In our last installment, we spent a bit of time talking about the data creation and management pieces, and fortunately we are seeing SOLIDWORKS PDM adoption climb along with our users’ knowledge of SOLIDWORKS. PDM instantly solves most of the data management needs for SOLIDWORKS users. However, the need that most companies are failing to address, regardless of their data management situation, is distribution of data.
Converge works with thousands of CAD users around the world, and not one single user at any given company or one-man-shop designs/manufactures in a silo for every aspect of the design cycle. At some point, a designer will have to communicate with:
- internal CAD team members
- a manufacturer like a CNC operator
- a vendor if you purchase specific parts to add to a design
- or even internal stakeholders like a marketing team
How is that communication done now? In most cases, it’s done as manually as possible. A 2D drawing is created in SOLIDWORKS from the 3D design, and that drawing is converted into a PDF and printed out. It’s then marked up using the trusty pencil with any annotations needed. Or we generate a STEP file to be sent to the machinist who programs toolpaths to cut that part in a CNC machine, thereby breaking the link with the CAD file. There are lots of these scenarios, but this communication is generally done manually. We can automate an incredible amount of these tasks so that communication between manufactures, vendors, internal stakeholders and the design team is done intelligently and with the least amount of manual input.
Task Automation is what enables this new way of thinking about intra-office communication of CAD data and ideas. SOLIDWORKS PDM has an eye toward automation, but this is one of the limitations of the SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard option – PDM Professional is necessary in order to create automated tasks, such as PDF creation of drawings, etc… Let’s dig into some of the SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional Tasks functionality to see what’s available.
It is possible to create and schedule tasks for some basic file conversion (SLDDRW – PDF) in SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard, but if you’re in need of any other file to be created automatically, SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional is needed. With PDM Professional, you have the ability to:
- create or schedule an Infinite amount of tasks, which include file conversion to PDF, DXF/DWG (new), eDrawings, IGES, STEP, STL, Parasolid and more
- run the Design Checker, which checks your design and validate that your files are adhering to company standards
- and automate Print functions.
When creating tasks, you can limit how much a given user is able to see or change based on the criteria set upon creation. There are multiple ways to execute tasks: on demand, based on a schedule, or triggered by SOLIDWORKS PDM Workflow. In each case, notifications can be sent out to each user responsible for next steps.
This is a highly powerful tool, but not the only one when it comes to automation of the CAD/MFG workflow. We will explore some more automation tools in the next part (part 3) of this blog series, and finally we will explore the world of ERP and how SOLIDWORKS PDM addresses integration with a Resource Planning system.