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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has over 35 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design and engineering. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CG, CAD, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the design community. As editor of ShareCG, … More »

Software Review: DesignSpark Mechanical for Conceptual 3D Electromechanical Design

 
September 23rd, 2013 by Jeff Rowe

As our readers know, there is no shortage of mechanical CAD tools available for trained mechanical designers. But, I recently discovered a unique mechanical design product, DesignSpark Mechanical, tailored for engineers whose primary role is electronics design, and secondary role is mechanical design for creating panels, enclosures, and machines. I was interested in experiencing how a mechanical design product would translate for electronics designers and conceptual design. Oh, and it’s free of charge.

I found DesignSpark Mechanical to be a very capable mechanical design tool for non-specialists and was pleasantly surprised at its capabilities and potential.

DesignSpark Mechanical is built on SpaceClaim Engineer, 3D design software that offers a short learning curve along with a direct modeling approach that lets you directly pull and move geometry for design optimization.

Using DesignSpark Mechanical consists of the following three basic steps:

  1. Sketching and pulling to create parts, or importing and opening existing part models from other modeling software, or from the RS Components/Allied Electronics parts library.
  2. Refining a design using DesignSpark Mechanical’s 2D and 3D editing tools.
  3. Saving and exporting model data.

DesignSpark Mechanical has comprehensive 2D and 3D sketching capabilities, as well as the following basic tools for creating and editing 3D geometry:

  • Pull – This the primary tool for creating and editing models in DesignSpark Mechanical for extruding, offsetting, revolving, sweeping, drafting, and blending edges and faces. This tool sets DesignSpark Mechanical apart from more complex history-based parametric modelers.
  • Move – This tool is used for selecting and moving faces, solids, surfaces, or objects in a 2D or 3D model.
  • Fill – This tool is used for selecting a model region and then filling it with the surrounding solid or surface. The fill operation in DesignSpark Mechanical is relatively simple compared with most other feature-based modelers.
  • Combine – This tool merges and splits solids and surfaces for altering objects. Objects can be added (or merged) together and subtracted (or split) from each other, creating new modified objects that better suit design needs.

With these basic 3D tools, I realized that I had the ability to conceptually model many types of electronic panels and enclosures.

Three Modeling Methods

With DesignSpark Mechanical there are three methods for modeling — from scratch, by selecting components from the DesignSpark library and using them as the basis for a design, or a combination of the two.

With the online library I was able to combine my test design with off-the-shelf electromechanical components (enclosures, relays, switches, etc.) from RS Components’ and Allied Electronics’ 3D library. I was able to select and drop in 3D part models with RS part numbers directly into my test design.

I also was able to import ECAD files from an EDA tool, DesignSpark PCB (RS Components’/Allied Electronics’ printed circuit board design tool), and create a mechanical design around the electrical design.

Design Tools for Electronics Designers

DesignSpark Mechanical has specialized functions and tools specifically for electronics designers – Measure, Dimension, Bill of Materials, and Order Components.

I used the Measure tool by selecting it and clicking on an object (edge or face) for measuring length, area, and perimeter. This was a useful tool for ensuring components or subassemblies would fit within an enclosure.

Selecting the Dimension tool and clicking on an edge or face previews a specific dimension. Clicking a second time, I created the dimension for display. The Dimension tool is useful for calling attention to critical dimensions for collaboration or production.

For design communication, it’s always a good idea to include a Bill of Materials (BOM) as part of a design. In DesignSpark Mechanical, BOMs are automatically populated for both internal and external components that comprise an assembly.

Finally, DesignSpark Mechanical reads in purchasing data from parts downloaded from the RS Components and Allied Electronics webpages and auto-populates a bill of materials (BOM). I clicked the BOM Quote button and the parts list in the current design populated a table in a pop-up browser. By clicking Order Components, I received a quote very quickly.

Final Thoughts

For all the functionality it provides for designing innovative electronic products, DesignSpark Mechanical is available free of charge.

I have evaluated and used many software products over the years for designing mechanical and electromechanical products. Based on my experience, I found DesignSpark Mechanical to be an easy to use, yet capable tool for conceptual electromechanical design, especially by those who have limited or no experience with a mechanical design tool. The learning curve is short, the 3D component libraries are extensive, BOMs and quotes are easy to generate, and it’s free. When considering all of these benefits, I found that there is a lot to like with DesignSpark Mechanical.

For More Information on DesignSpark Mechanical: www.designspark.com/mechanical

 

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