When developing a product, you are never designing just one part; it is (almost) always an assembly of mechanical and electrical components. I recommend creating a better CAD design now to help yourself in the long run. The following is a set of guidelines that have helped me during my career as a designer.
- Use two hands! Early in my career I was told “a two handed designer is an efficient one” and it is completely true. The use of your keyboard to create shortcuts or mapkeys to perform automated tasks saves countless clicks of the mouse. Anything from hiding and un-hiding a part in an assembly, to pulling up the measuring tool will create small efficiencies while designing.
- Use Master Models! Whether you are designing in Creo or SolidWorks, a master model or skeleton (if you are using Creo) is the key to creating great assemblies. It guarantees that parts will align and make creating the assembly even easier. A “master model” is a part file that contains references and geometry, which will be shared between two or more parts. For instance, creating the entire outer shape of the product that, in the end, will be made of multiple parts. You can also use this shared information for things such as, locations of screws, heights of screw bosses, and snaps between parts. The basic rule of thumb is if at least two parts use the same reference, it should be in the master model.
- Name your features! It only takes a few added seconds to rename the feature, so just do it. By simply naming features you will save time in the long run when it comes to changing anything or if someone else two years later has to change something. This quick tip will help, I promise.
- Don’t skip around! When it comes to designing a part you create features as they become needed. This does not your model tree should reflect this. If you need to add a rib to the screw boss twenty features up, roll back your model and add in the rib after the boss. By grouping features that are dependent to each other it makes editing later on much easier.
- Annotate! Make featureless annotations in your model tree to break up sections of your design. This really helps if the part has hundreds of features, having sections for “alignment pins” or “PCBA mounting holes” is really helpful when having to edit the model in the future.
- Model in order! I cannot stress this last point enough. The model tree should almost always follow this order; references (datums, axis, cys), shared data (master models / skeletons), copied geometry, surfaces, solid features, drafts, rounds / chamfers. Draft, rounds and chamfers are always the last features because they are finishing details. Don’t add these to your initial designs because you will waste more time in the end redefining these over and over. Once you believe the design is stable, it is time to add draft, rounds and chamfers.
Image from wikipedia.org