Leverage eDrawings

26 Jul, 2004 By: Greg Jankowski

Use eDrawings to view, publish, and collaborate on drawings with users inside and outside your company.

For sharing and archiving 2D and 3D product design data, eDrawings are useful viewing and publishing tools for SolidWorks, AutoCAD, CATIA, and Pro/ENGINEER file formats. You can use eDrawings to view, collaborate, and manage changes among many users, both inside and outside your company. Also, the files are compact and easy to transmit, requiring less bandwidth than standard files.

Figure 1. Example of an eDrawing.

eDrawings also let you natively view SolidWorks (parts, assemblies, and drawing) and AutoCAD DXF and DWG documents. In SolidWorks, save documents, parts, assemblies, and drawings as a published eDrawings file (EPRT, EASM, or EDRW, respectively). The pros and cons of each of these viewing options are listed in figure 2.

Pros   • File size smaller than native document
  • Published version of a document is easier to control
  • Publishing can be triggered via PDM or SolidWorks Task Scheduler
  • E-mail friendly
  • No publishing required
  • Easier to implement a solution
Cons   • Files must be published and republished when changes occur
  • Native file sizes are larger
  • Not e-mail friendly
  • Additional information needs to be included to let recipients take measurements
Figure 2. Pros and cons of published vs. native file formats.

You can find publishers for SolidWorks, AutoCAD, CATIA, and Pro/ENGINEER file formats from the eDrawings Web site at the end of this article.

There are two different versions of eDrawings. EDrawings Viewer is free, and eDrawings Professional is part of SolidWorks Office and SolidWorks Office Professional. Both sets of features are listed in figure 3.

Send compressed files
Built-in viewer
3D pointer
Save as STL
Collaboration Tools
Enable measuring
Dynamic cross-section
Move components
Explode views
View configurations
Mass properties
Figure 3. Features of eDrawings Viewer and eDrawings Professional.

One advantage of eDrawings Professional is that you can enable or disable the review and measurement tools in documents you publish. This lets other team members, customers, or vendors use these advanced features with the free eDrawings Viewer.

When using eDrawings, a couple of features help make your life easier. UI Mode is an option that lets you toggle between a simplified and complete interface, as shown in figure 4. For casual part-time users, the simplified interface makes using the viewer easier.

Figure 4. UI Mode and Quick Help.

You can also create HTML files so that your eDrawings can be viewed on the Web. If the people you're sharing files with don't have eDrawings installed on their computer, the application is installed automatically.

These advanced functions can be useful when sharing your design in eDrawings:

  • Animation: eDrawings can animate your document by showing the part or assembly in different orientations. The animation steps through different views, giving the recipient a better view of the part or assembly, which a flat 2D representation won't do.
  • Cross-sections: You can make dynamic cross-sections of parts and assemblies.
  • Explode and Move Components: eDrawings Professional can explode and move assembly components.
  • Measure: Drawing recipients can measure using linear and diameter/radial dimension.
  • Markup: eDrawings Professional can create markups and comments on an eDrawing. This lets you change, approve, and document a design review or any other situation where a simple, effective tool is useful for capturing design intent or changes.

Figure 3 shows the features included in eDrawings Viewer and Professional. You can enable or disable the measure and markup features when using eDrawings Professional.

There are several different ways to e-mail an eDrawing to any internal or external team member, as shown in figure 5. This depends, of course, on whether the recipient has eDrawings installed or not. Choose from the following formats when you're ready to send:

Sends an eDrawing (EPRT, EASM, or EDRW) file. This requires that eDrawings Viewer or Professional be installed on the recipient's computer.
Creates an HTML file that can be viewed using Internet Explorer. If eDrawings is not installed, the viewer is installed automatically.
Executable (EXE)
Creates an executable file with eDrawings Viewer and the document in one file. This option is good for recipients who don't have eDrawings. The downside is that EXE files get stripped by most e-mail servers.
Creates a ZIP file with the embedded eDrawing. This embeds the EXE file inside the ZIP file and is more e-mail friendly. This option requires an application for unzipping the file.
Figure 5. Send As file formats.

Change Management
You can also use eDrawings to manage and document drawing changes. It's easier to mark up an eDrawing directly to show what you want changed. The adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" is a good way to look at this capability. How often have you looked at a change notice that read "changed from 2.600 to 3.00," and then tried to figure out what that actually meant? The example in figure 6 shows that change attached directly to the eDrawing markup, which can then be sent around for review or sent to the designer to update the assembly and drawing.

Figure 6. Changes attached directly to eDrawing markup.

You can use the document to show the entire change or you can link it inside the change request document. The eDrawing can be linked via a hyperlink or embedded directly inside the change form.

You can deal with markups in your workflow in a number of ways. Users can review the document serially by storing their comments in the same file using a single markup. Or users can mark up the same drawing separately and combine markups at the end. The markups can be saved to a file, which is then opened to combine the markups into one document.

Easy as eDrawings
eDrawings is a flexible application for viewing and collaborating on drawings with internal and external users. The ability to easily view and share design information is key to a successful project.

For more information, visit the SolidWorks eDrawings page.

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