and even ran me through a few options and because of the timing we were able to take advantage of the Free Upgrade to Premium. Pretty excited about that and the prospect of utilizing Photoview 360 for some neat renderings.

Now I've got some fun tasks ahead of me.
1. Install Solidworks on new computer.
2. Update old files using import. (This may be tough/useless as many of our autocad files are not to scale)
3. Setup templates for drawings
4. Build design library of common components and features. ie. model all of our products
5. Keep best practices so that others can easily understand how things are modeled and referenced and changes are intuitive.

Working in 2 CAD Programs.

I've still use Autocad 2004 because but the plan is to migrate all existing lines, and new designs, to 3D format in the next few months. Autocad isn't so bad, it is useful for sketching, relatively easy to learn but my big complaint now are the nuances that are different in the two systems (can we standardize what scrolling up means, is it zoom in or out?)

More on this later.

Sharing CAD models: IPhone and Screen Capture

Be able to model a new idea is one thing, displaying it for others can be an entirely different beast. Many CAD systems are expensive and the intended audience does not always have access to the software required to view models. Sure there are helpful tools like "EDrawings" but sending executable files can be a bear. PDF's exist but the hassle of creating one, and the lack of 3D for many means that the preferred way to send a design is by taking screen shots.

I used "Print Screen" and pasted an uncropped images in emails for a long time before I decided to look for a better option. A quick search led me to Cropper. This was a handy tool when it came to the CSWP writeups, the application is small quick and best of all I don't have to paste each shot into a word document before moving on.

So then the question becomes, how do you mark up an image. Simple things like arrows, text boxes and the like can obviously be done in Paint or something similar but I prefer another Image editor called GIMP. GIMP is the open source equivalent of Photoshop meaning not only is useful to markup screen shots but it is also a great tool to get photo realistic renderings of models. Further explorations into is one of the goals of this blog.

The above programs are helpful (and free) for 2D but what about showing off 3D models. I always have my phone on me a quick fly through of a model would be seriously useful for friends and family (or clients) without all the hassle. I'm still looking for a great app for this but there are a few options.

The first I found through an email the other day. 3DVia is a website that provides hosting for 3D models (account required ). But there is also an iPhone app which is fun to play with and can do an alright job of displaying models. The below picture is taken from a sample #d file and a quick photo from a 3GS.

The insert into picture function is a bit lacking as the models are difficult to rotate but it's a good start and a fun tool to express some ideas.
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