If you’re a 3DEXPERIENCE platform user, you know that the platform is designed to keep your data secure and under control, remaining within the confines of the platform as projects move through the design process. This is highly valuable for keeping proprietary data safe from unchecked distribution, accidental duplication or deletion, and ambiguity of which files are released for production. In the global manufacturing marketplace, however, projects seldom stay within the walls of a single business during development, and collaboration needs to be facilitated. In the context of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, this naturally leads to a question. How can I safely share my CAD data out of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform with external contractors without losing all the design history that went into my data?
To collaborate on designs with contractors outside of your organization, you may consider a couple of possibilities to help that teamwork to happen.
- If the outside contractor is a 3DEXPERIENCE Platform user, then you may consider inviting that user into your tenant in a limited capacity; working on the design within your data management ecosystem. For more information on inviting external contractors into your tenant, check out our blog post, Managing CAD Data on 3DEXPERIENCE Part 4: Protecting and Sharing
- If the contractor is NOT a platform user, or you just don’t have the platform roles to spare to bring them in, then CAD Packages may be the solution. CAD packages work much like Pack & Go, allowing us to bundle up parts, assemblies, and drawings into a package, to be shared with another user to access on their local machine, outside the context of our company tenant. Once they’ve made their changes, they can bundle the files back up, and return it to us to incorporate back into our system.
In this article, we’ll concentrate on option 2, and see what collaboration between a 3DEXPERIENCE platform user and a non-platform SOLIDWORKS user may look like, using CAD packages.
Case Study: Collaborating with CAD Packages
Let’s consider an example of using CAD packages with an outside contractor for a simple redesign. In this case, we’ve created a hand-cranked universal joint, with a simple straight-barred crank handle. After hearing some feedback from our product’s end-user, we decide that a longer, curvier handlebar is needed, and a larger, more grippable knob needs to be designed.
We choose to outsource this work to an external contractor who doesn’t use the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Rather than sending the contractor the entire universal joint assembly, we’ll just send him a CAD package of the crank subassembly that he’ll be redesigning. We can easily create a CAD package within SOLIDWORKS using SOLIDWORKS Connected or the Design with SOLIDWORKS add-in. To export a CAD Package from within SOLIDWORKS:
- Access the 3DEXPERIENCE tab of the task pane
- (Optional) On the lower toolbar, right-click one of the tabs and click “Show Labels” to make the commands easier to identify
- Select the “Tools” tab of the toolbar
- Click “Export As Package”
From here, we’re given the options to define the package name, specify the file location, and choose which files we want to be editable or read-only. Once we’re happy with the settings, we click “Export”.
We send the .sldpkg CAD Package file to the contractor. Since the contractor isn’t a platform user, he downloads the free “3DEXPERIENCE Exchange for SOLIDWORKS” add-in from solidworks.com in order to open the CAD Package. Once the 3DEXPERIENCE Exchange add-in has been installed, the contractor activates the add-in from the SOLIDWORKS add-in menu. This puts a new icon on the task pane for working with packages.
To get started on the design, the contractor clicks “Import Package” from the 3DEXPERIENCE Exchange tab and navigates to the package file location. The Exchange tab shows a summary of the CAD files that are in the package, the current revision of each, and the working status of each file (indicating that the files are read-only, unchanged, or modified). The contractor starts by right clicking the crank subassembly and selecting open. The files unpack into a temporary working folder on his computer (typically Documents > 3DEXPERIENCE_Workspace) and are ready to be worked on.
The contractor decides to create an entirely new knob model and replaces the original file that was in the assembly. He modifies the existing handlebar model and saves over it with the new design. After updating and saving the subassembly, he’s ready to package it back up and return the files to us. Opening the 3DEXPERIENCE Exchange tab again, the contractor selects “Edit Package” and picks the appropriate package. A status column indicates which files have been modified and which ones will be newly added to the package. If needed, the contractor could add more SOLIDWORKS files to the package using the “Add Files option.”
Satisfied with his work, the contractor clicks Package > Export, and sends us the modified package.
Since we have the Design with SOLIDWORKS add-in, we use the same method to import the modified CAD Package as we used to export it, from the lower toolbar of the 3DEXPERIENCE task pane tab. Upon import, we get a status summary of the parts to see which files have been modified or added.
If we still have any old versions of files in our local cache, some replacements may be necessary. If we navigate to MySession in the 3DEXPERIENCE tab, and look at the Status column, we’ll see any instances where the open document doesn’t match what’s in the package. If we right click on those files, we see the option to “Replace from Package”.
Tip: To minimize the possibility of mismatches, be sure to clear your local cache before trying to integrate a CAD package back into your file set.
Because the packaging process allowed the files to retain their platform file identities, we can reintegrate the modified files back into our tenant by saving them up with our 3DEXPERIENCE add-in, just as we would with any other modification. We right-click the top-level assembly and select Save with Options, locking files as required, and bumping up the revision on any files that have been modified. We add Revision Comments and specify bookmark locations as needed.
Back in the platform, we look at our Universal Joint assembly, and see that the platform recognizes that a newer revision – the revision that we just created – exists for the Crank Subassembly. To incorporate the new crank handle design into the main assembly, we open the Universal Joint assembly in SOLIDWORKS, advance to a new revision, and replace the Crank Subassembly with the latest revision.
With that, we’ve succeeded in collaboratively redesigning our product, losing none of our previous design data in the process.
We hope this case study has shed some light on 3DEXPERIENCE CAD Packages, and how they can empower 3DEXPERIENCE platform users to collaborate with whomever they need to to get the job done. With capabilities such as designating files “For Edit” or as “Read-Only”, and status indicators that clearly communicate modifications and additions to the file set, we can maintain control over our data even when it moves outside of the platform.
Découvrez les travaux de SOLIDWORKS et 3DEXPERIENCE
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