Friday, 25 July 2014

75 Years of Batman

By
 

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If you’re not a comic book or super hero fan, today might have seemed just like any other day.  However, for those die hard fans of vigilantes, super heroes, protectors of the innocent; today marks a significant day in history; 75 years of Batman.
That’s right, Bruce Wayne’s alter ego, The Caped Crusader, The Dark Knight, The Batman, has been using his technician know-how and martial arts prowess since 1939.  And you may be wondering, why are you reading about this on a SOLIDWORKS Blog Post?

Let’s start with an easier question, one I think all engineers can relate to.  Often within circles of geeky friends, the question inevitably rises, ‘who is your favorite super hero’.  Personally, my immediate response is always, ‘either Batman or Ironman’.  This is usually followed by odd looks from the person asking the question.  Certainly, any other super hero has much greater powers than these two heroes?  But do they?  The interesting thing about Batman (and Ironman) is besides being extremely wealthy, they both are incredible engineers and industrialists.  Think about that for a moment.  Neither of these heroes have any supernatural abilities, just a desire to solve problems and use engineering as a solution.  Once I explain myself, I usually like to followup and mention that both Wayne Enterprises (and Stark Industries) most likely use SOLIDWORKS as a result!

With that, I thought today it would be fun to look at few of my favorite gadgets that Batman uses in his crime fighting efforts.  In doing so I spent some time looking over the last 75 years of tools, gadgets, and iconic vehicles used by Batman, and some of the complex engineering Wayne Enterprises incorporated into the designs.

Batarang: This device is one of the most iconic devices employed by the Caped Crusader.  The Batarang has had many different forms from a simple yet effective boomerang, to remote controlled and GPS guided versions.  Though the basics of the design are simple, the shape of the Batarang might make it less than ideal as a traditional boomerang.  If you look at traditional Australian boomerangs, they follow the design of an airfoil, ultimately allowing for flight.  However, the Batarang traditionally has a somewhat sharp leading edge for subduing foes.  Once you start to consider some of the more modern variations of this device, which incorporate electronics for remote and GPS controlled guidance, this story changes.  Today, aircraft such as the B2 Stealth Bomber and the F-117 Stealth Fighter would be unflyable by traditional human piloting skills. However, with the aid of fly-by-wire and computer controlled assistance, the computer makes 1,000′s of small adjustments a minute, constantly keeping the aircraft stable.  So, it might be safe to assume that the Batarang has found a way to package all of these electronics into a very small form factor.  I am going to assume that they used SOLIDWORKS Electrical and CircuitWorks to accomplish such a feat!


Grappling Gun: This practical device makes appearance throughout history as well, providing Batman with vertical ascension faster than any would be villain could catch him.  The Grappling Gun is one of my all time favorite devices.  In fact, an alternative design even makes an appearance in today’s Technical Blog post where I show how to use gear mates to build the gear-train in the device.
But as for the design of this device, it’s fairly straight forward, and many variants are actually employed today, albeit not in such a small form factor.  The biggest challenges with this device is incorporating a motor capable of lifting not just Batman himself, but quite often rescuing Vicki Vale from danger.  The torque requirements for this small motor would have to be pretty extreme, and in this case, I’m certain that they would have used SOLIDWORKS Simulation tools to calculate the loads and stresses to size and design this motor.


Utility BeltUtility Belt: The all purpose tool used by Batman over the years.  Not so much a single tool itself, but a very compact storage device for my of Batman’s other gadgets, most notably a fan favorite being the infamous Shark Repellent from the 1966 Batman Movie!  This device is actually quite a practical device used by nearly every law enforcement agency around the world, although, most don’t carry around Shark Repellent.  Utility belts come in a variety of sizes and purposes, such as mentioned, law enforcement, construction workers, hiking enthusiasts and many more.  Most today employ attachment mechanisms to allow for complete customization, and I would guess that the ‘hidden’ compartments within the Batman Utility belt are equally customizable.  The challenge faced with this gadget is obviously packaging everything into such a small space.  The perfect solution for this was most likely SOLIDWORKS design software, and heavy usage of Configurations for the many different varieties seen throughout the years.


TumblerTumbler: There are nearly as many vehicles parked in the Batcave as there are movies about Batman.  However, few get people as excited as the Tumbler which made it’s appearance in The Dark Knight.  This vehicle could perform maneuvers reminiscent of a fighter jet, while being a complete land vehicle.  The concept behind this has even had documentaries and behind the scenes series dedicated to it.  So when determining if this vehicle could exists, I think the answer is, it almost does.  SOLIDWORKS customer and Crowd Source Design project Local Motors developed the Rally Fighter years ago, which I would have to say comes pretty close.

RebreatherRe-breather:  This device featured in many of the older Batman films is actually quite a practice device employed today.  As an aid to scuba divers, a re-breather, or a scrubber as they’re sometimes referred to, absorb exhaled carbon dioxide and is ‘recycled’.  This gas then has any remaining oxygen extracted providing prolonged submersion over that of a typical SCUBA device.  A good example of this is the Seaquest Air Source from Aqua Lung another SOLIDWORKS Customer.

But again, Batman with his engineering know-how, as managed to minimized the overall design of this device to be completely portable.  To ensure he there is no lack of oxygen when pursuing villains underwater like in this iconic fight scene, you can be confident that he used SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation to ensure proper airflow and circulation through the device.

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Eyes and Ears: Batman has always had the need to communicate with others.  Whether this be with Boy Wonder Robin, his butler Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, or in recent years Lucius Fox at Wayne Enterprises.  The method of his communication is integrated discretely into the hood that Batman wears to conceal his identity.  Likewise, the hood also provides an array of optical enhancement capabilities that allow The Dark Knight to see in…well the dark of night. This incorporates an array of night vision, infrared and optical tracking.
Like many of the other gadgets discussed here, most of these capabilities can be found today, though in much larger and sometimes unwieldy variants.  What’s makes Batman’s versions so unique, is it’s ability to track information from his surroundings and provide feedback based on these results. Batman can then even relay this information on to the Batcave’s super computer tended by one of his crime fighting assistants where the information can be further processed.  This is ultimately a big buzz word today in the world of Engineering; The Internet of Things. Companies today are incorporating more ‘connected’ aspects into their designs.  Take Nest for example, a SOLIDWORKS customer.

They have developed a series of home devices that are are perpetually aware of their surroundings, constantly evaluating their environment and making efficient decisions.  What makes Internet of Things devices so unique is their ability to both collect data from their surroundings, take that information and make decisions and provide useful feedback to the end user.  In the case of Nest their thermostat monitors movement around the area, decisions the user makes about temperature, and ‘learns’ when people are home, when to turn the temperature down, and up, to save money on utility bills.

Batman’s device on the other hand has been used to gather audio and visual information and provide him with useful decision making feedback.  For a design such as this, you would expect a wide range of SOLIDWORKS products to be used in its design.  From SOLIDWORKS design tools to get the fit, form and function, tools like CircuitWorks and SOLIDWORKS Electrical to develop the complicated electronics and finally tools like SOLIDWORKS Simulation to ensure the design is rugged enough to take a ‘POW’ to the head.

We’ve only covered a handful of creative devices used by Batman and Boy Wonder over the years, and I’m sure many of you have your own favorites as well.  Unfortunately there’s not enough time to cover all of them, but each and everyone of Batman’s tools could be considered an engineering marvel in its own right. So my question to you is, what is your favorite Batman gadget?  Post your responses below!

If you happen to miss the link above, there’s another, more technical post I’ve created over here on the SOLIDWORKS Technical Blog. In this post I show how Batman, or rather ‘CADMAN’ in this case, might design the iconic Grapple Gun.

You can read more posts from  on the SOLIDWORKS Blog and SOLIDWORKS Tech Blog

Thursday, 19 June 2014

When an ‘off-the-shelf’ Spring just won’t do….. Part 2



It’s always great to get feedback and requests for content and following our last blog, we got a request for an example of detailing the end of a spring with some closed coils and hooks or tabs.
Here’s an example of one way that the tools in SOLIDWORKS can be used to create a more advanced spring end including some closed loops and a small tab. The tab can be made as simple or complex as you need it to be, the process would still be the same.

 

Firstly, I started with some circular sketch geometry centred at the origin of the part to create a Helix. But this time, in the options for the Helix instead of making it a constant pitch, I chose to make a variable pitch Helix. A table is displayed in the property manager and SOLIDWORKS will generate a Helix with a smooth transition between pitch values at the specified revolution counts. It is important to allow for this in the table by specifying a number of revolutions at the same pitch and then a smaller number of revolutions for any change in pitch.
In this example I have applied revolutions 0-3 with a 3mm pitch, then in the space of one revolution (3-4) the pitch changes to 12.5mm. The pitch stays at 12.5mm for 6 revolutions (4-10), and then it reduces to 3mm between revolutions 10 and 11. Finally, there are three more revolutions at 3mm (11-14) to keep the spring symmetrical. You may also notice that you can also control the diameter of the Helix. This allows you to create tapered Helices.



Because I centred my circular sketch at the origin, my Helix is also centred at the origin. This makes it easy to put in a centre line on one of the standard sketch planes as reference geometry.



From this centreline sketch, a reference plane can be added by selecting the line and the end point to fully define the reference plane. This reference plane is to be used for creating geometry that is flat to the end of the spring rather than angled like the Helix.
Next, a sketch can be drawn onto the newly created plane to define the tab at the end of the spring. In this example, I created a centre-point arc based at the origin with no dimensions. This is because I want to relate the arc to the Helix. You will need to rotate your view slightly to be able to select the arc and Helix end points and then add in a ‘Pierce’ relationship to connect the two pieces of geometry.
 
 
 
Next, I added in the detail for my tab at the end of the spring. I have created this all in the same 2D sketch, but it is possible to create a new 3D sketch to allow for any possible tab geometry.
This process can then be repeated at the opposite end of the Helix.


Once the opposite end of the Helix has been added to, the spring is nearly ready. However, at the connection between the Helix and the flat sketch for the tab, there is a change in angle which may cause a small ‘kink’ in the end of your spring.
SOLIDWORKS has a sketch tool that will automatically neaten this up for you with very little input.
Generate a new 3D sketch and go to Tools – Spline Tools – Fit Spline. This tool will generate a single spline curve that mimics the geometry that you select to a tolerance that you specify. By selecting the sketches at the top and bottom and also the Helix curve, and making the tolerance value sufficiently small, the spline that is generated will exactly match the desired spring. Increasing the value of the tolerance will ‘round off’ any sharp edges or corners such as the connection between the Helix and the 2D sketches. In the property manager, deselect the option for ‘Closed Spline’ as this will attempt to close the loop between the 2D sketches.

 
The resulting geometry is a single spline curve that is fully defined that we can use as a sweep path for the spring. A little tip at this point is to hide all of the unrequired sketch and reference geometry by selecting it in the Feature Manager Design Tree and selecting Hide. This not only keeps your graphics window nice and tidy, it also makes for easier selection when using the spline for feature use.
 


Next, a reference plane was easily created by selecting the spline and one of the end points of the spline. This generates the ideal reference for creating a sweep profile sketch as it is perpendicular to the spline that we will use for the sweep path without having to work out any angles or measurements.
For this example I sketched a circular profile of 2.5mm diameter.


Lastly, in the Command Manager, choose Swept Boss/Base. Because all of the preparation work has been carried out and only two sketches are visible in the graphics area, it is simply a case of selecting the circle as the Sweep profile and the 3D Spline as the Sweep path to create your spring.



***
Duncan Crofts CSWE is an Elite Applications Engineer at TMS CADCentre.
 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

When an ‘off-the-shelf’ Spring just won’t do….

Here’s a little tip based upon a recent request from one of our customers. They asked if there was any way that SOLIDWORKS could help them to create a square spring.
Firstly, you will need some circular sketch geometry to base a Helix curve on.
 
For this example, I created a 100mm circle on the top plane.


With the circular geometry in place a Helix can be specified easily from the Command Manager under Features – Curves – Helix and Spiral.
The Helix that you specify should have the same values as the required end result spring. In this case, 10 revolutions at a pitch of 10mm.


The next step in the process for creating the spring is to create a new 3D sketch and use the Convert Entities tool from the Sketch tab of the Command Manager to convert the Helix. This then allows you to hide your original Helix and also gain all of the benefits of using a 3D sketch.

 

The next piece of sketch geometry that you will need is a single line that is larger than your intended design of spring and sketched on the same plane as the circle used to define the Helix. The line should be Coincident with the centre of your Helix, and I have made this line intentionally unrelated in any orientation (i.e. vertical). I can then make the line Coincident with the endpoint of my converted 3D sketch.

 
The next bit of sketch geometry that you will need is the profile that you would like your spring to be. In this example I have used a square that has filleted corners, but the shapes that you can use are as varied as your imagination.
 
 

Now, let’s start construction of the spring. Firstly, use a Swept Surface using the single sketch line as the profile and the converted Helix on the 3D sketch as the path.
 


Secondly, we need an extruded surface based upon the final profile that we want the spring shape to be. This Extruded Surface needs to be the same height or larger than the original helix. You can use the Up to Vertex option to match the height of the existing geometry for this.

 
 
Now that we have the two surfaces, we can use SOLIDWORKS sketch tool ‘Intersection Curve’ to do all of the hard work for us.
Within the tool, select all of the faces or you can select the surface bodies from the feature manager. When you accept the selections, SOLIDWORKS will generate a 3D sketch exactly where the faces intersect. In this case, giving a helical incline around the square profile.
 
 
 
At this point, you can hide the surface bodies leaving only the 3D sketch of the square spring visible.
 
The last step in creating the square spring is to give it a material thickness. The most common way of doing this is to use a Swept Boss, but first we will need a profile sketch for the material thickness.
The ideal location for a profile sketch for a Swept Boss is at one end of the sweep path and in an orientation perpendicular to the angle of the start of that path. SOLIDWORKS has a function for generating a reference plane that exactly satisfies this need.
We can create a reference plane using the line at the start of our square helix as the first reference, and by selecting the end point of the same line, SOLIDWORKS will automatically position the new plane perpendicular to the line and coincident with the end point.
 
 
Now that the correct sketch plane is in place, a simple profile is added for the spring material profile.
 
The Spring can now be finalised by creating a Swept Boss Base selecting the spring profile and the profile sketch and our square spring path as the path sketch.
 
 
 
 
 The spring doesn’t have to be square though, the limit is your imagination.
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Seamless collaboration between Electrical and Mechanical design teams



Over a year ago SOLIDWORKS added a new Electrical package to its family of products. SOLIDWORKS Electrical simplifies electrical schematic creation with an intuitive interface just like SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD.

SOLIDWORKS Electrical has helped companies to improve time to market and reduce development costs by eliminating wasteful processes among electrical and mechanical design teams. It provides collaborative environment, in which all electrical and mechanical designers not only share symbol and component libraries, but with the ability to work simultaneously on the same projects.  The SOLIDWORKS Electrical project server keeps everyone up-to-date with the latest changes in real-time.


Bidirectional integration in real time with SolidWorks 3D

 

The advanced tools in SOLIDWORKS Electrical 3D makes it easy to create auto-routing of wires, cables and harnesses. The information of wire length can be generated and then be finalised to the Schematic reports. 

It’s very easy to route the wires in Electrical 3D, simply select ‘Route Wires’ command and ‘hey presto!’ done. By using the’ SolidWorks Route’ option you can create a more realistic effect. It is also possible to segregate wires so that specific wire styles will not route along selected sketch path.
 
 
In 2014, SOLIDWORKS Electrical Schematic can be installed using SOLIDWORKS Installation Manager, making it a one simple process to install both the Mechanical and Electrical software, keeping the I.T guy very happy.


Comprehensive library is shared across Electrical and Mechanical users. SOLIDWORKS Electrical offer over 500,000 manufacturer parts in the library database but if there are parts which is not available you can still download the data from various resources such as tracepartsonline.net, 3D Content Central, etc.
 
www.tracepartsonline.net
 
www.tracepartsonline.net

 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

SolidWorks Composer – Intelligent Views

Today engineers and designers are looking for more advanced ways to communicate their technical processes and procedures. With SolidWorks Composer you can create not only clear and accurate technical documentations but also contents where the user can interact.
 
Custom views, sometimes called intelligent views capture only the actors and properties you specify.
We can use intelligent view to create different configurations such as a colour selector, language translator, etc.
 
 
Language Translator
 
Not everyone speaks the same language, with Composer intelligent views we could create interactive buttons where users could select their preferred language.
 
I’m going to use a toy car as an example. Create a view layout with the annotation labels (in English) and a list of languages you wish to include.
 
 
 Turn on the View Workshop.
 
 
 
Select all the labels. (Tip: the quickest way is to use the Select tools and deselect Select Geometry filter this way you could just drag a window across the screen without selecting the model). 
 
Once all the labels are selected create a custom view and name it English. Then replace all label text to another language for example Japanese (maybe use Google translate to help) and create a new custom view.

Each View has a preview thumbnail image. Thumbnails for custom views have a diagonal line and shading.

 
 
Select the 2D text box marked English and go to the Link property to select an event URL. In this case, selecting the custom view we’ve just created i.e view://English. Repeat the procedure for the rest the languages.
 
 
 
Once complete, switch off the design mode and test the result by double clicking the different language text boxes.