Simplifying Wire Diagrams in Electrical Schematics

One of the more tedious tasks for electrical designers is numbering wires on schematics. If you are using general purpose 2D CAD tools to capture electrical documentation, then you probably know what I am referring to. With those types of tools the effort is manual. You need to check the schematic to ensure standards are maintained and that the information is cross referenced accurately in other documents (e.g.: wire lists and label reports). The more complex the schematic is, the more difficult it is to avoid documentation errors. And those errors have ripple effects. Not just rework by the designer, but inconsistent documentation can cause issues for installers and field service that in turn cause malfunctions, project delays, etc.

SolidWorks Electrical Schematic is E-CAD software that provides the ability to create and update wire numbers automatically based on schemes. You put your standards for calculating the wire number and Voila! : automated numbers across all documentation. This makes life a lot easier for the electrical designer and allows them to focus on value-add design tasks.

SolidWorks Electrical is very flexible in how you number wires on your schematics. You can use equipotential numbering (drawing wires of the same potential share the same value) or the individual wire numbering. You can also choose to display the equipotential marks near the termination points or in the middle of the drawn wire.

2014-09-03 Wire Numbering With SolidWorks Electrical Schematic Image 1

The real power is in the formulas used to define the values. You can include the wire number, page number, row numbers and more to capture specifically what would go into the marking of the wire.

2014-09-03 Wire Numbering With SolidWorks Electrical Schematic Image 2

Formulas can be assigned to specific wire styles, so you can have wire schemes unique to different schematic details (e.g.: low power, high power, and signal wiring). There are multiple way you can get to the formula manager for wires or equipotential. One way is to go to the Project tab of an active project. Then go to Configuration

2014-09-03 Wire Numbering With SolidWorks Electrical Schematic Image 3

Once you have your numbering schemes added to your templates, it is easy to automatically number (or renumber) the wires. There are a set of commands dedicated to this process and their options allow you to control which wires to update (e.g.: whole project, current book, etc.)

2014-09-03 Wire Numbering With SolidWorks Electrical Schematic Image 4

The wire number output can be shown on the schematic and referenced in reports. The image below shows a simple wire numbering scheme using the equipotential values as marks. The individual phase number and equipotential order were used in the formula.

2014-09-03 Wire Numbering With SolidWorks Electrical Schematic Image 5

I have to admit, there is a great feeling of instant gratification when you set up your numbering scheme and test it. You run the Renumber Wires command and you instantly see your new numbering scheme in effect. Knowing that this will be applied across all future projects can be a tremendous relief because it has taken away a very tedious documentation task and yet significantly reduced downstream issues.

General purpose 2D CAD tools fail at this typical electrical design requirement. And in their defense, they were not intended to be electrical design tools for manufacturing businesses. Although general purpose 2D CAD tools may be able to “get the job done”, they lack automated productivity tools mentioned here. In addition, they lack electrical validation tools and the 3D connectivity. All very important features for electrical design for manufacturers. SolidWorks Electrical provides this functionality that allows an electrical designer to focus on design and produce better documentation for personnel downstream in production, installation, and field services. This leads to better communication and less rework and faster development times.

Learn more about creating Wire Diagrams & improve your electrical schematic drawings. 5 minute video:

Stratasys 3D Printers Coming to Pittsburgh!

Attend the Stratasys Roadshow:
Revolutionizing Design & Manufacturing


August 12 | 1 PM – 4 PM

Sheraton Station Square | Pittsburgh, PA

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3D Printers | Presentations | Demonstrations | Lunch will be served


3D Design and Additive Manufacturing Roadshow: Design to Manufacturing — Faster, Better, and More Affordable than Ever Before.

This half-day event has a packed agenda that includes:

  • A 3D Manufacturing Exploration around new additive design and prototyping applications, solutions, and the impact on manufacturers
  • Real-world examples of 3D designing, prototyping, and additive manufacturing. Learn from the experts how to improve processes, performance and profitability
  • Networking with Stratasys and other attendees
  • Interactive exhibits showcasing 3D prototyping and manufacturing application
  • Register

Reducing Virtual Simulation Study Time


Using SOLIDWORKS Simulation to optimize designs is a cost & time-saving practice, but generating those studies can sometimes be time consuming. When creating a simulation study one of the first steps is to take our SOLIDWORKS solid model and turn it into a mesh model. This process of meshing is also known as “discretization”.

When running a SOLIDWORKS SIMULATION study and creating a meshed solid model, this mesh is made up of many solid ELEMENTS. These solid elements are 4 sided, with each side taking the shape of a triangle. Each edge of the solid element contains a NODE at both ends and a NODE at the midpoint for a total of 10 NODES per element.


A solid ELEMENT with 10 NODES
A solid ELEMENT with 10 NODES

An important concept to recognize when working with SOLIDWORKS SIMULATION is that each of these nodes represents the unknown variable of an equation. In linear static stress analysis we are typically running a study to determine the stress imposed on a model. This stress is derivative of strain, which is a derivative of DISPLACEMENT. Therefore, each node of a solid element represents the unknown variable of displacement, which we are solving for when we run our SOLIDWORKS Simulation Study.

A single solid element before and after displacement equations are solved
A single solid element before and after displacement equations are solved

If we apply a force to the lower face of this model and mesh using solid elements, we can see that the maximum stress is 83.349 MPa, and that the maximum displacement is 2.112 mm.

Max Stress is calculated at 83.349 MPa
Max Stress is calculated at 83.349 MPa
Max Displacement calculated at 2.112 mm
Max Displacement calculated at 2.112 mm

We can also see that the total number of nodes used to solve this study was 80052

Mesh Details of Solid Element Mesh
Mesh Details of Solid Element Mesh

Since a single node represents an unknown variable for displacement, and we are solving equations for displacement, it stands to reason that less nodes in a study will result in a shorter time to calculate our results. While there are several techniques to reduce the amount of mesh in a model, one technique is known as a SHELL MESH.


A shell mesh differs from a solid mesh in that the elements are 2 dimensional rather than 3 dimensional. A shell mesh element is a single triangular face with nodes at each corner and at each midpoint, for a total of 6 nodes per element.

A 2D SHELL Element with 6 NODES
A 2D SHELL Element with 6 NODES

Some models are good candidates for utilizing shell elements. Some are not. The most important qualifier in deciding to use a shell element mesh is the material thickness being uniform. If the material wall thickness is NOT uniform, the model is NOT a good candidate for a shell element mesh.


In the example of the bracket we are using, the wall thickness IS uniform so this IS a good candidate for shell meshing. In order to turn a model with uniform wall thickness into a shell element mesh, we must first create a surface model, in this case using the mid-plane option. Once this surface model is generated, we are ready to turn our surface model into a shell element mesh.

The process of discretizing or “meshing” using shell elements
The process of discretizing or “meshing” using shell elements

After shell element meshing and applying forces and fixtures to our model, we run the model and find the following results:

Max Stress is calculated at 90.422 MPa
Max Stress is calculated at 90.422 MPa
Max Displacement calculated at 2.112 mm
Max Displacement calculated at 2.112 mm

When examining the results we can see the following comparisons to our solid element study:


Solid Elements – 83.349 MPa

Shell Elements – 90.422 MPa



Solid Elements – 2.112 mm

Shell Elements – 2.057 mm


These results show a variance of less than 10%, which is within our range of tolerance.   However, when we examine the total nodes in the shell element study we see the following:


When we created our Solid Element mesh we had a total of 80,052 nodes. We have reduced that number to just 6,352, without sacrificing the quality of the results of our study. This reduction in nodes will result in a significant reduction in the number of calculations, and ultimately a reduction in the amount of time it takes to reach a solution for this study.


I hope that you find this summary of why we use shell elements to be a helpful explanation of what nodes truly represent in a SOLIDWORKS Simulation study, and how using a shell element mesh to reduce the total number of nodes can reduce the total amount of time required to solve a study. Remember that for a model to be a good candidate for a shell element mesh, it must have uniform wall thickness.

The Independence Day Design Challenge from Prism Engineering

Liberty Bell2Enhance an Independence Day Inspired CAD Model & Win a Special Prize!


Happy July 4th! Prism’s SOLIDWORKS Tech Support Department created 3D CAD models inspired by our Founding Father’s, symbols of America’s birthday, and BBQ’s. We’d like to challenge you to download our models & exert your design independence!

What’s the Challenge?:

Download a 3D CAD model from the list below & modify the design to your heart’s desire: fix a crack in the Liberty Bell, change the lens material on Ben Franklin’s glasses, or add a flavor layer to a deliciously American Popsicle!

How can you win the Challenge?

Post an image (& CAD model if you’d like!) of your modified model on Prism Engineering’s Facebook Page & the winning design, as judged by the Prism Engineering SOLIDWORKS tech department, will win a special prize. You’ll be promoted as the Nation’s Proudest Designer on Prism’s social pages & website, too!

When does the Challenge end?

Post you model ASAP! Winner will be selected on the official date the Declaration of Independence was signed–August 2nd!


Ask us at Good luck!

Download your Independence Day Model & Start Designing!:

Liberty Bell2 Heather’s Philadelphia Liberty Bell





Ben's GlassesAaron’s Ben Franklin Glasses





popsicle 1Dan’s Picnic Popsicle



SUMMER SCHOOL: Reform your design & manufacturing skills

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Prism Engineering, Inc. is proud to announce Summer School: Self-paced CAD, CAM, and 3D Printing video training delivered to your inbox weekly at no cost!

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This summer, reform your design & manufacturing skills from the comfort of your beach chair! Taught by Certified SOLIDWORKS, Mastercam, and 3D Printing Applications Engineers, Prism Engineering’s Summer School course will whip your CAD, CAM, and 3D Printing skills into shape just in time for the busy fall season.


What is it?

Summer School is a self-paced video training course intended to help you reform your design & manufacturing skills on your own time, from anywhere!

All participants will be sent weekly video lessons to the email provided at sign up. Course content includes several hours of self-paced video instruction, supplemental guides, blog posts, and educational content. Quick quizzes will be administered weekly.

How much does it cost?

It’s free! Summer School is Prism Engineering’s way of saying, “Thank You!” to the Prism Engineering Community. At the conclusion of the weekly video lessons (accessible from anywhere with Internet), participants will receive a link to a quick quiz. The first 25 students will receive a $100 credit to attend a LIVE Prism Engineering training class, led by a Certified SOLIDWORKS or Mastercam training instructor!

What will I receive?

All participants will be sent weekly video lessons to the email provided at sign up. Course content includes several hours of self-paced video instruction, supplemental guides, blog posts, and educational content. Quick quizzes will be administered weekly.

Summer School Weekly Lessons:

1. Creating your 3D Model

2. Preparing your 3D Model for Manufacturing

3. 3D Printing your 3D Model

4. Manufacturing your 3D Model

summer school $100credit

At the conclusion of the weekly video lessons (accessible from anywhere with Internet), participants will receive a link to a quick quiz. The first 25 students will receive a $100 credit to attend a LIVE Prism Engineering training class, led by a Certified SOLIDWORKS or Mastercam training instructor!

When does it start?

Classes start in July! Sign up for Prism Engineering’s Summer School ASAP as space is limited

How can I sign up?

Visit to sign up for Summer School today!

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Mastercam X9 is Available!

Learn about the new features & product changes released with Mastercam X9 at a Prism Engineering Rollout Training Session


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Join Prism Engineering to learn about the enhancements of Mastercam X9, including product changes that drastically increase functionality & versatility of the software. Users can now enjoy the benefits of previous tools offered as add-on products within their software package.

Existing Mastercam users can follow the Prism Engineering instructions to install Mastercam X9 today! Attend a Prism Engineering Mastercam X9 rollout to receive complimentary training (and live machining demos) & learn more about the Mastercam X9 product changes.

Enhanced Functionality Available in Mastercam X9:


Mastercam (CNC Software, Inc.) Announces New Leadership

Meghan Summers-West Named President of CNC Software, Inc.

Meghan Summers-West has been appointed president of CNC Software, Inc., the developer of Mastercam® CAD/CAM programming software for CNC machine tools. Former president, now chairman, Mark Summers made the announcement to all 139 employees on Thursday, April 2 at the company’s headquarters in Tolland, Connecticut. Its educational division staff located in Gig Harbor, Washington, participated in the celebratory announcement via teleconference.
“As many people close to the Summers family know, this transition has been almost 32 years in the making. My daughter Meghan was born the same year that my brothers and I officially launched Mastercam and established CNC Software, Inc. in 1983,” Mark Summers said. “As a father, I am proud. As a business owner, and to all of you who have contributed so much of yourselves to make this company successful, I am wholly confident in this decision. For the majority of you who have watched Meghan grow up in these offices and have been impressed by her warm and direct leadership style, her curiosity and willingness to learn, her product knowledge, and her overall intelligence, I know that you are certain, too, that the future of our flagship product Mastercam and our organization is in very capable hands.”

Summers also said that with the rapid consolidation of many CAD/CAM companies, this decision represents a continuation of CNC Software’s deep, personal dedication to Mastercam and to Mastercam’s global customer base. He emphasized that appointing Meghan also demonstrates that the company remains a private entity. This is important for both employees and customers as it represents the least amount of potential change for the company.

“We answer to our customers rather than a board of directors, and we intend to stay that way. Today is a very happy day,” he said.

Meghan Summers-West also spoke to the crowd. “Today is two things. It’s an acknowledgment of all I have worked for and desired since I can remember. It’s also, more importantly, the beginning of the next 30-plus years for Mastercam and CNC Software,” she said. “I am honored and excited to take on this role and to continue to work with the sincerest and smartest people in our industry – you and our dedicated and loyal worldwide Reseller network and our bright, innovative customers.

“Mastercam plays a vital role in changing lives for the better. It’s used in all facets of industry, from helping to make life-saving medical devices for the human body to parts for planetary exploration, expanding our knowledge of the universe. Mastercam boosts personal and industrial productivity, supporting our global economy as a whole. Mastercam for educators and students helps train future machinists, engineers, and programmers – people who create, solve problems, and enjoy good incomes and satisfying careers. Mastercam touches almost every person in every place in some way. We are changing the world, one feature at a time. As such, my intention – with your valuable contributions – is to continue to evolve Mastercam by anticipating manufacturers’ and technology teachers’ needs and wants for decades to come.”

Ms. Summers-West has served as Operations Manager at CNC Software since 2009. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business at Bentley College, Massachusetts and an MBA in Management at Hawaii Pacific University. In 2014, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers named her one of the “30 Under 30 Future Leaders of Manufacturing”. She serves on the Young Professionals Group for HVCC, the local food pantry and human services agency. She also participates in the School to Business Partnership as well as interview days and career fairs at several local schools. She resides in Vernon, Connecticut with her husband and their two children.

Current executives at CNC Software, Inc. will continue in their leadership roles. Brian Summers is vice president. Gary Hargreaves is vice president – business development and Rich Norton, corporate controller. Mark Summers will also be involved in the daily operations of the company.

How to Reduce Virtual Simulation Study Time

Using SOLIDWORKS Simulation to optimize designs is a cost & time-saving practice, but generating those studies can sometimes be time consuming. Toby Schnaars, Prism Engineering, walks you through a quick tip to shorten Simulation study time by using shell elements rather than solid elements. Toby demonstrates that using shell elements will generate displacement results within 10% of those generated in the same study using solid elements. He also reviews a few tips for setting up your shell element study.

Purchase SOLIDWORKS & Get an Add-On Product at No Cost

buy solidworks in pa nj de dc va wvSOLIDWORKS has a solution for every stage of your design process, allowing you to be more productive and efficient.

This special offer makes purchasing a SOLIDWORKS Professional or Premium license an even smarter buying decision. From now through May 31, 2015 extend your design capabilities by including one additional product license at no cost*.

Request SOLIDWORKS Promotional Pricing Here

Purchase SOLIDWORKS Premium, and receive one of the following at no cost:

  • SOLIDWORKS Composer
  • SOLIDWORKS Plastics Standard
  • SOLIDWORKS Electrical 2D or 3D

Purchase SOLIDWORKS Professional, and receive one of the following at no cost:

  • SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM CAD Editor
  • SOLIDWORKS Model Based Definition
  • SOLIDWORKS Inspection

*Terms and Conditions: Offer valid until May 31, 2015. Cannot be combined with any other discount or offer. Educational and Research licenses do not qualify for this offer. Subscription Service must be purchased for one-year at full price on each new SOLIDWORKS Professional or SOLIDWORKS Premium license as well as full one-year subscription price on additional no cost product license(s) outlined in this offer. Other restrictions may apply. Contact with questions.


Using the SolidWorks Note Feature to Improve 2D Drawings

Hello Prism Engineering Community,
Toby Schnaars here with another Prism Tech Tip. Today we are going to examine the process of combining dimensions into notes using the SolidWorks Note feature. Combining Dimensions Into Notes Image 1


When working in a SolidWorks and using the command INSERT > ANNOTATIONS > NOTE, you have the ability to add 1 or more dimensions to this note text. This dimension text will then appear as part of the note, and any changes you make to the original dimension will automatically update the note, as the 2 will be linked together.

To accomplish this in SolidWorks, simply open a drawing and add some dimensions to your drawing views. These dimensions may either be DRIVING DIMENSIONS (from the model) or DRIVEN DIMENSIONS (newly created in the drawing).

Combining Dimensions Into Notes Image 2

Next create a new note (INSERT > ANNOTATIONS > NOTES) and begin typing some text.

Combining Dimensions Into Notes Image 3

When you are ready to add the DIMENSION info to the NOTE text, move your mouse out onto the screen and single left click the desired dimension. You should see your dimension text added to your note.

Combining Dimensions Into Notes Image 4

This functionality works for both DRIVING and DRIVEN dimensions, and any changes you make to the original dimension (for example, adding a bi-lateral tolerance to the driving dimension) will be automatically propagated to the NOTE, via the linked text.

Combining Dimensions Into Notes Image 5

Once the dimensions are combined into the note with the desired display, you may (optionally) utilize the command VIEW > HIDE/SHOW ANNOTATIONS. This command will allow you to single click on any visible dimension in your drawing, changing it a very light grey. Once you choose the command VIEW > HIDE/SHOW ANNOTATIONS again, you will exit the command, and all the dimensions you selected will be hidden completely.

2015-04-06 Combining Dimensions Into Notes Image 6

To view these hidden dimensions launch VIEW > HIDE/SHOW ANNOTATIONS once again and single click on any hidden dimensions. Upon exiting the command these hidden dimensions will return to their previous state (visible).

I hope you find this trick to be a useful way to combine dimensions into a single note, to get the perfect presentation for your SolidWorks drawings. For more great tips tricks and webinars be sure to visit us at

Have a great day!
Toby Schnaars

Toby SchnaarsAuthor: Toby Schnaars, Sr. SOLIDWORKS Applications Engineer, Prism Engineering, Inc.