Often times people will ask for a “best practice” when modeling in SOLIDWORKS something that is intended to be used in DriveWorks. While there are several good ones, such as renaming dimensions and features, I would have to say that one of my favorite suggestions is to make extensive use of Reference Geometry such as Planes or Axes.
But why use planes in DriveWorks?
If I was to create a plate in SOLIDWORKS, I would sketch a rectangle, apply dimensions in my sketch, then do a Boss-Extrude:
It is not as though this is a bad practice. In typical SOLIDWORKS applications, this would be perfectly fine. However, if I put this part into DriveWorks; I want to control the height and width of the plate. So, I go to the trouble of capturing the 50 and 100mm dimensions, then integrating them into DriveWorks, building Rules for them, etc.
Then, I want to add an option for a curved plate. To change this in SOLIDWORKS would require me to delete my Boss-Extrude and create a totally new sketch on the Top Plane with an arc, then create a Thin Feature Boss-Extrude. All of my captured dimensions are gone?! This basically means I have to redo my DriveWorks project. Okay, maybe not completely. My forms and tables are still going to be okay, but I’ve created a good chunk of rework for myself. However, if I had used planes, I wouldn’t be in this mess:
Using Planes in Sketches
In this example, I’ve shown my Right and Top planes, and I’ve created two new Reference Planes (“Side of Plate” and “Top of Plate”). The positions of these planes are controlled by DriveWorks. In SOLIDWORKS, I’m just choosing which sketch entities are to be attached to each plane. In this example, if I wanted to change it to a curved plate, I can just go ahead and delete my Boss-Extrude and create a completely new feature, without destroying my planes, or my connections to DriveWorks.
Using Planes for Child Features
This same principle applies to Child Features. If I had a hole in this plate, rather than using the face of the plate as my sketch plane, I would create a new reference plane and put my hole sketch on that. Then my sketch would remain intact if I delete the geometry. If I apply sketch relations to the planes rather than geometry, then I can prevent dangling dimensions/dangling sketch relations when I make fundamental changes to parent features, and still all my connections to DriveWorks remain intact.