Chain Component Pattern Tips - Pt.3

By Todd Domke


A unique and powerful type of assembly component pattern is available in SOLIDWORKS for setting up patterned components along an open or closed path to dynamically simulate a roller chains, cable carriers, and power transmission systems.

In the third and final part of this series we’ll take a look at some considerations for performance and optimum behavior. (Need to catch up? Click on the article to read Chain Component Pattern Tips - Pt. 1 and Chain Component Pattern Tips Pt. 2.)

Here are some suggestions to avoid potential problems:

  • Avoid extra mates: The chain pattern uses mates behind the scenes (Path Link and Path Alignment Plane selections) to control the position and movement of the pattern components. Adding more mates in addition to these can result in poor performance or failures to solve the mate system. Try to use as few mates as possible to control the chain movement. As shown in our example in part 1 of this series, mating components to the end of the chain is the preferred approach, rather than mates to instances in the middle of the chain.
  • Avoid mates between the ends of the pattern: As outlined in the SOLIDWORKS Help - "Best Practices for Mates", you should avoid creating 'loops' of mates, as these are difficult for the solver to handle. As the chain pattern uses hidden mates, creating a relationship between the ends of the pattern will create such a loop, resulting in poor behavior or mate errors.
  • Slow down when you drag the chain: While I’ve been pretty impressed with the performance, there is still a lot of solving going on 'under the hood', so if you use rapid movements when you drag, the solver may struggle to keep up. Slow, steady, and deliberate movements will result in the best results.
  • Allow the path part the freedom to move: If one end of the chain is fixed, the chain can't move, right? Wrong! Because the part containing the path sketch is free (it has degrees of freedom to move in at least one direction), this part can be dragged to model a chain. Just ensure its correctly mated to allow motion in the correct direction. You aren’t restricted to only simple 'racetrack' shapes either – chains with rotary motion are possible with paths made up entirely of groups of arcs.
  • Other types of chains: To create a closed loop chain where the start and end are joined, use the 'Fill Path' option. You can fine-tune the chain path sketch to get the ends to meet, however. Once you have the desired or correct number of links, measure the remaining open distance between the end links, and use the sketch Path Length constraint to adjust the path accordingly until the end links meet.

In this blog series we’ve looked at a general overview of the new for 2015 Chain Component Pattern along with a sample of a generic energy chain. We’ve also seen some examples of other applications such as closed loop bicycle chains, rotary motion chains, and using in-context design to define the path of the chain between other components in an assembly. We’re looking forward to seeing what you can do with it and what other applications you can devise to take advantage of this powerful new feature!

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