For most adopters of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, the most challenging principle to master is managing CAD data or any data – saving, organizing, accessing, protecting and sharing files. This is because the 3DEXPERIENCE platform has a unique build and unique terminology and uses principles from a variety of data management models (as well as employing principles of its own to improve on other systems). As such, it’s unlikely that a user would be able to switch gears directly from another data management system to the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform without a little bit of a learning curve.
A mistake that some users make is to jump right into the platform before they understand the foundation and basics – the structure of the platform, where their files go, how permissions work, etc. To help you avoid some of those headaches, we’ve put together a short series of blogs that cover these foundations of CAD data management on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform. In this post, we’ll cover some basic terminology and how to save data to the Platform.
The biggest area of confusion for new 3DEXPERIENCE users is vocabulary. There are many new terms to learn to operate in the platform effectively. In many cases, these terms can be likened to equivalent terms in other systems. In other cases, they correspond to principles unique to 3DEXPERIENCE. A full glossary of terms wouldn’t be practical in this post, but a definition of key terms will add some clarity to the discussion that follows:
A tenet is a company’s overall account with 3DEXPERIENCE. If you work for ACME Sprockets Inc, then you operate in the ACME Sprockets tenet.
Files are stored in Collaborative Spaces. These are similar to SOLIDWORKS PDM vaults, having product lifecycle (PLM) and revisioning capabilities. The owner(s) of a Collaborative Space grants access to the vault to as many users or user groups as necessary with varying degrees of permissions. A company may create as many Collaborative Spaces as they need, but it’s recommended not to create more than a few.
Some unique aspects of Collaborative Spaces:
- Collaborative Spaces are flat repositories, having no folder structure (all files exist in the same “folder”).
- Collaborative spaces have no local installation; they are online only.
- Members of an outside organization (a different tenet) may be given access to a Collaborative Space by invitation.
Collaborative Spaces are created and managed from the 3DSpace web app.
Bookmarks are how files are organized on a user-by-user basis. Bookmarks give what appears to be a folder structure to files. The items in the folders are not the actual files, however. They are only shortcuts to the actual file locations in their respective Collaborative Spaces. Some implications of this:
- Files from multiple Collaborative Spaces may exist in the same Bookmark folder
- Users may arrange their view of the files without affecting other people.
- The same file may be visible in multiple bookmark folders without any duplicates of the file being created.
Bookmarks are created and managed in the Bookmark Editor web app.
3DDrive is an alternative file storage option without PLM capabilities. This could be compared to Dropbox or Google Drive. 3DDrive allows for a typical Windows Explorer type of folder structure, and gives users a local install option that syncs with the online location. Like other simple cloud-based storage systems, 3DDrive folders are shareable with other users. For more information about 3DDrive, check out our blog post, “Designing for Today: SOLIDWORKS Cloud 3DDrive”.
Dashboards are the visual arrangement of web apps. All operations on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform are carried out through a handful of web apps. These can be arranged in a manner that makes sense on an individual basis, or created by an administrator and shared with a group.
The Compass is where you access all of your 3DEXPERIENCE apps. Click the Compass to expand out a full listing of apps available to you as a user, and to your company. Click and drag apps from the Compass and arrange in your workspace to set up your Dashboard.
Saving to the Cloud
The first step to managing data on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform is the initial transfer of data onto the platform. The primary destination for files on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform is a Collaborative Space (defined above). There is a number of ways to get files into a Collaborative Space, and the best method depends on the type of data being transferred. Non-CAD files can simply be drag & dropped into the appropriate Collaborative Space and bookmark. This can be done with CAD files as well, but it’s not recommended. For the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to give the best return on CAD files – allowing for model and assembly interrogation and management from the platform – CAD files need to be saved to the platform through a CAD connector. Let’s look at Non-CAD and CAD situations below.
Saving Non-CAD Files
One very simple way to transfer non-CAD files such as image, PDF, or text documents, is to drag and drop files from a Windows Explorer window into the desired Collaborative Space. Again, this entails no organization of the data into a folder structure; it simply adds the file to the repository. Open a Collaborative Space by clicking the 3DSpace app from the Compass, or access 3DSpace from a Dashboard, if it has already been added as a widget.
The 3DSearch tool at the top of the Platform window can be used to locate the file later and add it to an existing bookmark.
A more useful option is to add files from the Bookmark Editor. This allows you to immediately include some organization of the new files, and makes it possible to bring in an existing file structure from Windows Explorer.
Using this method, files are still stored in a Collaborative Space. The destination Collaborative Space is determined by which Space is active in your Bookmark Editor Preferences (accessible from the dropdown arrow at the top-right corner of the Bookmark Editor widget). Be sure the correct Space is chosen before uploading any files or folders.
If files are mistakenly uploaded to the wrong Space, they may be moved to a different Space later.
Saving Files and Managing CAD Data
To make use of the PDM/PLM capabilities of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, CAD files are saved through a CAD connector in the native CAD software. Connectors are available for all of the major CAD systems (SOLIDWORKS, CATIA, Inventor, CREO, etc.). If you use Desktop SOLIDWORKS, the connector is accessed through the “Design with SOLIDWORKS” app in the Compass, and launches as an add-in within SOLIDWORKS.
If you use the Platform-driven 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS as your 3D CAD system, the platform connector will open automatically when launching SOLIDWORKS Connected.
For an in-depth look at 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS (SOLIDWORKS Connected), check out our on-demand webinar, Get to Know 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS 2023.
CAD Data is what the Platform was built for. While non-CAD files generally don’t need a robust system of metadata, CAD files are greatly enriched by internal properties, such as revision, lifecycle maturity, owner, references to other files, etc. (Some non-CAD documents are served by metadata-rich processing… but that’s a topic for another post). Without the stops put in place by a CAD connector, 3DEXPERIENCE would not give the user as much power as it does for building a lot of valuable information into CAD data on the front end.
Saving CAD Files (Design with SOLIDWORKS connector): Single-Part Workflow
The workflow of 3D modeling in SOLIDWORKS is mostly unchanged by 3DEXPERIENCE. You will need to have the 3DEXPERIENCE Add-In active to save to the Platform. The 3DEXPERIENCE Add-In can be enabled from within SOLIDWORKS from the “Add-Ins…” menu. Or, a more preferred option is to launch SOLIDWORKS directly from the Design with SOLIDWORKS web app for the smoothest integration to the CAD connector.
When you are ready to save a part, you have a few options to push the part up to a Collaborative Space on the platform:
- Save To 3DEXPERIENCE:
This option is the quickest way to name the file and save it into the currently-active Collaborative Space vault on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform.
- Save As…
While the 3DEXPERIENCE CAD connector is active, a Save-As action will direct you first to the temporary My Work cache folder.
Local Disk (C:) > 3DEXPERIENCE > MyWork(user)
From here you can save to MyWork, to a local user-defined Windows Explorer folder, or next to the “Save” button is the same “Save to 3DEXPERIENCE” option mentioned above.
- Save from the 3DEXPERIENCE Task Pane tab.
When the 3DEXPERIENCE Add-In is enabled, a new 3DEXPERIENCE tab becomes visible on the Task Pane, on the right side of the screen. The 3DEXPERIENCE tab offers the most functionality for interfacing SOLIDWORKS to the online platform, and becomes more integral to the CAD workflow when dealing with assemblies and data management actions, such as revision and access control. To save from the 3DEXPERIENCE Tab:
1) Open the 3DEXPERIENCE tab from the Task Pane. It is usually the bottom tab. Once open, it may be pinned visible if desired.
2) Check the active Collaborative Space to make sure you are saving to the vault that you want. To check this, click the dropdown arrow at the top of the tab (2).
3) Click the gear icon (3) to Edit Preferences
4) Click in the Credentials field to select the desired destination Collaborative Space. Save preferences.
5) Right click the model’s name and select Save. This will push the model up to the platform, into the Collaborative Space.
Once the program finishes syncing to the Cloud (an internet connection will be needed at the time of saving), the model will be accessible online, and can be used and explored by any other users who have access to the Collaborative Space.
Saving CAD Files: Assembly Workflow
The same general process for saving CAD applies to assemblies, but there are more things to account for once you have components that relate to each other. Are you working on the latest revision of the assembly? Are any of the components released or outdated? Does someone have a subassembly locked (checked-out) or frozen for approval? These are the kinds of things you’ll see at a glance in the 3DEXPERIENCE tab.
In the case of an assembly being saved to the cloud for the first time, you may not be dealing with any of those questions yet. Until you save the assembly to 3DEXPERIENCE, the assembly exists only in your local cache and has the same properties (and limitations) as any other locally-saved CAD files. Such a case is evident in the image below where the only information visible to the current assembly is the basic component/subassembly structure, and Status icons indicating that none of the visible files have been saved to the platform yet.
To save the assembly to the Platform, you may begin by choosing the “Save to 3DEXPERIENCE” method outlined earlier, but the more robust option is to “Save with Options” from the 3DEXPERIENCE tab. To do this, right-click the top-level assembly in the 3DEXPERIENCE tab and select “Save with Options.”
The Save with Options window gives you a number of file management options that can save you time later. You can bump up the revision, export a BOM, comment on the Save action, and select a bookmark destination for the files. An existing bookmark may be chosen, or a new bookmark may be created.
Because all of the files are going to a vault, and the bookmark only creates a view of the files, it is good practice to save only the top-level assembly to a bookmark. The assembly may be expanded-out to see all child components and subassemblies, so it is unnecessary to clutter up the bookmark with all of the constituent parts.
Once the assembly is saved, file management information is populated into the 3DEXPERIENCE Tab session columns. Among other information, we see:
- The Status column indicates that all changes have been saved to the Platform.
- The files (in this case) have been unlocked, so that any team members may now access the files from the cloud and work with them.
- The revision is indicated (in this case, A.1, the initial Rev)
- A column indicates that the open documents are all on the latest revision.
- The Maturity State for the files is “In Work”. They have not been released or submitted for approval.
At this point, the saving work is done, and managing CAD data (and non-CAD data) has become so much easier. Because the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform vault is internet-based, it will likely take a few minutes for the files to fully index, but their presence on the platform can quickly be seen in the browser when navigating to the Bookmark Editor, or through a 3DSearch.
Once we see how the 3DEXPERIENCE platform integrates with SOLIDWORKS, the structure of the platform and the necessity of a CAD connector makes more intuitive sense. It’s convenient that non-CAD files can simply be dropped into place, and only reasonable that checks would be put in place for CAD files in a way that non-CAD files don’t require.
That concludes Part 1 of the series, managing CAD data in 3DEXPERIENCE. Keep your eyes open for Part 2, where we’ll look at principles of organizing and accessing your data on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform.