CircuitWorks - Electro Meets Mechanical, Part 2 (Solid Thinking SolidWorks Tutorial)

30 Sep, 2008 By: Richard Doyle

The Component Library automatically stores information about SolidWorks models for later use.

Editor's note: This tutorial courtesy of SolidWorks.

In part 1 of this article on CircuitWorks for SolidWorks, we took a look at the various aspects of the program, including the interface and creating assembly models in SolidWorks. In part II, we'll concentrate on the CircuitWorks Component Library.

The CircuitWorks Component Library
CircuitWorks for SolidWorks uses the Component Library to store information about the SolidWorks models it uses to represent electrical computer-aided design (ECAD) components when it builds a SolidWorks assembly. Each time an ECAD file is loaded into CircuitWorks, the library is checked to see if the SolidWorks model already exists. If it does exist, CircuitWorks will insert the component into the assembly. If the component does not exist, CircuitWorks will create a new component using the footprint and height information contained in the ECAD data.

When CircuitWorks is first installed, the component library is empty, so a SolidWorks model will be built for every ECAD component. The components are stored in the database, and over time, CircuitWorks will become faster because it will spend less time creating components. When you open an ECAD file in CircuitWorks, you can tell by looking at the CircuitWorks Tree if a SolidWorks model already exists. Any components that need to be created will be marked with an ( * ) asterisk.

CircuitWorks uses certain criteria to determine if a component already exists. The user can set these options. Naming conventions for components is based on this setting. CircuitWorks extracts the component name information from the ECAD file and strips out any invalid characters before storing the SolidWorks model. All the while, CircuitWorks is using a simple SQL Lite database to cross reference the ECAD component name with the full file name and path of the SolidWorks model.

Matching components to ECAD data.

Once you have built one or more ECAD files in SolidWorks using CircuitWorks, the CircuitWorks Library will display all of the information about the parts.

The CircuitWorks Library.

When a component is selected from the list on the left side, the information for that part is displayed on the right side of the dialog box. Component name and number, and the SolidWorks part file and path are shown. If the part contains user defined configurations, that information will be available as well.

Clicking the Advanced tab gives the user access to other information — the reference designator used by CircuitWorks, the component height (in thousands or mm's — you decide via options), and the x, y, and z offsets of the part. Part rotation and orientation are also shown. If you right-click the component name in the tree, you are presented with the option to Edit Component. You can edit any of the options in either the Basic or Advanced windows using CircuitWorks. Alternately, you can select Open Component and make edits using SolidWorks.

Adding Components to the CircuitWorks Library
CircuitWorks builds component models automatically, so there is rarely a need to add new components manually. You can, however, add new components to the library. From the CircuitWorks Library dialog box, select File / New Component. The information on the right side is now editable. Add the information you need into each box, then use the small browse icon next to Component Filename to browse to a SolidWorks part to represent the component. On the Advanced tab, specify the reference designator; the height of the component; the x, y, z offsets; and rotation and orientation of the part. Click the green checkmark to save the component.

The component in the figure above created by CircuitWorks shows the basic outline of the part in the x, y, and z directions. Usually, this is all you would need to create an assembly for use in your SolidWorks designs. If you need more part detail, perhaps for photorealistic renderings or assembly/service manuals, you will need to edit the parts using SolidWorks to add the appropriate detail. The figure below shows a fully detailed IC package modeled in SolidWorks and added to the CircuitWorks library. Remember, CircuitWorks for SolidWorks is bidirectional so any changes made to the components in an assembly can be exported back to the CircuitWorks library.

Detailed models.

Detailed models in the assembly.

Take it from an old-timer who actually used mylar and crepe tape to design PCBs — CircuitWorks for SolidWorks is really cool! The time you can save by automatically creating PCB assemblies for use in downstream design is significant. Using CircuitWorks for SolidWorks will also reduce errors by providing a link between electrical design and mechanical design — no more guessing where connectors or mounting bosses need to be placed. It's all right there in front of you.

About the Author: Richard Doyle

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