Automated Product and Sales Configuration in SOLIDWORKS
One of the greatest advantages of parametric design is its ability to eliminate repetitive tasks by leveraging formulas to create product configurations. Building out base models that are loaded with parameters for every dimension, hole placement and radii degree can be daunting, but once the hard work has been put in, parametric models can make product design incredibly simple.
Well, maybe it’s not that simple.
In the end, if a designer wants to change a variable on a model, he or she has to negotiate through all of the input boxes in his or her models, punch in the x-factor that drives each parameter and move along to the next step. It’s still a bit time consuming, and if you’re not the person who originally created the model, or you don’t have good instructions on which parameters need to be reconfigured, you might even miss a critical variable.
Assembly Automation in a Snap
The DriveWorks Pro workflow.
Put simply, DriveWorks Pro is a set of tools that allows engineers to build and manage their own design automation and sales configuration technology. Using four different modules (DriveWorks Pro Administrator, DriveWorks Pro User, DriveWorks Pro Live and DriveWorks Pro Autopilot) DriveWorks Pro has built a simple solution for automating configurations. So, how does it work? Let’s take a look.
To begin with, users will kick off the automation process with DriveWorks Pro Administrator. With Administrator, engineers can design input forms, create rule sets that will define product configurations and control access to who can edit those rules. Essentially, DriveWorks Pro Administrator creates the infrastructure for every other DriveWorks Pro module and configuration.
A screen capture of DriveWorks Administrator.
While DriveWorks Pro Administrator gives a single user the ability to build configuration architectures, DriveWorks Pro User expands the scope of who can manipulate those configurations. With DriveWorks Pro User, anyone working in a firm can grab a model preconfigured with DriveWorks Pro Administrator and begin building out a customized product. Although users other than the administrator have access to configurable models, DriveWorks Pro User
does not grant access to rules, so there’s no worry that any of the hard work done in DriveWorks Pro Administrator will be undone by a clumsy member of a team.
With a configuration infrastructure in place and a means for multiple engineers to work with those configurations, the next module in the DriveWorks Pro suite helps deploy a company’s hard work across the web. Using DriveWorks Pro Live, teams can build online sales and product configurators that are easy to use and nice to look at … but more on that later.
Finally, to make sure that all configurations are processed in due time, DriveWorks Pro has built the equivalent of a render farm for product configuration. With DriveWorks Pro Autopilot, configurations don’t have to wait for a seat of SOLIDWORKS to open up before they can be built. With Autopilot, any configuration job that’s been added to the DriveWorks Pro queue can be processed along with all of its relevant documents.
And that last point brings me to something else.
DriveWorks Pro’s automated modeling abilities are impressive, but its abilities to automatically create manufacturing documents from the models it has churned out can also be valuable to companies.
For most complex assemblies, creating drawings represents a necessity, and it is an extremely time-consuming process. Because DriveWorks Pro can do all of this work on its own, valuable man-hours can be saved and bottom lines can be lowered—and that’s just good business.
Automation is a Boon for Sales
Aside from being a time saver for the design department, DriveWorks Pro can also be of some help to the sales team, especially if DriveWorks Pro Live is deployed.
With Live’s ability to churn out product configurations in a matter of seconds, customers can get real time previews of the products that they’re considering. What’s more, they have the freedom to see as many different versions of a company’s product as they’d like.
A screenshot of a DriveWorks Pro Live app.
Personally, when I sat down to play with the DriveWorks Pro Live tool, the benefit that stood out to me was its ability to make an operation seem more professional. As a customer looking at business from the outside, if I were presented with a tool based on DriveWorks Pro, I’d think that the company in front me was run like a well-oiled machine. Because of that, I’d be inclined to throw some of my business its way. That’s not a bad ace to have up your sleeve.
For engineering firms that rely on parameterized assemblies and plug and play parts as their bread and butter, applications like DriveWorks Pro are a no brainer if maximum efficiency is what’s desired. However, for firms that rely on more individualized designs, DriveWorks Pro might not make that much sense.
In the end, DriveWorks Pro delivers a simple solution to a vexing problem: how to make parametric models easier to configure. That, in and of itself, is pretty amazing.
About the Author
Kyle Maxey is a mechanical designer and writer from Austin, TX. He earned a degree in Film at Bard College and has since studied Mechanical and Architectural drafting at Austin Community College. As a designer Kyle has had vast experience with CAD software and rapid prototyping. One day he dreams of becoming a toy designer.