How 3D Interconnect Changes Importing

Imagine a world where different CAD systems worked together — a world where it didn’t matter what file type someone sent you, because you could simply work with it in SOLIDWORKS. Welcome to 2021, where you don’t have to imagine anymore. The future is now!

Well, actually the future was a few years ago.

This new reality started a few years back in SOLIDWORKS 2017, with the addition of 3D Interconnect. Allowing for a bit of hyperbole, the CAD world turned upside down with this new workflow that completely bypasses the translation process, offering a new way to work with non-native files.

In this article, we’ll discuss why 3D Interconnect is the best addition to the SOLIDWORKS toolset.

What is 3D Interconnect?

In short, 3D Interconnect offers a new way to collaborate in a multi-CAD environment—simply open the files and use them in your designs. No need to import the files.

It’s not just semantics, it’s revolutionary. Importing a file creates copies and breaks links, and with that, breaks any essence of true collaboration. Opening a file keeps the file intact and retains the possibility of collaboration.

How Do I Use 3D Interconnect?

3D Interconnect works behind the scenes, transparent to the user. All it takes to use this functionality is a shift in your mindset. What that means is that when someone sends you something other than a SOLIDWORKS file, just pretend it is a read-only SOLIDWORKS file. Simply open the file or add it to your assemblies just like you would a native SOLIDWORKS file. With this new mindset, you’re armed and ready to take advantage of 3D Interconnect.

In my opinion, the addition of 3D Interconnect is truly epic; however, the changes to the user experience are so miniscule that they can be easy to miss. For example, when adding components to a SOLIDWORKS assembly, you’ll see additional file types added to the list, indicating the various non-native file types that are supported. Just add these non-native files to your design and get to work—it’s that simple.

What’s the Catch?

At this point, you’re saying to yourself, “Wow! That’s amazing and so easy! But what’s the catch?” The functionality of 3D Interconnect allows you to use non-native SOLIDWORKS files in your designs, but it stops short of including an editable feature structure. Although, you can edit the part directly in SOLIDWOKS to add SOLIDWORKS features to the non-native part. All the information is linked to the original file, but it’s a one-way link. When leveraging 3D Interconnect, the file can be updated to reflect any changes made in the base part from the other CAD system. SOLIDWORKS can even recognize when a file is out of date. As you can see, this is a real game changer.

How Do I Get Started?

To get started with 3D Interconnect, make sure the functionality is turned on in your system options. It is turned on by default, but just in case it got turned off here’s how you turn it on. You can do so from your system options. Go to the import options, and check the box to enable 3D Interconnect.

Let’s See it in Action!

3D interconnect offers different workflows to seamlessly and directly incorporate CAD data from multiple sources. Again, all this without breaking the link to original non-native files. Let’s showcase a few examples of how you can leverage 3D Interconnect in your design workflow. We’ll walk through the following three scenarios.

1. Assembly Reference

With 3D Interconnect, it’s easy to use non-native SOLIDWORKS files directly in your assemblies. This is great for working with parts from a supplier, vendor or any other person outside of your team who might not be using SOLIDWORKS. They can use whatever CAD system they want, and you can use the original file directly in your designs. In this scenario, the battery pack is designed using Autodesk Inventor, and the native Inventor file is used in the design. When or if it gets changed, the file can be updated to reflect any changes—in this case, a larger case.

When you open a non-native CAD file in SOLIDWORKS you’ll notice a symbol on the part file in Feature Tree. The green arrow on top of the yellow SOLIDWORKS Part symbol indicates that the part came from a different application.

In this example, the assembly originally came from Inventor.  It’s a battery pack that can be directly inserted into the SOLIDWORKS Assembly—simply click Insert Components, and add it just like any other SOLIDWORKS file.

This part can be mated in place and used for the design just like any other SOLIDWORKS component.

The best part is that 3D Interconnect is intelligent, meaning it can recognize when a part needs to be updated. In this example, the battery housing has been changed to account for different sized power units. SOLIDWORKS will recognize these changes and bring it to your attention with the addition of a refresh symbol on top of the geometry. This is your sign that the geometry needs to be updated. A simple right click and update is all it takes for the geometry to be automatically updated. If you blink, you’ll miss it. There’s no holding your breath hoping to find only a few errors or broken mates, and everything is maintained. All the mates stay in place because the face IDs and references don’t change. It’s updated geometry, not a new part; it’s opening the part, not importing the file.

It’s next level collaboration and it is the future.

2. Derived Part

Using 3D interconnect in this scenario enables you to start with a base part and then add geometry to the part. In this example, we start with opening a Creo file and adding some cut outs. Just like above, it begins by just opening the model. For all intents and purposes, you can just remove that word “import” from your vocabulary. Simply open the Creo file and get right to work adding four holes to the pulley.

If or when the geometry is changed, 3D Interconnect will understand the updated geometry. When working with PTC Creo files, 3D Interconnect takes it a step further because it understands Creo versioned files. No more reimporting, repairing and fixing broken references. This is next level collaboration that doesn’t skip a beat.

3. Break Link

This one is self-explanatory and incredibly straight forward. Open the part and right click to break the link and create a new file. In this case, we are working with a supplier’s part from SolidEdge. For whatever reason, we will not be able to have the supplier make edits to the part, so we will break the link to create a copy of the file. Using SOLIDWORKS’ powerful feature recognition, we are able to automatically recognize the holes and immediately make changes.

This is the world we live in now: a world without the need for importing geometry. A world where next level collaboration is old news. Since SOLIDWORKS 2017 with the addition of 3D Interconnect, you can skip the import step entirely and open files and get to work. Geometry changes are recognized and all it takes is for your mouse to detour away from your design to just right click to update the geometry.

Stop imaging a world where CAD systems work together and live it with 3D Interconnect. All it takes for this next level collaboration to be your reality is to stop importing files and start opening them – stop being 3D Disconnected and start being 3D Interconnected.

To learn more, check out the whitepaper How to Reduce Non-Value Added Work in Engineering.

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