So a lot of our customers want to create manuals or assembly instructions of the cool, intricate things they’ve made in SolidWorks, and they try to use what most everyone does: screenshots. Tons and tons of screenshots, saved at mixed and matched stages of a design’s life, cluttering up your folders, and taking up a designer’s valuable time to create.
However, there’s another product out there that can fill the screenshot gap between your CAD system and your document creation in Word or Adobe or Quark or whatever. I’ve hinted at it before, and it’s called 3DVIA Composer.
The basic idea is to create your geometry in your CAD system, and then use 3DVIA Composer to do all the other manipulations to get the pictures you want for your manuals. But just talking about all the ways your Tech Pub department can use Composer to make screenshots, or cutaway views, or zoomed in views with helpful arrows and text, or BOMs, would be too long and boring, so we did something else instead.
I went to a toy store and bought “The World’s Most Difficult Take-Apart Puzzle”, the Gordian’s Knot:
As you can see from the picture, it includes this little “solution” guide, which is 69 steps captured in screenshots from some CAD system. The guide is okay, but like any collection of screenshots, it’s static. About half the time I found myself wishing I could turn those screenshots around or zoom in, or hide a piece because I couldn’t see what I needed to understand the step. It’s not like the creator could have included every angle of screenshot I might ever need. But 3DVIA Composer can.
I reverse engineered the puzzle into SolidWorks, which wasn’t too hard (once I spent an hour fighting with inch fractions before realizing the whole puzzle was built in Metric). I also used my favorite Master Model technique again because the pieces interlocked so much. After a few useful interference checks on the final assembly, I left SolidWorks because I would never try to make an entire manual in it. The tools just aren’t there.
I imported the assembly into 3DVIA Composer and made one separate “view” for each of the 69 disassembly steps. Views are kind of like slides in PowerPoint, and you can see some of them on the left of this screenshot:
(No comments please, about me using a screenshot in a blog post about how we don’t need screenshots to explain things.)
I made an animation from those views, had the animation pause at each step for human input, then grabbed our touch-screen monitor and the first person walking by to create this:
Pretty cool, huh? And if it works for “the World’s Most Difficult Take-Apart Puzzle”, it can definitely work for those tough steps putting together your assembly!
**Comments from Melinda**
“Using 3DVIA’s interactive instruction manual was super easy. Showing each step with a 3D model greatly reduces any confusion, especially being able to rotate the model on screen to make sure what you’re doing is actually correct.”
Our 3DVIA customers tell us that new hires to their shop floor get trained and proficient much faster with dynamic 3D manuals than if you just handed them a static 100 page book. Assemblers can zoom in on the parts they want to see, warnings can pop up at just the right time, hyperlinks can lead people to more information about a part; there’s a lot of potential here.
Speaking of which, if you took some really cool models, spent some time in 3DVIA Composer, and then laid it over a kickin’ rock soundtrack, you’d have this (from another SolidWorks Reseller across the pond):
If you ever want to try driving 3DVIA Composer yourselves, let us know; we have hands-on test drives regularly in each of our offices! Contact us to schedule one!