SolidWorks – The Right Tool for Creating Detailed Drawings

December 2, 2013 | Comments

Perhaps you’ve learned that SolidWorks software is capable of modeling complex parts and assemblies. And perhaps you’ve noticed that SolidWorks allows you to create models that are amazing in their complexity and size. But as a result of this 3D prowess, drawing capabilities in SolidWorks have become the unsung hero, relied on day after day and project after project to produce results quickly and easily

These detailed drawings are still the deliverable for many designers, engineers, and draftsmen for whom the ability to automatically create and maintain production-level drawings can be more important than the state-of-the-art 3D modeling capabilities. More important than the ability to create a complex lofted surface is the fact that once you have modeled your design, multiview drawings are just mouse clicks away, BOMs can be created automatically from the assembly structure, and alternate position views are generated with a simple drag of the mouse. And these are just some of the tools available when you first create the drawing.

Once you start making the inevitable design changes, you won’t have to locate every drawing associated with your design (and there could be many), and update each by hand like you would in a 2D system. With SolidWorks, when you change the model, every view in every drawing updates automatically.

With all these innovative 2D drawing capabilities available to them, SolidWorks users have been able to do some amazing things. Here are examples from three companies.

Clutchless gear box

Product Design Services cranks out some 1,500 drawings a year for its customers in the consumer, medical, and aerospace industries. Recently, this Aurora, Illinois-based company was hired to design a two-speed clutchless gear box for a floor buffing machine. The client gave instructions on what the gears should look like and where to place them, and Product Design Services took it from there.




Luckily, engineers at Product Design Services use SolidWorks, which made drawing creation a snap. Once they created solid models and assemblies for parts, tooling, and prototyping, SolidWorks made the rest easy, even though the product itself was complicated.

“It was a unique product in that some components had to go through several stages of manufacturing,” said President of Product Design Services Gene DiMonte. As a result, each of the five gears in the gear box had three or four fabrication drawings associated with it: a forging drawing, a rough machining drawing, a hardening drawing, and sometimes even a fourth drawing for the machinist who would ground surfaces.

On top of that, Product Design Services had to produce assembly drawings with bills of materials and shelling cross sections of the assembly. When all was said and done, the final package consisted of nearly 50 drawings.

The SolidWorks approach automates and simplifies the creation of all the documentation required for your design and adds the glue that makes it all stick together. Whether the design changes are as small as adding a fillet to round off a sharp edge, or as large as switching to a larger capacity motor, all 50 drawings would update automatically to show the design change. Imagine trying to manage that in 2D!

DiMonte used to do this kind of work in AutoCAD, but no more. “People say, ‘Would you go back?’ and I tell them no,” says DiMonte. “In AutoCAD, you’ll spend 60% of your time drawing the edges of a part, and SolidWorks does that automatically. After you create a drawing from a 3D model, in SolidWorks, you’re entering annotations and dimensions, instead of fooling around with drafting the actual view.”

“Using SolidWorks, we have reduced product development times by 60 to 70% over traditional 2D drafting/CAD,” according to DiMonte. “As a matter of fact, if a client asks us to complete a program in another 3D CAD system, we quote the job accordingly and then offer a 30% discount if they would allow us to use SolidWorks instead. We explain that SolidWorks is easier and more intuitive to use. A brief demonstration of SolidWorks is all that’s usually needed to convince someone SolidWorks is the superior tool.”

Giant Erector Set

As part of a cost reduction effort, 3D Systems recently decided to redesign the frame for its massive Vanguard SLS rapid-prototyping machine, a towering 7-foot high, 8-foot wide, 4-foot deep piece of manufacturing equipment.

“Basically, it’s an Erector Set that we build our platform on,” said 3D Systems Configuration Manager Richard Doyle of the frame. The Valencia, California-based company wanted to switch from a welded steel to a stronger and less-costly steel tube frame, which would require extensive redesign. “It actually took the frame part of our product from 12 drawings to 65,” said Doyle.



Most of those were 2D fabrication drawings along with a dozen or so assembly drawings. “It’s a simple frame, but the dimensional tolerances are complex,” explained Doyle. “We position a laser beam on a bed of powder and reproduce objects from computer files. If we can’t position that beam correctly, we can’t make those objects, and the frame is the base for the whole machine.”

Thanks to the SolidWorks Auto View feature, they were able to make their drawing views quickly. Once the drawings were complete, they relied on SolidWorks to set up tight geometric tolerancing. Had they been working with a 2D package, creating all those projected views would have been a “nightmare,” according to Doyle.

3D Systems outsourced the design portion of the project. To save time and money, they communicated with the supplier using eDrawings – compact, self-viewable files that make it easy to share 2D and 3D design concepts via email. “During the design we could send eDrawings back and forth and collaborate in real time via email without having to go to the supplier, which is a good three-and-a-half-hour drive,” said Doyle.

3D Systems relied on eDrawings, like the one pictured at right, to communicate with its design vendor. Click here, to download an actual eDrawings.

“I call it revolutionary, because it is,” says Doerfer Engineering’s Stan Sweet about eDrawings. “You don’t have as many misunderstandings of what the part is.”

Mars spacecraft

Jerry Eden, Mechanical Designer at Jet Propulsion Laboratories, has been using SolidWorks 2D capabilities to complete drawings for his portion of an exciting project: the Mars Exploration Rover (MER), a spacecraft that will travel to Mars and deploy a lander, which will enter the Mars atmosphere. Once the lander hits ground, it releases a rover that will roam the Martian countryside taking pictures and collecting soil samples to be sent back home.




Using SolidWorks, Jerry Eden of Jet Propulsion Laboratories was able to quickly create this interface drawing, which illustrates where the bridle assembly attaches to the rest of the MER unit.

3D Systems relied on eDrawings, like the one here to, to communicate with its design vendor. Click here, to download and one of the actual eDrawings they used.

The total MER assembly came to 5,000 parts, most of those unique. Eden’s work focused on a relatively small but critical component called the bridle assembly, which consisted of around 30 detailed 2D drawings. The bridle is a flat nylon piece that functions like parachute cords to slow the MER down once it enters the Mars atmosphere.

Working quickly, Eden used SolidWorks to automatically create manufacturing and interface drawings from the solid model. Interface drawings were important in illustrating the areas where the bridle system attaches to the housing inside the spacecraft. Because SolidWorks drawings are based on the 3D model, you just update the model. And creating new views is a snap. “You place one view, you dimension it, you place another view, and you dimension that,” Eden explained. “Creating views, auxiliary views, detailed views is really easy in SolidWorks as opposed to just a plain 2D package.” In a 2D package, there’s no automation. Every view is done by hand.

Eden estimates timesavings up to 90% using SolidWorks over conventional 2D CAD for creating detailed drawings. With SolidWorks, even a task as simple as printing a drawing can take 30 to 50% less time.

Good 2D sense

As you can see from the above profiles, SolidWorks can help you create detailed drawings better, faster, and more easily. Even if you’re not looking to do “fancy” 3D stuff, SolidWorks still makes good sense for 2D production. And the fact that it’s the easiest 3D product on the market to learn makes it that much better. “I’m not trying to promote SolidWorks as a 2D or a 3D system,” says SolidWorks Vice President Bob Zuffante. “I’m trying to promote the right tool for the job. If your job is to deliver production drawings, we at SolidWorks R&D are committed to making SolidWorks the right tool to use.”



Subscribe to CADdigest Weekly