We often talk with AutoCAD users about the benefits of switching to 3D design tools, and there really are loads of valid reasons to transition from legacy 2D CAD. A really simple one to reference is weight – how do you know how much your product or part weighs? In 2D this is a laborious and difficult manual process, but in SOLIDWORKS, it’s a simple case of applying a material and then reviewing the mass properties. Working in 3D allows you to go further with surface area and centre of mass, too.
Weight is an important factor and can influence design decisions, so it can be imperative to keep a close eye on it, monitoring its current value. This means we may need to keep going in and out of the mass properties tool to check the weight.
But there’s a better way to do it!
Let’s take a look at the delicious looking pyramid-shaped chocolate bar above. We want to retain the weight of the bar, but alter the design slightly to make it easier to manufacture. We know what the weight is now (by reviewing the mass properties), but we want to keep an eye on the weight while we modify the design – we can do this by using Sensors.
Within the Feature Manager Design tree (below) is a folder called Sensors. If you don’t see this folder, you will need to right click on the part name and select “Hide/Show Tree Items” shown below and then select the Sensors folder. If you can see it, right click on the Sensors folder to create a new Sensor. There are several categories available, including Mass Properties, Simulation Data, Dimensions, specific Measurements and Costing information.
Depending on the category selected above, different properties will be available for monitoring. We’ve selected “Mass Properties” and can now choose from Mass, Volume, etc. Because we want to monitor the weight – we will select “Mass” The current value is shown and we can also choose to specify an alert.
We want to be alerted if the weight of our chocolate bar drops below 420g – to ensure any design changes we make maintain the original weight of the chocolate bar – no “shrinkflation” here!
Within the folder, the sensor appears and the current weight is shown. Quickly adjusting one of the principal dimensions highlights what happens when the weight drops below the target value.
A warning is flagged on the folder and the top level file – ensuring that you won’t miss that there is a problem that needs to be rectified. You can add a note into a 3D Model and link it to a custom property, such as Mass. Whilst that will show the weight on the screen, it will not display a warning, and could be overlooked.
With our new design, we’ve reduced the weight by too much to be acceptable. This means we’ll need to do some more work to try to maintain the weight.
However, the way we’re monitoring the weight of our part makes life incredibly easy to see if the changes we’re making are for better or worse directly in the Feature Manager Design Tree.
We hope you found that useful!
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