In design, we are always focused on the solving the problem and many times we need to solve these problems within a certain scope. So if I was designing a new heat sink, yes the main goal is to keep the product within a certain temperature however it is also important to ensure that the new heat sink still fits inside the product. SolidWorks has the ability to notify you when you breach one of these design criterion known as Sensors. Sensors debuted in SolidWorks 2007 for COSMOSWorks (now Simulation) and were extended to the SolidWorks interface for monitoring common concerns that may govern your design. This is another useful tool that allows SolidWorks to worry about the constraints so you can focus on your design.
Sensors in SolidWorks can help monitor common aspects like mass properties, dimension values as well as interferences within assemblies. So here are the capabilities of this tool that can do the monitoring for you:
We all use the “Mass Properties” tool in SolidWorks (Evaluate Tab) to get “stats” on our models but this can be a bit tedious when these are important design criteria. The “Mass Properties” option within sensors can monitor common aspects like mass, volume, surface area and center of mass (X,Y,Z) by allowing alerts that can notify you when the typed in value:
When this criteria is breached, a tooltip balloon will appear next to the “Sensors” folder as well as a yellow warning triangle at the top of the feature tree.
Similarly, the “Measurement” option can monitor much of the same criteria about your design with respect to the dimension values you select. Remember, this tool is great since you can select an unlimited amount of dimensions that you want to watch, all of which are being evaluated as you are modeling in SolidWorks.
Note: When selecting dimensions make sure that the dimensions you want to select are visible because once you launch the “Add Sensor” PropertyManager, you cannot invoke SolidWorks to display dimensions using any of the common methods like double clicking on the feature in the tree or the graphics area. (Verified in SolidWorks 2009 SP3)
This option is one of my favorites especially if you are designing dynamic tools and worry about binding and other fit, form and function criteria. Obviously available only with assemblies, “Interference Detection” sensors can do much of the same evaluation that collision detection does except now it is live.
Selection can be done on groups of components in question or the entire assembly as a whole. This sensor can monitor all the same criteria about interference and can even segregate SolidWorks Toolbox fasteners in a separate folder under “Results”.
If popups or “nags” are not your thing, you do have some say on how this tool can politely notify you as well. To set the notification frequency, right click on the “Sensors” folder and select “Notifications..”. Here control of notification frequency can be set for the number of rebuilds or saves that occur on active and out-of-date sensor alerts.
Sensors can do the tedious monitoring of those critical design boundaries while you focus on trying to solve the design problem. Just because the tools exist to do it manually in SolidWorks doesn’t mean you can’t “Set it and forget it!”