How I Beat the Squirrels Using xDesign: Part 1

Before I begin the real topic of this blog, I like to comment on my journey through CAD technology and what I’ve experienced over the last 40+ years in my career.

CAD has come a long, long way in my lifetime. Back in the late 1970’s at Xerox, I was introduced to Computer Graphics or CG as we called it back then. CG ran on terminals hooked up to VAX’s to do 3D design using wireframe techniques. The best way to describe wireframe design is with a cube made up of 12 individual equal length lines. You had to “draw” each individual line to the correct length to create the cube. Back then the software didn’t have functionality to make the lines equal length and to hold their end points together. The designer was responsible for that. Why did we do it this way? Simple answer; solid modeling as we know it hadn’t been developed yet.

Then we switched to UNIX workstations using solid modeling that used Boolean operations and then later with parametrics when it started to appear in the early 90’s. By the late 90’s PCs were the CAD platform of choice because Windows had won the desktop war over UNIX. PC-based 3D CAD software became increasingly more productive and capable but, ease of use was still a problem. Fast forward to today, 3D CAD software is so much easier to use, a lot smarter and, most importantly, more capable of meeting tough design and engineering challenges than ever before, thanks to SOLIDWORKS.

Continuing my CAD journey my next stop is the new cloud-based application xDesign, which I’ve been excited about for two reasons. The first, it’s a cloud-based application so I can use my iPad to do design work anywhere I want. I no longer have to be tethered to my laptop. With xDesign all I need is a web browser and I’m good to go. The second reason is I can collaborate with my colleagues without having to use email, texts, Google Hangout or phone calls to do it. It’s all right there in the app for me to stay connected with design updates and get feedback on the design direction.

xDesign Inspiration: Keeping squirrels off the bird feeder

The other day I was sitting on the deck enjoying the weather and watching a couple of squirrels figure out how they can get to the bird feeders, which were hanging about 20 feet from where I was sitting. They know climbing up the skinny little pole to get to the feeders doesn’t work because the metal cone half way up the pole works really well at keeping the squirrels away for the feeders. I watched them climb up and slide down the pole and laughed at their feeble attempts to circumvent the cone. Squirrels are really diligent creatures and won’t give up on anything they see as a prize. These little blighters figured out they can launch themselves from the nearby lilac tree onto the bird feeder and munch all day long on the black sunflower seeds they love.

After I chased the squirrels away I sat back down and thought about what can I build to keep the squirrels and the birdseed separated for good. One thing I can’t do is move the lilac tree, and I wanted the feeders to stay in same area so we can see them from the kitchen and the upstairs bedroom windows. They do draw a lot a variety of nice birds.

I started by coming up a concept using xDesign instead of using a piece of paper and pencil. The idea running though my head has a vertical steel 3-inch diameter tube attached to the side of the deck. It would be mounted so the tube can pivot 360° for easy filling from the deck (this is especially important in the winter). At the top of the vertical tube two or three horizontal arms will extend out, and on the ends of them the top portion of the old stands will be attached. Something like this:

Now, I could certainly do this work in SOLIDWORKS but I wanted to do this on my iPad. Accessing the 3DEXPERIENCEplatform was straightforward using the Safari browser. I tried Chrome and had the same result. So far, so good. Next task was getting acclimated to sketching and accessing commands without a mouse. Instead I got used to using a stylus to draw, which was easy and fairly intuitive to do. Sketching includes the traditional methods: line, arc, circle and also freehand sketch. Freehand sketching did just that and converts my crude sketch elements into real sketch objects. This was quick and easy. View manipulations were easy too using my fingers for zooming, panning and rotating. Pretty much everything else like extrusions, sweeps, patterns worked intuitively.

I was able to come up with a simple concepts in about an hour. There was some trial and error going on in the hour. My next objective is to start collaborating with my wife Tracy and get her ideas added to this initial design. We’ll cover that in Part 2.

Mike Sabocheck
Senior Area Technical Manager, SOLIDWORKS, NA East