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Top 11 FAQs about CAD Design Automation using DriveWorks

Top 5 FAQs about CAD Design Automation using DriveWorks
As CAD automation becomes an integral part of the manufacturing industry, our CAD automation experts offer answers to frequently asked questions about SolidWorks CAD automation using DriveWorks.

CAD platforms have enhanced drafting techniques by eliminating erroneous manual drafting, the need to preserve paper drawings, time-consuming revisions, and much more. They have enabled seamless design communication across teams and easy referencing for future designs. As a result, a sharp rise in designers’ and manufacturers’ productivity along with drawing quality is seen.

The challenges of standalone CAD & the rise of CAD automation

One of the biggest challenges of standalone 3D CAD modeling platforms is that they are time-consuming. Designers end up spending a significant amount of time in repetitive drafting work when designs are customized and drawing accuracy is compromised.

DriveWorks – a brilliant CAD automation and customization platform that works in tandem with SolidWorks holds the key to these challenges.

DriveWorks uses logical rules to automate repetitive modeling work and customize designs at accelerated speed as well as accuracy. Design automation with DriveWorks implementation has enabled designers to reduce engineering lead time from several days to a few minutes, and achieve approximately 70% faster design cycles and 99% drawing quality.

Despite the said benefits, design automation still remains a new concept for many in the industry. So without much ado, we answer the top questions related to DriveWorks automation, adoption and implementation.

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Top 11 FAQs for CAD automation using SolidWorks and DriveWorks

1. How should you customize drawings and BoMs generated by DriveWorks as per company specific layout?

Master models and company-specific standard BoM templates are generated in SolidWorks and Word/PDF/Excel templates outside of the DriveWorks. Once you have the template ready and captured in DriveWorks, all the details and custom properties are then linked with DriveWorks for customization.

To customize master models and BoM templates:

  • Add CAD assembly model in DriveWorks
  • Open Rule Builder to control and specify the variable parameters
Customize drawings and boms
Open Rule Builder

These rules drive the changes in models/drawings and BoMs. When the user inputs the values, the variable interacts with the template for BoM and drawings to deliver resultant files as per the layout captured and specified earlier.

2. How should you automate the quotation and order approval emails sent to customers using DriveWorks?

To create custom quotes, customers (or the sales team) specify product specifications through a series of user-forms. These forms implement logical rules to modify the master model and generate user-specific customized product.

Once the order is confirmed, customized models are saved to a specified location and relevant documents are generated. The aggregated data of product specification and customer details is then exported to a table in MS Excel (or MS Word/PDF document as specified by the client) and is updated when the table is modified.

Automate the Order Approval emails sent

Below are some points to note about the order-approval process:

  • All primary calculations are performed using DriveWorks rules and reflected in the form of 3D CAD drawings/models.
  • Email automation is set-up by specifying the details in Rule Builder. Once the custom orders are approved or confirmed, Autopilot mode in DriveWorks triggers the template and releases the order to shoot the email. Here the user can specify the email addresses with cc/bcc/subject, attachments etc.
  • If the customer has not requested for any sales document to be shared, Autopilot mode will read attachment as “zero” and send the email as soon as triggered. Email documents can be attached and specified by Specification Flow under Release Emails task.
    Autopilot mode in DriveWorks Source: DriveWorks Autopilot mode in DriveWorks triggers Source: DriveWorks
  • To add an email option, go to Administrator and open the project. Here in stage 4, you get output rules and document files. Click the add button in the command bar. Choose the email document from the list on the add document wizard and hit finish.
    Add an Email Option

The screen will display “Email Editor” showing parameters like cc/bcc/subject etc. and an email body area where you can type the content of the email.

Email Editor

3. Which design features of models and drawings can you control in DriveWorks during automation?

DriveWorks has in-built forms through which you can configure the properties, design features, look and feel of the product, etc.

  • For models, all features such as planes, custom properties, and types like sheet metals can be driven.
  • For drawings, BoM, tables, custom properties, dimension positions, view scales, templates, etc. can be controlled and driven using DriveWorks.
  • For sheet metal, features such as drive bend table, drive configuration for weldment, thin extrude/thin boss etc. can be controlled.
Dimensions Features in Driveworks
Master Model Assembly in Driveworks

To control and modify the drawings, open the master model assembly in DriveWorks. It will display a dialogue box to specify which properties are to be automated along with the options such as dimensions, color, custom properties, etc. In the case of a sheet metal assembly, the dialogue box offers advanced features like sheet metal patterns etc.

For example, when you have to automate the “Extrude” operation, it can be done either unidirectional or bi-directional. For bi-directional extrude, the user needs to specify the direction and the length of extrude on either side: left side, right side, or mid-plane. Your automation engineer will tell you how you should proceed depending upon the product and the application of models downstream.

4. Which features of 2D drawings can be modified in DriveWorks?

Drawings primarily consist of a range of dimensions and annotations for special notes, views in a standard template with BoM tables etc. For example, for a door assembly, you can define how the length, breadth, and height are oriented and placed in 3D space with respect to the reference planes.

DriveWorks allows you to select the drawings and models you want to modify by setting up the rules. Once you have the models and componentry that you want to modify, you can set upper and lower limits for dimensions using the rules task in the command bar in project designer. You can also capture views and other dimensions from the drawing files and create rules for them.

Features of 2D Drawings modified in Driveworks Modify by Setting up the Rules in Driveworks

5. What is Autopilot in DriveWorks and can you replace it with SolidWorks?

The short answer is negative. This is because both, DriveWorks Autopilot and SolidWorks have different but interlinked functions to perform. When the automation engineer releases customized models from DriveWorks, the request is entered in a queue. Autopilot will observe the queue and create models in SolidWorks as per the Rule Builder’s variables, while the actual customization happens in SolidWorks only.

Autopilot in DriveWorks

Thus, the function of Autopilot mode in DriveWorks is to trigger the queue while that of SolidWorks is to generate the custom parametric models as per the inputs. In some, one-off, 3D scenarios where every design feature is already configured in DriveWorks, there is no need of Autopilot or SolidWorks.

Solidworks Generate Custom Parametric Models

6. Can macros be developed for automating a realistic 3D model of a part of a component?

Yes, macros can be developed to automate many small and complex tasks while modeling in CAD software like SolidWorks. Macros are scripts that store a series of commands in a sequential way and execute the same when they are run.

Design automation using macros, allows users to avoid doing by hand many repetitive tasks required to create a 3D model. This is extremely useful where modeling of a single part of a multi-part final component is involved.

design automation

SolidWorks lets a user create a macro within and outside of its environment. While creating a new macro, one can program the macro directly using Microsoft Visual Basic via macro editing applications. Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the engine that records, runs, or edits macros in SolidWorks. It allows third-party integration to automate the modeling process through APIs and design automation platforms like DriveWorks.

solidworks macro toolbar

Design engineers are required to calculate part dimensions to address functional or load criterion. Usually, they use excel spreadsheets or other engineering applications to perform these design calculations. They fetch dimensions directly from data sheets to auto-create a 3D model via parametric rules. The parametric rules are built by integrating macros and APIs with CAD.

Macros in DriveWorks

Using DriveWorks, one can make models with more accurate product visualization as compared to standalone CAD. Using Appearances in DriveWorks, 3D models can match any given 3D scene.

7. How do the rule builder and input forms work together in DriveWorks?

Input Forms are essential to embed logic via the rule builder. To set up a new design automation project, DriveWorks has a three-step process in project designer:

  • Create forms
  • Develop rules
  • Set result form

The first step is to create new forms and navigation. For creating any basic user interface and automation programs/ projects in DriveWorks, forms are necessary. These forms are created using the “New Form” button on the command bar.

The form controls that are supported by DriveWorks Solo are:

form controls that driveworks

Forms must be correctly navigated using Form Navigation. It helps in quick creation of multiple input forms. Linking a decision to the navigation has three possibilities:

  • Setting up of a TRUE/FALSE rule
  • Choosing the form to show when the rule evaluates to TRUE.
  • Choosing the form to show when the rule evaluates to FALSE.

The second step is to create a rule using the rule builder for each form created for user interface. It is done through the rule builder by using constants, variables, and tables.

Rules can be expressed as a simple action, complex calculations, or a series of instructions. With DriveWorks, the rules engine helps automate tasks in the best possible way. In DriveWorks, rules can be built using equations, sums and logical expressions, or business logic.

DriveWorks attaches color codes to various items it recognizes.

driveworks color codes to various items

The third step is to set up data output formats, data values and model formats using output rules. There can be multiple options for generating 3D model and documents like quotes, bill of materials, covering letters etc.

driveworks form navigation

8. What module does what? (Admin, User, AP, Live)

DriveWorks Pro has 4 software modules. And with this modularity of DriveWorks Pro, building solutions in response to changing needs becomes convenient and easy.

A DriveWorks Pro installation usually includes DriveWorks Administrator, DriveWorks Autopilot, DriveWorks User and DriveWorks Live, all accessing the same DriveWorks data.

First start with DriveWorks Administrator and then keep adding functionalities and modules, as and when needed. Additional modules are also available based on the requirements and complexity of design automation projects.

DriveWorks Pro Administrator

DriveWorks Administrator is a basic module of DriveWorks Pro that allows you to create design automation projects and configurations locally. It uses SOLIDWORKS and connects with external data sources that allow you to create custom designs and documentations.

DriveWorks Pro Autopilot

DriveWorks Autopilot is a module of DriveWorks Pro that runs automatically to:

  • Automate documentation for process specifications
  • Send emails for notifications
  • Generate SolidWorks files and 3D rendered previews

DriveWorks Pro User

With DriveWorks Pro User, all engineers, sales teams and non-technical users within your local network can run defined design automation projects. They can configure custom products and create sales and manufacturing documentation automatically. However, they cannot edit rules and have some restrictions on making changes.

DriveWorks Pro Live

DriveWorks Pro Live is essential to go online with a sales product configurator. It enables sales teams, distributors, dealers, and customers to easily configure and view CTO products in 3D on any device through their web browser.

driveworks proserver driveworks pro modules

3D Viewer

With the DriveWorks 3D Viewer you can view DriveWorks 3D files (.drive3d) and many other 3D file formats. These files can also be viewed inside the 3D Viewer and then saved as DriveWorks 3D files (.drive3d).

DriveWorks Pro Server

DriveWorks Pro Server comes as a free tool with DriveWorks.

It is used to manage the Shared Groups created by the DriveWorks Administrator and accessed by all DriveWorks Pro modules.

driveworks proserver configuration

DriveWorks CPQ DriveApp

The DriveWorks CPQ DriveApp helps manufacturers quickly leverage the gains of online selling by using the Configure Price Quote. It helps in creating and managing quotes and ordering for CTO offerings.

DriveWorks Data Management

The Data Management tool is used to manage data stored in DriveWorks that includes:

  • Metadata of engineering projects
  • Sales and cost data
  • Manufacturing process data with BOMs
  • Other back-office documents required for everyday operations
software modules in driveworks pro

9. What are the minimum requirements for DW?

To run DriveWorks with basic modules of DriveWorks Pro and additional modules, the minimum requirements are as follows:

  • Need a network of workstations or a standalone workstation with SolidWorks installed

    Workstations should have minimum Intel or AMD CPU with SSE2 support, 8 GB RAM, 300 MB of hard disk space for installation. It must have graphics card approved by DirectX 11 and supported by SolidWorks. One also need a 100 MB or faster network card, 64-bit Windows operating systems 8.1 and onwards.

  • Support for SolidWorks PDM and Microsoft Office documentation.

    High-end modules of DriveWorks need a data server with Windows OS, Microsoft SQL with .NET framework and DirectX components. For the cloud, Microsoft Azure is used. For web browsers, it uses Microsoft Edge. A web browser is required only when running a personal web edition through DriveWorks Administrator, or when accessing or running a project over the internet through DriveWorks Live.

10. Does DriveWorks have its own database system to store data for quote calculation?

DriveWorks has its own database in SQL server/Express and can also save group tables on the system hard drive. All project level calculations are stored in project files. These files are in turn saved on the hard disk. Alongside, you also have DriveApp that offers connecting to this SQL database.

The advanced module of the CPQ DriveApp allows adding and managing data to create custom quotations and orders.

With the DriveApp, you have the power to store data for:

  • Standard and custom Items, including pricing and item images
  • Account and contact information for linking to quotations
  • Price lists, including bulk-pricing and discount data
  • Currencies, including values for exchange rates and currency symbols
  • Catalog data for creating permission-based catalog
  • Address and territory data, which can be linked with accounts and contacts

All the above data can be used for creating custom quotes and orders inside the DriveWorks CPQ DriveApp.

11. Which are the top functionalities of DriveWorks rule builder?

The Rule Builder in DriveWorks helps you manage the captured features, dimensions, custom properties, and much more. It uses logic statements, constants, variables, and excel-like functions to perform the necessary tasks.

DriveWorks permits addressing five major functionalities through the rule builder.

Writing rules

Using arithmetic, string, formatting, boolean operations, and functions

Any rule involves a function to first evaluate conditions and then return an answer. But it can also be a number or text of a fixed or static value.


driveworks writing rules

The Functions button in the rule builder is found on the left of the command bar.

driveworks functions button

Clicking the Functions button will open the Functions dialog.

driveworks functionslist
driveworks rule builder line numbers

Rule Builder, allows to create, validate, and implement the logics of design automation projects.


The rules builder is divided into four sections:

  • The command bar at the top: It has facilities of using functions, revisions, file, quick text, tables, clear, settings, help, ok and cancel to create, edit, validate, and save the rules of design automation projects.
  • The rule editor in the middle: When you work with a rule, you can directly type into the rule editor, or add matter to the rule with the function wizards and browsers on the rule builder. It auto-completes the rule according to selected codes and logics. And it also alerts the user about any incompleteness or errors. 
  • Help and diagnostics at the bottom: Depending on the rule to be built, the help and diagnostic section can have up to six tabs. It helps users to guide, validate the rules and in removing unwanted logics to align with design automation projects.
  • Browsers for variables etc. on the right: The browsers section can have up to four tabs, depending on the kind of rule being built. It includes Controls, Variables, Components and Replacements.

Extract Variable function allows variables to be created directly from the Rule Builder.

extract variable right click

A new variable can be created by extracting anything entered in the rule editor.

With the Edit Variable function, you can modify variables directly from the Rule Builder.

edit variables

Rule Builder Settings allow users to apply custom settings to the Rule Editor. Using this, the user can change the default font, font size and colors for display rules and associated display items.

Bringing it all together

Customer involvement during the design stage has risen over the past few years. It has increased design customization as every customer has personalized need. The manufacturer who can offer customized products faster gets the highest market share. And CAD automation allows you to deliver exactly this by accelerating engineering lead time and almost zero errors in manufacturing–ready drawings.

While there are different automation tools available in the market, all of them have a primary goal of enabling designers and manufacturers to get to the market faster and with improvised design efficiencies. Find out the tool that suits your enterprise’s goals and is compatible with your primary CAD system. Set your design team out to explore and leverage the capabilities of CAD automation!

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CAD automationCAD Design Automationdesign automationDriveWorks automationDriveWorks implementation
Authored by:
Usha B. Trivedi

is an engineer and she contributes in-depth articles for mechanical and industrial equipment designs, furniture designs and fabrication sector. Her contributions are primarily focused on enabling engineering professionals, furniture manufacturers and fabricators to optimize design outcomes through CAD and CAE tools.

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