Every job is different. Some jobs are easy…and some…not so much! In this post we will show you the steps it takes to engineer the 3 stock conditions that will be used later in our fixture development.
Why would we even care about stock conditions? That’s a simple one to answer. If we didn’t know what the stock condition will be like for a given setup, then how do we create a fixture to hold it?
See…wasn’t that easy to understand?
Now before we get into it too much I want to explain a few key features or strategies that we will be using in this step. To complete this portion of the project we will be using:
In-Place assembly design
These elements are crucial in making our design easy to create AND manage.
In-Place assembly design
So, what is an In-Place assembly design and why should you care about Representations?
I’m glad you asked!
An in-place assembly is a type of assembly where all of the custom components are created locally within that assembly.
Typically, in-place assembly designs allow engineers to design faster…but with a price. You see most software’s that support this strategy (if they support this strategy), will keep the entire weight of this design in one file! This creates two very severe problems.
First one is file size. Depending on complexity, the size of that specific file can grow to astronomical proportions. This then leads to the requirement of extremely powerful computers!
The second problem has to do with PDM (Product Data Management). If all of the parts are located in one file, then how does the PDM system manage them? And the answer to that is…with a great deal of difficulty! (If at all)
Thankfully TopSolid 7 has solved both of those problems better, more modern technology. Here’s how.
In TopSolid 7, the first thing that you will do is create a new assembly document. Our one assembly document actually manages in-place, bottom-up and top-down strategies of assembly design. We did it this way to help keep things simple for our users. As well, it allows our users to mix and match whatever assembly method they want to use in the same document. And I must say…this ability is extremely cool!
So now that you have created your assembly document, then next step will be to build an assembly within. In the posts case we will be starting with a bottom up design and finishing with in-place methodology. To get started, all we need to do is drag-n-drop our customers part into this assembly document. The act of doing this by the way is what makes this a bottom up strategy to begin with. This is also where having access to our Project 100% of the time makes things easy. We can just go to our project manager, grab our customer’s part, and drag it into the assembly doc. The picture to the left illustrates this.
Next is where the fun starts or should I say the in-place design! Our next step will be to create our first stock condition. This will be a fairly simple task as in this sample we will create a basic rectangular stock block.
To create your first in-place part, all you need to do is ask TopSolid to create one for you. There are three ways to achieve this. They are:
Via right mouse click anywhere on the screen
Through the Modeling drop down menu
Through the modeling icon bar
It doesn’t matter which way you choose to use, they all accomplish the same end result.
Personally, my favorite is the right mouse button click on the screen. It seems to me that TopSolid 7 almost always knows what I want to do and almost always has the correct function in the right mouse menu. Don’t be afraid to select objects and right click to see what options you have available.
In this sample, I have created my in-place parts via the right click method. Please note something very cool here that TopSolid 7 does for you automatically. As soon as you ask to create the in-place part, TopSolid 7’s native PDM physically creates an externally referenced file for you. However if you look at your project tree, you will notice that the independent part is now dependent on the assembly document that you created. The picture to the right shows this. As well you will notice that it is asking you to name the file right now. You can do this now or later. Because TopSolid 7 is built on PDM, renaming the file later will not break any links to any referenced documents! (Unlike some, not PDM based software’s). Moreover, because this is actually an independent part, it is possible to reuse this part in other future operations such as machining or even an entirely different project. I know, I know…isn’t PDM cool?
So, if TopSolid 7 is automatically creating an externally referenced file, then what is so cool about in-place assembly design? I’m glad you asked!
In fact, when we are in the in-place mode, it is like we are editing that specific part file directly. In fact we are! But we are doing it directly from within the assembly document. Moreover, because the part was created within the context of this assembly, we can build design intent into this specific parts design so that it follows any changes made by the other parts that were created or added to the assembly prior to the creation of this new part. Wow! That was a long explanation. Let’s see if I can simplify it for you.
In-place designs are easier for engineers to manage and capture design intent with.
To help make everyone’s life a bit simpler, included in TopSolid 7 is the very first Entities Manager. I think that it is important to explain what an entities manager really is.
The concept behind the entities manager is quite simple. And it is a word that most people understand the meaning of…even if they don’t practice it very well themselves. Are you ready? Here it is.
Entities Manager = Organization
Actually, it really means AUTOMATIC organization. Let’s see if I can put this into perspective for you.
Many cad and cam software companies over the years have given you the ability to use layers to organize your design and manufacturing projects. And don’t get me wrong. Layers are…or I should say were a good idea. But like many antiquated and old strategies, it’s time for layers to retire and make way for better and more modern ones. You see the problem with layers is that no one ever uses them correctly. For instance, if right now you are using software that allows the use of layers within your organization, I bet that you are not following your own company’s policies for using those layers.
Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you are working on a rush job. (This is really a bad sample because aren’t they all rush jobs these days?) You start designing and while you are working you are putting things on layers. But you are not naming your layers. You think to yourself… “I’ll come back and do that later”. The problem is that later never comes! Now you are out sick and Jose has to finish your project for you. Well because you couldn’t take the time to name your layers and organize yourself a bit, Jose has to spend sometimes hours of wasted time just trying to figure out where you put everything. Only then can he continue the job.
Do you see the problem? Layers, while a good idea really leaves the organization of your design kind of flat.
Thankfully there is TopSolid 7 and our all new and powerful Entities Manager! (cue powerful music…)
So what is an entities manager and what does it do? (And don’t worry…I won’t say that it manages entities…even though it does!)
The entities manager in TopSolid 7 organizes everything that is ever created in any TopSolid document. And here’s the best part. It does it the same way, every time, regardless of who the person is that is using it!
This means that anyone can pick up anyone else’s work and continue it without having to waste any time interpreting where everything is stored.
Less wasted time = Many more dimes!
For example, in an assembly document, the entities manager will automatically organize and keep track of the items shown in the list image to the right. If you look, the manager contains what looks like little boxes. Each box will hold specific items. The job of the entities manager is to automatically put the correct items in the correct boxes as they are created. Oh yeah! We took organization away from the users and automated it! (Managers applaud now)
In the image to the right you see an expanded or open box called Parts. Within this box are the two parts that I have included into this assembly.
You also see a box for Planes…for Points…for Parameters and so on. Can you guess what the entities manager will put in there?
The only thing left to discuss now are Representations. In TopSolid 7, representations are used to create different configurations of the same assembly. What’s really cool about representations is that anyone of any skill level can learn to use them in just a few minutes. (Or even by the end of this post).
A representation can be used for many things. For example they can be used to show a liter version of a very large and complex assembly. For example take an 8 cylinder engine. We could use representations to create a detailed version and a lite version. The detailed version would include all components of that assembly. However the lite version might only contain the externally visible components. Why?
This way when we insert our engine into the main car assembly, we are including only say, 20 components versus say 300. Can you image what that does to the speed of things? (And don’t worry, the BOM will still be correct).
If you look closely you will see that we have used representations to create 1 assembly document that acutally contains our 3 stock conditions, and the part to cut for our project.
What’s cool about this is that it was done easily and more importantly, I can now reference this one assembly for all 3 manufacturing operations. This means easier document management and control.
And here is the best part… To create a new representation all you need to do is right mouse click on the representations box in the entities manager and choose…wait for it…that’s right! You will choose “Representation” from the contextual manu. Then all you need to do is drag-n-drop the parts that you want to be referenced by this representation directly out of the Parts box. See, wasn’t that easy?
So now you have a great understanding of what an in-place assembly is and why it’s so powerful. You have been wowed by the all new concept of the entities manager. And you have been bewildered by just how easy it is to create different representations. So, really what’s left to say?
I think that the only left to do is to see how all of this works live. Or at least through a HD video (or 3 videos in fact)! The videos below will walk you through the entire creation process of the 3 stock models within this assembly. Everything that we have discussed in this post will be shown to you live. In fact you will actually see quite a bit more in the video!
After you watch the video…I say buy TopSolid 7! If you’re not ready to buy…maybe by now you are ready to try it! So go here and download a fully functional version today!