14 Replies Latest reply on Jan 30, 2013 7:08 AM by Gareth Davies

    Learning Solidworks from scratch?

    Gareth Davies

      Hi people,

       

      This is my first post so a brief introduction. My name's Gareth and I've run my own steel fabrication company in the UK for just over 8 years. We mainly fabricate small to medium sized items in stainless steel and they are often one offs or small batches (under 10 off). A lot of what we do, on smaller jobs, is from sketches on scraps of paper which is adequate but not very good for keeping records nor is it very professional. On larger jobs I get them drawn up by a sub-contract draughtsman on Autocad which suits most applications but, obviously, there is an additional cost to this. I have no experience with Autocad other than being able to open drawings and add dimensions so I am at complete novice level where CAD is concerned. I am getting asked more and more by clients to provide drawings for visualisation purposes and this is where I believe Solidworks may benefit my business. Obviously it will be a fairly large expense but I believe it would be more beneficial for me to learn Solidworks rather than Autocad. My question being, is it feasible for someone with no CAD experience to learn Solidworks and how long does it take to become proficient at it? I don't want to spend a lot of money only to find that it's beyond me or that I don't have time to master it.

       

      To add to the above, I'm not talking of being able to draw super complicated parts but items such as machine guarding, access platforms and support structures are the most likely candidates to be drawn up. I want to create a more professional approach to our work to build confidence with current and potential clients.

       

      Thanks in advance,

       

      Gareth

        • Re: Learning Solidworks from scratch?
          Ash Combe

          Hi Mate,

          Being “proficient” ant any CAD package comes down to what you need from it. I design special purpose, one off machinery, thousands of parts, fairly complex math sometimes to get parts to update automatically, etc. and have used several different packages over the years which all mostly do the same job. What I’ve found is that after 1 year I would consider myself proficient at the underling basics of the software and at least 2 years of full-time use (plus some time learning it at home) is what I would consider a fair amount of time to become “proficient” at a package to do what “I” need of it. Even then, I’ve worked with many people that have trouble wrapping there head around even the simple aspects of a Parametrics based CAD package.

           

          So to break it down, there are many other packages out there that can do the basic stuff at a fraction of the cost of Solidworks. If you don’t think you’ll use at least some of the bells-and-whistles of a package like this then keep looking. Packages like IronCAD or TurboCAD are perfectly fine for producing simple assembles and professional drawings.

           

          If you’re currently getting by with hand sketches on scraps of paper then the cost of Solidworks or its counterparts would not be justified.

           

          Remember, the final result of any CAD package is to produce manufacturing drawings and to produce an actual part from those drawings. So if several packages do what you need them to do then the least complex package will usually be the best.

           

          Download the trial versions of the programs you wish to try out and do ALL there built-in tutorials then find a project from your real life production and draw it up like you were using the software for real. Use this same project for all the different CAD packages you wish to try out. Pay particular focus to the 2D drawing creation part of the software as this is often overlooked.

          • Re: Learning Solidworks from scratch?
            Wayne Schafer

            Also if possible visit a company in the area where you live that is using solidworks.  Talk with them and you can get a good idea if solidworks is the program for you.

            • Re: Learning Solidworks from scratch?
              Mark Greenwell

              Gareth,

               

              Employ someone with the experience in SolidWorks to create what you require.

               

              If you only need one person to do the draughting / modeling he could also be responsible for file management etc.

               

              It will work out cheaper in the long run.

               

              Thanks

               

              Mark

              • Re: Learning Solidworks from scratch?
                Glenn Schroeder

                Gareth,

                 

                Welcome to the forum.  You got good advice from the posts above, but I wanted to add to it and answer a few of your questions.  You asked about the feasibility of learning SolidWorks without a background in AutoCAD.  I did that.  My background before learning SolidWorks was all in construction with no drafting experience.  Familiarity with manufacturing will be a big help in learning SolidWorks. 

                I do most of the modeling and all of the drafting here for 8 - 10 engineers.  A few of them have learned a little SolidWorks, and it's been my observation that AutoCAD experience actually makes it more difficult for learning SW since it's an entirely different mindset.  As far as becoming proficient with it, I was turning out drawings within a few weeks, but I've been doing it full time new since 2009 and I'm still learning.

                 

                Someone above said that it would be cheaper to hire someone to do it for you.  That may very well be true, but if you would like to learn it and are running your own company I doubt very seriously if it's beyond you.  As far as the time, it's hard to tell from here.  One option may be to take the SolidWorks Essentials class with your local reseller.  You can do that without buying the software and it will give you a feel for how difficult it is to learn and how long it would take to generate drawings for your products.   That's a 3-day course that covers a lot of ground.  I believe some of the re-sellers also offer shorter courses just to show some of the basic capabilities of the software.

                • Re: Learning Solidworks from scratch?
                  John Stoltzfus

                  Good morning Gareth,

                   

                  Without knowing what your business practices and goals are it is difficult to comment other then sharing our experiences.  I started using SW late 1997 and was faced with the same scenario.  SW was easy to learn back then and the big difference is the added features (between 1997 - 2013) and knowing which application they are designed for.  The biggest advantage for us was the ability to create a solid model and then sharing it with the potential customer, back then we were one of the first people in our area to use 3D design software.  This created a little niche for us, because we used it for a sales tool, to show the customer what the special equipment or component looked like.  The customer would say, that looks great or can we modify it here, which allowed the customer to be a part of the design process, which is a huge part in closing the sale.

                   

                  Wayne & Mark gave really great advice, however it's your company

                   

                  Later,

                   

                  John 

                    • Re: Learning Solidworks from scratch?
                      Glenn Schroeder

                      John made some good points also.  Maybe you already know this, but you can save a SolidWorks drawing as an eDrawing.  The software to read these is free and easy to download, and it allows you to send preliminary drawings to a customer to review.  In addition to the drawing he/she can also view and rotate the 3d model.  You can also save a SolidWorks model as a 3d pdf, but the file size is usually a good bit larger than an eDrawing and is often too large to include in an e-mail.  I would really encourage you to contact your local re-seller for more information.

                        • Re: Learning Solidworks from scratch?
                          Gareth Davies

                          Glenn,

                           

                          Thanks for your replies. Without wanting to bore everyone with the details, I didn't fully explain in my first post that I am also looking at ways of expanding my business to incorporate CNC machining as a future service. I have lots of ideas in my head and posting on here was a way of thinking out loud really. I have heard about eDrawings but don't know about the specifics of them. With regards to contacting a re-seller, I have a couple of them wanting to come and give me a demo but I wanted to get a bit of impartial advice first. They do run 1 day appraisal courses here but I missed out on the ones before Christmas as I was fairly busy and a bit undecided. I think there are some more coming up soon so I'll try and get myself booked onto one.

                           

                          Thanks again,

                           

                          Gareth

                            • Re: Learning Solidworks from scratch?
                              Wayne Schafer

                              Gareth, just remember you will be getting the sales pitch in a demo.  Like most demo's everything will look and run great.  The best advise I can give you is to talk to people that have used a number of different CAD softwares so you can get the pros and cons of each.

                              Take notes and weight all the positives and negitives.

                              • Re: Learning Solidworks from scratch?
                                John Stoltzfus

                                Gareth,

                                 

                                That will remain the "Million Dollar Question" - The what if's and the but's - I know what SW can do compared to ACAD Inventor, (my co-worker uses AutoCAD/Inventor and I know that SW is a much better product in what we do here), however you will ultimately need to make that decision.  The more you ask and the more demo's you see the more confused you'll be and once you do make a decision, you will most likely second guess your decisions, my suggestion invest in a 3D modeling program and learn it.  I would personally stay away from a total 2D drawing package, as "I" think they will eventually phase out.

                                 

                                Later,

                                 

                                John

                                • Re: Learning Solidworks from scratch?
                                  Peter Farnham

                                  I got a demo of the three current 3D packages before I chose Solidworks.

                                   

                                  But what I did different, was to have some test models for them to do.

                                  Do not believe a word any of them say without showing you, some of your models made in their software.

                                  If they refuse then kick them out.

                                   

                                  They will say their software can do all you ask, only Solidworks came close on one particular model.

                                  This was very embarrassing for one company at a trade show who gave all the blah! blah! in front of a crowd, but was unable to complete the model in the way they said it could be done.

                                   

                                  I agree with Glenn on the Autocad comment, I can from Autocad 97 and 2000 (which I loved at the time), to Solidworks, now when I "have" to use Autocad for Architectural drawings I hate it, it's seems so "wrong" to draw that way, lol

                                   

                                  A word of advice is before you buy the CNC machinery make a quick call to your chosen cad provider first to make sure it work with their software.

                                   

                                  All that said, 3D cad is a vocation, even if you are quick to learn, it will still take many long hours to learn enough to be completely competent.

                                  As you are running your own business, will you have the time? If you are required to spend a lot of time on the shopfloor, I doubt it.

                                  I tried doing both and it was mad!

                                  • Re: Learning Solidworks from scratch?
                                    Mark Greenwell

                                    Hi Gareth,

                                     

                                    I appreciate that there is a cost, however if you employ an experiaced user you are up and running straight away, he could also train you in its use as you develop you products. as a manager / owner of the company I am sure you have more important things to be dealing with as well.

                                     

                                    On another point I have to agree with those who advised you to get demos. However do not let anyone show you there demo of the software.

                                     

                                    There demos will work perfectly.

                                    In the Department I Manage when we were considering moving from Inventor to SolidWorks we sent both Reps the same examples of the type of work we do and what we wanted to be able to produce .

                                    We then Invited both Reps in on the same day one on the morning one on the afternoon to give a demo of how there software would do our type of work.

                                     

                                    Solidworks Reps produced every thing we asked for and even included some bespoke macros / add in's to help us.

                                     

                                    Inventor Reps wanted us to change our work flow / process to suit there software.

                                     

                                    It was safe to say after this demo we would be moving from Inventor to SolidWorks.

                                     

                                    My point is that if we had based our decision on the demos they give, which would have shown every thinfg working well it may have been a different story.

                                     

                                    Good luck.

                                     

                                    Mark

                              • Re: Learning Solidworks from scratch?
                                Jerry Steiger

                                Gareth,

                                 

                                "Machine guarding, access platforms and support structures" sounds like you would be using Sheet Metal and Weldments quite a bit. That might make it worth your while to go with SolidWorks, rather than Alibre, which I was going to suggest as a lower price option.

                                 

                                Jerry S.

                                • Re: Learning Solidworks from scratch?
                                  Gareth Davies

                                  Many good answers here so thanks to everyone who took time to reply. Maybe it would be a step too far to learn something that is a full time job in itself but I always like to be capable of doing the tasks I set my employees for myself. If I could get the company operating at slightly higher profitability (need an end to this recession first!) then I would definitely consider employing someone to take on CAD duties full time. In the meantime I will go to one of the appraisal days and think up some tasks for what I'd like it to do for me. We'll see how it goes from there. Thanks again for all the replies.