In my ongoing quest for SolidWorks knowledge, I was recently asked if I wanted to participate in the SolidWorks Essentials class internally. The program runs a total of four days to cover the entire SolidWorks Essentials Training Manual. This was in line with my thirst for knowledge and I graciously accepted. Being a beginner user, I entered the class with minimal insight to SolidWorks. My knowledge was based on the tutorials I had done inside of the software.
This would also be my first time in a classroom setting in over a decade. I was a little bit apprehensive when I walked in the training room Monday morning. Day one didn’t let me down. Steve Beaudet was the instructor, and he dove right in. On the first day we went from getting acquainted with the basic user interface right into sketching and designing basic part models. The last lesson of the day would introduce symmetry.
Steve spent the lesson teaching us how to create a ratchet based on design intent. This would be the perfect transition into the second day. After each lesson in the book, the students are given some time to do the exercises at the end of the chapter. This made it easier to absorb the great amount of information. I left the training room with my head spinning, and my ears smoking a little bit.
I walked into the room on Tuesday to be greeted by our next instructor, Jeremiah Davis. Jeremiah taught this class for a SolidWorks reseller in the past, and as with Steve, we went in head first. We took our basic skills of sketching and creating part models and learned how to create patterns using the geometry pattern tools. We learned how to mirror holes, as well as whole drawings.
During the middle of day two I started to feel a little bit defeated. Maybe I was biting off more than I could chew. It was at that moment that I realized I really wasn’t a mechanical engineer. My mind was filled with information bouncing all over the place. I fell behind that day, and my mind was spinning.
When I went home that night, I was decidedly not in the best of spirits. But I started looking at items in my house; not as a consumer, but as a designer. I picked up an old 35mm camera I have on display and spun it around. I grabbed a Duo Flex next to it. I looked at them and started to build them in my head as I would using my limited knowledge of SolidWorks. I grabbed a glass and thought about coring, and the fillet. Instead of appreciating the product, I was actually trying to figure out how to develop it in 3D in my brain. This exercise helped me to better understand what I was learning, and why. Sometimes considering practical applications and putting things into perspective can make a world of difference when you’re learning something new.
Starting the class Wednesday, Rebekah Haag walked us through repairing drawings and creating changes to preexisting sketches. We moved from that to creating different configurations for the same models. Everything was starting to click a little better, and what was being discussed started to make sense. The lessons were coming together and I realized that I had to create something of my own.
On Thursday, Jeremiah came back for an encore performance and taught the last lessons in the book. We took the ratchet that we had used for numerous lessons and broke it down in a drawing. We then started to put the parts together and learned basic assemblies. Once the assemblies were together we used them and then exploded them into a piece by piece part BOM in 3D.
Thinking back to my experience, I’m not so sure I absorbed all of the information, but the class definitely helped me view consumer items differently. The design and engineering of a part is the core and beginning of every manufacturing process. I decided to take the Essentials book and start from the beginning, working chapter by chapter until it sinks in–at my own pace. I try to spend an hour a night working with the book and the software. When I become more comfortable with SolidWorks, I am going to reverse engineer that old 35mm camera I have piece by piece. The best advice I got from all three instructors was to keep at it, and be repetitive. That’s the plan. Just keep swimming along and build a camera!
If you’re an engineer or a designer that has existing knowledge of another 3D CAD program and you’re transitioning to SolidWorks, the SolidWorks Essentials class is for you. It offers you everything you need to know to become comfortable and accustomed to the product for a very fluid transformation, and you can get in touch with your SolidWorks reseller to get Essentials class listings. If you’re someone with very little CAD knowledge, this class is can be a lot to handle, with a lot of information in four days. Be prepared to get frustrated more than once, but don’t give up.
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