How was that model built? Software tells all.

April 12, 2007
Have you ever had to edit an assembly or a part designed by someone else, or change a model you designed a long time ago?

Joel Orr

Edited by Leslie Gordon

A model in SolidWorks shows a clamp with a 3.50-mm hole in the center of the front face.

The clamp has been enlarged. The hole remains 11.25 mm from the top edges, and so is no longer where it belongs — on the center of the face.

The user has added a Sketch relation to the SolidWorks model. This ensures that the hole is in the center of the face, regardless of the size of the clamp.

The table in SolidMap shows that an Edge on the BodyMove/Copy feature is driving Point7@Sketch14. Point7 is the center of the circle.

SolidMap is reading and displaying information that comes from the SolidWorks Feature Manager. The map shows four levels of an assembly.

In a Mate analysis, SolidMap shows one block for each component. The links between the blocks represent the mates that hold the components together.

If so, you know how difficult it is to decipher the mate relationships in assemblies and dependencies between part features. That's because modern solid modeling lets users create complex relationships, without even being aware they are doing so. For example, a user might add a fillet, which generates relationships between the arc of the fillet and the features that created the edges.

Editing models can thus lead to unpredictable results, such as lost design intent or features that fail when rebuilding models. SolidMap software works with SolidWorks to provide intuitive graphical maps of model interdependencies. It makes editing models simpler and faster.

It's helpful here to understand how such interdependencies are generated, and why they quickly become complex. Consider a 3D model of a clamp. Say a user first calculated the midpoint of the front face and then placed a hole dimensioned to the midpoint, which in this example is 11.25 mm from the top edges of the clamp. Making the clamp larger or smaller would mean the hole is no longer in the center of the face. And a future editor may not be sure if the hole should in the center of the face or not.

Users typically build design intent into models to prevent such problems. In the example above, when the design intent is that the hole be in the center of the face, a user would most likely add a Sketch relation inside the CAD program that places the circular sketch of the hole at the correct location. The example model in SolidWorks displays no dimensions to the top edges. The added Sketch relations ensure that the hole stays where it belongs, regardless of changes to clamp size.

This design intent, however, is not obvious by just looking at the model. SolidMap provides a graphical map that lets users easily see that the hole is being driven by another feature, that is, the sketch relation that relates the center of the circle to another entity (the tangent edge of the fillet).

Users can thus ensure that the hole stays where it belongs, regardless of changes to clamp sizes. Although SolidMap doesn't capture design intent, this example shows how the software helps designers preserve it.

Designers often rebuild designs from scratch rather than spend time to understand how models were built. SolidMap helps save users time, making it simple to understand exactly how the SolidWorks model was built by showing its feature, file, and part interdependencies. For example, a graphical map of an assembly model shows interdependencies between the assembly files as well as the mate relationships between parts. Users can opt to see parent-child relationships between part features.

The graphical map also provides a simple visual index to a complex model. Click on a part in the graph, and the part highlights in the SolidWorks feature tree and 3D model.

What's more, SolidMap enhances collaboration among users in an engineering organization. By providing a simple way to understand models, the software lets firms divide modeling tasks according to technical expertise or modeling proficiency to take advantage of each engineer's strengths.

The software comes from KollabNet Inc., 1910 Fruitville Pike, Lancaster, PA 17601, (717) 560-9580,

Joel Orr is vice president & chief visionary at Cyon Research Corp., Bethesda, Md. He can be reached at [email protected] and


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