Designers seem to accumulate an abundance of parts – a trend of the trade. When these are parts you can hold in your hand, the situation appears differently. Just like a digital design project, real projects have parts, tools and assemblies. During the course of a team tearing down an engine, for example, these parts and tools may end up scattered throughout the shop or garage without a trace of who, what when and where.
Above: SOLIDWORKS Small Block Model Engine
Above: Manufactured Small Block Engine
The local disk on the PC is similar to this garage, except digital parts can be erased and overwritten. Without some sort of storage system, imagine group projects taking place in the garage. Designers and engineers start to accumulate a lot of time spent handling these digital parts in addition to designing them.
The storage system for design files that works with SOLIDWORKS utilizes a Microsoft SQL database and works with your disk drive or server. It’s like an assistant who autonomously organizes, controls, backs up, and finds anything you and your colleagues create in SOLIDWORKS as well as other programs too. SOLIDWORKS EPDM (Enterprise Product Data Management) can, in a matter of split seconds, find the file you stored whether it was yesterday or a year from yesterday. Just like a team working in a shop on a physical prototype or assembly, digital part files need a system of management and quality too. If not, material handling time of the files rise just like looking for tools in the garage after a recent project.
The process for this system starts in the same way someone would create a file in SOLIDWORKS and store it on a drive. But with EPDM, it maintains information like who worked on what, when revisions were made and how workflow states determine the processes relevant to design. It’s this added level of intelligence which allows for quality control in workflow and also automates release of documents to the right team of people at the right time….But hold that thought.
Searching through this batch of files using the regular windows search doesn’t scratch the surface of what EPDM can offer a designer when their working on a model engine. For instance, if you come to a point where a standard part is needed, there’s specific tools designed to help you find it. Regardless of whether the full part number is known, finding the right part is as easy as remembering when it was last used or on what assembly. Meta properties contained in the design file telling who last modified the part, when they did and what state the part is in are all automatically populated. These searches can be saved once they are setup and be made a favorite to use again in the future.
Because this search functionality is built into Windows, it works in parallel to regular computer use. You can right click to see options or view a preview of the file before you drag it into the design window for use.
“The SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM search provides me with as much search criteria required to find the exact file for the job. Without this search tool I’m forced to look in every single toolbox drawer in the garage until I find what I’m looking for; not fun. What I like most about the EPDM search is the amount of time it saves me to quickly find the correct part for the job using meta data such as Part Number, Material, Finish, Size...etc with the results in just seconds.” – Pete Riegler, Alignex Senior Consulting Engineer
For all those who’ve had to work in someone else’s shop, you may have felt the feeling of frustration when you can’t find something. Whether the parts in the project are physical or digital, a work shop or a hard drive, they are each crucial to the process of the design.
Written by Mike Strand
Mike Strand works with both the Marketing and the Application Engineering team at Alignex, Inc. During the week he attends engineering events, edits YouTube videos and writes posts for the Alignex Blog. On the weekend you’ll find Mike driving ATVs, snowmobiling and building tools like a cantilever lifting hoist.