Look around your office — or, if you work out of your house, your room. Chances are, you’ll see a table or desk, some lamps, some shelves, a computer monitor and window moldings. Look at the sheetmetal or plastic skins and fittings for these objects, and you’ll also see a number of smaller geometrical shapes upon which the objects have been built.
As you look, you’ll notice that certain shapes are used again and again. And if you’re a person who designs parts that will be constructed with sheetmetal or plastics, you’ll know the reason why many vendors use standardized shapes — because by doing so, they are able to produce a greater number of products with a smaller number of tools, reinforcement bosses, and so on.
For vendors that work with sheetmetal and plastics, the benefits of using standard shapes can be substantial. Not only do you save on tooling costs, but the parts and products being designed are more predictable — the vendor has a better idea of how long it will take to make the part, how the part will fit into the overall product, and so on.
So if you’re a designer of sheetmetal or plastic products, your manager may have already asked you to put together a library of standard shapes — those that you use most frequently in your work.
Before and after Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 3.0. To do this prior to Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 3.0, you had to copy the particular section you wanted into a file directory on your computer, back out of your working directory, and then save the copy in another directory on your computer. And if you were saving your sections into a directory used by other designers, you had to be very careful to adhere to some uniform naming conventions. Otherwise, you might lose track of the section.
Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 3.0 addresses this issue with the new sketcher palette. You’ll see a new palette icon in your sketcher UI. Click on it, then click on shapes, and you’ll get three tabbed section files. These will take you to a basic assortment of profiles, polygons and stars, everything from crosses, ovals, and racetracks to C, L, I, and T profiles.
For each section there’s a small preview of its contents. Click the preview so it enlarges, and if you want the section, drag and drop it into your current session.
You can use these “out of the box,” says Netesh Gohil, Director of Product Management at PTC, for your next Sketcher design.
“You can easily add to them, too. Just add a directory in Windows Explorer and copy a section into it. Once you start Pro/ENGINEER again, you’ll see that directory as a tab. Now you can add your own shapes and modifications.”
(PTC does recommend that you copy all of this to a location outside of the installation directory so that any updates to the installation will not overwrite any customization.)
The fun begins. Now you can build your own library of sections that are relevant to your company and your work. For instance, if your company uses a certain type of sheetmetal punch, you can pull up a model you designed previously to work with this punch. Go to the model’s sketcher environment, copy the section you want, and then save it to your sketcher palette directory.
Next time you go to use it, click on the palette icon, and you’ll see its preview. And if you want to add more directories, such as car door shapes, you’ll see those come up as tabs in your UI, along with the basic directories.
How to share. The sketcher palette will make your life easier because you’ll now have an increasingly valuable library of shapes within your sketcher environment. But it will also make life easier for your company and your system administrator by helping all designers work with the same lists of preferred shapes.
To enable this kind of shape-sharing, your administrator will want to enable the sketcher palette’s configuration-pointer feature. You first have to register your server — do that at Tools_Server_Registry. Then point the Config.Pro option to a directory in a Windchill or Intralink database. From then on, everyone in your shop will have the same view into the library, and the administrator will be able to control what shapes you use — and decide if any should be removed because of a change.
A fundamental difference. According to Gohil, the Sketcher Palette demonstrates a fundamental difference between the PTC product design strategy and those of many other CAD vendors. “Another vendor might give you a library where they’ll try to include all the shapes they think you’d be likely to use,” he says.
“The problem with that is now you’ve got a large number of functions that you may not ever use. Also, the chances are you’ll find you need other functions, ones that might be unique to the industry you work in, that aren’t there. We give you a tool that produces the best of both worlds — a starting assortment of shapes, and a method for growing your own library of shapes that you’ll really use.”
Perhaps most important, says Gohil, you’ll be well equipped to handle designs that are more complex, and are based on more complex shapes, with ease. “As with other Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 3.0 functions, he says, “we wanted to make this as easy to use as possible, but without taking away any functionality.”
“So in the end, the user can put the majority of his or her effort into creative thinking, and not have to worry about more mundane tasks.”
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