Working on Design Concepts made easy with SOLIDWORKS PDM

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Shishir R Murthy, Application Engineer Nov 11th, 2021

Welcome to BEACON’s Blog section. Today we will be looking at one of the PDM features called “Branch and Merge”. Before we dig deeper into this feature and understand what is this feature? And how is it useful to anyone working with PDM and Design? Let’s answer the question what is a concept?

Design and Engineering are all about finding innovative ways to refine existing designs or solve the problems in the world and make life simpler and easy. And the path to innovation begins with an idea or a concept. Now with the new Branch and Merge capability of SOLIDWORKS PDM this task is a breeze.

Concept Design

Concept designs are the initial design that has been developed from an idea, and during this, we all know that there are many iterations the concept goes through, with every stage bringing in new constraints and design improvements.

We all can agree that the conventional method of working with Concepts, is making multiple copies for all the variations we want to try out. But commonly we will face these challenges with this method, firstly all those duplicates that have been scraped become junk data, and secondly, there is no reference to the parent data. Thus, requiring us the users, to keep track of all those duplicate files and spend our valuable time of design and innovation on keeping track of the various concepts and letting others know of the parent file and the validated concept design.

These challenges can be solved with ease using the Branch and Merge function of the PDM.

This image shows the conventional method of storing concepts in various files & folders and tracking using excel

This image shows the conventional method of storing concepts in various files & folders and tracking using excel

This image shows the conventional method of storing concepts in various files & folders and tracking using excel

This image shows the conventional method of storing concepts in various files & folders and tracking using excel

Fig 1: This image shows the conventional method of storing concepts in various files & folders and tracking using excel

What’s Branch and Merge?

The branch is the feature in PDM that allows us to make copies of the design but still holds the reference to the parent file, from which it was extracted. Regardless of its release state, parts, assemblies, or drawings can be branched, and their structure is recognized. The destination folder can be defined, as well as a prefix or suffix for the filename, and individual files can be included or excluded from the branch.

The branched file is identical to its source. Here 4 branches have been created and refined. When you decide on the preferred design, it can be easily merged back. SOLIDWORKS PDM recognizes the source file and merges it as a new version, even if the source file was renamed or moved. When the assembly is opened, we can see that the refined design is in place. Now, with the new branch and merge tool, error- prone copy, change and overwrite techniques are no longer needed.

Here we have a cupboard assembly design, in which we will be taking the door part file and developing the concepts, and see-through how the branch and merge can help us to develop and finalize our design.

The assembly file and its references

The assembly file and its references

Fig 2: The assembly file and its references

To branch the “T-Door” part, we select the part>Tools>Branch.

Branch dialog box

Fig 3: The Branch command

This brings up the Branch window, there is multiple Info to capture like the Copy tree operation. Let’s go over the details in the window.

Branch dialog box

Fig 4: Branch dialog box

1. Branch Name: Provide a name to the branch that you are building to allow ease of traceability in
later stages.
2. Default Destination: This allows us to select the location where the branch will be stored.
3. Settings:

  • Version to use: Here we can select whether we want to use the “latest version” of all the referenced files (in case of an assembly branch) or use the “Referenced Version” (this option is used if we want to keep using the older version of the design, as the part might have been modified for another project and not this one).
  • Options: This allows us to include referenced drawing, simulation data, renaming drawing after the part, incorporating the folder structure in the branch, and regenerating the serial number in the data card if the serial numbering is handled by the PDM.
  • Transform Options: This allows us to add Prefix/Suffix, rename the files with the serial number if it is being handled by the PDM, and replace any files in the list of the branch.

4. Filter: This can be used to filter the list on a filename basis if the list is huge.
5. Export to CSV: This can be used to export the branch list to EXCEL CSV format.
6. Branch column in the body: Selecting the “Branch” column checkbox will allow that file to be branched.
7. Check-In after branch: This checkbox will check-in the file automatically after the branch.
8. Branch Push Button: This will initiate the branch operation.

Here we have branched the “T-Door” part into 4 branches as shown in the image below.

Associated Branchs

Fig 5: Associated Branches

Selecting the branch will show the details of the source file and the branch file as shown in the image below.

Branch and Source file dialog box

Fig 6: Branch and Source file dialog box

After branching the part, we have refined the designs of all the 3 branches and now let’s look at the design changes in the branches. We have left one of the branches as the original file if we need to come back to it in the future.

Branched designs preview

Branched designs preview

Branched designs preview

Fig 7: Branched designs preview

Now we will merge the “T-Door-Branch 1” as I want to go forward with this design for my door. To Merge select T-Door-Branch>Tools>Merge.

Merge option

Fig 8: Merge option

Here we see the “Merge” Dialogue box which is similar to the branch dialogue box. By performing the merge we will be able to overwrite the parent file which is “T-Door”.

Merge dialog box

Fig 9: Merge dialog box

After the merge operation, we can see that the “T-Door” file has been updated and the same can be seen in the assembly as well, once we check out the file in the SOLIDWORKS.

Merged file preview

Merged file preview

Fig 10: Merged file preview

As we saw, the branch and merge functionality helped us to make concept designing very easy and we don’t have to worry about duplicate files and their references to the parent file, while we work on the developments.
For more content on SOLIDWORKS and other SOLIDWORKS portfolios please stay tuned and check our blog section.

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AUTHOR: Shishir R Murthy, Application Engineer

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