Solidworks Workgroup PDM workflow and tips

I’m planning on using Workgroup PDM this year for collaborating on CAD and we don’t really have time to learn the ins and out of the system. I have the software setup and configured but I was wondering if anyone has a FRC specific usage tutorials or just general recommendations.

Here you go:

Thanks to Team 1114 (Simbotics) for creating these video tutorials.

Last year, my team tried out Workgroup PDM for a few weeks. However, I personally found it very convoluted and difficult to work with, which resulted in slower work flow overall.

I would recommend that you check out GrabCad. It has been amazingly simple to use, especially since it integrates itself directly into solidworks. It does everything PDM does, and makes collaborating a breeze.

I also suggest checking out grabcad.

If you’ve settled on PDM for a reason, go for it, but its not going to be as hands off as grab cad.

Before last season we evaluated a number of different options for the CAD team to use. We looked at github, grab cad, Dropbox, and solidworks pdm. Grabcad is by far the easiest for the CAD students and mentors to use. After the initial setup, I don’t think we required any intervention to teach people how to use it “correctly” or to fix problems with the wrong versions of files being committed or not being committed. There’s no server machine that you have to worry about hosting/maintaining. A big concern for us was in getting a windows machine w/ PDM online and running reliably 24/7 w/ enough bandwidth that we wouldn’t affect our workflows.

Grabcad also has some pretty great features for graphically reviewing the differences between models over time. This allows mentors to quickly review changes that students have made for the work they were assigned. There’s also mobile apps and web based viewers for the models in your projects, so you can quickly take measurements on parts when you’re not at a machine with solid works installed. It also supports commenting and annotating parts, so members of the team that don’t know CAD can review parts and voice their oppinions/suggestions right against the models. And their desktop applications integrate nicely with solidworks.

If it wasnt obvious, we love grabcad. We were getting ready to pay for it before they announced it would be free to FIRST teams. Then this past year they announced it would be free to everyone, forever, so that sealed the deal. Its definitely worth looking into.

865 used GrabCAD in 2014 and we had tons of issues. The plug in was difficult to install and would crash regularly and we had issues with the model downloading correctly. We gave up on it halfway through the season.

Has it improved significantly since then?

I already have PDM installed on the Microsoft Azure service (~10$ a month). It’s been speedy and reliable for the past month.

Not to beat a dead horse, but here are some of my thoughts:

1678 used Workgroup PDM last year, but we are switching to GrabCAD for the 2016 season for a number of reasons. Mainly, we struggled to manage our COTS library and our mentor had difficulty giving design feedback because of the difficult viewing interface. Workgroup PDM was also slow and clunky when trying to take ownership/download large upper assemblies.

I set up GrabCAD for the team this past summer, and we have had great experiences so far. We have not experienced any crashing or malfunctions, except when students forget to upload their parts. With GrabCAD I am able to communicate with students through comments on the web interface, and our mentor can view our files with ease (through mobile apps and his browser). In general, GrabCAD has been easier to set-up and install than Workgroup PDM was and has grown into a sort of design team Dropbox folder where we keep all design related files (PDFs, images, slides, html links). Many of these can be viewed through the browser as well.

I personally have not used the plug-in extensively, though many of our design students have, with great success. I have used the “Desktop Workbench” which is easy to use and extremely reliable. I much prefer that to PDM, even without the plug-in.

It seems that GrabCAD has definitely improved, since your team last used it. That being said, I have some pointers concerning COTS management on Workgroup PDM if you are interested. Feel free to PM me.

I guess I’ll give GrabCAD PDM another shot. My previous experience left a bad taste in my mouth but the plugin was still in beta at the time.

I don’t know of a single crash occurring on anyone’s machine this past season.
We had the solid works plugin installed on about 6 machines in our shop, plus about 12 computers at mentor/student’s homes.

There may have been isolated incidences, but certainly nothing anyone complained about. Compared to our previous use of DropBox and OwnCloud, GrabCAD has been embraced by everyone on the team.

It must have gotten better since you used it last. Its a solid and polished suite (desktop/mobile/web) of applications now.