I,m currently a Solid Edge user (V20) looking at moving to a new position using SW and setting everything up from scratch. They just got SW and have no previous experience.
A little background that explains where my questions are coming from. I started using Solid Edge where a previous user had been using it for 5 years or more. He had set it up from scratch and got no training other than a couple hours initially, and lots of calls to tech support. When I started they gave me a seat of AutoCad and asked me to design a fairly complex Reverse Osmosis skid. I owned a copy of Rhino, so I modeled the whole thing in Rhino then saved it as 2D AutoCad. They were impressed enough that they bought me a seat of Solid Edge and expected the other user to train me. Most of my questions were met with "It's difficult, you'll see" I immediately destroyed one of his models, because I had no idea of how much stuff was linked together! So I joined the user group and started asking lots of questions of people who really were experts.
A lot of what was done in using Solid Edge was done very poorly. We design skids using lots of plastic pipe fittings and a lot of hardware, in zinc plated, 304 SS, 18-8, and316 SS. All the hardware parts in our library didn't include the material in the description. If it said "Hex Screw 1_2x3.par" you were supposed to know that that was an 18-8 Stainless, 1/2-13 threaded bolt! So as the new guy constantly heard abut using our "standards" and having to memorize what the other guy considered to be standard! What fun when the company decided that using Stainless for every fastener was killing us and we had to switch to zinc plated steel for most stuff.
The other big issue is the organization of the library. It seems kind of logical to have a path like Plumbing\Fittings\Elbows\PVC\Sch 80\2\elbow*. So you are running a 2" Sch 80 PVC pipe, and you just placed the Elbow, and now you need a Tee. You have to go all the way back up to fittings, then back down through the folders to Tee! Imagine if the path was Plumbing\PVC Sch 80\2\Adapters,Bushings,Couplings,Elbows,Pipe,Tees, etc. how much faster that would be.
Many of our parts were created using Family of Parts for things like hardware and pipe fittings. It seemed like a great idea, except Solid Edge checked every member of the family every time you opened a file or hit update on a drawing, which took forever. The other user moved the library from the daily backed up server to his own computer to speed things up, and in 5 years hadn't made a backup copy. When I came on we had to move it back to the server. When I realized where the problem was I volunteered to open, break the links, and resave several thousand part files. The speed up was dramatic, and my skills doing this work got a lot faster!
When you looked in the Edge Bar Tree in Solid Edge parts or assemblies unique to this particular job were named very similarly to the way parts in the library were. So with a casual look at the tree you couldn't tell if it was safe to modify a part for this job, or you just destroyed another model in a different job with your changes. Even worse, some jobs had links going back and forth between multiple jobs! You couldn't even easily copy a job safely because the only way to clearly be sure there weren't any links to the old jobs was to search through the entire list of parts and assemblies looking at the paths. Now we identify all the parts and assemblies unique to a job with a job number prefix, which also makes copying easy and reliable too.
One last thing. I got someone to create me a macro that brought all of the file properties from the entire library into Excel. I then created a whole new part numbering scheme and applied it to the Excel file, along with correcting lots of descriptions and such. Then we wrote the data back in to the library. We now have another Excel macro that takes BOMs pasted in from Solid Edge and rolls up the materials with the same part numbers and varying lengths and such. We then import that into AllOrders our BOM program linked to QuickBooks which then generates POs and Work Orders for the shop. HUGE timesaver when a BOM has 300 items and 150 of them are short pieces of pipe!
Now to my questions.
I want to be able to model a complete wastewater plant, consisting of about 10 large equipment skids, half a dozen tanks with instrumentation, and all of the interconnecting piping. I do this currently in Solid Edge on a five year old Dell with 4 Gb of memory. I open the model with everything hidden, then display and work on what I need, or is in the way. I only see the whole model on paper most of the time. I will now be using Windows 7 64bit, with 16 Gb of memory. For models like this how do I want to make the library, parts, and assemblies?
Are libraries of parts and assemblies in Solid Works just Windows folders and sub folders, or is there a file management function?
Are there any really complete standard hardware libraries out there worth downloading or buying? A big concern is that lots of files I've gotten from various sources have WAY to much detail! Do we really need to see an exact representation of threads on bolts? How do you handle things like part numbers and such? Does everybody use the same fields for the data? For a standard library to be useful for export I will need a unique part number on every part, as well as the manufacturers part number.
When you have an assembly with lots of short pieces of pipe of different lengths, how do you handle that? Separate part file for each piece? An adjustable length part? A sketch with extrusion of the pipe cross section for each segment. We've tried all three, and the most bulletproof is currently separate part files for each piece in Solid Edge. We don't use a piping because we work with plastic pipe fittings, no standards, every manufacturer makes his parts a little different!
Sorry for being so long winded, tough to get across what I am trying to do in just a few words.
Gary H. Lucas