People say that the best way to learn something is to teach somebody else. In the process of describing it, you break the subject down into its components andu begin to see the limits of your own understanding.
Jeff Mirisola has taught countless visitors to his site, Jeff's Tool Shed, the ins and outs of the SOLIDWORKS environment. Mirisola started the website to explore the limits of his own knowledge and get more involved in the community - all while sharing his knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm along the way.
Jeff Mirisola took a moment to share some of that wisdom with us.
How did you get started writing Jeff's Tool Shed? What were your initial goals for the blog, and have you reached or surpassed those goals?
I started writing Jeff's Tool Shed at the suggestion of Richard Doyle, Senior User Advocacy & SOLIDWORKS User Groups. We met at a SOLIDWORKS Summit in Seattle, and I expressed an interest in becoming more involved. He suggested writing a blog about SOLIDWORKS Partner products; hence the name Jeff's Tool Shed. It's morphed over the years into something more than just partner products, but the name remains.
How has writing Jeff's Tool Shed impacted your own design work?
Of all the products I've been able to mess around with over the years, my two favorite are 3DConnexion and DriveWorks - both of which I get to use on a daily basis now. Both of them go a long way to speeding up the design process for me, especially my 3DConnexion device.
One of the reasons you started Jeff's Tool Shed was to get more involved with the SOLIDWORKS community. What is the SOLIDWORKS community?
The SOLIDWORKS community is exactly what it sounds like: a community of users and employees all working together to help each other. On a large scale, you have the SOLIDWORKS forums as a place to ask and answer questions. Then still on a large scale, you have SOLIDWORKS World. That's the annual user convention where thousands of SOLIDWORKS users, resellers, partners and employees descend upon some unsuspecting city for a week to learn and share. Then there's the SOLIDWORKS User Group Network, a network of hundreds of user groups throughout the world that provide localized meetings for users to, again, share and learn.
You're also a SOLIDWORKS certified instructor, so you're obviously quite well-trained with the software. In your opinion, what differentiates SOLIDWORKS from other 3D CAD software? Why do you like it so much?
I've only ever used SOLIDWORKS, so I can't speak to the pros/cons of other 3D CAD software. What I can tell you is that SOLIDWORKS is easy to learn and use. When I started using it, I had zero CAD experience. I'd recently moved into a role as a technical writer, but had to wait for the illustrator to do his work. His work entailed taking what was designed in SOLIDWORKS and recreating it in AutoCAD so that it could be brought into PageMaker. I thought that was ridiculous, but was told that you couldn't derive a true Isometric view from SOLIDWORKS. Challenge accepted! I started with the tutorials, then started taking the 2D drawings of the machine I was creating the parts manual for and recreated the components. While a bit redundant, it was excellent practice that taught me a lot about modeling. When all was said and done, AutoCAD was dropped as part of the illustration process.
What are some specific challenges that face 3D CAD Engineers?
I think that one of the biggest challenges is that 3D CAD software will allow you to design something that can't actually be manufactured. That's something that you need to keep tucked away somewhere - unless you enjoy having a machinist tear you a new one.
Do you use a CAD Workstation in your office? If so, which one, and what made you select that one?
Yes, I use a workstation. Three, actually. For work, I have a Dell T1700 and a Surface Pro3. The Dell is my daily work horse. The Surface is what I use when I'm traveling. I chose the Dell because that's what is used at the company. While I was able to spec it out, I had no say on the brand. That being said, I've used Dells for years with few problems, so I had no qualms about the lack of choice. The Surface was my choice, however, because I didn't want to have to lug around a heavy mobile workstation; and they aren't all that easy to use on a crowded plane. The Surface, however, is much lighter, just as powerful, and fits nicely on the food tray.
At home, I have a Dell M4600 that's about 2 years old. It's the middle of the road option, but works well for me.
What are the advantages of using a CAD workstation?
A CAD workstation, whether it's a desktop/tower or mobile, simply gives you peace of mind when it comes to performance. I'd say for every one story you hear about someone being able to run SOLIDWORKS on their just fine 'home' PC, there's probably 10 that have nothing but problems. For me, it would be like buying a Corvette with a 4 cylinder engine. It may look good, but it's not going to deliver the performance you'd want or expect.
With the business climate being what it is, why is it so important for CAD Engineers and Managers to be optimally efficient and organized? What are the risks of not being unorganized?
Business is about making money, and being efficient is just one way to meet that goal. If you have a manager who doesn't know what his team is doing, chances are they don't know what they're doing either. You then end up with duplication of effort, files overwriting files, dogs and cats living together, complete anarchy. Having a cohesive effort is a much better way to go, no?
There's more though. You need a manager who doesn't just sit in his office doling out duties. He needs to understand what goes into creating models and drawings. He needs to understand that, as with so many other things, training is important. So is providing the proper tools (read: workstations). Showing your CAD jockeys that you're committed to both will help them be committed to more than just the paycheck.
In the 'Consulting' section of Jeff's Tool Shed, you state, "Capable of seeing the big picture regarding 3D model use across an organization." What is the big picture regarding 3D modeling across an organization?
Ah, the BIG PICTURE. Here's my thoughts based off of what I've seen: too many managers simply see 3D Modeling as a design tool. Nothing more, nothing less. Even at this most basic thought level, they still don't manage it correctly. Files get saved willy-nilly. File naming is no more thought out than where they're being saved to. Models are created haphazardly, which create problems downstream when someone else tries to edit them.
Honestly, there's a lot to 'the big picture'. File naming conventions, part numbering conventions, PDM vs. no PDM, how to utilize the data that is within your models, how to utilize the models for more than just engineering purposes and so on and so forth.
For more info and updates from Jeff's Tool Shed, follow him on Twitter.