Setting Up for MBD

In previous posts, we walked through a common 2D drawing hole callout case and explained some tips and tricks in SOLIDWORKS MBD. We touched upon how manufacturing specifications can be created and organized intuitively, intelligently and efficiently. Now with these initial hands-on experiences, I hope you are more interested in model-based definition (MBD) in general. Now let’s take a step back and review how to set up for MBD so that you can make the best use of it.

Installing SOLIDWORKS MBD is very straightforward as an integrated part of a standard SOLIDWORKS installation. One heads-up here is that the software requires its own serial number, which can be entered on the installation dialog in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Enter the dedicated SOLIDWORKS MBD serial number on the installation dialog.

One frequently discussed topic is about licensing. First of all, this product provides both standalone and network license options. The standalone license option is simple. It ties one seat of MBD to one seat of SOLIDWORKS.

The network license option allows MBD seats to be shared by a larger group of users. In other words, the MBD licenses can be checked in and out based on the actual needs. It’s worth noting that this licensing mechanism is designed to prevent unintentional usages. MBD functionalities don’t load by default when the software starts. An MBD license is only checked out of the license pool at the first click of an MBD command. We can also reserve a certain number of licenses for a white list of frequent users or a black list of unintended users.

To make network licenses float even more easily, SOLIDWORKS MBD 2016 added a button on the Add-Ins command bar as shown in Figure 2. We can now load and unload MBD network licenses during a session without having to close it.

Figure 2. Load or unload network licenses.

Once the initial setup of installation and licensing is done, this product is ready to use. To make it more accessible, the software comes with its own command ribbon bar. We can show it by right-clicking on a ribbon tab and left-clicking on the MBD line as illustrated in Figure 3. At the bottom of this window, let’s click on an MBD view management tool, 3D Views, so that we can capture and switch between different visual bookmarks quickly. More details on 3D Views can be found in this blog post.

Figure 3. Enable the SOLIDWORKS MBD command bar.

Besides the command bar at the top, another way for quick access is to add several frequently used MBD commands to the shortcut toolbar, such as Location Dimension, Size Dimension, Datum and Geometric Tolerance. This way, anywhere inside the window, we can just press the “S” key on the keyboard and the common commands will show up right at the mouse cursor tip. This shortcut can save lots of mouse travel and is well loved by many users. Figure 4 shows the Customize dialog where we can just drag a command from the left to this shortcut toolbar.

Figure 4. Add frequently used MBD commands to the shortcut toolbar.

Now that several user interface settings are tuned, let’s look deeper into the product functionalities. To begin with, we can create 3D product and manufacturing information (PMI) such as dimensions and tolerances using a tool called DimXpert. As early as 2008, the company released DimXpert to comply with the ASME Y14.41-2003 standard. This 3D PMI tool is specialized to define the manufacturing features of a model, rather than edges, curves or vertices, which are results of manufacturing features. This approach can help improve efficiency.

This blog post shared several examples of DimXpert’s automatic model-based manufacturing applications. It also has built-in support for major geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) standards.

The next step is PMI presentations and organizations. A best practice to prepare more predictable 3D PDF publishing results is to uncheck the “Always display text at the same size” box as seen in Figure 5. We can find this dialog by right-clicking on the Annotations folder in the DimXpert feature tree. Then click on the Details command at the top.

Figure 5. Uncheck the “Always display text at the same size” box.

Here is why it’s recommended to uncheck this box: If this option is on, all the PMI texts stay at the same size, regardless of zooming factors. However, it hides the true text scale, which is usually revealed in published 3D PDF documents in Adobe Reader, which doesn’t have this capability. By unchecking this box, we can see the real text scale right away inside the software and adjust accordingly in the drop-down list above this check box. Then, the 3D PDF in Adobe Reader will show the text scale consistently with the display.

Here is another best practice for use with Adobe Reader. Sometimes, a published 3D PDF may display annotations backwards at a default orientation, which is hard to read as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6. Backward annotations at a default orientation in Adobe Reader.

This is because SOLIDWORKS automatically flips dimension text directions as we rotate a model, so that an annotation string always reads from left to right regardless of the rotation. This is useful, but also hides the actual text directions when a 3D View is captured. These actual directions will be exposed in Adobe Reader. Therefore, in certain views in Adobe Reader, some annotation may appear to be backwards.

To produce more predictable and professional 3D PDF default displays, let’s activate an annotation view to review the true text directions and adjust the display. Be sure to avoid over-rotating from the front to the back. Be sure to keep the model in the same general viewing direction to avoid triggering the automatic flipping before capturing a 3D View. With this setup, the published 3D PDF results will stay away from backward 3D PMI.

After the PMI definition and organization steps, we can customize 3D PDF templates, also called themes, using the built-in editor. To create and organize templates better, let’s create our own template folders in addition to the predefined installation folder. Figure 7 shows the System Options tab and the file locations in order to edit the 3D PDF Themes folders. We need to scroll down to the bottom to find the 3D PDF Themes option.

Figure 7. Edit the 3D PDF template folders.

Once the folders are added, they will become available in the template editor. Then, the templates in these folders can be chosen to guide 3D PDF publishing.

This article shared several quick best practices and reminders to set up SOLIDWORKS for MBD, including 1) dedicated serial numbers for installation, 2) network licensing, 3) PMI display settings to optimize 3D PDF outputs and 4) 3D PDF template folders. Your comments are welcome below. To learn more about how SOLIDWORKS MBD can help you with your MBD implementations, 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 (MBE) and smart manufacturing.  

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