Multi-CAD Simulations Using SOLIDWORKS 3D Interconnect

Oboe Wu | Comments | March 30, 2017

In a previous article, “What’s New in SOLIDWORKS 2017: 3D Interconnect,” I shared my confusing and painful experience with a multi-CAD environment modal frequency simulation 16 years ago. It boiled down to three major problems:

  • CAD formats were not easily readable in the simulation software.
  • 3D export and import lost the data fidelity.
  • The associativity between the original designs and the derivatives were broken.

I wish that no one had to go through that any more, but it looks like I wasn’t alone in my experience. Here is one recent comment on the SOLIDWORKS forum, “I have to sometime[s]import lots of 3D CAD data obtained from other software. That is a mess when lots of surfaces are being created. This adds up the issues when updated files are received and you need to redo the steps. There should be an automatic update of the mesh results.”

Well, let’s see how SOLIDWORKS 2017 3D Interconnect can help here. You may have watched the official 3D Interconnect demo, but in this article, we will look beyond that and explore an extended use case of multi-CAD simulation, which is empowered by new enhancements in the 2017 version that solve the above three problems.

First of all, the official release of 3D Interconnect came with the SOLIDWORKS 2017 Service Pack 2. Prior to Service Pack 2, it had been in beta testing since summer 2016 to validate against a wide variety of manufacturers’ practical datasets.

Next, please follow these steps to enable 3D Interconnect if it has not been enabled yet on your computer.It should be on by default in Service Pack 2. To enable the software:

  1. Open the System Options dialog as shown in Figure 1.
  2. Select the Import category from the Systems Options.
  3. Select the Inventor/Catia V5/Creo/NX/Solid Edge from the File Format drop-down list.
  4. Check the “Enable 3D Interconnect” box.
  5. Note the supported formats and versions at the lower half of the dialog.

image002Figure 1. Enable 3D Interconnect.

Now let’s play with a pulley model built in Creo. On the Open dialog as shown in Figure 2, you may notice the highlighted ProE/Creo Part format , along with all the other major proprietary formats.

image003Figure 2. All the major proprietary CAD formats are supported on the Open dialog.

You can just open the primary_output_pulley.prt.1 Creo file in a way that is similar to opening a SOLIDWORKS file. Figure 3 shows the pulley model inside SOLIDWORKS. Please note that there is no feature imported onto the feature tree. The whole part is just a solid body along with three reference planes.

Here is a quick way to explain the workings of 3D Interconnect. You just reference and use the non-SOLIDWORKS models inside SOLIDWORKS without having to worry about the messy imported features. You can update the references when the source designs are updated. You work in SOLIDWORKS will be preserved.

image004Figure 3. A Creo model opened inside SOLIDWORKS with no imported features.

It’s time to conduct a static analysis using SOLIDWORKS Simulation, which is built inside the native SOLIDWORKS environment, so that you don’t need a separate application or have to deal with the model imports and exports. As shown in Figure 4, I assigned the material, fixtures and loads to the Creo reference, then ran a study and obtained the simulation results. Using this method, I did not notice any difference from the workflow with native SOLIDWORKS models.

image005Figure 4. A displacement result with the setup of the material, fixtures and loads.

As mentioned in the comment at the beginning of this article, what if there is an update to the Creo design? Let’s find out. Figure 5 highlights a revision, primary_output_pulley.prt.2. By the way, the extension of .1, .2 and so on is Creo’s unique way of indicating revision numbers.

image006Figure 5. A Creo revision prt.2 file was loaded to the folder.

Once inside SOLIDWORKS, please notice that the reference icon on the feature tree has been automatically updated with a cycling sign as shown in Figure 6. It tells you that the source Creo design has changed.

image007Figure 6. The reference tree node icon was updated to indicate that a new design is available.

Now you can simply right-click on the tree node and select “Update Model” as shown in Figure 7.

image008Figure 7. An update to the model reference reflects the latest design.

Figure 8 shows the updated model prt.2 at the tree node. There are two warning signs against the mesh and results, which are as expected since the geometry has changed. However, most importantly, please notice that my previous work, the setup (material, fixtures and loads) as shown in Figure 4, is still respected and reused, which can be a big time-saver.

By the way, you may need to switch to the Model Tab and then switch back to the Static 1 Tab at the bottom of the window to refresh the graphics to the new design. Otherwise, the Static 1 analysis window may still be occupied by the graphical simulation plot as shown in Figure 4. I hope the software can automatically update the model on the Static 1 Tab.

image009Figure 8. An updated model reflecting the preexisting simulation setup.

Now all you need to do is just to run the study again. There you have the updated mesh and simulation results as shown in Figure 9, which does not require any rework to the preexisting setup.

image001Figure 9. Updated mesh and simulation results without any rework on the preexisting setup.

I hope that this simulation use case empowered by 3D Interconnect is helpful to you. Please feel free to leave your comments or questions in the comments area. Also, you may join the online forum for more in-depth discussions with other users. To learn more about how SOLIDWORKS 3D Interconnect can help you with your multi-CAD environment, please visit its product page.

About the Author


Oboe Wu is a SOLIDWORKS product manager with 20 years of experience in engineering and software. He is an advocate of model-based enterprise and smart manufacturing.

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