BEST Robotics Training Class – This Saturday – Looking for Volunteers

The North Alabama SolidWorks Users Group (NASWUG), Dynetics, & Trobotics Inc. will be sponsoring a BEST Robotics SolidWorks Training Class this Saturday August 21, 2010 at the Calhoun Community College Campus in Decatur, Alabama. We will be providing hands-on SolidWorks training for North Alabama Schools participating in the BEST Robotics competition this year. The training will take place at the Noble Russell Building, Room 115.

Class instruction is already covered, but we are looking for volunteers to help guide the students as they follow along in the class. If you are interested in volunteering your time to help in the training sessions, please send me an e-mail ( There will be a morning session (9:00am -11:30am) and afternoon session (12:30pm – 3:00pm). Any time you have is greatly appreciated, even if you only have time to stay for one of the sessions.

For more details, including directions to the campus and building, click HERE to view the event flyer.

NASWUG April 2010 Meeting Agenda

We are a little over two days away from the next NASWUG meeting!  Below is the agenda for those interested.

5:00pm – 5:20pm  Food/Networking

5:20pm – 5:30pm  Announcements

5:30pm – 7:20pm  SolidWorks Tips and Tricks – Ricky Jordan & Brian McElyea

7:20pm – 7:30pm  Door Prizes

Hope to see everyone there!

Wrap-up for NASWUG-RSA March (April) Meeting

We had a great turnout of around 30 people at the NASWUG-RSA March Meeting!  Thanks to all who were able to attend.  For those that couldn’t attend…we missed you and hope you can make it out for our next meeting.  We had a bit of a last minute schedule change and had to move the meeting to Thursday April 1st.  That certainly wasn’t the first time and probably won’t be the last time we have to do this.  Thanks to Gary Hall for helping get the word out on the meeting date change.

Speaking of Gary, he was our presenter for the meeting.  Gary did a GREAT job showing off the many different types of Mates SolidWorks Users can access in Assemblies.  It certainly has come a long way in the last several years.  I can’t think of any mate types that aren’t covered in the software now.  Gary also gave a quick overview on the SolidWorks Certification Program which includes the new Certified SolidWorks Expert program.

We briefly discussed the upcoming April 22nd NASWUG meeting which will feature Tips and Tricks presented by a combination of NASWUG members from across the SolidWorks Software Suite.  I was looking for some suggestions on areas of the software that folks would like to see tips and tricks on and the crowd certainly did not disappoint.  I got some GREAT ideas.  Many of which will be featured in the April 22nd meeting.

We look forward to the next NASWUG-RSA Meeting which we hope to get scheduled soon for May.  If anyone has any suggestions on meeting topics, please send them out to Gary Hall or myself.  You can also leave a comment on this post with suggestions if you like.

Thanks again for a great meeting.

NASWUG April 14 Meeting Notes

Our April 14th meeting has come and also has April 15th  We had 29 in attendance at the Dynetics HQ building with Ricky Jordan our president presiding.  And thanks to Richard Hall for trying out a new food choice (pizza does get a little old doesn’t it!)  Ricky talked briefly about the upcoming  SWUGN Summit event near us, this time taking place in Doraville GA(NE side of Atlanta) at the Holiday Inn NE Atlanta on Tuesday, May 19th.  For those unfamiliar, this is a great event hosted by SolidWorks and led by Richard Doyle.  Registration is only $40 and includes  breakfast and lunch plus a full day of technical training.  It is very much like a full day of breakout sessions at a SolidWorks World event.  Follow the links on the SWUGN website ( to register online.
ModernTechMechanical ( created an “Engineering Stimulus Package” in conjunction with the SolidWorks Engineering Stimulus Package that is available to help currently unemployed engineers.  This basically provides displaced engineers and designers with FREE SolidWorks 3D CAD software, training, Certified SolidWorks Associate (CSWA) certification opportunities, and job placement services. 
Richard Hall talked briefly about the new look at 3D Content Central and how useful this great CAD source is.  If you haven’t visited this site before it is well worth a look see.
Brian McElyea then presented on SolidWorks Workgroup PDM.  Basically don’t think of this as something for more than one computer/engineer.  It is a fantastic tool for file management, and product data management even on a single computer.  The sytem keys on meta data and using notes you can build design history tracking that makes it very simple to retrieve previous versions.  So you can think of it as a versioning system (i.e. unlimited configuration system) that allows you to go back to any previous design stage.  PDM is not restricted to just CAD file/design.  You can use it with any type file that you want to manage and control versions and version history.  By using the PDM system you don’t have to manually create and store multiple folders and multiple models.  The PDM system manages this for you.  SolidWorks Workgroup PDM is included in SolidWorks Professional and Premium.  If you have a need for PDM for a large group or for multiple site locations and want the ability to control all aspects of your file/design managment then the separate Enterprise PDM version is what you need.
Next up was our NASWUG RSA president Gary Hall presenting on DimXpert.  Gary did a warm up of this at the previous RSA meeting so he was fine tuned for this one.  Just to reitierate from that meeting, DimXpert differs from Autodimension in that it recognizes patterns and countersink holes and it produces predictable results.  For example with Autodimension you typically get unwanted dimensions that have to be selectively deleted.  Whereas with DimXpert when you select an edge only the feature represented by the edge is dimensioned.  A word of caution with patterns: if a hole pattern was not created as a pattern of Hole Wizard holes then any changes made to the model do not update the hole callout.  DimXpert is not just for native SolidWorks parts.  Gary walked through this example using an imported model, selecting specific datums and then applying DimXpert.  This is a great tool for those that have a need to produce manufacturing drawings.
  Thanks to Brian and Gary for outstanding presentations.  And just a note to all members.  Anyone interested in presenting on a topic should contact Ricky Jordan.  We always get outstanding presenters from the SolidWorks community and sometimes don’t realize the wealth of experience within our own group.

NASWUG January 27 Meeting Notes

We started the new year with 34 in attendance at our January meeting at the Dynetics HQ building.  As I write this, I am making last minute preparations to attend SolidWorks World 2009 in Orlando.  We welcomed 6 new members in attendance.  Ricky Jordan, NASWUG president, began the meeting with announcements and comments about the upcoming SWW2009 and also about SolidWorks Labs new additions.  Some of the new additions include Tagger, Treehouse, Collada Export, and Presentation Studio.  For more details visit the SolidWorks Labs site, 

Ricky presented on Custom PCB Design.  This was a warm-up for his upcoming presentation at SWW.  The presentation highlighted concepts and processes, and specific SolidWorks features useful in PCB Design and collaboration as well as some “gotchas” of which to be aware..  And that folks is the key …“collaboration”  You have to closely collaborate with the electrical design folks in a back and forth iterative process.  For the mechanical aspects it is important to specify only those requirements to make the interfaces work, leaving as much leeway as possible for the electrical design and layout.  For those with SolidWorks Premium, you know you have CircuitWorks and other subscribers have CircuitWorks Lite. At the conclusion, Ricky asked for feedback positive and negative.  Good job, Ricky!

Gary Hall mentioned that the NASWUG RSA group is looking forward to starting up their meetings again at RSA, probably near the end of February. That’s all folks … see you in Orlando and if not there at the next NASWUG meeting.

NASWUG December 2 Meeting Notes

Another successful NASWUG year wrapped up in style.  Our year end meeting benefited from two very interesting and informative presentations.  Jim Wilkinson, Director of User Experience for SolidWorks, provided an insight into the development process for  SolidWorks usability and SolidWorks User Interface Customization.  The stated goal of Jim’s team is the User Experience mission.  So just what is the “User Experience mission”?  In a nutshell, it is everything that goes into providing a SolidWorks experience that continuously improves upon Ease of Use, Ease of Learning, and Product Consistency.  Where does SolidWorks get its customer input?  Glad you asked … each and everyone of us, the users, have direct input into the process with such things as enhancement requests, bug reports, phone calls with the VARs, customer visits, surveys, user forums,  etc.  Many factors come into play as to what is included in the final decision to make changes to the User Interface.  For those of us involved in rapid prototyping, the process seems familiar.  Prototypes begin with paper layouts that can be reviewed quickly and easily, followed by a flash simulation, and then a prototype release that gets the scrutiny of a focus group of users.  This focus group is representative of all SolidWorks users and from a user viewpoint probably the most important.  After Jim educated us on the interest and effort that SolidWorks puts into providing us with a good CAD user experience, he then walked through several examples.  Many thanks to Jim for a most rewarding presentation.

Next up was Bruce Holway, the Manager of Product Definition for SolidWorks.  Bruce brings 17 years of experience in the CAD industry to the table.  The Product Definition team he manages is responsible for developing new functionality specifications in SolidWorks.  Bruce presented on Using Blocks and Layout Sketches for Mechanism Design.  Now some of us may already use sketch blocks to produce quick concept layouts or at least have completed the block exercise in the SolidWorks tutorial.  But Bruce takes this idea to a new level.  He showed us how sketch blocks can be used to quickly produce parameters for mechanical mechanisms to achieve a desired physical motion.  Next was probably a very little used method of Layout Based Assembly Design.  This method begins with a new assembly.  On creation, click on the “Create Layout” button on the Begin Assembly Property Manager.  This opens a 3D sketch from which you can create various blocks of the intended mechanical mechanism.  This method allows you to switch back and forth between top down and bottoms up design.  You can create, edit and delete parts and blocks at any point in the design cycle without any history-based restrictions.  A great presentation, Bruce.

Ricky Jordan briefly reminded everyone about SolidWorks World 2009 coming up in February.  To save time and avoid duplication here, meeting announcements are published on the NASWUG website.  Thanks especially to Ricky for being the driving force for what this writer feels has been our most successful year yet.  And our group would not survive if it were not for the valued support of our VARs, ModernTech Mechanical, MLC CAD, Concepts in Production and particularly the financial support of SolidWorks for the free food each meeting.  As before we had some great year end prizes including our grand prize a Harmony Universal Remote Control from 3D Connexion who sponsored our year end event.

Here’s hoping each and every one of you have a great Christmas and holidays and we will see you back in January.  Ricky will be presenting on circuit board design and circuitworks which is a warm-up for his presentation at SolidWorks World 2009 in February.

SolidWorks and Twitter

At the meeting tonight I promised to post a link to a page that lists SolidWorks users on Twitter.  Below is a link to a post that Josh at SolidSmack is keeping up to date.  Josh also lists other folks from the CAD Community that are also on Twitter.

Below are some folks from NASWUG that are on Twitter that you can follow: –  Ricky Jordan –  Rich Hall –  Brian McElyea –  Gary Hall –  Wendell Hatton

NASWUG September 30 Meeting Notes

If you missed our September meeting you really missed out. We met in the old Dynetics HQ building and had 42 in attendance. Last minute scheduling permitted Matt Lombard (author of SolidWorks 2007 Bible, SolidWorks Surfacing and Complex Shape Modeling, and soon to hit the bookshelves, SolidWorks 2009 Bible) to join us and share in the SW2009 What’s New presentation with Ricky Jordan. But to digress, the meeting began shortly after everyone filled up on pizza and soft drinks. Among the usual announcements, Ricky pointed out that SW2009 has been officially released. It is available for download now at the SolidWorks Customer Portal for those on subscription service. Word of caution, don’t try this on dialup or even DSL. Ricky pointed out that the installation from download worked perfectly and one advantage to installing from the download … you won’t need the DVD to install later service pack releases.

Next, a show of hands for those planning on attending SolidWorks World 2009 International User Conference and Exposition in Orlando, FL at the Swan & Dolphin Hotel Feb 8-11, 2009. Anyone needing help with justification give Ricky a shout. If you have never been to a SolidWorks World it is truly an adventure with more training presentations in a short 4 days on subjects from everything SolidWorks and then some.

Now to try and give a Reader’s digest summary of the rest of the meeting. Ricky first presented on the new Photoview 360 which is included in all flavors of SolidWorks except SolidWorks standard. As with any new release of SolidWorks there is plenty of material for a What’s New presentation. Ricky and Matt did an outstanding job of cramming as much into the remaining two hours ( after the eating) of our meeting. Actually Matt was kind enough to extend the presentation an extra 30 minutes for those that could stick around. With all the new enhancements in SW2009, there have been some significant terminology changes. Once you get past that it is nice to see that emphasis has really been placed on improving performance, speed and stability. Now just to mention the main highlights. User Interface enhancements includes a movable Command Manager, a Property Tab builder, hyperlink capability with BOM and custom properties, dual dimension display, triad functionality to quickly change model orientation and a magnify tool. Sketching enhancements includes new slot tool (oooh, ahhh!!), numeric sketch input, Instant 3D Resize, stretch entities and move/copy/scale in 3D sketch. Sheet Metal enhancements include convert to sheet metal from solid. cross break, and a combined gauge – bend table. Weldment enhancements include groups, weld gaps within groups and between groups, improved end caps and gussets, trim extend tool. Assembly enhancements include large assembly performance improvement, assembly features propagating to the parts, a new BOM in assembly and speed pack, and Drawing enhancements. Speed pack basically allows you to take an assembly/subassembly and identify faces/features for mating and then use the assembly/subassembly in another assembly with huge performance gain.

Matt took over with his take on Visualization enhancements, the new plastic features, surfacing and spline enhancements and free form As expected, Matt presented his likes and dislikes of the new release but the general consensus is that the new SW2009 is a very impressive release and should prove to be much more stable with better performance.

Thanks again to Ricky and Matt for an outstanding What’s New presentation. We should see the VAR rollout presentations of SW2009 sometime in October.