What is the difference between an E-CAD system and a “Dumb CAD system”?
“Dumb” CAD systems: Typically .DWG-based systems for general electronic drafting purposes or drag and drop systems that are designed for flow chart development. There is very little intelligence in these systems, and the processes for schematic and BOM creation are mostly manual.
SolidWorks Electrical: An E-CAD system that connects multiple aspects of electrical design and documentation. For example, models of parts in 3D are connected to symbols represented in single line diagrams and electrical schematics. All of the connectivity is maintained through an SQL database. The connected information updates automatically throughout the project from document to document and even user to user when working collaboratively.
SolidWorks Electrical is component-centric. These components connect important information used throughout electrical design documentation.
To demonstrate how this may help in an engineering environment, let’s consider a scenario in which a Mechanical & Electrical Engineer must work together on a mechanically-driven project to create a conveyor system that requires a motor to move materials:
From left: Mechanical Engineer, Bill, and Electrical Engineer, Jane
The project is mechanically driven in nature because the mechanical engineer, Bill, needs to size the motor to move the material. The electrical engineer, Jane, needs to size the electrical controls to support the system.
Motor power schematic details in SolidWorks Electrical
SolidWorks Electrical Professional allows mechanical and electrical engineers to work together throughout the design development process. The mechanical or electrical engineer adds a motor to the list of components needed in SolidWorks Electrical. At this very early stage in the project, the component could merely be a placeholder with undefined power and torque requirements.
From here, Jane, the electrical engineer, adds placeholders for other electrical components (e.g.: motor, contactor, breaker, terminal strips, switches, cable, etc.) Again, none of the details need to be captured at this point. However, a concept is already in development early in the project and it can be visible to anyone at this point. This is one way SolidWorks Electrical Professional enhances collaboration.
Next, Bill, the mechanical engineer, will select a motor based on load requirements. With SolidWorks Electrical Professional, Bill then assigns manufacturing details (vendor, power, current rating, etc) to the component, and he then attaches that component to the 3D model. This is done without leaving the SolidWorks CAD environment that Bill, being a mechanical engineer, is familiar with. From here, the single line diagram is updated, and Bill communicates using the SolidWorks Electrical chat tool to notify Jane that it is time to capture the remaining electrical schematic details.
Assigning manufacturing part information to a SolidWorks Electrical Component
From here, Jane completes the details of the necessary electrical components, wiring, cables, and harnesses.
After ensuring all the supporting electrical components are defined within the detailed electrical schematics, Jane notifies Bill with the SolidWorks Electrical chat tool that it’s time to add the 3D models and route the wiring.
Bill stops to savor this moment, as he recognizes this is a critical stage, because it allows him to define fabrication of harnesses/cables and installation intent. By doing this, electrical fabrication is performed in parallel with mechanical assembly and project durations are reduced. The installation documentation also provides clarity to the installer so that less hand-holding is necessary from engineers. It’s a win-win solution for Bill and Jane.
Through the example of Bill & Jane, we’ve learned that SolidWorks Electrical is component-centric. The components can be associated with symbols, models, metadata, and more. Wires, cables, and harnesses can be used to connect all of these components together. There is intelligence in all the SolidWorks Electrical information. Bill can even perform design validation on the circuits he created.
Bottom line, SolidWorks Electrical is an electrical design environment for manufacturers with electrical needs. Dumb 2D systems are general purpose electronic drafting boards. When you need to be fast, accurate, and professional in a competitive environment you want to have the right tools, like Bill & Jane.
Next week, we’re going to review how to create wiring using SolidWorks Electrical. Feel free to post comments, questions, or suggestions below.