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Mechanical Engineering Meets SOLIDWORKS Electrical Episode 3(D) – Component Intelligence

Article by Angus Hudson, CSWP created/updated February 3, 2018

Hello again dear readers. Thank you for joining me for another installment of Mechanical Engineering Meets Electricity.

When we last left off, I had completed the 2D schematic design of my home theater system, complete with all my components, a single line diagram, and a detailed connection table to help me set everything up in a few easy steps.

As an experienced user of SOLIDWORKS 3D Mechanical, the transition to SOLIDWORKS Electrical 2D was painless and I was able to quickly design and document my project. Unfortunately, 2D is a dimension shy of reality, and therefore I needed to transition my design into SOLIDWORKS Electrical 3D to fully realize my creative vision. Was this just a delaying tactic to avoid doing real work? Possibly, but it was also an excellent opportunity to put my Electrical 3D knowledge to the test.

Electrical Intelligence: Not just for designers

The first step in transitioning my design was to create the 3D models that would represent my system. Although this blog could discuss the overwhelming value of using SOLIDWORKS 3D Mechanical to create 3D models, there are already many other blogs with that very same purpose! Suffice to say, creating the models of my shelving units, room, and project components was quick and easy!

3D model of my AV receiver with connecting features

3D model of my AV receiver with connecting features

While these models were “smart” solids, with fully parametric features, they had yet to become electrically intelligent. Luckily, SOLIDWORKS Electrical 3D has a robust, integrated tool for teaching components the ways of the (electromotive) force!

The Electrical Component Wizard allows users to add electrical 3D intelligence to models with just a few simple clicks

The Electrical Component Wizard allows users to add electrical intelligence to models with just a few simple clicks

The Electrical Component Wizard streamlines the process of specifying the orientation of components, adding mate references, and adding connection points. The end result of this, is that the components “just work” when they are added to the electrical assembly; they automatically snap to rails, space themselves appropriately, and terminals connect according to the 2D schematic. Although I was using parametric components, the Electrical Component Wizard can also be used with imported geometry. This ensures that you can import models for use in your electrical assemblies, regardless of their origin programs.

A connection point by any other name

Connection points are key to SOLIDWORKS Electrical 3D routing functionality. They are the points that the program uses to reference 2D schematics, manage terminal to terminal connections, and calculate wire lengths. SOLIDWORKS Electrical 3D has a distinct naming convention for the connection points that must be followed for the models to properly associate to the electrical project components. The Electrical Component Wizard automates the creation of connection points that correspond to the circuits of a manufacturer part. By simply selecting the manufacturer part from the Electrical Component Library and then clicking the desired locations on the 3D model, the connection points are created and named accordingly.

Connection points can be created to correspond to a specific manufacturer part

Connection points can be created to correspond to a specific manufacturer part

The Cable Stops… Here!

This project involved two different cabling scenarios. In one scenario, I had HDMI cables with a single core, that connected directly to their respective components. However, on the other hand I had speaker wire cables with two cores that needed to be connected in slightly different locations. This was where the Electrical Component Wizard’s cable connection points came in handy.

Cable points are use to specify the origin/termination of cabling

Cable points are use to specify the origin/termination of cabling

These points can be specified on a component, or on a plane offset from the individual connection points. In this way, I was able to define exactly where each cable would end, letting the individual cores continue on to their final destinations. This allows a significant amount of freedom in designs, allowing designers to use full length cabling, or specify that the cable protection end at a certain point, such as the cable gland into an enclosure.

From A to B to Z

With my 3D components fully intelligent, I was ready to start the process of assembling my system and routing wires. SOLIDWORKS is the industry leader for designing 3D models, and SOLIDWORKS Electrical 3D maintains a similar level of functionality and versatility for adding electrical intelligent to these models.

Subscribe for the next Episode

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Javelin blog for the next episode of Mechanical Engineering Meets Electricity, where I will finally be able to create a detailed digital replica of my soon-to-be home theater system! As always, please contact us to learn more about how Javelin and SOLIDWORKS Electrical can enhance your existing workflows and help you get more from your designs.

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Angus Hudson, CSWP

Angus is a Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional and Applications Expert, based in our Vancouver, British Columbia office.

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