Steve Weathermax, Product Manger 2D-3D Data Translation
Solidworks has the largest user base in the MCAD industry, with numbers ranging from over a half-million (commercial users) to 2.5 million (commercial + education). This makes it a target of competitors like Autodesk, Siemens, and even within Dassault Systems itself. They all want to attract Solidworks users, and to attract them the MCAD vendors need to be able to move over their files.
In the case of Solidworks and Solid Edge, users are in luck, because both CAD systems use the same modeling kernel, Parasolid. This makes translation "easier," although as you will see below, there are still lots of special cases that need to be handled carefully.
Siemens calls the translation process "migration." Solidworks Migration Tool uses the Solidworks automation layer to extract rich data. This means that you need to have Solidworks 2012 installed on the same computer as Solid Edge ST9. The newer the release of Solidworks, the better the translation (ie, more types of data are translated). Solidworks must be able to resolve all the links that Solid Edge is requesting as it opens the model file.
You can open the translated drawings in ordered or synchronous environment, but ST is recommended as it can manipulate the body, such as finding holes in bodies. The tool can import drawings, parts, and assemblies from Solidworks. Attributes that are extracted are stored in PLMXML files, which is an XML format created by Siemens that references geometry, which is stored in a Parasolid x_t file.
The translator supports the following features in Solidworks files:
- Material definitions are converted from the Solidworks .sldmat file to Solid Edge .mtl file using the SWmat2SEmat.exe program.
- Holes are converted with attributes such as thread data by converting the Solidworks .mbd hole database file to the Solid Edge hole table using the SEhholePipeTxtFromSW.exe program.
- Assembly relationships (see figure below)
- Families of assemblies: suppressed parts are migrated as FOA [family of assemblies] members.
- Flexible assemblies: alternative position assemblies are migrated as FOA members.
- Associated drawing files (new to ST9): geometry and text is translated using DXF format; drawings are kept associative to the 3D model
Migration is not instant, but can take 3-4 minutes even for small model. Mr Wathermax recommends starting with converting parts to get used to the process. "This is a data translator. You can't take apples and change them into oranges," because there are differences in the data structures in the two CAD program. If 99% of the data is translated, that's doing good, he figures.
Being able to translate drawings has been the big draw. But the job of writing the migration tool is not over, and additional functions are already planned for Solid Edge ST10.
Q: Is there a record of constraints in the log files?
A: Yes, it does. The log file also reports number of threads found. A different log file records the assembly details found. Both Solidworks and Solid Edge generate log files. The key thing to search for are errors.
Q: Are custom file properties translated?
A: Yes. But we don't get properties in features, such as descriptions in configurations.
Q: Does it place title block info into a background sheet?
A: No, it places them on the foreground sheet.
Q: Does it handle display states in Solidworks [where parts are hidden by turning them off]?
A: No. We bring over the part files over; if it is on in Solidworks, it is on in Solid Edge. But we bring over ones that are off, too. Five different display states are not going to be reproduced. A workaround is to convert display states to configuration data.
Q: If a client does a Pack-and-Go to send us everything in Solidworks folders, how does migration work?
A: It does the assemblies first, then checks the parts needed. Clicking the top-level assembly is the best place to start. Do drafts last; they will hook up automatically.
Q: Iso views in Solidworks seem to embed a title; when translated, the text was embedded in the part, right-justified.
A: Look at the AutoCAD (DXF) file and see if the problem is there.