8 Replies Latest reply on May 9, 2012 3:53 PM by Joe Kuzich

    Where should I start looking to learn to make variable assemblies that can be reused?

    Joe Kuzich

      Hello everyone,


      I am relatively new to SW (old school AutoCAD guy) and can see a lot of potential here.  The company I'm with is fairly new to SW also and even with some classes behind us we're stumbling a bit through the learning curve. What I'm trying to do now is to create an type of universal assembly (I think it would be an assembly) that I can put into other jobs. 


      Think of it as a window.  It would have 4 sides made up of the same frame extrusion (a top & bottom piece) with separate gaskets following the frame.  In side that would be the glazing (glass, acrylic, polycarbonate, etc).  I want to be able to start a new job and copy this Assembly into the new job folder and change the overall size of it.  That part isn't very complicated. 


      Where it starts to get interesting to me is that the frame on each side can only become so long until another section is required.  And each of these sections need to have mounting holes auto spacing while adding and deleting as needed.  This means that the smaller windows frame will have 45 deg. cuts on both ends while larger ones may have 45 & 90 on two end pieces with a piece(s) in the middle with (2)90's.  To add to that the glass can only be a certain width.  Once it reaches that width a mullion would have to insert into model and adjust the end glass panels to be equal sizes.  I would really even like to include the screws into this Assembly.


      I have been experimenting with variations but the sizes can be any length imaginable and I cant possibly put that many length variations.  And I'm not sure how to keep the parts used in the assembly from being changed every time we start a new job.  I could make an assembly with parts in a folder keeping them more manageable, but if I then save a copy of the assembly to a new job I have to save all the parts too (with their relationship to the new assembly - not the old one).  The only way I know how to do that is to pack-n-go but that screws up the files and makes a big mess of trying to keep everything organized.


      I know what I'm looking to do is going to be pretty complicated to set up but it will be huge for our productivity if we can just grab a window when we need it and change the length and width, then mate that into our larger model.  Right now we have to make and mate every little part, plus put in holes and screws.  Our engineering hours are through the roof for time spent modeling very repetative procedures.  I know that there has to be a way to do what I'm looking for but I'm not sure where the right place to look for the right answers is.  It seams like I can do multiple portions of this in at least a couple ways.  Weldments seamed like a great start but then I also need to be able to detail each part separately for fabrication drawings.  And I don't see a way to make the weldment stop after so many inches and start a new part.


      I'm not sure where to really start investigating.  What commands and tricks should I be learning about to accomplish my end goals?


      Thanks for any help you can shed on point me in the right direction.



        • Re: Where should I start looking to learn to make variable assemblies that can be reused?
          Troy Peterson

          Sounds like you would benifit from using "DriveWorksXpress" or the full version of "DriveWorks". DriveWorksXpress is part of solidworks, see the help files. You should contact your VAR they should be able to help you learn how to use this tool, usually at no charge.

          • Re: Where should I start looking to learn to make variable assemblies that can be reused?
            John Burrill

            Joe, I'm going to summarily agree with Joe-that Driveworks Xpress is probabkly the first place you should be looking.  It's included with Solidworks  and it will give you an idea of what Driveworks does.  (I don't think Xpress can generate assembly configurations, only configurations for parts)  One of the pitfalls of SW is confusing part and assembly configurations with software capable o generating new components.  Configurations by themselves, don't have the infrastructure to manage the permutations, generate files or vary assemblies.

            For example, you might look at design tables in the help and think, I can drive a model with an excel spreadsheet.  I should therefore be able to make any permutation of that model.  While you can theoretically accomplish this with a defnate number of sizes, a design table containing every possible size/feature combination in a residential window assembly would  be so big and complicated and iterated it would approach the point of being unusable in terms of maintanance, filesizes and part revisioning. 

            For that reason, you're better off using (or writing) a specially developed application for taking boilerplate models and dimensions and applying equations and programming logic to produce variations as new models or to add configurations to existing models-effectively transfering the knowledge from the model file to the software.  This type of application is called a configurator.  Driveworks is an example of one, so is Toolbox and so is the cabinet layout program at home depot.

            One more word of advice-if your situtaiton is that neither you nor your company have experience using Solidworks for production purposes: Get help from a consulting firm or your reseller or a sister company or create a configuration/CAD managment position and hire someone from the outside who's fulltime job is to make Solidworks fit your business model. IE: get an expert.  The road from software purchase to increased efficiency is more easily travelled if you can rely on someone who has been up and down it a couple of times.

            end of line.


              • Re: Where should I start looking to learn to make variable assemblies that can be reused?
                Joe Kuzich

                Thanks John,


                One of the guys here has been doing a lot of experimentation with design tables just as you mentioned.  We thought about trying that but quickly came to the same conclusion you mention.  The table would be out of control in no time. 


                I have already been suggesting that we get someone on staff who already knows what the "four stars" their doing in SW.  For many reason I doubt that we will be able to make that happen any time soon, unfortunately.  Even if we were more knowledgeable in SW our work loads dictate that we would have very little time to "set up" stuff like I'm talking about.  And since we aren't more knowledgeable we are exploring ideas that don't work, sort of work or work but could have been better.  Until we get that person in here all we can really do is give it our best.


                I thank you guys again for your help.  Just knowing to look into DriveWorks keeps me from spinning my wheels in another direction.



              • Re: Where should I start looking to learn to make variable assemblies that can be reused?
                Glenn Schroeder



                Would it work to have several assemblies instead of one?  Maybe one assembly of the window up to a certain size, with the components controlled by the window dimensions. Then another when the ends change from mitered to square,etc.

                  • Re: Where should I start looking to learn to make variable assemblies that can be reused?
                    Joe Kuzich



                    Thanks & it might.  I need to look into DriveWorks and figure out if its the right tool but right now I'm experimenting a little closer to what you suggest. 


                    I've created a sketch in an assembly that is the outside or overall dimension of the glazing unit.  Then I made a part of the base frame that has a configuration for the sides, top & bottom (the bottom gets weep holes that the top doesn't).  Then I mate the parts to the sketch line in the assembly and while in the assembly change the part to extrude to the corner of the sketch.  So now, I can just change the sketch size and the parts adjust.  I haven't tried adding mounting holes & screws yet that adjust.  My biggest concern doing this is how I'll be able to use this for multiple jobs.  If I saveas-a-copy the assembly it will be referencing the original parts that are set to the original window.  It seams like I need to make a copy of each part and rename them all.  Then go into the new assembly and replace each original part with the new part.  Defeating the time savings.