By David Brown
I spent a great deal of my design career being asked to design something that needed to fit into an opening. I designed custom products for architectural projects; each one was different, but sometimes only slightly so. When working on projects such as these, it requires a great deal of coordination with people from other companies that are also making things that belong in the same project and we all have to make sure that everything will work together. At some point in the life of the project, someone will have to make a visit, or several visits, to the construction site to verify that things are being built according to plan. These are referred to as “field measurements”. Very often, the person sent out to take and record the field measurements, may find the opening that their product is supposed to fit between, a system of glass and welded doors for example, is not as it should be according to plan. Typically the field measurement site visit takes place at a time in the design phase before the drawings are released to production so that changes could be made to the design to accommodate unexpected changes in the project. This blog will examine an approach that takes advantage of SolidWorks’ parametric modeling capabilities to design a system of doors that are comprised of welded frames and glass and are meant to fit between two walls.
Examine the Feature Manager Tree in the image below. Every part is created within the context of the assembly. I begin by modeling a representation of the wall and floor. I made them as separate components so I could control them (hide/show) individually. The wall is a single sketch with two rectangular contours dimensioned and extruded to represent the opening of the door way. The floor is a simple extrusion that uses a split line to make separate faces that I can add the grass and brick to represent the ground and walkway to. This sketch is related to the opening in the walls so if I change the opening size, the pathway and railing system will change as well. If I double click on the wall (the floor has been hidden here), I can see and change the wall dimensions – opening width and height as well as wall thickness. The railings are something I added in to show more complexity. With a change in the wall opening size, they will change too, because they are created based on the split line sketch in the floor. For this discussion, we are going to focus on the glass door framework.
As we work our way down the feature manager tree, the next component is the main Frame itself. This is a single weldment that contains all of the metal components that make up the framework that fits between the wall sections and holds the doors, glass, and art panels.
There are two main sketches that are used to control the components of this entire assembly:
- The sketch of the Wall Section. (shown above)
- The sketch of the main Frame. (shown below)
The Wall Section sketch controls the size of the opening and the sketch of the Frame controls how all of the frame parts work with each other within the confines of the opening. The weldment part that represents the Frame is created in-context of the assembly, and the sketch that it is based upon is related to and constrained by the wall sections. As you examine the sketch of the frame, notice that it is centered on the origin with a centerline. All of the solid lines represent the paths that the weldment structural members, in this case 2” square tubing, will conform to. Notice, also, the names that I have given to the dimensions to help make it easier to identify which dimension controls what. The core drill dimension is the length of frame that is placed in the ground and cemented in place. There is a 2” floor clearance. The side clearances are linked to each other and the header panels as well, with linked dimensions. I can also control the door size. If the customer wanted a 30 inch door, I only need to change this one dimension and all of the components will update within this sketch. The other small dimensions represent the gaps between the doors. As you can guess, the Door Frame is a separate weldment part that is created in the context of the assembly and linked to this sketch. A change that is made in the Wall Section sketch will change the overall size of the Frame sketch. Changes made to the Frame sketch effect the parts within the Frame, including the door size, which will in turn, propagate to the Door Frame. The Door Frame component (shown below), contains the welded parts that make up the door as can be seen in the cut list displayed in its feature manager tree. All of the parts are created in the context of the assembly and within the weldment components. The cut list shown at left is that of the main Frame. Each item is named in the cut list and when placed on a drawing will display all properties relating to each component.
The remaining components are the glass panels. They are built in-context of the assembly, created separately because only the Door Glass is related to the main Frame sketch, and are used independently of one another. As these images reveal, they are a simple rectangular extrusion with chamfers on all edges and a gap of 1.50” all around.
The last piece of this I will mention is the artwork on the side panels. The image below shows how I used construction lines to control the size of the hexagons that adjust no matter what changes are made to either controlling sketch. As you can see, there are no dimensions in the sketch, just relations to the midpoints of the construction lines.
A little forethought and planning is necessary to be successful in a parametric model such as this, but oh, how powerful it can be! In this example I have a few dimensions in a small number of sketches (2), and I have incredible control over the functionality of this model. An unexpected change as a result of field measurements is of little concern now. In a practical application, if I was in business making things like this, I would make a generic version of the model with drawings and all I would have to do is; 1) make a copy of the design for each customer, 2) save the components in a new project folder for that customer, 3) make the necessary changes to sizes, art, and whatever, and Boom Shakalaka!! All my design work is done! All drawings associated with the project would be complete and I would benefit from extra time to go to the beach!
P.S. - I’d have more money as well to spend on that new paddle board….or Porsche!