Focus On: Large Assembly Management in ThinkDesign

Let’s explore ThinkDesign unique and powerful environment in the design and management of assembly models.

Assemblies are models made up of multiple parts or components, which are brought together to form a larger, more complex system. Each part, or component, is designed to interact with others within a predefined spatial arrangement, allowing the entire assembly to function as intended.
The primary goals of utilizing assembly models in CAD include ensuring that all parts fit together correctly, perform their intended functions without interference, and can be manufactured efficiently.

ThinkDesign is equipped with various sophisticated features specifically designed to aid in the creation, management, and analysis of assembly models. Unlike competitive products, ThinkDesign allows the designer to maintain complete flexibility throughout the design workflow.
Assemblies can be organized with local and external components; each of them can include all the geometrical elements made available by the program, such as basic geometric entities, surfaces, meshes, solids, components and groups of components (sub-assemblies). Each external component is identified by its own file and its content can be edited and created opening its reference document or directly in the assembly model by setting as current the specific component.

Two different kind of structures can therefore be used to create an assembly: either a hierarchy structure, where the model is organized hierarchically using components; or a flat structure, where the assembly is created using a set of basic geometric entities, solids and surfaces without the need to group or structure them. This approach allows to work in a single 3D design environment, where users are not bound to decide what to design in advance, but they can start with a single object and go on adding other elements without the need to switch to a different working environment.

Both in the case of hierarchy and flat structures, an assembly can be created using two different methods:

  • Top-Down Approach, when the component is created straight into the assembly in which it is used. This method makes the design of parts extremely easy, since the component is continuously checked and the interactions with other entities is immediately kept under control.
  • Bottom-Up Approach, when the components of the assembly are designed individually and saved in a set of files. These separate parts are then imported as components and positioned inside the assembly as desired. This method is particularly useful when assembling parts previously created or imported from other sources.

ThinkDesign is able to manage heavy and complex assemblies thanks to its technology and its optimized graphics tools. The application is able to load large models with particular care to performance and provides end-users with specific features. External reference components can be optionally loaded in one or different Light Representations within the assembly, providing different balances between simplification and visual quality and a sensible decrease in the loading time.

Thanks to the Windows paradigms integration, like multi-windows and drag&drop functionalities, it is possible to set on screen two or more windows, select the desired geometry and drag and drop it from 2D drawing documents to a 3D model. 2D entities can in fact coexist with 3D entities in the same model file and, more important, they can be used to create 3D solids and features: this is very useful for legacy data saving and reuse of 2D information.
The fully integrated 2D/3D environment and the completeness of modeling tools allows for both Direct and Parametric modeling approaches: users can choose for greater flexibility with quick changes and direct modifications or they can choose to rely on parametric relationships and constraints that automatically update the model when changes are made.

Parametric modeling is defined by the use of parameters to control the attributes of the assembly model and the relationships between different components: these parameters can be Profile constraints (like dimensions, lengths, angles, diameters), when the geometry of a profile is referenced to other geometric entities already existing in other parts of the assembly, and Mating constraints (like alignments, coincidence, coaxiality), which define how components are positioned and oriented relative to each other. Mating constraints control the degrees of freedom of the parts within the assembly, such as allowing rotation around a hinge but preventing other movements, and include the ability to simulate the motion of kinematic chains of components by creating animations of the assembly.

This can be used to validate the design by ensuring that all moving parts operate without collisions and, in combination with the ability to create a section of the model in the 3D environment, to check for any interference.

A very useful tool that can helps identify issues when reviewing an assembly design is Visual Bookmarks. These can be used to store different states of an assembly model that represent, for example, different work situations.

Exploded views can be included to create maintenance manuals and documentation or to show different steps of a manufacturing process, and can be used to directly generate 2D views in the drawing environment. ThinkDesign provides also a series of libraries of standard components that can be imported into the model and can be customized with specific parts that are frequently used. It allows to generate a bill of materials (BOM) from the assembly, listing each component, quantities, and additional information like material specifications or supplier details, which are essential in the manufacturing process and inventory management.

In conclusion, assembly models in ThinkDesign represent a synthesis of design flexibility, technological integration and operational efficiency. As industries continue to embrace more complex and technologically advanced projects, the role of ThinkDesign becomes increasingly critical, driving innovations and improvements in product design and manufacturing.