Large Assys - SW Not Proven at All

I would have thought this information would be easy to find, but it has been quite the ordeal. It relates to the handling of large assys in SW. We have a large assembly line with roughly 100 000 parts, about 60 000 non-fasteners and roughly 30 000 unique components. We are seriously considering SW, but have seen no proof that SW can handle assemblies of this size. I understand proper assy practices need to be used and very powerful computers are required, but I have never heard of anything close to even 30 000 components.

SW has shown close to 10 000 part assemblies in demos and claim they can do more, but I hear a lot of talk in forums about headaches people are having with large assys (even 5000 parts!!!). So what I'm asking is this:

1) Can you refer me to any companies that are designing very large assys with SW? 2) Is the SW engine inherently limited in handling large assys by design (i.e. will the program grind to a halt at a certain point, regardless of hardware)? 3) Isn't managing the simplified versions of parts and sub-assys difficult and doesn't it introduce additional potential for errors?

We are considering Catia as well, but are worried it is overkill for the machine design we're doing. I'm very interested in hearing your experiences.



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If you want to talk to a user who is designing things with 100,000+ parts, go talk to Boeing, Airbus, or maybe the largest factory automation companies. An airliner can have about 1 million components from what I remember from press articles.

I think the CAD packages used at the top of the heap will be very few. They will also be linked via mainframe in a large LAN/WAN.

That being said, I had an automation system quoted from a large automation company (500 engineers) that was NOT using CATIA or similar highest end CAD systems.


The answer was that everything in my case was modular. The typical modular system is components placed along a "track", and there is no need for them to build the whole system in one "assembly file". They used a 2D layout and bought or made the modular components.

There are several ways to skin the cat, depending on whether you are looking for eliminating a pest or getting dinner.

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That's a hell of alot a parts. Your going to have to be very organized and modular in your approach regardless of the system you use.

I don't know that I'd want to attempt to do such a thing in SW. Catia has tools to handle this kind of data, so does UG. Even with these systems you'll be using tricks to manage it. It's not overkill if it will work, and others won't.

Software quality seems to be pretty poor these days, over all. No matter what you decide you'll probably have problems.



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I don't believe you will find companies working in the 100,000 part range with Solidworks. Right out of the gate, you're probably better off with Catia and likely a non-MS OS.

There are some techniques that you can use to make assemblies in the 10,000 part range usable in SW, and likewise, it is possible to construct assemblies with 3 or 4 parts which are terribly slow. It's all based on either good or bad technique. I'm not sure that an assembly of 100,000 parts will substantially benefit from technique.

Simplified configs are certainly one of the techniques you could use, particularly with subassemblies which helps large assemblies become managable. It's usable, but not foolproof.

"Em" wrote in news:

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Based on my experiences with large assemblies you'll likely have major problems if you tried creating a 100,000 part assembly with SolidWorks. I wouldn't say it's impossible but you'd need some sort of super computer to get anything done. That's WAY out of SolidWorks's league.

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Performance is the hot topic across the mid-range board these days.

I don't have any first hand experience, but think you are talking outside of, or at least on the fringes of, mid-range CAD / Windows / PC capabilities for all (or most?) practical purposes.

To get a little perspective search the web for Epaq Care Solutions and Itanium. Epaq had a half million part assembly that was the subject of a lot of PTC marketing literature about a year ago. I was wondering about it a few days ago and did some searching and couldn't find anything more recent on it. Broke the company, done with and good riddance...? I have read that PTC has more or less divorced itself from the Itanium, but don't know where it's gone instead.

Just curious, how are you currently handling the designs? Still on 2D acad?

Good luck with the quest.

PS Just to add a bit of hearsay to muddy the waters; I've read that Catia

5 is no fireball. Might look into that.


Reply to
Jeff Howard

I am using Solidworks, an assembly with 800 parts, excluding fasteners, runs like an old dog, I was using about 20 mirrored parts , but changed them to normal parts,(by remaking them).

The assembly now runs a bit faster, but, and a big but here, is that if any part has patterned holes, these have to be suppressed, for the assembly even to open in under 25 mins. This means adding a note to the drawing document, to tell the shop floor, that this drawing is incorrect and should include patterned holes! Which means, enabling the patterned holes in the part and reprinting. Even worse is somebody else printing out the drawing documents!

If I wish to change a part design, (that is in the assembly), 30 seconds to

1 min wait times for the change to complete, are normal.

I am NOT using in-context parts, multiple configurations or mirrored parts in this assembly, all sketches are fully constrained and all parts are fully constrained in the assembly. But the interesting thing, (in the drawing document), is that in adding, the very first dimension and every dimension after I get the over-constrained dialogue box, huh?

The only thing that I can see for this slowness, is that the parts were made, using 2005 sp0.0, templates. which have known problems.

When I get the time, I will redraw the parts, using 2005 sp 2.0, templates and see what the differences are.

Why? Because I hope that Solidworks will improve, It is a very easy program to use, even though the help files are pants, (try looking for design library), then look for library, huh?), lol @%7^$ The support is great, with the added bonus, of some very clever peeps here to help.

I would love for someone to send me a file with 10,000 parts in it, plus drawing files, to see if this really can be achieved or even has both the assembly document and the assembly drawing document open at the same time!

BTW, my pc, is above average spec, can get better, but would need about £6000, to get to Nvidia fx4000, 4Gb ram, etc.... My PC is way above, what Solidworks recommends, for 800 part assemblies.

Whoever you choose, get them to show you an assembly, having the number of parts, in it, that you will require. Even more important, is that they show it to you, on your machine, not theirs. With your machine, setup in the way that you will use it, after they have gone, otherwise, you will be on to support, every day.

Going to use Pdmworks or another pdm system?, include this in the setup Exporting or importing to DWF, CAM?, get them to show you, test the output. PDF files, importing into word, Edrawings or similar, FEA, printing out to more than one printer, etc..... All these need to be looked at and shown, do NOT take their word for it! Can someone else, on another pc, open the file to check a measurement for example, will this cost extra?

If they shy away from these requests, you can bet, it is because they know it will not work, be very slow or require a lot of extra work.

Many talk the talk, but very few can walk the walk, lol

The best thing is to sit down with everyone involved and take notes of what is required, you will be amazed at what you didn't think of!

Sales Pictures, Service Parts drawings and part numbers linked to a machine made in 1917, lol 8-\ Work shop drawings, pictures and manuals, i.e.: assembly procedures exploded assembly drawings Engineering, sheet-metal work, castings, out sourcing Parts lists (boms) Storeroom data Drawing numbering, revisions.

Now that's the end of the gloom, I hope you had a happy Easter :-)

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"pete" wrote in news:d2caor$nnm$

What sort of designs do you do? My stuff falls into the broad category of "machine design". I routinely work with assemblies approaching 1000 parts, and they load in a minute or two at most.

Reply to
Dale Dunn

Sorry about the huge quote, xnews forgot to show it to me.

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Dale Dunn

Mine have a lot of sheet-metal parts and engineering parts. the slowdown seems mostly to stem from the sheet-metal parts. The first sub-assembly consists of extruded erw box sections and extruded parts. this opens quickly and I am able to work on it ok. 100 parts

The next sub assembly consists of mixed extruded parts and sheet metal parts, this is quite slow to open and a pain to work on, I have built this many ways to try to speed up the work time. this has about 300 parts, due to being a pressure "vessel-in-vessel" design, that has to be complete for insurance drawings purposes.

The next sub-assembly consists of the first 2 sub-assemblies with added sheet metal-work, now starting to groan. 500 parts

The last assembly consists of the previous 3 sub-assemblies, with added sheet metal-work and part extrusions. 804 parts Not finished, but manufactured, using notes, as too slow to work with and I gave up trying to add further fasteners! Going out the door this Friday. :-) £70,000, please, thank you Sir :-))) Wish it was all mine, lol, now where's that peanut bowl.

These have been sent to my VAR and they could find nothing wrong in my approach, in fact my VAR tutor was proud of the progress that I had made, finishing off by saying it made him look good as a teacher, lol

I had a limit mate on the third sub-assembly and even making that a fixed mate did not improve the times. :-(

I made new templates with 2005 sp0.0, and it looks like this is the problem, as one problem was confirmed by my VAR, regarding cosmetic threads not showing in the 2005 sp 0.0 templates, but when re-drawn on a 2005 sp 1.1 template, worked perfectly.

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What was the problem with the 2005 templates? Was this a general problem, or specific to your templates? I'm wondering if I should remake mine.

Reply to
Dale Dunn

No cad system can load up that many parts. They all use specific functions to "try" and work on larger assemblies. These fnuctions revolve around creating "representations", Linked Faces, "Lightwieght" or something to that effect. Some softwares do this better than others.

I use UG and Solidworks. UG does have some "Advanced Assembly" options that cost extra $$$$. You do have to setup these options ahead of time though.

Product Outline: Just a boundary of several components, but the parts aren't loaded, gives you an idea what's there. Representations: Faceted bodies that are linked but not loaded. Wrap assembly: Creates a solid at the boundary of several components so it doesn't load parts. Linked Exterior: Exterior faces of parts linked to the originals.

All these are just techniques in UG that keep you from loading so many model files.

Solidworks doesn't have all these options but you can do some things similar with configurations. Create simplified configurations in parts with features turned off like fillets, chamfers, drafts and any other internal detail features you don't need to show in an assembly.

In sub-assemblies, create simplified configurations with parts and other sub assys suppressed, not hidden. Turn off fasterners and all internal details if you can. Use Lightweight, it does help.

So when it comes down to it, no cad system opens that many parts, they all use tricks to reduce the number of models being loaded while still showing enough info to represent it. Your details will come in on the sub-assys drawings, and their sub-assys, and at the part level. The top level is simplified. What you will probably find is that no matter what cad system you go with, you'll have to jump through these hoops, just test them all to see which ones have the tools to get you there.


Em wrote:


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There are numerous customers using SolidWorks for large assembly modeling. One of my customers successfully uses SolidWorks to model train locomotives and railcars that contain over 60,000 parts.

Have your SolidWorks VAR get you some references. Several that come to mind are Vermeer, Bucyrus, Haumiller, Automation Tooling Systems, Michelin, etc. You should be able to find some reference information on the SW website.

You will hear negative comments on this, and other newsgroups. Newsgroups are frequently filled with "this stuff sucks" posts. Rarely do users go to a newsgroup to say how great their software is. Just human nature I guess.

BTW, what kind of machines do you manufacture?

I'd better put on my flame retardant suit now.


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The flame suit shouldn't be necessary, but some additional info would be welcome....

Parts / part instances?

What type parts? Simple solids, feature intensive, sheet metal?

Unrelated parts or associative top down designs?

Are they happy with it all?

It would be nice if more of this info got out to the public.


Reply to
Jeff Howard

You left out the important part, can the 60,000 part assembly be opened all at once, sub-assemblies and/or using configurations (suppressed parts.)

Now for the flame: How can you tell when a salesperson is lying, when their lips move.



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I personnally doubt if you if you could actually work with an entire 60,000 parts assembly at once. I would think that if you tried to open an assembly of a domestic car (for example) fully resolved, you would run out of RAM and the assembly would crash. I work daily with assemblies of about a thousand parts, and I use about 2 GB of RAM. Once I enter into the virtual memery , the computer soon crashes. Today's PC computers are limited to about 3GB of RAM. There's no way I can see you opening 60,000 parts on a PC Desktop using SW.

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I've met with some of the Haumiller people. They have their stuff together. Unfortunately few "normal" SW users/companies are as organized as they are or have the expertise they have. Which leads me to believe that success with the software is at least as much a function of company organization and expertise as it is with the software. I don't think that the average VAR AE or TTM is on the level of people like Haumiller in terms of making practical use of the software. And if they aren't, it is pretty clear that it won't trickle down to the user level.

At SWW I listened to the StructureWorks people talk about how they handled 100,000 part assemblies and the hoops they had to jump through.

One thing is clear, that you have to trade off one feature for another to get SW to handle these monster assemblies and that success with assemblies is very much a function of discipline and planning early on. I think it is also true that certain types of assemblies can cause problems no matter what you do. Assemblies that use parts within parts, aka, configurations are one example. Assemblies that tie parts together with in-context features are another. Use of things like SmartFasteners which can populate an assembly with thousands of fasteners very quickly is yet another.

CAD Guy wrote:


Michelin, etc.


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Especially the techniques used to get there, and what performace to expect. Most of us have only our own experience to tell us whether or not we should expect more from our models.

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Dale Dunn

Absolutely. It's sad that most of what we have to go on is really costly personal experience, vendor promotional literature (I've noticed that SE has upped the bar to "massive assemblies" in their latest lit) and a worthless industry "press". I wonder if any of the "cost you a couple of hundred dollars" periodical publications have anything worthwhile in them.

Anybody got any links to more of these?

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like to print 'em, put 'em in the john and read 'em at "leisure". In retrospect it can be seen that a few "truths" can be gleaned from them. Remember the "built from the ground up for large assembly performance" that was so widely circulated a few years ago?

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Jeff Howard

Yeah, thanks for posting and reminding us about these! (luv it)

(BTW, I saw and did this test in Pro/e (and SW) just before Joe Dunne released it and I really wanted to post my results then but (biting my tongue) I held off because,.. (1) it did not compete with Pro/e (SW was much slower then/now), (2) it was a very good slam against Ade$k and (3) it was Joe's test (and he was really proud and defendent of it then (and I respected that, honestly).)


Reply to
Paul Salvador

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