A popular feature in SOLIDWORKS is configurations, which allow users to create multiple variations of a part or assembly model within a single document. The configurable parameters range widely from colors, visibilities and materials, to sizes, structures and individual features.Therefore, configurations provide a handy and practical representation of a family of similar, but different products or components in actual production. Because all the variations are stored in one SOLIDWORKS document, a designer doesn’t have to worry about multiple files, convoluted folder structures, fragmented file sharing, or complicated data management implications.
This simple yet powerful feature has been included in SOLIDWORKS MBD. In one 3D PDF document, you can include multiple configurations that have been captured in multiple 3D Views. To my knowledge, SOLIDWORKS MBD 3D PDF is the only 3D PDF that can currently include multiple configurations in one document. Figure 1 shows an example of two configurations, V1 and V2, as captured in two 3D Views of a gear plate family. The one on display in the main viewport is V1 as activated by the 3D View thumbnail on the left side of the figure.
However, besides the main viewport model update that is provided when switching 3D Views, a frequent request is to update the configuration-specific properties accordingly,such as the Approval Date, Mass, Part Number and so on, as asked by Joel Seerey on the SOLIDWORKS MBD forum.
It’s encouraging to see that SOLIDWORKS MBD 2018 supported this configuration-specific property value update. Figure 2 shows an automatically updated PDF page from the image shown in Figure 1 after the active configuration has been switched to V2.
Please note that the viewport is displaying a slightly different design of the gear plate. More importantly, the properties in the title block at the upper right corner of the figure, such as the Approval Date and Mass, updated automatically. Other properties didn’t change because they were not defined as associative to configurations in the 3D PDF Template Editor.
Going one step further, you can even lay out multiple viewports on one 3D PDF sheet to compare different configurations side by side. Oftentimes, the differences between variations are not immediately obvious visually, so a side-by-side comparison provides an easier way to pinpoint the changes. Figure 3 shows an example of this kind of comparison. Please note that the two housing designs are of different heights, and also the properties below each viewport are conveying associative and updated values per the active displays. These slight variations in both the models and properties would have been very difficult to identify, or could have easily been missed, if they were published into separate documents or even on different sheets.
To check out the automatic configuration update, you can download a sample 3D PDF and play with it in Adobe Reader.
Then, how can you achieve the above results using SOLIDWORKS MBD 2018?It’s actually quite simple. Figure 4 demonstrates the key steps in just a few seconds.
Now let’s walk through the key steps. First, you just need to indicate a custom property as Configuration Specific and select its Linked Viewport in the 3D PDF Template Editor as shown in Figure 5. The Linked Viewport can be the primary viewport by default if no special selection is made, or it can be any independent viewport on the same sheet.
Next, on the 3D PDF publishing dialog, map the template properties with the model’s custom properties as shown in Figure 6.
You may notice that the Evaluated value for a configuration-specific property shows up as Varies in light blue text, because the actual value will change according to the active configuration. If your template property names match the model custom property names exactly, the mapping is done automatically by the software as shown in the Approval Date case on the bottom line in the Figure 6. If the names don’t match, you can still select them from a drop-down list.
Speaking of matching the property names, one thing I would love the Template Editor to be able do in the future is to fetch the model’s custom properties and provide a list for me to select from, rather than requiring me to manually type them in, as I do today. Manual entries always run the risk of typos or mismatches being created, especially since these names have been established in the models already. I guess from the software coding perspective, the disconnect occurs because the Template Editor operates as a separate application that doesn’t necessarily know the model custom properties in the SOLIDWORKS application. I hope this area can be improved in future releases to improve the user experience.
Getting back to the topic of 3D PDF publishing, you are pretty much done now. Just finish the publishing settings and let the software export your 3D PDF. Now, you can verify the property value updates upon switching 3D Views on a sheet as illustrated in Figure 4. Again, a cool feature is that you can link a configuration-specific property to an independent viewport. You may also choose to compare multiple configurations in multiple viewports on one sheet and still present the relevant and up-to-date properties to each viewport.
By the way, you can refer to these two videos on the detailed steps of the 3D PDF template customization and 3D PDF publishing. They illustrate additional instructions just in case you are not yet familiar with SOLIDWORKS MBD.
Let’s recap quickly. SOLIDWORKS MBD provides the unique capability to accommodate multiple configurations in a single 3D PDF document. Furthermore, in the latest 2018 release, its published 3D PDF now supports the automatic updating of configuration-specific properties upon switching 3D Views, which ensures up-to-date information and avoids having misleading property values.
If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments area below. To learn more about how SOLIDWORKS MBD can help implement your model-based enterprises, 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.