What’s New in the October Release of Sell: Publish Configurations Automatically

To assist manufacturers’ reuse CAD models for sales and marketing activities, SOLIDWORKS Sell publishes, organizes and presents online 3D-configurable products. As explained in a prior post “How Can CAD Models Be Repurposed for Online Sales and Marketing?”, the first step is to publish 3D-CAD models with an add-in, SOLIDWORKS Sell Publisher. Once the data goes online, you can use the Online Editor to design its web presence. SOLIDWORKS Sell provides the software as a service (SaaS) and follows a fast and agile development process to add new capabilities every month.

The online portal is upgraded systematically by the SOLIDWORKS Sell team, similar to a Gmail page upgraded by Google regularly, so you don’t need to maintain it. On the other hand, it’s highly recommended to upgrade the Publisher add-in installed on your local computer to the latest version. You can find the version information on the online portal as shown in Figure 1. The versions are captured as of the writing of this article, so what you see may be different from this image. The instructions on this page can walk you through the upgrade steps. This post will focus on the latest Publisher 2.2.3273 released Oct. 10, 2018.

Figure 1. SOLIDWORKS Sell Publisher and Online Editor versions.

A common SOLIDWORKS design practice is to store product size and shape variations in one file, such as a series of similar but different office desks or factory valves. These variations are a perfect geometric source for online 3D-configurable products. However, it can be tedious, labor intensive, slow and error-prone to publish these configurations manually.

For example, Figure 2 shows a simple office desk design in which the desktop part alone contains 25 configurations. In other words, it provides five sizes, and each size includes five shapes to cater to various consumer functional and esthetic needs.

Figure 2. 25 Configurations of a desktop part in a simple office desk design.

To manually publish them, a user has to activate a configuration, launch the Publisher command, select the target geometries into corresponding groups, click the green check mark and wait for the models to go online. Then, he or she has to repeat these steps again and again to cover all the configurations of this desktop. By the way, please don’t forget other parts such as the left, back and right panels. Each of them also includes 25 configurations. Individually, these add up to 100 part-level permutations as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Desk Geometric Variations at The Part Level

Permutations Desktop Left Panel Back Panel Right Panel Sum
Size variations 5 5 5 5
Shape variations 5 5 5 5
Multiplication 25 25 25 25 100

Selecting several parts to publish together in one command can help reduce the total number of publishing command from 100 to 25. Still, this multiple-step procedure has to be repeated at least 25 times on this simple desk example. I spent several hours going through this process myself a while ago and absolutely hated it. Due to the similarities between configurations and the boring repetitiveness, I lost track of what had been covered and what had notyet for several times. I wasted at least 30 minutes in my own confusion, not to mention the agony of waiting to activate every configuration and publish each one online. Despite all of the above effort and patience, when the number of configurations of a part reaches hundreds or thousands, manual publishing becomes prohibitively impractical.

Therefore, it is a relief to see that the latest Publisher release added the capability to publish configurations automatically. Figure 3 shows the new interface. A user can now check the box “Publish configurations” as pointed by the green arrow. The software will iterate through all configurations under a selected part or sub-assembly and publish them in one command.

Figure 3. Publish all configurations of a desktop automatically.

Figure 4 shows the command progressing through multiple configurations and groups. Since the iterations are executed in one command, it doesn’t need my attention or intervention in between. I can simply kick it off, let it run and go away to have a cup of tea. Actually, it ran faster than my tea time, taking only about 15 seconds rather than minutes or hours.

Figure 4. The Automatic Configuration Publishing Command is running through multiple iterations.

It’s time to check the online results as shown in Figure 5. Please note that all the sizes and shapes of the desktop have been uploaded online, saving me hours of time.

Figure 5. The online results of automatically published desktop configurations.

What about other groups such as the left, back and right panels? Please take a look at Figure 6.

Figure 6. The online results of automatically published back panel configurations.

There are only five shapes within one size. Why are all other sizes missing? Let’s go back to the SOLIDWORKS model as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7. Five configurations of the back panel at one size.

Aha, there are only five shape configurations at one size at this moment. Other back panel sizes are driven by the desktop sizes in SOLIDWORKS, so they are not active. It looks like this automation hasn’t taken account the interactions between components yet. It’s only processing the configurations directly listed under each component. For now, to add all the missing side panel sizes, I can activate a different desktop size that will lead to the matching size of all three side panels. Then, I can use this automation again to process all the shapes within this active size. Figure 8 shows an example at the smallest size.

Figure 8. Automatically add all shapes of all panels at the smallest desk size.

Ideally, it would be able to cover all other sizes of the side panels automatically at a command runtime driven by the desktop sizes beyond what’s statically listed under each component. Although not a 100 percent complete automation, it can still save hours of time per online template in this desk design because it cuts the number of publishing rounds from 25 down to 5. It’s worth noting that the current level of automation can be extremely empowering if there are a large amount of configurations directly under each component, such as dozens, hundreds or even thousands of variations across multiple components. I hope the software keeps improving and will process the interactions between components in future releases.

Here are several concluding comments:

  1. This automation only works with native SOLIDWORKS configurations.
  2. It’s disabled if you select the “Merge into single part” publishing option because merging geometric variations into one part doesn’t make business sense.
  3. Once the parts are online, it may be a good idea to give them descriptive names, so that they are easily recognizable to be organized into logical groups as needed.

I hope this new release update is helpful. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments area below. To learn more about how SOLIDWORKS Sell can help promote your ideas and products, 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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