Managing CAD Data on 3DEXPERIENCE Part 3: Accessing Data

By Ben Colley on

In Parts 1 & 2 of this series, we covered 3DEXPERIENCE-based data management terminology, a handful of apps that play the primary role in managing data on the platform, saving data – CAD or non-CAD – to the platform, and principles of data organization.

Managing CAD Data on 3DEXPERIENCE Part 1: Terminology and Saving

Managing CAD Data on 3DEXPERIENCE Part 2: Organizing Data 

In this post, we’ll talk about accessing data on the platform. Once you have data in your 3DEXPERIENCE platform tenet, there are some best practices for accessing the data, based on its file-type (CAD, non-CAD, Microsoft-specific, etc.), and what level of access you need, whether you simply wish to inspect the data – something that can usually be done within the web portal – or you need to make modifications to the data and advance it down a product design lifecycle. In this post, we’ll cover:

Finding Data

  • Using Bookmark Editor
  • Using Relations
  • Using 3D Search and 6W Tags

Accessing Data

  • Viewing in 3D Play
  • Viewing in Product Explorer
  • Opening SOLIDWORKS documents
  • Opening non-CAD documents

After we’ve covered these principles, we can finish the story of basic data management with a conversation about protecting and sharing data.

Finding Data

Bookmark Editor

bookmark editor 3dexperience

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series we addressed how we can use Bookmark editor to create access points for files and organize them into Bookmarks. Logically, then, one simple way of accessing your data is to navigate through your Bookmark Editor as you would in a Windows Explorer environment.

organize files into bookmarks in 3dexperience

If your dataset is well-organized, or you make use of the Favorites folder for current projects, then navigating through the Bookmark Editor is an adequate way to locate data.

Relations

3dexperience relations

As discussed in Part 2 of this series, the Bookmark Editor includes a number of tools to aid in locating files without having to include individual entries. Dependent items like subassemblies, constituent parts, etc. may be viewed by simply expanding the top-level item (refer to Part 2 for instructions to enable expansion of items). Beyond this capability is a more robust tool called RelationsThe Relations app gives you a graphical representation of all upstream and downstream related items to any given file – where the file is used, and what the file contains as references.

managing cad data in 3dexperience relations app

The types of relations displayed may be configured in the Relations app setting. By default, only CAD relations are shown, but you can set visibility on all possible related items that exist on the platform such as bookmarks, or attached items like PDFs, images, or Word documents.

The Relations app may be accessed from the Compass, or from the Relations icon in the ribbon at the top of the Bookmark Editor.

3DSearch

3dsearch app

One of the motivating ideas behind data storage on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform is to avoid the hours spent hunting for data that you get in a typical Windows environment. The Bookmark Editor provides more flexibility for locating data than Windows Explorer, but if you rely solely on the Bookmark Editor, you may find yourself in the familiar place of wading through folders trying to find a file. Therefore 3DEXPERIENCE, being a robust data management tool, includes a quick and powerful search engine for locating files that exist in any of your Collaborative Spaces. 3DSearch is integrated into the basic user interface as a search bar along the top, but also exists as a standalone app that may be accessed from the compass. 3DSearch allows you to search by file name, or by any metadata associated with the file, like description text, author, product release state, 3DSWYM posts, etc. A general search will dive into all forms of metadata to give every possible return for the query entered.

3d search on 3dexperience dashboard

You can take advantage of the What / Who / When / Where filters along the top of the search page to group the results into helpful categories such as file type, creator, or location.

filters in the search bar of 3dexperience

These filters help to break up the search results into quantifiable groups that are easier to scan through than a flat listing of every item related to the query. To zero-in on the exact file you’re searching for, however, your best option is 6W Tags.

6W Tags

6w tags

To the right of the search bar is a label-shaped icon that enables 6W Tags – a metadata filtering system rooted in categories of:

  • What
  • Who
  • When
  • Where
  • How
  • Why

Each category is a root for more specific subcategories that let you dig into all kinds of metadata, such as modification date, modeling program used, lock/unlock status, maturity state (in work, frozen for approval, released…), Collaborative Space, etc. Any combination of filters may be selected to narrow down the search results to the exact file you’re looking for.

subcategories in 3DEXPERIENCE CAD data management

For locating files that may not be a click away in a convenient bookmark, the 3DSearch tool in combination with 6W Tags is the best option, by far.

Accessing Data

There is a number of ways to access the data you have on the platform, whether for view-only, inspecting online, or downloading locally to edit.

3DPlay

3d play

3DPlay is the Platform’s primary tool for viewing data on the platform. It can be opened as a standalone tool, but is most effective as a dedicated widget on your dashboard. We recommend pinning it alongside a Bookmark Editor widget. 3D Play can be located in the Compass, and dragged over onto your dashboard.

To view data in 3DPlay, just drag and drop a file from a bookmark or search query into the 3DPlay window.

3DPlay is an active viewer, allowing you to view file data in detail, regardless of file type. CAD files may be inspected with zooming and panning, and even measured and marked-up, similar to the functionality found in eDrawings. Microsoft documents and PDFs may also be read directly from the viewer, without having to download and open the files locally.

Product Explorer

3dexperience product explorer

If you need to view CAD data in greater detail within the web browser, the Product Structure Explorer app gives you additional investigating tools for digging into particular CAD file sets. Product Explorer can be used for investigating the structure between drawings, assemblies, subassemblies, and models; export Bills of Materials, create CAD packages (akin to Pack and Go) for collaboration, and deep-dive into assemblies with a variety of filtering options.

3dexperience product explorer

Once you open CAD files in the Product Structure Explorer app, you’ll be presented with a tree listing of the CAD assembly structure, similar to the FeatureManager in SOLIDWORKS, and an integrated preview (3D Navigate). The tree listing has a fully configurable detail column set to provide a wealth of information about each item.

open CAD files in the Product Structure Explorer app

6W Tags, used in the context of Product Structure Explorer, allows you to filter down the assembly to particular parts of interest, or with the Colorize option, to visualize the assembly by any properties of interest, such as part maturity.

filter down the assembly to particular parts of interest

These tools give a lot of power to Platform users to carry out design operations on the web that would typically require desktop software access.

Design with SOLIDWORKS

design with solidworks

When actual design changes are needed, it’s probably time to go to SOLIDWORKS. The Design with SOLIDWORKS app (for traditional Desktop SOLIDWORKS users) or the SOLIDWORKS Connected app (for Cloud-installed 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS users) provides full interoperability between the Platform file management system and SOLIDWORKS. (Note, this article is geared towards SOLIDWORKS access to Platform files, but the workflow is essentially the same for connectors to other non-SOLIDWORKS CAD applications).

https://youtu.be/6mAI2D75gSE

Once the CAD connector app is installed, platform files may be accessed through the 3DEXPERIENCE add-in. As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, we recommend launching SOLIDWORKS straight from the app in the Compass while logged into your tenet. Alternatively, a connection with the platform may be established simply by turning on the 3DEXPERIENCE add-in while in SOLIDWORKS. Either method creates a new tab on the Task Pane (on the right side of the SOLIDWORKS window) for 3DEXPERIENCE. This add-in provides the necessary platform saving and opening tools, as well as local access to the entirety of the platform within the SOLIDWORKS interface.

Once the 3DEXPERIENCE add-in is enabled, there are three fundamental ways to open platform files in SOLIDWORKS:

  1. Click and drag from the web browser
  2. Navigate bookmark editor from the add-in
  3. File-Open

Web Browser

With your platform Tenet open in one window, and SOLIDWORKS open in another, CAD files may be opened in SOLIDWORKS by simply dragging and dropping files from the web browser window into the SOLIDWORKS workspace.

Alternatively, you may also right-click the file in Bookmark Editor, and select Open With > Design With SOLIDWORKS.

Add-In

To access Bookmark Editor (or any other 3DEXPERIENCE app) directly from the SOLIDWORKS Add-In, expand open the 3DEXPERIENCE tab on the Task Pane (1), click the Compass for available apps (2), and select Bookmark Editor (3). From this point, you can click and drag models from the Bookmark Editor to the SOLIDWORKS workspace, just like you would from the web browser.

access bookmark editor from solidworks

File > Open

A new button exists in the Open dialog to give you local access to 3DSearch (and Bookmark Editor). Simply go to a File > Open, and in the bottom-left corner of the dialog is an option to “Open from 3DEXPERIENCE”. This will launch the 3DSearch application, complete with the option for 6W Tag filtering. Once the relevant file is located, just select it and open.

launch the 3d search application

Non-CAD files

As discussed before, many file types may be fully previewed within the Platform using 3DPlay. If you need to access a file on your local machine, however, non-CAD files are even more straightforward to access than CAD files. If you right-click on a non-CAD document, the in-context menu that pops up includes the option to download the document. This will save a copy of the file to a local folder. The download option also shows up in the ribbon along the top of the Bookmark Editor.

non cad files using 3dplay

For Microsoft Office documents such as a Word or Excel, the download option is available, but there is added functionality if you use the Collaboration for Microsoft plugin, which was discussed briefly in Part 2 of this Series, “Organizing Data”.

Collaboration from Microsoft

From the 3DEXPERIENCE tab in the command ribbon that spans the top of any Microsoft Application, an “Open” button brings up the same type of opening access as we saw in the File > Open method in SOLIDWORKS. Opening and saving Microsoft files with this method allows you to apply the same data management principles to Microsoft documents as you would with CAD documents, such as lock/unlock, revisioning and maturity.

access microsoft files using 3dexperience

Accessing Data – Conclusion

Once you’ve mastered the principles discussed here and in the first two parts of this series, you’ll be well on your way to using the platform effectively for data management – for saving, organizing, and accessing files. Beyond these posts, we cover most 3DEXPERIENCE tools in-depth in dedicated articles and videos, so be sure to search our blog and tech tip channel if you’d like to delve deeper into any of the topics discussed.

Be on the lookout for the fourth and final installment of this series, where we’ll discuss protecting and sharing data.