Shopfitting made easy with SolidWorks/Inventor

Creating customized furniture and fittings lie at the heart of the modern shopfitting manufacturing process. Until now, shopfitting design engineers worked with CAD platforms like AutoCAD – popular for 2D CAD drawings – to create layouts, engineering drawings for production and other tasks. But this included spending huge time to generate cutting lists, project documentation, preparing veneer schedules and several other activities related to manufacturing.

Introduction of parametric 3D software uprooted these processes and introduced new, efficient methods. Now simply exporting required dimensions like length, width, quantities of components, and thickness etc. are enough to automatically generate Bills of Materials (BOMs). And as a result, platforms like Inventor and SolidWorks became indispensable for the industry.

Challenges posing shopfitting industry:

  • Shopfitting furniture items and fixtures are complex and the need to work with varied materials like metal, wood, glass and plastic is inevitable.
  • Brand-themed fixtures often need customization that is difficult to achieve without top CAD software like SolidWorks or Inventor, or the specialized plug-ins available for such software.
  • Need to maintain constant alignment with the layout design and the floor plan and also be able to react and adapt to changes that appear during actual execution of shopfitting.

At this juncture, where challenges are many, 3D CAD point cloud systems are used for reference geometry. Modern shopfitting thus depends heavily on choice of software and professionals for success.

3D CAD modeling in SolidWorks & Inventor 

It is necessary to select the CAD software that suits your shopfitting design needs, because all intricacies of project planning and execution depend upon it. Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks both fit the bill perfectly, and though initially they seem a bit costly, experienced shopfitters know these software earn their money's worth by saving huge resources and expenses in the long run.

The reasons why SolidWorks and Inventor remain the top choices of the shopfitting industry include the following:

  • Best graphical engines and the ability to create accurate 3D modeling
  • Excellent parametric designing enabling quick response to changes
  • Ability to exchange data across the widest range of formats
  • Ability to create the most accurate Computer Numerical Control (CNC)
  • Automated CNC does away with need to create drawings for every single item, thus freeing the designer for assembly, collation and coordination and creation of assembly guides
  • Ability to prepare minutely detailed bills of materials (BOM) and enabling precise calculation of materials in expanded BOM view
  • Automated view creation and annotation placements
  • Automated updating of changes keeping drawings always current across project
  • Compatibility and seamless integration with product data management systems
  • Increased coordination between teams due to wide acceptance of the software

Powerful CAD-CAM

Both SolidWorks or Autodesk Inventor either include or have enhancements to aid you speed up the process from design to manufacturing as they allow you to finish your CNC output straight from your CAD system – thus removing bottlenecks. Both at the manual or automatic processing level of parts or assembly, there are ways to accelerate CNC program preparation and to prevent errors. Simply adding library material to imported models simplifies working in the CAM environment with models made in a wide range of other CAD software as both Inventor and SolidWorks can provide CAM with post-processing capabilities for most other CAD files.

Image Source: SIMPLEXCAM

Library parts

Using standardized library parts is one of the best practices in design. With software like Inventor or SolidWorks and their enhancements like Woodworks, shopfitters or furniture makers can apply multiple library parts to the assembly, pre-assign assembly connections and define pilot drilling or cut-outs within the parts. Conventionally, without using standardized library parts, each part had to be separately modelled to include it in the BOM specification. However, current software like Woodwork for Inventor allow adding components like clips or screws or any similar item just by the use of a few custom parameters and have them taken into consideration into the specification without breaking a sweat.

Image Source: PENGALAMAN

Auto Plotting

Auto plotting features that create automatic 2D views eases the burden of creating detailed drawing packs needed for project approval. This becomes a nightmare without auto-plotting features of 3D packages to convey drillings, sizes, general arrangement and design intent if there is no automation to CNC is available. Both Inventor and SolidWorks eliminate such pains.

Sculpt drilling

A 2D draftsman has to omit details of use of screws and battens etc. and leaves these specifics for the manufacturing team or the CNC programmer. SolidWorks of Inventor (Woodworks) come with sculpt tools that assist the creation of holes or cut-out details that can be included and updated in the BOM specifications increasing efficiency and accelerating job processing on the floor.

Image Source: CADEXP


Cutting schedules

Materials like panels included things like veneers, covers, edge banding etc. that affect sizes of parts. In SolidWorks or Inventor, you don't need now to model everything manually to enter these details as you can assign materials that contain size information from a database that calculates the item size and synchronizes with BOM specification. Exporting the detailed schedules to Excel then becomes a breeze.

Final words

To sum up, modern shopfitting is made possible by 3D CAD software like Inventor or SolidWorks as they are capable of accepting a wide range of CAD file formats as inputs for processing. This empowers manufacturing and design teams to communicate seamlessly between the teams and across the organization with third parties.

Such uninterrupted engineering cycle not only speeds up the entire product development process but also help them maintain a competitive edge in the market. Thus, both, SolidWorks and Inventor have made the workflow cycle of typical industrial manufacturing efficient and easier than ever before.

About the Author:

Usha B. Trivedi is a mechanical design engineer at Hitech Engineering services – a company invested in industrial CAD drafting, modeling, and design automation. Ms. Trivedi writes about solution finding approach in CAD and design automation challenges backed by her years of exploration in industrial designing in furniture, millwork, and metal fabrication designs.

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