Written by: Marty Adams, Application Engineer
From its introduction, SOLIDWORKS Electrical has been evolving. One of the most recent evolutions is the addition of custom classes in the SOLIDWORKS Electrical Classifications Manager. The “Classification” is used extensively throughout the software. Whether inserting a symbol, or looking for a manufacturer’s part, the classification is the key to getting there quickly.
In previous releases, the class hierarchy has been fairly rigid. You needed to assign items to an existing class to make searching work for you. You know what class it’s in because you have searched for it so many times. If you take a few minutes to create your own classifications to better suit your needs, you can save hours later.
Now that we can define our own classes. We can assign our preferred components, symbols, manufacturer parts, etc. to them and create our own easily accessible collections of common components. The option to create new copied parts or adjust the class assignment is your choice.
Although custom user class creation is not mentioned in the “What’s New” 2018 guide, it is active!
You can find the Classification Manager in the Library tab of the SOLIDWORKS Electrical ribbon.
There are several things to note here.
- The existing classifications cannot be deleted or renamed.
- You can create your own classes and sub-classes. These can also be modified for manufacturers data display.
- Class hierarchy is displayed alphabetically. No sort provision yet. Think about this when naming newly created classes.
- This is a customization of the databases. In a multi-user environment, be sure to think about how changes you make will affect other users that share the same databases.
- To be sure your customizations are conserved, keep regular archive backups. Can’t stress this one enough. Especially important when upgrading.
Advantages of Customization
One obvious advantage of custom classes is the ability to organize your commonly used components into a scheme that works for you. You could go with a user top-level class and group your common components in sub-classes there or go with sub-classes under the master classes. Customizing your commonly used components is much easier when you don’t have to hunt them down.
You can also modify the manufacturer’s data fields for data not displayed by default. This can further streamline the selection process by making the manufacturer data easier to search.
When there is no mapped manufacturer data you will not find any selections under the values section in the selection filter. Adding the fields will display the fields and index them for selection filtering.
This can make the selection process much easier for well-organized components. And, since adding almost anything to a project involves the selection process in some way, the time saved can really add up. Not to mention the stress reduction.
How Do I Make this Work with Existing Class Structure?
In the existing component classes, the only entries we can modify are the root mark, 3D Part, 2D Footprint, and Connection Label. The mapping of manufacturer data fields is controlled by the User Data File. Some classifications have some of the data already mapped, others do not. Since the default classes are not editable, this can present a problem when we want to adjust the manufacturer data fields. Something we have learned to live with.
The manufacturer data fields appear in the search parameters within the other managers, under values, and can be searched, but only if mapped.
There is a way we can work past this however. The answer is to create our own classes.
When creating a new class or sub-class the properties dialog appears. Most of the fields are as we expect in the master class. But, what caught my interest is the User Data File name. This XML file controls the exposure of Manufacturer part data fields when using the class and accessing the parts database.
In the classes associated with the master database, this is something we can’t edit. But when we create a new class under the master hierarchy, the default is to use the same User Data File as the parent. If we use the default XML, we get a custom class referencing the same XML as the parent, and it is now open for edit of the Manufacturer data fields. The XML file and the manufacturer data fields are now configurable.
Once committed, the XML is updated and the changes made in my new class are also available in the masters.
Keep in mind that when you edit the newly created class, and modify the manufacturer data setup, this will also modify the associated master class layout. Just a word of caution.
This opens possibilities for even more customization. You can drive the availability of manufacturer data with what works for you.
As an example, if I do not have the manufacturer data that I want available in the master class, I can create a new class, use the same user data file, and edit the data fields.
Of course, if you do not want to modify the data file used by the parent, you can create a new one or select another that already exists. Use the green and white button at the end of the row to create a new one or the pull-down list to select an already existing one.
When creating a new one, there is another choice to be made. You can create a new XML with the default properties or create a copy of the current XML. In either case, you are now able to adjust the manufacturer data area without affecting the XML used by the master database.
This another layer of XML configuration that you may find useful. You can create various setups to suit your needs.
Once again, the choice is yours.
Taking a little time up-front to organize your common components via classification management can pay big dividends down to road.
I hope you find the concepts laid out here of use.