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The solidworks thread9/6
I want start a thread talking about Solidworks and its use in woodworking. I have read ever other post on this forum regarding solidworks but I would like to create one super thread with all the information in one place.
Quick disclaimer - I am not affiliated with solidworks in anyway. I don't use it in production but I am curious to know if it is worth using.
Below I have some questions that I would like answering (If you have any additional questions please post them!) -
Currently I use Autocad (2D only) and a separate CAM program. As we all know this can cause lots of problems when changes are made in a drawing and not carried to the CAM program. Would Solidworks help here?
Exporting single parts out to then be programmed in the CAM software is fine by me so is there a efficient way of doing this?
How do you handle Edgebanding in Solidworks? Exporting a DXF then manually making the allowance is NOT an option.
I use a flat bed CNC to produce the majority of my work so when a cabinet is cut it needs all the dado's and rebate's cut with 0.2mm tolerance to accept the board slotting into it. I don't want to export a DXF then go around ever dado and rebate to allow for that tolerance. So how would you go about that?
Most of our work is commercial and not designed to be taken apart. So we pre-drill all the fixing into the parts for standard wood screws, then when it comes off the CNC it is ready for edgebanding and assembly. Can you do that in solidworks? Is it a long winded process?
Finally what about laying out an entire project? I work at a shopfitting company so most projects aren't single items of furniture. It can be everything from the architraves to the feature ceiling rafts. So plan drawings are key.
To my understanding these are the options available to us -
Solidworks with add-ins -
Pascam, SWOOD & Pathfinder3D are the only add-ins I know of that cater to our woodworking needs.
Does anyone have any experience with the above? I have watched ALL the material available on these add-ins (youtube them) but there are so many questions that still need answering! I don't want a company to reveal there secrets but the information needs to be more available...
Could anyone using solidworks post some drawings they have produced? Presentation or Shop. Just to show what it is capable of.
Finally I would like to ask anyone that uses Solidworks to give us there honest opinions about it. There's pro's and con's to every software so I look forward to your response.
Thanks for reading this fairly long post. I'm passionate about the software I use and want it to be as effective as possible.
Solidworks is a parametric solid modelling program. It is primarily used in machine design, jig/fixture design, and the like in various manufacturing industries that deal mostly in metal or plastic parts.
It would have tremendous value for the modelling of furniture parts in the wood industry as well.
Since you speak of mostly commercial cabinetry, there are many cabinet specific programs that would likely be more efficient for your products. Cabinetvision and microvellum come to mind.
We have drftsman that use Autocad for "paper" drawing.
Thanks for your response, I agree with you completely regarding cabinet work. Solidworks should never beat the likes of cabinetvision. But when custom work comes into play it seems soildworks would have the upper hand.
Thanks for your response, I didn't know about mastercam's link with solidworks. Does your foreman export a drawing then program or is it all inside of solidworks?
We still use Smartlister here. It is not parametric but works within AutoCad to generate cutlists of parts of anything drawn. If you are looking to draw something just once it is much better than all the time creating a one off parametric cabinet.
Draw it in 3D and you've got a cutlist. We've used it since 2005. Still like it.
The Mastercam thing is now integrated inside of Solidworks, although he used to have to export from Solidworks and run the toolpaths in Mastercam.
BTW, we are all swapping drawing files back and forth in the shop between ACAD, Mastercam and Solidworks and we don't have any problems with compatability.
If your mainstay is cabinetry, even with a lot of custom, I suggest you take a hard look at microvellum. The program has improved significantly in the last few years. One of the best improvements is something called solid model analyzer. This allows you to take a 3d solid model from the program of your choice (including vanilla autocad). And suck it into your microvellum project with all your normal products. That way everything goes through one workflow to manufacturing.
I used Solidworks from 98 until about 2007. The problem with it is it's lack of woodworking functionality. I.E. putting in assembly and system holes, allowing for edgebanding, getting the parts out of the assembly and into the the cnc, organizing parts by room, etc.
There are guys who sell some add ons. But there is no way they are going to be as efficient as cabinet programs.
I use Smartlister also, it works.
For straight cabinet work the only real choices are Microvellum or Cabinetvision, as these programs allow very fast design time and organization. Cabinetvision does not do real custom. Microvellum is for big shops.
Again I agree regarding microvellum and CV for cabinet work. But serious custom work/shopfitting is not an option (at least from what I have seen). Hopefully you can see the image I have tried to attach. This is a project completed earlier this year. Its a sushi restaurant with a conveyor system which takes the food around the store to the customers. So around the conveyor belt we manufactured the belt top (2 layers of 18mm MDF with walnut laminate and solid walnut edge), the panels above and below. To the left of the image is a wall panel which is a 12mm back board with several dados to accept strips of walnut veneered MDF. At the other end of the site there is booth seating.
As much as possible goes through the CNC and has acad drawings to go with them.
I should clarify that cabinet work is defiantly not the bulk of our work. Maybe 25% max hence why I was looking at solidwork.
Working in 2D autocad is great for flexibility but it is often difficult to identify mistakes until parts are cut and assembled
The type of stuff you are doing is similar to what we do in that we do a lot of integration of wood and metal work.
With all due respect to Snaglpuss Solidworks is easier to learn than Autocad.
Jack I did the same stuff as you, sushi bars, theme restaurants, store fixtures, etc
The question is which software is the most efficient and getting the parts into the shop. I think 3d software is, but a lot of people disagree with me.
Cabinet Vision will definitely not work for you. I could not get the Microvellum guys to demonstrate (not just say) doing this type of work. SW was great at drawing but weak at locating the holes in the parts and getting the parts out of the assembly and into the CNC, it also was a pain, in that the parametrics created problems in copying assemblies. The last version I used was 2003 so I'm sure a lot has changed. And I'm sure lots of people will say "everything has changed" since then. My advise would be to LOOK, DO NOT LISTEN. MAKE them do whatever you want.
In about 2007 I switched to Smartlister. And would not consider going back to SW. Because the copying problem was no longer a problem, parametrics were no longer a problem, getting the parts out of Smartlister and into the CNC is infinetly easier, there are tools in Smartlister that allows you to put the holes into the assembly.
I would recommend looking at Microvellum because it has global parametrics which are useful on bigger jobs. E.G. you can say give me the parts for just room 128. Or you can say change the veneer in Room 128 to banana wood. You can also make the jobs into products so that you can make certain dimensions parametric for future use. But you are also looking at what 30k to 50k verses less than 10k. So it depends on the volume you are doing.
I use SolidWorks on a daily basis for most of our cabinet work and have been using it since 2003 for mechanical design.
SW will not help with the problem of transferring changes to CAM unless you're using something like MasterCAM for SolidWorks which plugs into SW and associates machining to the solid model in real time. Every time you make a change to your model you need to reexport to your CAM.
The way I set up my models is that I create each part of a cabinet, put them into an assembly, and create holes and dados in the context of the assembly. That way if I change the size of any of the parts the hole locations, etc. update accordingly. After I've got all my parts complete I export a DXF of each one, then import into my CAM and apply machining ops. Since I started in this field last year I've come up with a workflow that is fairly fast by storing commonly used machining operations in a library and simply copying and pasting operations as necessary. Similarly, I frequently reuse my SW models. If I know I've done something similar I just make a copy and then change the copy to what I need.
I've never dealt with edgebanding as our bander has premill. What you could do is add the banding as a separate body in the part, then when you export the face of your panel the band would be excluded. You could also split the face you're exporting. This may be simpler as it allows you to model parts at finished sizes without having to deal with the separate body.
If you need to have a .2mm offset for your dados create them in context with the offset in your sketch.
I put all my holes in using the Hole Wizard function by editing the parts, again, in the context of the assembly. It can be a little tedious, but there are ways to automate the process. In the last few releases SW has added some nice pattern features that, used correctly, can speed up your workflow.
I spent 6-1/2 years doing mechanical drawings full time with SW. Currently I use it mainly for modeling, but I also do drawings occasionally. It's not really suited for architectural work. I mainly use it for standalone fixtures which is the core of our business. (Due to the nature of our business I can't share drawings, or I'd be happy to upload some.) The drawing process in SW is very simple. Once your model is created you insert views in a drawing and then add dimensions.
I've looked seriously at Pathfinder PBE and if it was up to me we'd buy it, but I don't have the checkbook. While I have found ways to speed up my workflow something like Pathfinder would significantly reduce my workload. I'd also like to have Cabinet Vision for doing generic box work and layout, but again I don't control the finances.
I'm a huge fan of SW. I have used other CAD packages, but SW hits the sweet spot for me especially for doing custom work. I'd avoid AutoCAD or Microvellum which is built on top of ACAD. SW has a great set of tutorials which can get you up and running quickly. In a lot of ways it's more power than you need for cabinetry, but you'll always have the capability if you need it. Another thing you might want to consider is Onshape which is a cloud based 3D modeling package. It's still lacking some capabilities that I use on a daily basis, but when those issues are ironed out I'll probably switch to it.
We just got a CNC for solid wood machining (NOT cabinets). Some of y'all ou mentioned you had looked at Pathfinder. What about PASCAM or SWOOD? - two other woodwork plugins for SW.
We had TopSolid'Wood at our last factory and it is wonderful for integrated CAD/CAM but so expensive and such a small user base that it makes it hard to get answers in forums.
Some people talked about Mastercam INSIDE of SW... Any thoughts on the other plugins or Mastercam with SW?
i want parametric design and as integrated with CAM as possible.
bonus would be 4th axis capability - we have a side mounted rotary lathe axis too - but we could run this on another software.