By Tyler Braginton
Does your product vary only slightly from customer to customer? If you begin a new project by opening your basic or template part and performing a “Save As”, there is a better way! Hidden amongst the free wizard based tools on your Evaluate ribbon is the easy way to automate design variations: DriveWorksXpress. Included in every license of SolidWorks, DriveWorksXpress will free your designers to expand the product line rather than just modify it.
DriveWorksXpress can automate not only parts but also assemblies and drawing creation. Begin by opening the part or assembly that you wish to utilize. Before you can completely unleash the power of DriveWorks, make sure that your model is created to accommodate design changes. Here are a few tips I use:
With your model ready, open the DriveWorks Wizard by either going to Tools > DriveWorksXpress or find it on the default Evaluate Tab. Since SolidWorks 2011, DriveWorksXpress has been integrated into the Task Pane making it familiar and easy to use. Begin by choosing the Create/Change Database and then select the blue right facing arrow; these arrows are how we will navigate between steps.
This will open Windows Explorer and allow you to specify the folder for the Microsoft Access Database file (.mdb) that DriveWorksXpress will create and use. Next, you must specify the models that you wish to automate. For a single part you simple specify the location of the saved SolidWorks Part; for an assembly you can specify just the SolidWorks Assembly, or choose the individual parts as well if changes will be made to their geometry. For this example, we will use a multi-body part, our transfer skid.
Once your model is captured, it’s time to choose the aspects of the design you wish to be able to control. DriveWorksXpress can be used to control dimensions, features, custom properties, configurations, and the creation of a drawing. Select the Dimensions and Features tab and then select a feature or dimension from the model or Feature Tree.
Once a dimension/feature is selected, you must give it a name and click the Add button. Repeat this process for all necessary dimensions and features, but remember that you’ll have to write a rule for each of these, so keep it simple.
Next, select the Custom Properties tab. Check the custom properties that you wish to use or add properties by typing the property name in and clicking Create.
The final selection criteria are the Drawings and Configurations tab. First, choose whether you wish to be able to control configurations with DriveWorks. If you want to have a new drawing created for each design, locate the appropriate drawing of the base part or assembly. This drawing will be used as the template in which the new design will be placed. Now that we know what we want to control, we must create a form to capture the necessary information for design changes. The form must consist of text boxes, numeric text boxes, drop downs, spin buttons, and check boxes. To create a new input select the type, give it a name, and fill in the necessary options.
Additional inputs can be created by pressing the Add button and repeating the steps. You can preview the form by clicking Test. Default values can be assigned for each form input by choosing Set Defaults at the bottom of the form.
Finally, we must create rules that control all the variables we selected during the capture phase. The summary page shows you which rules have been created and what still needs to be defined. Checking the Edit box next to a category with missing rules then pressing the right arrow allows you to begin creating those rules.
From the list of attributes, double-click a variable and create the rule using inputs, math, and logic. Rules are what make DriveWorks function correctly. Rules can drive a dimension value or delete a feature. Rules can be as simple or complex as you'd like. Some examples of rules and tips can be found in the help file by clicking the help icon.
Once you have defined all of your rules it’s time to test it out. Press the green Run button to display the form and input some values. When finished, select Run.
DriveWorks will generate models based on the rules you've defined. DriveWorks will also display an automation report that determines the result of each function. If the results are undesired, try modifying the rules. Chances are a quick fix will get you up and running – or driving, I should say.