As today’s manufacturing shifts toward model-centric processes, 3D models with integrated annotations are playing an increasingly important role. They drive multiple aspects of the production process, such as machining steps, inspections, process planning, packaging and supply chain collaborations. Therefore, it is vital to build high-quality models and establish trust in 3D models.
A previous model-based definition (MBD) implementation blog post briefly touched upon model verifications and validations. In this article, let’s explore a tool included in every seat of SOLIDWORKS, Design Checker. This tool helps to automatically check issues against standard and requirement compliances. One common misunderstanding is that Design Checker covers only 2D drawings. Actually, it analyzes a wide range of requirements for both 2D drawings and 3D models. Table 1 summarizes the tool’s coverage through SOLIDWORKS 2017 for your reference. We will focus on the 3D model checking in this article.
Table 1. Design Checker coverage
As you may have noticed, you can build custom checks using the open application program interface (API) shown in Figure 1. The open architecture allows you to expand the verifications beyond the current 50 or so requirements that are listed in Table 1. For example, Figure 1 shows two additional custom macros to verify Buried Features and Up-to-Date Bill of Material (BOM).
To access the Design Checker tool, you may first need to load it on the Add-Ins Manager as shown in Figure 2. Then you can access it on the Evaluate command bar as shown in Figure 3.
Now let’s walk through a specific use case to understand how Design Checker works. Figure 4 presents a base plate model attached with annotations. Typical checks could include making sure that the dimensions match the actual geometries, that the part material is correct, and that the annotation styles comply with certain standard requirements.
The first step is to build these requirements into a standard guideline in a separate application as shown in Figure 5. The user interface is straightforward. You just press the appropriate requirement button that appears on the left that you want to check, and then specify several details, such as the criticality (Critical, High, Medium and Low).
The criticality level can help you focus on the most important issues when there may be hundreds of items to review. For instance, mismatched dimensions are typically critical because manually altered dimension texts may not reflect the true model sizes. Therefore, mistaken dimension readings could impact production decisions such as machining procedures, assemblies, tooling design or packaging.
The correct material assignment could be a high priority as well if your process is driven by the SOLIDWORKS model material selection, whereas something like the annotation font may just be an aesthetic issue that would be a low criticality. However, there are indeed certain standards such as the GB standards in China that require long Fang Song font for mechanical engineering documentations. The Design Checker tool is flexible enough for you to choose the appropriate criticality level per your practices.
One heads-up here is that there is another button called “Overridden Dimension” on the left. I found that it worked only for 2D drawings in which the “Override Value” box was checked. However, in the case of the 3D model featured in this article, we are selecting the option of “Replaced Original Text.”
In the same way, you can include other requirements such as the material and the annotation font as summarized in Figure 6. Now, please save this standard guideline file to your local folder for the next step. Its file extension is swstd, which is an abbreviation for SOLIDWORKS standards.
Next, let’s close the separate application, and go back to the SOLIDWORKS model to run the verifications following the saved guideline. Figure 7 illustrates the three clicks in the SOLIDWORKS window:
- Press the button to Check the Active Document
- Load the guideline file saved previously
- Click “Check Document”
At the step 2, you may notice other standard guidelines such as din and jis. These are predefined requirements according to the German national standards, Deutsches Institut fur Normung (DIN), and Japanese national standards, Japan Industrial Standards (JIS). You may follow these out-of-the-box standards or customize your own checking as described previously. You can also run multiple standards at the same time. In this case, we will just run the customized one.
The result is shown in Figure 8. The high criticality issues are organized at the top of the figure, which are the replaced original texts in this base plate model.
Let’s review each category. There are several reference dimensions that can be used to identify the overall sizes of this base plate quickly. However, thanks to the automatic checks, several altered dimension texts are detected and highlighted in the magnifying glass as shown in Figure 9.
Upon reviewing the reference dimension properties, you can see the text was manually entered as “800” as shown in Figure 10.
You can correct this by entering<DIM> to call out the correct geometry size as shown in Figure 11. You can also delete the in correct dimensions and create new ones. It would be great if the software could help correct this issue by automatically restoring the semantic pointer <DIM> in future releases. That way, end users won’t need to manually type in anything, which can always potentially introduce errors.
I hope this quick example shown in the article can help you get started with Design Checker. One key takeaway is that the tool can help you ensure that standards and requirements are met in not only 2D drawings, but also in 3D models.
Please feel free to leave your comments or questions in the comments area. To learn more about how SOLIDWORKS Design Checker can help build trust into your models, please visit its product page.
About the Author
Oboe Wu is a SOLIDWORKS MBD product manager with 20 years of experience in engineering and software. He is an advocate of model-based enterprise and smart manufacturing.