Managing CAD Data on 3DEXPERIENCE Part 2: Organizing Data in a Collaborative Space

This Managing CAD Data blog is part of a series. Read the first post here: Managing CAD Data on 3DEXPERIENCE Part 1: Terminology and Saving. When it comes to organizing data in 3DEXPERIENCE, there are two key players to talk about: Collaborative Spaces and Bookmarks (the 3DSpace and Bookmark Editor apps)

All files on the platform are stored in a Collaborative Space – a flat, unorganized repository. Files can be organized with Bookmarks – the platform equivalent to Windows Explorer folder directories. When files are added to a bookmark, they never leave their actual location in the Collaborative Space; they just have a new quick access point from the bookmark.

One of the benefits of data management with the 3DEXPERIENCE platform is the opportunity to get away from the experience of chaotic folder structures, duplicates, lost files, and hours of searching associated with a “data management-free” environment, such as Windows Explorer. (Data management is occurring in Windows Explorer, but without the tools to effectively keep the data under control.) For the Platform to live up to its promised goal of getting data management under control, some good practices around Collaborative Spaces and Bookmarks need to be established at the user-level. We’ll cover some good practices below, along with general principles of organizing data with Collaborative Spaces and Bookmarks.

Collaborative Space

3dspace button 3dexperience

The first step of organizing data in 3DEXPERIENCE is choosing which Collaborative Space – which holding vault on the Platform – your data goes to. Depending on your company policy around data vaults and the permissions granted to you as a user, you may have access to only one Collaborative Space or too many. It is good practice to limit the number of Collaborative Spaces to a minimum (if you are familiar with a SOLIDWORKS PDM environment, think of each Collaborative Space as a PDM vault). Each Collaborative Space is associated with specific read & write access and with specific users or user-groups, so choosing the correct Collaborative Space is essential for ensuring appropriate accessibility or restriction for team members. The more Collaborative Spaces you have, the more complicated it becomes to juggle access and permission to users, and the higher the likelihood of human error.

It is also good practice to save files to a Collaborative Space directly from their native application if the program has a connector add-in for 3DEXPERIENCE. For non-CAD files this is more somewhat optional; but for CAD files (SOLIDWORKS, CREO, Inventor, etc.) this is essential.

Organizing into Collaborative Spaces – Non CAD

As we covered in Part 1 of this series, Terminology and Saving, saving to a Collaborative Space can be carried out for non-CAD files by interacting directly with the 3DSpace App. In Microsoft applications, you also have the option to save to the Platform through a 3DEXPERIENCE plugin called “Collaboration for Microsoft” (included with the Collaborative Industry Innovator [CSV] Platform role). This brings the full functionality of 3DEXPERIENCE file management to Microsoft Office applications such as Word and Excel.

To choose which Collaborative Space you wish to save files to in Microsoft applications (and save to the Platform):

  1. Navigate to the Collaboration for Microsoft icon in your Windows tool tray
  2. Left or Right-Click the icon
  3. Select “My Credentials”
  4. Choose the Collaborative Space where you want the file to be stored
  5. Navigate to the 3DEXPERIENCE tab on the upper ribbon of the Microsoft application and select Save As
  6. In the Save As dialog on the right side of the screen, enter the file name, and if desired, a bookmark in the “3DEXPERIENCE Location” field.
Choose which Collaborative Space you wish to save files

Choose which Collaborative Space you wish to save files

Organizing into Collaborative Spaces – CAD

CAD documents need to be saved to the Platform from within the respective CAD application. Technically, a CAD file can be drag/dropped into a Collaborative Space like any other file. However, without the handshake of a CAD Connector (i.e. Design with SOLIDWORKS, SOLIDWORKS Connected), the CAD file’s geometrical properties and metadata leveraged by the Platform will not translate, and the benefits of 3DEXPERIENCE as a CAD-centric data management system are curtailed.

The process of saving SOLIDWORKS files to a Collaborative Space on the Platform were outlined in Part 1 of this series, but for convenience, the steps are restated here. To choose a Collaborative Space and save from the SOLIDWORKS 3DEXPERIENCE add-in:

  1. Open the 3DEXPERIENCE tab from the Task Pane. It is usually the bottom tab.

    Open 3DEXPERIENCE from the task pane

    Open 3DEXPERIENCE from the task pane

  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 name and select Save. This will push the model up to the platform, into the Collaborative Space.

Moving Files (see below)

If files need to be moved from one Collaborative Space to another, this can be done from within the Bookmark Editor. The steps are outlined at the end of the discussion about Bookmark Editor below.

Bookmark Editor

bookmark editor 3dexperience

Also covered in Part 1 of this series, Bookmarks, created in the “Bookmark Editor” app, allow us to create a folder structure reminiscent of Windows Explorer for organizing files. The Bookmark Editor is the Platform’s primary means of organizing data, in the sense of visually grouping related items on a user-by-user basis. As stated before, the true location of any given file is a Collaborative Space, and the Bookmark Editor acts as a directory of shortcuts to files available to the specific user. As an implication, a user may put files from multiple Collaborative Spaces within the same bookmark.

Bookmarks are not mandatory for finding files; the Platform has powerful search tools to make it quick and easy to locate any file (keep an eye out for Part 3 of this series on accessing data). This being said, it is still good practice to put files in a bookmark. The Bookmark Editor plays the primary role in data management on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform. The Bookmark Editor, in addition to arranging files in a folder structure, contains tools for:

  • Uploading files and folders
  • Moving and deleting files
  • Check-in/check-out
  • Revision control
  • Process maturity control
  • Relation investigation
  • Sharing and changing ownership of files
  • And more

If any data management actions will be done on files aside from simple storage, they will need to be seen from within the Bookmark Editor.

All of that being said, one of the strengths of 3DEXPERIENCE as a data management tool is that referenced files may be accessed instantly. This applies to assemblies with related parts, subassemblies, or drawings; or even to relationships to non-CAD documents. If you have a PDF document that pertains to an assembly, or an image or Word Document that pertains to a spreadsheet (etc.), these relationships may be defined on the Platform. These relationships make it unnecessary to create individual bookmark entries for every file. Rather, a bookmark may just contain a top-level assembly, and perhaps some related files that are accessed frequently. This allows for a much cleaner file structure than we are accustomed to in Windows Explorer, where all related files would live in the same overstuffed folder, or get lost in a maze of subfolders.

Now, let’s look at some organizational principles with Bookmarks.

Creating a Bookmark Structure

A bookmark structure can be ordered according to the same logic as a Windows Explorer folder structure, going as deep into subfolder bookmarks as needed (keeping in mind the principle of referenced files, making the use of extensive subfolders less necessary). To create a bookmark folder, just enter the Bookmark Editor app and either click the New Bookmark icon from the top ribbon, or right click under the Bookmarks structure on the left side of the app, and select New Bookmark from the menu. This will create a Bookmark folder within whatever folder level you create the bookmark from, whether at the top level root or as a subfolder within a directory.

Organizing CAD data

Organizing CAD data

Viewing Dependent Items

As seen in the image above, only top-level assemblies (and one component) are included in the bookmark. Visibility on subassemblies and components is just one click away. To see constituent parts of an assembly, just click the expansion “+” icon next to the top-level assembly. If the expansion icon is not visible, a quick one-time change will need to be made to your settings:

  1. Click the Menu dropdown at the top-right corner of the Bookmark Editor.
  2. Select “Preferences”
  3. Check the box next to “Enable expansion of products”. Save settings.
  4. The expansion “+” icon should now appear next to any files with other file dependents.
Viewing dependent items and organizing data in 3DEXPERIENCE

Viewing dependent items and organizing data in 3DEXPERIENCE

Revisions

Another strength of organizing files in 3DEXPERIENCE platform is the principle of file revisions. Instead of seeing separate entries for every design iteration of a part, one entry can represent the full history of logged changes through revisions. Therefore, it’s good practice to keep bookmark entries of differing revisions to a minimum, as the full history of earlier revisions may be accessed in only a couple clicks.

Two of the Bookmark Editor’s standard columns (columns may be added or removed according to user preferences) give information about the revision currently in the Bookmark:

  1. Revision. This column simply states the revision letter (or number) of each item.
  2. Is Last Revision. The Bookmark Editor, by default, keeps a snapshot of whatever item you added. This means, for instance, that if you added Rev. B of a part to your bookmark, it will not update to the latest revision when new revisions are made. The Is Last Revision column gives you a visible cue if the revision in your bookmark is outdated, and allows you to quickly update the bookmark with the latest rev, if desired. Clicking the red X (denoting an old revision) or the green checkmark (denoting the latest revision) will open a “Replace by Revision” dialog, where you may replace the bookmarked revision by any existing revision of the file.
Revision window in 3DEXPERIENCE

Revision window in 3DEXPERIENCE

For a more exhaustive discussion on the Bookmark Editor, including topics like revision control, column headers, and comparison tools, check out our post, “Deep Dive the Quintessential 3DEXPERIENCE App: Bookmark Editor”.

Moving Files – Change Bookmark

If you as a user have permission to move files, this can be done in the same drag & drop manner as Windows Explorer, dragging the file from the old Bookmark to a new one. This may be easiest to accomplish with two windows, having the source folder open in one window and the destination folder open in another. You may also copy files from one Bookmark to another without creating duplicates (again, because the source file is in the Collaborative Space, not the bookmark).

Moving Files – Change Collaborative Space

arrow in box

If a file needs to be moved to a different Collaborative Space (i.e. to give access to the file to members of the target Collaborative Space), this can be done from the Move command in the command ribbon at the top of Bookmark Editor. Select the file(s) you wish to transfer, click the Move icon, and type in the name of the target Collaborative Space. Naturally, you will need the appropriate permissions to transfer files out of the source and into the target.

3DEXPERIENCE file revisions

3DEXPERIENCE file revisions

Organizing Data in 3DEXPERIENCE Conclusion

Once we understand the method of file storage employed by 3DEXPERIENCE and the interplay between Collaborative Spaces and Bookmarks, the principles of organizing data in 3DEXPERIENCE are straightforward and even familiar in some ways. Understanding that relationship makes the benefits of a vault-driven data management system become apparent. There’s no need for overly-cluttered folders or endless black holes of file directories, and no ambiguity on whether or not you’re looking at the latest version of a file. And as we’ll see in posts to follow, files are easily accessed, but secure from unwanted tampering. Keep an eye out for Part 3 of this series where we’ll look at Accessing Data in the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform.

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On-demand webinar presented by Ben Colley

Ben Colley joined TriMech in 2021 after receiving his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Tennessee Tech University, and an AAS in Computer-Aided Drafting & Design from Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College. Before attending Tennessee Tech, Ben worked for five years as a SOLIDWORKS modeler in new product development and mold design for a cast iron foundry in southeast Kentucky.

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