I and my team have decided to produce as detailed and professional of a design and CAD model as possible this year. As such we want to utilize Solidworks Electrical to spice things up and do the wiring in CAD as well.
I know that doing the routing in CAD for FRC is quite the overkill and besides esthetics for a final render, it isn’t all too useful. With that in mind, I still wanted to learn it anyway, in hopes that we could perhaps utilize it.
Now here’s the problem I ran into. Whilst searching for FRC oriented SWElectrical tutorial, all of them refer to a file that supposedly came with the 2014 KOP but is currently unavailable in the 2021 KOP. I have attempted to just create the SWElectrical parts from the already existing MCAD parts for all the electronics and connectors but quickly realized that it is just too deep of a rabbit hole, at least with the way I tried to do it.
I have already posted a comment to the 3DExperience FRC KOP page but currently haven’t gotten a reply.
So here’s what I was wondering. Does anyone know where I could find the template for SWE KOP, or could anyone tell me about some resources wich could help me make a template on my own.
I have seen certain teams do it online, and one local team doing it with help from an official SW distributer in my area.
Thanks a ton in advance! Hope to hear from someone soon
Have a wonderful day everyone!
I looked into SW Electrical about 2 years ago. To my knowledge, none of the KOP / library parts for the 2015+ control system have support for it (only the now deprecated system from before then was supported), so you would have to build your component library from scratch. Frankly, doing that is an arduous process - my personal recommendation is that you skip modeling wires and use all the time you saved to make a better robot.
With regards to teams that you’ve seen do it online: what you’re thinking of is Onshape’s routing tools, which although more workable than SW’s, are also not worth the time.
With regards to the benefit of modeling wires, you can get ~90% of the value of that process by modeling energy chain runs and sanity-checking the tighter fits and bends, and save a massive amount of time.
I used Solidworks electrical at work over the summer briefly, and while it’s a great program you’d most likely have to build your own library from scratch for it. It’s not difficult to add symbols and models from what I remember, but I pretty much googled my way through the process and I only had to do a few. I think if you can pull it off it would be a cool demo, but I doubt it’s practical to do during the season.
I’ve been doing 3d electrical routing for 25+ years so I already knew before starting that I would need a wire database as well as an electrical component library.
The good news is that the wire database is very small.
The electrical component library, while also small, has some components (PDP and RoboRio) that have a lot of wire and connector end points to add to the math data so I started with something I thought was going to be easy… the battery to PDP circuits. Without exception, battery cables have more problems per circuit than any other wire harness.
What really bothered me about the electrical package is that it wants you to know where the electrical components go BEFORE you start wiring. The electrical components have to have mating requirements and those have to be snapped on to already existing geometry. So in the case of a motor pigtail connection to a motor controller pigtail, the first connector of this inline connection has to be snapped to existing geometry and the second connector could be mated to the first connector. A similar issue would happen with the battery connector. How many robots do you see where these pigtail inlines are floating in space?
This could lead to a design process of
- Design mounting bracket
- Mount electrical inline and find out that pigtail length is too long, or the wire is stressed.
- Go back to step 1 until length is good.
- Locate electrical inline where the pigtail length is correct, without stress on the wire.
- Design mounting bracket once.
I haven’t tried it but I think I could do a workaround where I create an electrical locator part that I can add to an assembly and I then snap the inline connector to the locater part and then move the position of the inline connectors by moving the locator part.
Electrical Routing in Solidworks is so far down my “to do” list I might never get to it.
While you would end up with a really cool looking CAD model, it would take you a lot of time to model every wire. You would get the same utility, and spend much less time by reserving 1 inch wide wiring channels in “sensible places” throughout your robot. It is unlikely that you would need more space for wiring than that.
I have spent almost 20 years of my career working at places manufacturing large electrical equipment, often with extensive wiring looms running throughout the enclosures. We typically roughly estimated the size of the wire bundles and left appropriate sized channels in sensible locations. The only connections that we modeled in the 3D CAD were the high current connections. These were made using copper or aluminum bus bars or large cables (6 AWG up to multiple runs of 4/0). The bus bars are mechanical parts that were then manufactured by a subcontractor. The large cables were modeled to ensure the bend radius requirements were being met and that the lengths of the cable runs were acceptable to the electrical designers.
Well first of all wow, thanks @21brownz, @ClayTownR, @swami_dm, and @philso. The knowledge you have provided is, whilst mostly stuff I already knew, valuable. Especially to @philso and @swami_dm who, if nothing else, provided some insight into the workflow of electrical engineers/3d routing. Appreciate it.
As far as my issue and how I should move forward with it. I’ll definitely keep this post up since there may come a time where someone has a similar problem. Also perhaps someone has a library for it or something . Currently, I plan on trying my luck with building a library in my spare time. As with most other teams, we’re starting the design process as well, and so my time probs won’t be enough to fool around too much.
I would definitely let the you guys know if I end up making a “proper” library of sorts, just for fun at least.
Lastly, if anyone could point me to some sources about creating these libraries I would be grateful. The ones I found don’t quite go into enough detail to help with the tricky side of the process. Perhaps there’s something I’m missing.
Again thanks to all who replied or will reply. Hope to hear from others soon
Have a wonderful day!!
I investigated this earlier in “pre-season” knowing that usually we would explain electrical components and practice wiring in person, and that wasn’t possible this year. If all you want is a way to layout and practice robot wiring, in 2d not 3d, There are a couple options I found to work:
- I have heard of teams using Miro.
- I investigated using fritzing which has the majority of the latest FRC control system in it and supports “snap points” on each part to make really the layout really clean. It does cost a few bucks and requires installation (not a web tool).
Nice! This is seems like the best solution since it validates the electrical setup.
@michaellee1019 thanks for the suggestion. It isn’t that I want to teach the wiring, since I already taught those mostly. For the simulator @mdurrani834 suggested, I already looked at it. Cool software dude. It’s mostly 3d wiring I want to do in order to spice up the CAD and learn a new piece of software along the way. Also, it would take the guess work out of ordering wires .
Still thanks guys.
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