Prism Engineering Hearts SOLIDWORKS

Here at Prism Engineering, we have loads of Applications Engineers on our SOLIDWORKS, Mastercam, and Stratasys 3D Printing teams. We’re all immensely dedicated to our crafts. Sure, we all have our own personal lives, but we’re going to go out on a limb here and say that we all have a certain ‘love affair’ with our CAD, CAM, and 3D Printing products that can get pretty… intense.


On the SOLIDWORKS side, we caught up with a few of our Applications Engineers to see what their thoughts were on Valentine’s Day. All responses were 3D in nature.

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Tell Your Analytical Geometry to RELAX: Fit Splines

Have you ever wanted to tell your rigid, analytical geometry to just… RELAX? I sure have. It might have a little something to do with the fact that 2OOLANDER is coming out soon, which causes me to mentally playback the famous “Frankie Goes to Hollywood” tune of the same name at a seemingly undying rate, but I digress.

Sometimes, analytical geometry does more for my designs than I really want it to. Sure, it provides a reliable, time-tested structure for defining my geometry correctly with all of the proper constrains, but it sometimes leaves somewhat of an ‘unfun’ finish. Just keep reading if you’d like to see how I learned to obtain the best of both worlds: smooth, beautiful curves with a nice finish that are rigidly defined.

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Thank you from Prism Engineering!


We wanted to take some time out just to send a quick ‘Thank you!’ to all of our readers who happened to attend one of our many SOLIDWORKS 2016 Launch events, sponsored by HP and Intel® Core™ i7. We’ll be sure to add content on the rollouts as we move forward and dive ever-deeper into the exciting functionality of the newest SOLIDWORKS release!

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.