Handy New Assembly Tools in SolidWorks 2008 (Solid Thinking SolidWorks Tutorial)

30 Sep, 2007 By: Richard Doyle

Increase assembly performance, analyze your assemblies, and create mates with new tools.

SolidWorks 2008 is far more than a new interface and advanced graphics. This month, we'll look at several new tools designed to help increase assembly performance, analyze your assemblies, and create mates.

Managing Large Assemblies
SolidWorks 2008 gives you new tools to manage large assemblies. Simplified representations of assemblies help improve performance by letting you work with a subset of components loaded into memory. You can specify components to load when you open an assembly file through the Open dialog box using the Quick View option, which displays the assembly file in the graphics area (in an instant) and presents you with the Selective Open dialog box.

The Selective Open dialog box.

Using the Selective Open dialog box, you can select individual components or subassemblies (from the simplified FeatureManager design tree or the graphics area) to load into memory. When you click Open, only those components that you selected are displayed, the remaining components are hidden. SolidWorks also automatically creates a new Display State, so you can open the assembly again with the same parts shown.

To support simplified representations of assemblies, you now can make display states independent of all configurations, so all display states are available in all configurations. You can still link a display state to a specific configuration if desired.

Assembly Statistics and Analysis
In previous SolidWorks versions, the Assembly Statistics dialog box provided a basic rundown of the components and mates in your assembly file. This information now is reported in the AssemblyXpert, along with several other pieces of information that you can use.

Assembly Statistics provided very basic information in previous versions of SolidWorks.

The new AssemblyXpert Diagnostics dialog box.

The first section of the AssemblyXpert dialog box reports the number of documents (within the assembly file) that haven't been updated to the current SolidWorks release. This is important because files from previous releases can affect assembly performance until they are updated. To see a list of these files, click the Eyeglass icon. From this window, you can do several things, including save the list to a file, print the list directly, and copy it to the Clipboard. Better still, if you select one or more files from the list, they are highlighted in the graphics area and in the FeatureManager design tree. The Isolate button also becomes active. You can isolate the parts or even hide and suppress them all at once.

The next two sections of the AssemblyXpert dialog box report on performance. Depending on what Large Assembly Threshold is set at (Tools / Options / System Options / Assemblies), AssemblyXpert lets you know that performance would be improved if you turned it on. Click the icon in this section to do it for you.

The next section reports on mates in your assembly. The total number of mates is shown, and if you have certain mating conditions present, such as mating to assembly features or mates that reference component patterns, the AssemblyXpert warns you that these types of mates could affect performance. Click the Eyeglass icon to see the mates. Once again, you can save, print, and copy the list and select all of the reported mates for further action.

The Assembly Statistics section rounds out the AssemblyXpert dialog box. This looks familiar to SolidWorks users, and provides the number of components in the assembly and a rundown of unique parts, subassemblies, and even the number of bodies present throughout the assembly parts.

The AssemblyXpert Files dialog box.

SolidWorks 2008 Mates
The first things you'll notice about mates in SolidWorks 2008 are the new icons in the FeatureManager design tree. Instead of the paper clip, new icons indicate the type of mate graphically.

Graphical display of mates.

Dig a little deeper and you'll come across several new mate types as well. Linear/Linear Coupler mates establish a relationship between the translation of one component and the translation of another component. Path Mates let you constrain a component to a path and also to define pitch, yaw, and roll of the component as it travels along the path. Lock Mates fully constrain components relative to each other, in effect forming a subassembly between two components and making that subassembly rigid. Screw Mates and Universal Joint mates also are welcome new additions.

Some of these new mate types have been moved to a new section of the Mate Property Manager. This new section is called Mechanical Mates and includes the Cam, Gear, and Rack Pinion Mates introduced in earlier releases of SolidWorks.

The Mechanical Mates dialog box.

In a future "Solid Thinking" column, I'll take an in-depth look at each of these different mate tools.

TolAnalyst is a tolerance application that determines the effects that dimensions and tolerances have on your parts and assemblies. Available only in SolidWorks Office Premium, TolAnalyst uses a wizard interface to help you perform what-if and worst-case tolerance analysis. Used in conjunction with DimXpert, this new tool can help you design better parts the first time around by minimizing the affects of tolerance stack-up. Look for a complete report on TolAnalyst in an upcoming column.

The enriched graphics in SolidWorks 2008 are getting a lot of attention these days, but that's only the tip of the iceberg in the latest release from SolidWorks. For SolidWorks users, the new assembly management and analysis tools makes working with (large) assemblies easier, faster, and more intuitive.

About the Author: Richard Doyle

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