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  • Altium to SolidWorks 3D Model

    Hi everyone,

    Does anybody have any ideas on how we can get our high density and large board from Altium into SolidWorks while optimising PC performance?
    If possible, we would prefer a method that doesn't compromise too much detail.

    What we've tried:
    Step and Parasolid files on a board this size destroy SolidWorks. Parasolid works much better than Step, but both make our mechanical engineer's very sad.
    It's funny how the number of duplicate IC models seems to correlate to how much precious board space they take away 😂. Jokes aside though, these files are unworkable.

    We also tried using Altium's IDF Board exporter with several different file formats. These take a very long time to import into SolidWorks, but once there, we can save the files as a SolidWorks part which is the most optimised solution that we've seen for PC performance. However, the component bodies get expanded to cover the legs and whatever other details. e.g. the bodies are just bounding boxes (as intended by the file format). Since our moulds need to wrap tightly around components, this solution doesn't work. It's common for us to need to know where the component body ends so that we can place a mould section next to it, sitting above its legs. Or sometimes, we need to align a flex board with an FPC connector.

    We are going to try importing the step file into Blender overnight (or maybe we have to convert it to a mesh file first), decimate the file, and then try importing the result into SolidWorks. This method will reduce a lot of the detail, but shouldn't be as bad as the IDF files. I will post how this test goes once the mechanical engineers have done it.


    The two different plugins that claim to do this aren't on the table at this time but I'm still open to hearings about other people's experiences.


    Does anybody have any other ideas? How is this done for large motherboards and graphics cards? I know for a fact that there are larger and more dense boards than ours out there. And our computers aren't exactly low grade.


    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Kind regards,
    Dan

  • #2
    Just an idea, is it possible to import 3D PDF to Solidworks? I think I have seen very nice Altium 3D models but generated from 3D PDF instead of the ugly step files from Altium. But, I may be wrong, I was not really investigating this deeper, I only had a brief look as I would like to get a nice 3D model from Altium.

    Maybe, that could help?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by robertferanec View Post
      Just an idea, is it possible to import 3D PDF to Solidworks? I think I have seen very nice Altium 3D models but generated from 3D PDF instead of the ugly step files from Altium. But, I may be wrong, I was not really investigating this deeper, I only had a brief look as I would like to get a nice 3D model from Altium.

      Maybe, that could help?
      Thanks Robert. Sorry it took me so long to reply.

      Our mechanical engineers couldn't get a 3D PDF to work.
      Our solution is to create a SolidWorks assembly containing 3 parts.
      1. A blank board outline, specifically to serve as a reference for mating other parts outside the assembly to.
      2. A Parasolid containing only the board outline and select components such as ICs that require heat sinking, LEDs and connectors. This is for when detailed design is needed for specific components.
      3. An IDF containing the bounding boxes of all components. This is for everyday design where performance matters. IDFs can be imported into Solidworks without the plugins at a reduced import speed.
      Inside that assembly, they have set up configurations that keep all but one of those 3 parts suppressed so that they only have to use the one that's most helpful at any time.

      I'd give them a Parasolid if they needed to do detailed design around every component but that would be slow. Although, leagues faster than a step file.
      Last edited by DanR; 04-30-2021, 07:30 AM.

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