Creating Technical Documentation with SOLIDWORKS Composer



thanks everybody for joining us today my name is Travis Jones I'm on the application experts here at mlc CAD systems and my goal today is to spend about 30 minutes with you guys basically covering Saltworks Composer showing how it can make your documentation process not only more efficient more streamlined but also allow you to generate higher quality content that better communicates your products to your customers and internally to your own organization now I want to start off by talking about why technical documentation is important I think we all have kind of an idea of why it's important but it really is a pretty broad reaching subject and it starts with customer satisfaction anytime that we can create high quality content that really effectively communicates our products we can make our customer experience a lot better I think we've all had the the unfortunate aspect of sitting down and maybe reading through a confusing user manual or assembly instructions being frustrated enough that you maybe have to call tech support or browse the internet but if you can make your customers more independent and provide them with high quality documentation typically that's going to lead to a much better experience only that but this kind of goes hand in hand anytime you can provide high quality information it really reduces the burden on the number of inquiries that have to be made to your customer support line and then finally product revenue being able to have really nice complete technical documentation can can really increase your product revenue signal the technical documentation is quite expensive to to to make and it's very time-consuming process and so what I want to do is show you kind of some of the ways that that Salt Works Composer can address these different aspects now we know why technical documentation is so important so why is it that so many companies struggle to create high quality documentation through a very easy process well one it's very time-consuming many of you guys probably relate to the poor gentleman you see on the right where you look at your technical documentation process all of the different parties involves this step that the steps that have to be taken along the way and it can be a very confusing and kind of overwhelming process not only that but once you've gone through and you've actually created these technical documents what you find is that even the smallest change to your final product can be quite difficult to update when it comes to your technical documentation just because of all of the related documentation and the different processes that have to be addressed this in turn leads to a very costly process when it comes to creating all this documentation but what I've found my personal experience and just talking with some of our customers is that the biggest aspect of creating technical documentation they find difficult is that it's a serial process and they find that they're always waiting on engineering to be able to provide them with the data they need to create their documentation many organizations basically have engineers that control all of the CAD data engineers are responsible for creating their their engineering data and they're also responsible for the integrity of it it's kind of their baby they don't want anybody else messing with something that that maybe isn't theirs so what you typically find is that you have a number of different departments and users within those departments that are constantly going to engineering and making requests for things like screenshots exploded views drawings different diagrams and I've been a part of this as well and it's very distracting for engineers to constantly have to address all of these requests this is actually a picture of my desk at my last job so you can imagine that if I was in the middle of disassembling a firearm and somebody comes over and they want me to take a screenshot of a CAD model I'm not working on that can be pretty distracting and typically what it does is it leads to one of two scenarios either the engineer has to tell whoever is making the request that they're going to have to wait and he'll get to it later that winds up being very frustrating for your documentation department or the engineer goes ahead he stops what he's doing he makes that that that piece of information whether it's a screenshot an exploded view whatever you need but because he's probably in a hurry and it's not his top priority it may not be the best quality so what I want to take a look at today is how saw works Composer can not only streamline this process but also make your documentation department more independent and allow them to work in a parallel throughout the design process so you can see here how the typical process basically relies on engineering to deliver maybe a final product or a prototype or at the very least at least wait until all of the CAD data is done being produced and that's because it's often difficult to make those changes to your documentation once your CAD models start to incur changes well with Saltworks Composer what we find is that we can actually start the documentation process very early on in the design process and that's because we're able to utilize our SolidWorks models throughout this documentation process but not only that is that when changes come down the line it's very easy to update your documentation that's actually something that we're going to take a look at today so we want to look at how SolidWorks Composer can streamline your documentation process and allow you to create higher quality content now when it comes to the type of content that we can create with SolidWorks Composer the first thing we can create is just what I would call standard technical documentation so things like assembly instructions user manuals parts lists things that are going to be printed off and shipped with your product or maybe they're just going to be saved into a PDF and they can be downloaded from your website SolidWorks Composer is able to handle this type of documentation really well and this really isn't the focus of today's webinar I will go ahead and show you just an example of what some of this documentation looks like so a company called resume makes this this piece of mining equipment you see here the bolts are 77 d and this piece of mining equipment is basically designed to go inside of mines and apply like reinforcing rebar to the mine walls and prevent collapse so it's a very intricate product there's a lot of components that go along with it and you can see that the parts manual itself is actually 534 pages so quite a bit of information but they were able to utilize Saltworks Composer to create this document and include parts lists maintenance procedures different wiring diagrams so really nice piece of document here but this just kind of falls under your standard documentation now what's all works composer can also create and what's going to be the main focus for today is your active technical communications so this is really really high-quality information that kind of takes the ability to communicate your products to the next level so we can create things like animations and interactive content we'll take a look at interactive parts list operational procedures and even how we can create a very interactive online experience so I've got a sample document here that I want to share with you and this is kind of the interactive content that resin created for their bolter 77 D and if you notice this is actually an HTML document so it's opened up in a web browser so you could put this on your website or you could just supply this you know as a download and it can be actually accessed through an internet browser without even having to be connected to the Internet now looking at this you'll notice that they've got a nice high quality image here that actually highlights as I hover over different components but it's actually not an image it's actually a 3d model so I can actually go and rotate this this entire piece of machinery around I can zoom in and out and see different pieces of equipment but down at the bottom you'll also notice that I have three individual links that take me to different categories so the first link here is replacement parts now if I go ahead and click on this replacement parts what I wind up with is this nice kind of wireframe vector style image and if I move out over the screen you can actually see that as I hover over a different sub assemblies they begin to highlight now the reason this is useful is imagine that you've got somebody out in the field they are working on your bolt or 7070 and they need some replacement components now if all they had was just a list of every part on this this piece of mining equipment I can't imagine how long that list would be or how difficult it would be to search and find the right component maybe they don't even know the name of the component that they're trying to replace but they know what it looks like and they know where it goes all I have to do here is go and click on the individual sub assembly that that component belongs to you can see we can actually dive farther into this sub assembly as we start to dive in we start to see different bill of material lists start to pop up you'll see there's actually dynamically highlight showing me exactly which component that that row and the bomb is referencing if I need to dive a little bit deeper into one of these sub assemblies I can click on that sub assembly just to explode it a little bit further all the way until I find exactly the component I'm looking for like I mentioned before all of this bill of material the information cross highlights I can figure out exactly what the part number is it's a very very efficient process and once I've actually found the component that I'd like to to buy I'll notice that they even have an Add to Cart link listed down at the bottom so all I would do here is click on that link it would take me directly to the website add that component to the to the part and overall this makes for a very efficient process now let's take a look at one of the other categories we have in this document like maintenance for instance let's say that you've got somebody who's trying to figure out how to remove a certain component right they need to figure out how to service your piece of machinery now this could be a customer or it could even be internally within your own company but again all we have to do here is click on the the exact component that we're looking to service and with this document we can actually step through the different service procedures now what's nice here is that you'll notice we have these really high-quality image images if anybody has ever used a typical service manual at best the image you're looking at probably resembles something that was printed on a newspaper in the 1980s they're often very difficult to try and understand and it really leads to a more frustrating experience where with SolidWorks Composer and these nice interactive documents we can simply step through all of the procedures and see exactly what it is that we need to do to service this particular component now these aren't just 2d images let's say that I need a little bit better view of exactly what it is that I'm working on this is actually a 3d image so I can just rotate around I can see exactly what it looks like from every angle just to help me try and figure out the way that we need to service this item so again whether you're looking to provide maintenance procedures internally maybe out on the shop floor these could be assembly instructions or you're looking to provide this externally to people who are utilizing your product high-quality interactive documents like you see here with composure really help you better communicate these processes and the last thing we can also take a look at here our operational feature feature so composer is not only utilized by your shop floor or by your customers but it can also be utilized by maybe sales to show off some of the features and functionality of your product before it's actually ever been produced and delivered so here we can see the really unique features of the steering of this equipment that allow it to basically navigate through the minds around tight corners and we can also see how the stabilizers and the placement boom are utilized as well not only that but we can also create really unique fly throughs or in this case just a nice marketing image that can be used on your website to really promote your products before you've actually finalized and produced the end product so this is really going to help you guys generate interest so overall these interactive technical publications really allow for an interactive experience this interactive experience can be online it can be offline but the ultimate idea is that you're creating very clear and easy to understand documentation that's going to provide a better experience with anybody who interacts with your product now I've shown you just a few aspects of the type of interactive documentation that we can actually create but I want to want to spend some time now inside of the actual software I don't want to get too detailed on the actual procedures for creating documentation but I want to show you how easy it is for SolidWorks to leverage your SolidWorks data so the first thing we're going to look at is engineering data how can we leverage data that already exists to better facilitate the creation of these technical documents so inside of composer what we're going to do is we are going to open up a SolidWorks model so we'll simply go up to file open and one of the things that you'll notice is that composer is not just intended to be used by SolidWorks or rather for SolidWorks files it can handle Pro e or creo files we can handle to TIA we can handle inventor we can even handle a lot of neutral file formats so we have a lot of different data that we're able to leverage inside of composer in this example we're just going to go ahead and stick with a SolidWorks assembly now it's important to note here that while we're leveraging SolidWorks files we do not actually have the ability to go in and manipulate that engineering data so engineers are very protective over their CAD data but we don't have to worry about accidentally modifying any of their documents maybe what happens here is composer is going to go through it's going to open up all of the SolidWorks information from the file and it's just going to copy it into composer where we can work with it in our own environment so you here you'll see once it opens up I've got my nice 3d model here of this boom assembly I can rotate it around manipulate it in a number of different ways we can change the appearance of all this information maybe add shadows or ambient occlusion but there's a lot of different ways that we can customize our SolidWorks models to really increase the appearance and help better communicate some of these technical aspects now over on the left-hand side you'll notice that there is an assembly tab and what's all works composer does is that it's actually able to preserve all of your assembly structure so just as my assembly structure would appear in SolidWorks you'll see that it appears the very same way inside of SolidWorks composer and this is important when we start to explode our assemblies out into different views and start to create our bill of materials because all of that information is going to be preserved not only that if you notice when clicking on each individual component there's a properties window and all of the custom properties for components that existed inside of SolidWorks now exists inside of SolidWorks composer so you've got engineers who are very detail-oriented who have spent all this time entering in all the accurate information about each and every component and you're able to leverage that directly inside of composer if you didn't have composer a typical process would require somebody in your documentation department to basically take all that information and copy it over now not only is that going to create a lot of work that somebody has to do it's a duplication of work but it's also a potential source for errors whether it's copying in the wrong part number or the wrong description accidentally getting your numbers crossed it's just more information that has to be managed and updated with SolidWorks composer all we have to do is manage that information inside of SolidWorks and it will automatically propagate to all of our component composer items as well now inside of composer the basic idea is that you kind of orientate your components and you modify them so that you can create nice high quality images now I'm going to go ahead and just create like a nice home image here and so what I can do is just position this however I like and then open the views tab I can choose create view you'll see that it basically takes a snapshot of what that looked like in time and now I can use that view for a number of different documents whether it's my user manuals assembly instructions things of that nature but we're actually going to take this a little bit further so inside of Saltworks composer our engineering data is actually our native cad data we're working directly with our SolidWorks files but we're working inside of an independent environment now we still preserve all of our assembly structures all of our custom properties all of the information that existed in our SolidWorks model we've got it in a dedicated user interface that's very easy to use and very easy to understand now kind of going hand in hand with that engineering data what I want to show you next is how we can create those interactive parts lists that you saw earlier oftentimes what you wind up with are users who may not have necessarily a technical background or they weren't involved directly in the engineering process trying to create these itemized bill of materials and annotating each individual component with balloons now that cost oftentimes be very time-consuming if you're not somebody who necessarily understands the assembly structure or what each component actually is in your product so what we're going to do here is we're going to go ahead and create an itemized bill material and annotate our assembly now the first thing I want to do here is actually want to change some of the appearance instead of having this kind of shaded view that shows a lot of detail I want to switch over to a wireframe view that maybe just shows the outline for each component so up here on the render tab I can just go ahead and change this to a nice silhouette image now I don't really like the shaded background either but everything inside of composer is easily customized any time you select on an aspect out in the graphics area you get a properties window that allows you to change the properties for whatever you've selected so I can really quickly go ahead and change that background color I can maybe remove the ground floor for my from my display and really quickly I've got this nice silhouette image now typically when we're making bill of materials what we want to do is we want to go ahead and start to explode the different components on screen and it's a very simple process with SolidWorks Composer all I have to do is go and right-click on any component and I can actually drag it in any direction that I choose so I can start to drag these different components away from my main assembly now just like you would expect with any SolidWorks product I can also select components from my assembly structure as well so I can grab one of these cylinders and simply pull it away from my model or I can grab this top cover as well and pull it out into space now once I've got these components organized how I like the next thing I really need to do is I need to go ahead and generate a bill of materials and if you've ever gone through and manually created a bill of materials you know how just kind of time-consuming that that is with all of the information that has to be double-checked and triple-checked to make sure that it it all lines up but in SolidWorks Composer we have a number of tools that are called workshops and these workshops are basically very specialized tools that allow us to automate what was once a very complex procedure so we'll go ahead and utilize the Bill of Materials workshop and the way that this works is that I just need to go select from my assembly structure the different components that I want to appear in my bill of materials so I can individually select things like fasteners or I can actually select just the top level assembly so that none of their sub components appear in that bill of materials now once I've selected the components that I want to appear in my bill of materials I'm just going to go over to the right hand side and hit generate BOM IDs and you can see that it actually automatically generates this bill of material based on the properties from SolidWorks so it knows the assembly structure and knows the name of each component it knows its description it knows how many of them are in the assembly and it automatically creates this bill of materials for me now you can also customize all the information in that bill of materials by using the BOM tab so you'll see that all of the custom properties that are available in SolidWorks and even some special properties that are only available in Composer appear in this list and you can simply pick and choose which items you want to appear in your BOM to customize the information that you need so again this allows us to leverage a lot of existing data and we don't have to duplicate work somebody's already gone through they've entered all this information in all I've got to do is pick and choose what I need and composers going to go ahead and automate that process now I don't really like the layout of this bill of materials but as I mentioned before if you simply click on click on any item inside of your graphics area the properties window allows you to customize the display so if you look over here in the placement category I can choose from a number of different locations for this bill of materials or I can just use the free option and this actually allows me to go ahead and just dynamically drag this bill of materials and kind of place it wherever I want I think that looks pretty good now no bill of materials is complete without some annotated balloons to show which component the bill materials is referring to so what I'm going to do here is I'm going to go ahead and generate my call-outs now I don't have to manually generate these call-outs all I have to do is select my components inside of my bill of materials tree and then on the right-hand side I'll choose create call-outs and again composer is going to go ahead and it's going to automatically add those call-outs because it knows which components are being referenced inside of my bill of materials over on the left-hand side you'll see that I have a number of different options for how I want to display these balloons so whether I want to display them on an arc maybe I just want to display them bottom and left or there's a really cool option as well for displaying them as parametric and basically what this does is it automatically rotates those balloons around to show which components they're referencing but it sticks nice and tight to the model now at this point I think everything looks good but kind of a nightmare scenario for many people who are involved in the documentation process is what happens when change occurs right everybody fears change and it's not without reason for a lot of people using a standard documentation workflow so we're going to go ahead and see what happens when we apply a change to the model that component composer is referencing now I'm going to go ahead and just save out this view so I'll click create view here and that's going to give me my nice bill of material view and then I'll go ahead and just save this document now inside of SolidWorks we're going to go ahead and replicate a change to this particular component so you can see here I've got this boom assembly modeled up but you'll notice that down on the bottom right these cylinders don't actually connect to the plate they're actually missing the knuckle components that's because I've got them suppressed right now so if we unsuppressed these so that everything is finally connected we'll go ahead and save this document and see how SolidWorks Composer is able to handle this change you so back inside of composure you'll notice that nothing is quite changed yet but since we're leveraging our our SolidWorks data all we have to do is go up to file update and choose to update this SolidWorks composer document we simply select the assembly that we're working with and hit update and composer is going to reopen that document in SolidWorks in the background it's going to start analyzing the differences between the data that it first started with and the data that is available now and this is really nice because as somebody who may not have a technical understanding of the product I don't have to analyze that assembly and figure out what's changed composer is able to go find all of that information for me it's able to extract it and once it's done will actually see that it was able to update our composer models so here inside of my bill of materials view you can see that those two knuckles now exist and they also exist in my original view as well and so what this means is that these views are automatically updating and then these updates can now be pushed to all of the documentation that is utilizing those views now one thing you may may have noticed is that my bill of materials does not list the the knuckle and then maybe for good reason maybe I don't want it to appear in this particular assembly assembly document but if I want to add these new components to my bill of materials all I have to do is go select these inside of my graphics area and hit generate bomb IDs and you'll see that they actually automatically get added to my bill of materials list now from here I'll go ahead and just choose create call-out and I'll get my new call-out and now my bomb is automatically referencing all of this updated information so this is kind of one of the big aspects that allows you to work in a parallel process while engineering is still developing a product so parts list inside of SolidWorks Composer you basically have a really easy manipulation of geometry it's very intuitive to just drag components around whether easy to see but you're also working inside of a complex 3d environment now because we're able to utilize all of the information from SolidWorks we get automatic automatic part list creation and we can go ahead and handle those updates as they appear so we can start our documentation earlier on in the design process we don't have to worry about changes being made or components being added pretty much every time we fire up composer if somebody let us know that there's been a change all we have to do is hit update and that change will be reflected now the last thing I want to share with you guys I want to take a look at interactivity and the reason I want to show this is because you saw how interactive the document was that we previewed earlier where we can click on components and they take us to maybe different links whether it's a parts list or to you know assembly instructions but I want to show you how easy this is and how you don't necessarily need a background in coding or HTML to create these very powerful interactive documents it's great now if we can create those powerful documents but if they're difficult to create in the first place it's kind of a moot point so what I've got here is actually a partially finished project that we're going to go ahead and finish out and this is going to be a similar document to what you guys saw earlier we're basically about this same assembly that we've been working with but I want to add some categories that show my parts list and allow me to dive down through sub assemblies and I also want to be able to show how to remove certain components like the cylinder now all this basically requires us to create links that kind of transport us around inside of our document so to start off with I'm going to add basically a couple of links down here you can see I've already got the text for replacement parts and remove cylinder but I want to add a little preview image that you can click on and that will take you to another view now if you look through my views over here I've already got my parts list that allows me to dive into sub assemblies and I've got all of my instructions for removing these cylinders if I want to add a link that takes me directly to my replacement parts all I have to do is select that view and drag it on-screen and composers automatically going to create this link for me there's no coding there's no knowledge of HTML all I have to do is drag and drop and now when we publish this document if anybody clicks on that window it will automatically take them to the replacement parts category likewise I want to show how we can remove this cylinder so I'm going to go to the remove cylinder view click on it and simply drag it onto my screen and that's going to automatically create a link that will transport you to the instructions for how to remove one of these hydraulic cylinders it's very easy very intuitive anybody can use composer now I'm going to go ahead and just update this view and the next thing I want to look at is I want to look at basically view 8 right so this is kind of the start of the replacement components here and it shows how everything starts to come apart now I want to add arrows that basically allow you to step through each of the operational procedures and the way that I can do this is I can simply go up to my author tab and there are a number of 2d images that are included with composer that really facilitate some of this automation like this all buttons category I can simply select this and really quickly add these buttons that will allow you to step through each of the operational procedures again I don't have to have any knowledge of coding or how this works I just drag and drop and composer does the rest in the background now along with these buttons I think I'd also like to add something that I manually linked to an outside source so imagine somebody is going through your parts list or maybe they're going through your operational instructions and they get to the point that maybe they either need to contact you to purchase a part or they need to contact you for assistance so I want to make it really easy for somebody to get to my website and the way that I'm going to do this is that I'm going to go back and on my workshops window I'm just going to go to the image library I just want to add an image of my company logo to the top right hand corner but I want this image to be interactive I want somebody to be able to click on this image and take them directly to my website now the beautiful thing about composer is that any item in the graphics area can be utilized as an interactive component that links to something else so all I'm going to do is let click on this image and over on the left hand side you'll see that in the properties there is a link category and this appears for any component inside your graphics area now inside of this link category I can basically go and choose to link to a number of different items so whether I want to link this icon to maybe a file that gets downloaded maybe I want to link it to a website maybe I want it to be an FTP site where the customer can upload documents for me to review in this case we're going to use a website and I'm just going to have this this icon link to the resident website that way if anybody needs assistance if they need to contact our company at all all they have to do is click on the icon up in the top right corner and they can immediately be transported over to the website now I've added this logo and I've added these links that allow you to navigate through all of the different views and I'd really like both of those items to appear on all of the views that I've already created well instead of having to go to each and every view and manually add those items all I have to do is select the items that I want to add to other views and then I can simply select all of the different views that I want to add these items to once I've selected these different views all I've got to do is hit update and all of those different items now get added to each and every view so this is a really easy way to customize a lot of the different information and like I said before you don't really have to be somebody who has a knowledge of HTML or the different coding processes all this information is very intuitive and once you've finished all of this information can be published to a variety of formats so it automatically publishes to HTML if you want to provide this information on a website you can publish this to PDF or you can just save it out as a SVG file and then there's actually a nice simple viewer that anybody can utilize to view all of this information so with interactivity in SolidWorks you can link to a number of different external sources you can link between different view types and you can link custom views to get very specific control over your documents and I've actually got an example of what that finished document looks like here and we'll go ahead and open that guy up alright so here's what that document we just utilized looks like drag it over from another screen and you can actually see how clicking on those different replacement part windows takes us over to the parts list where we can then go through and dive into different sub assemblies and see all of this information you guys saw how easy it was to create that type of information it wasn't difficult to link between different views it wasn't difficult to add these different icons that navigate us between all of the steps and so it's a very simple process for creating a very good way to effectively communicate all of your products both internally maybe out on the shop floor or externally to customers vendors suppliers anybody who needs to access all of this information so really what I want you guys to take away from this this webinar it's just a company-wide impact that SolidWorks Composer can have and it really starts with allowing your engineers to spend a lot more time designing and less time having to provide data to a number of different sources and not only that but you also give your engineers a way to effectively communicate their very technical products third you can also allow your company produce a lot more documentation and not only more documentation but higher quality documentation without the need for a lot of additional personnel or processes it actually simplifies your documentation process quite a bit and then third your content creators can spend a lot more time generating this high-quality documentation and much less time will be spent chasing down engineers and fighting to try and get up all that updated information and all this has a really good impact company-wide because it basically allows customers resellers partners and other product users to have a much more efficient and more engaging experience with your products anytime you can provide better information better communication about your products it's a much easier product process for everybody involved and it really gives people a lot more confidence in your products and it's going to encourage them to be a lot more independent and they're less likely to go out and search on YouTube or search different forums and possibly find information that may not be accurate so you'd much rather provide that accurate information yourself so I appreciate you guys hanging out with us today

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