Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My SolidWorks Journey

Still teaching myself SolidWorks, I am excited to report that the pace has been quickened enormously.

Today I completed drawing another part in an assembly tutorial, straight out of Learning SolidWorks by Richard M. Lueptow and Michael Minbiole. But this time I did it at my own desk. This means I can work on SolidWorks during any spare time.

I started at this job almost a year ago. Hired as a receptionist, I didn't think I had much chance at learning anything new or exciting here, but they were very nice people and I needed a job. And much later I found out they had SolidWorks (first referenced here).

So then, at every opportunity I would - with permission - go work (more like "play") on SolidWorks. The computer with SolidWorks was rarely available; going through the tutorial was very slow. I rechecked the book from the library many times.

I was so proud of myself when I made my first engineering print that I showed everyone at work, and also brought a copy home and taped it up on the wall in my home office.

So after I made the print, the suggestion was made that I could move SW to my computer, except my computer didn't have the graphics to handle it. So they bought me a new computer (!). Then we couldn't find the install disk for a very long time. It turned up a month or so later, but I ran into difficulties.

I installed SW2007 on my machine, but it wouldn't open. The software couldn't find the license, even with the USB dongle connected. I tried many different ways of installing, three different ways of registering, slept on it, thought about it, came up with new ideas and re-tried to no avail. I even posted on the official SolidWorks installation forums, but no one replied.

Then I decided to ask if it was okay to call our vendor to see if they could provide free advice (and was told by my company that they would buy support time if necessary, but I wanted to avoid that like the plague - nothing like costing my boss money for something I'm too green at to profit the business). The vendor provided me with a batch file for a clean uninstall and reinstall instructions ... it didn't solve the problem.

So I decided to post again on the SolidWorks forums, this time in the general forum where I hoped it would get more views, reworded my question and added screen shots, as I noticed people who included screen shots tended to get more answers, faster. Sure enough, the very next day I had the answer I needed.

I was missing the license server software. It comes on the SW DVD, but auto-play doesn't prompt you to install the license server, just SW. After installing that, and then just one more day of beating around to figure out where to find the license text file, I got it working. Hallelujah.

I finished the handle today (after a ding-y moment of trying to fillet an edge with a 0.50 round instead of a 0.050 round), and am now ready to start on the cap. If I remember right, that will be the last part to do before I can make an assembly drawing (!). I am incredibly pleased.

A few days ago I was digging through some old papers and pictures at home, and found an ancient resume which referenced my Minor Technical Certificate in Mechanical Drafting from Platt College. Obviously I have added that to my resume now (whereas I had deleted it when my "career" was limited to only whatever office work I could find part time or at night to work around raising the kids). I do wish I could find the piece of paper to frame. I was just starting my major in Structural Drafting when I moved to Washington State.

It is such a peaceful thing to envision a career path in front of me now. So many years the pause button has been pressed on my career interests. I still have to temper my dreams with the necessities of responsibility to family, but I am enthusiastically looking forward to delving back into mechanical drafting full force.

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