SolidWorks Teacher’s Weekly

By Richard Williams  3/30/08

 “Long, long ago in a far, far away Galaxy” does this phrase sound familiar to you? Even someone my age has watched that Star Wars classic movie a few times over. However, it does bring out a couple of interesting themes to discuss with you this week. First of all, you are truly never too old to learn something. I’m the living proof of that. Secondly, with all the modern technology that we see and use in MCAD programs like SolidWorks, what really holds us back from expanding our knowledge with it, is sometimes ourselves. Allow me to explain. When
I first started using this magnificent application, I found a great and
almost immediate joining together (mind meld) of this program and my
mind. Wow I thought, now I have a digital tool that I can use to draw whatever my mind could conceive. This is a true statement. However,
in my rush to draw those things that I had locked up in my mind for so
many years, I did not pay too much attention to the tools that
SolidWorks gives to you to bring out that creativity in all of us. So
after learning the basics I jumped right in and tried to do that
professional stuff, only to end up against a brick wall and bloodied. I
lost hours of my valuable time, when I should have slowed down to study
more fully those marvelous tools that the program has built in. This is especially important to those of us that do now see well. The tool that I speak of can be invaluable to successfully sketching out those ideas that later on become parts and assemblies. Engineers refer to a keyword “KISS” many times when building projects. That translates like this: “Keep It Simple Stupid.” Now, that is something I can relate to. I like simplicity when I design things. Here is an example of what I am talking about that I drew awhile back.



It was very simple to conceive the idea but it took me forever to get what I wanted digitally.  I tried to duplicate regular printing paper in size and physical characteristics. That part was easy to do in the picture above on those flat parts of this project. What was hard to do is the piece down below because I did not utilize SolidWorks’ amazing tool called Offset Entities. Take a look down below. Once again that part is easy to do even for a blind man like me. However, trying to draw parallel lines to the first geometry drove me nuts. Perhaps you could do it with good techniques, good eyes and some tricks you know. However, my extrusion attempts of this geometry failed time and time again. I knew what it was that had to be done but how does one do this easily like the pros out there? The right answer here is to let someone else do it, right? Finally it dawned on me that what I needed was an offsetting tool from my originally drawn geometric lines. Well son of a gun, SolidWorks gave us one but I had never used it before because I was rushing into my creativity mode. The screen shot down below was easy enough to construct but you cannot extrude a line. It must be an enclosed geometry. 



you can see from the screen shot down below a couple of clicks were all
that was needed other then setting the offset distance at .001” then
closing the end points. 
arrived at that offset distance by taking ten sheets of printing paper
stacked together and using a micrometer to measure the thickness and
then of course dividing it by 10, the number of sheets. Hours
were wasted because I rushed passed the basics of understanding how to
create a fully defined geometry and in not using the great tools given
to you in the
SolidWorks application. Oh well.


Now the big question on everyone’s mind is what is this thing and what good is it? Fair question and here is the answer. A single piece of paper by itself cannot support or withstand much stress. However,
if you fold it in certain ways and mate it together by gluing it
(Elmer’s Wood Glue) with other things or shapes, it can withstand some
truly amazing weights for school building projects. Yes, you are correct this was an old bar trick done with three shot glasses and a newer bill. I
know many of the teachers out there do those bridge building projects
with their students and use balsa woods which can be expensive. Paper is cheaper; easily obtainable and can provide some great building materials for projects like these. Now you have the idea and it is yours. The picture down below is a roof section I made with two sub-assemblies from that first picture and I mated them together. I
also used pine as the material for the paper because it is wood and
most of our paper is made from pine trees and also because there is no
such paper material listed in either the SolidWorks material database or on
( the MatWeb web site, which is another great source for material data. I did make a formal request for them to add it to their database of materials. They said they would. I
am like many of you out there, I am learning this application also and
I am glad to share with you my mistakes in believing that you will
avoid making them too. Here’s hoping that someone, somewhere, somehow, at sometime will be glad I shared this with the world. Sincerely. Richie.



Corporal Willy

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