Using Off the Shelf (OTS) components in our designs is common. Whether they are bearings, gears, motors, sensors, or fasteners we gather this stuff up use it and then stash it in various places on our local hard drives. The problem with this is we are not sharing those OTS components with the rest of the design team. And guess what? The rest of the design team is doing the same thing. And what happens if another designer uses the same file with the same name and changes the component he has? Unknowingly, it might affect the assembly you want to work on if you have the assembly with the changed component opened first. Because when you open your assembly the changed component will be used. In this blog, we will remedy these problems by using SOLIDWORKS PDM and the Design Library to store and share those OTS components with the rest of the design team.
The first thing to discuss is where to put the Design Library so other team members can access it which will cut down on duplication of the same components being stored on various computers. The Design Library should be put in a location where everyone has access. A shared folder on the server is a good location but an even better location is the SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional or Standard Vault. The advantage of adding the Design Library to the PDM Vault is there is built-in protection, so the components are not changed or deleted without a formal ECO or ECN process. Only the PDM Administrator can add, delete, or edit those OTS components stored in the Design Library. When they are added to an assembly the OTS components will be read-only. And having these components in the Vault will enforce standardization.
In SOLIDWORKS the default location for the Design Library is “C:\ProgramData\SOLIDWORKS\SOLIDWORKS 2020\design library” defined in Options->System Options->File Locations. Other Design Library locations can be defined here also as shown below where I have 4 different Design Library locations defined. The one on top is the PDM Vault location where the OTS components are stored.
Adding a Design Library folder to the PDM Vault is a straightforward process. Log in as the Administrator or work with your Administrator to add a folder. Just right-click in the Vault view and select New->Folder. Give the new folder a name like Design Library. The next step is to apply permissions to the Design Library folder. In the PDM Admin Tool open Groups and then open Engineers as shown here:
Select Folder Permissions on the left and then select the Design Library folder. Set the permissions you want the Engineers to have. In this example, the only permission the Engineers have is to read file contents and Show working versions of files. Setting these permissions allows the Engineers to see the OTS components in the folder.
To have quick access to the Design Library, you can select to Cache the Design Library folder. While still in the Engineers Group select Cache Options on the left. Select the Design Library folder and then select Refresh cache during login. This will ensure you will see the component thumbnail image in the Design library.
The next step is to add your OTS components to the Design Library. While logged in as the Administrator simply drag and drop the OTS components into the Design Library folder. Once all the components have been added check them into the Vault. The PDM Workflow I have allowed the Administrator to Approve and Release the components without going through a formal approval process. In this State, the components cannot be checked out and edited as seen here.
Once this is completed have everyone on the Design Team configure their SOLIDWORKS by pointing to the new Design Library in the Vault. Go to Options->System Options->File Locations and add the new Vault Design Library location. That’s it. Now you have a protected set of OTS components ready to use simply by dragging and dropping them from the Task Pane in SOLIDWORKS.
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