No, that’s not a typo. Almost half of all the SolidWorks issues that I have seen is related to file management. Someone moves a file or two using Windows Explorer and then their assembly blows up. Or worse yet, a part in your assembly inexplicably changes to a totally different part.
A key to file management with SolidWorks is to understand exactly how SolidWorks manages file references. Knowing how SolidWorks looks for referenced files can make troubleshooting misbehaving assemblies much easier.
SolidWorks has a specific search routine that it uses behind the scenes to try to find externally referenced files. There are 13 steps in the process that I will not go into here , as it is laid out nicely in a table with examples in the Help. In SolidWorks 2008 help, search for the text string
search, file locations for external references to see SolidWorks’ "Search Routine for Referenced Documents".
A product data management (PDM) system such as PDMWorks Workgroup or PDMWorks Enterprise can definitely help in maintaining all of your file references, and this is the best solution, in my opinion. It is required when you have a large number of users and/or multiple sites (unless you are a masochist). And if you own SolidWorks Office Professional or higher, you already have PDMWorks Workgroup.
But if you are not using or unable to use a PDM system, there still are a few things that can help:
- Minimize the number of folders you have, consolidating your files into as few folders as possible
- When files are located on another machine, such as a server, use the UNC path instead of a mapped drive.
- Use unique file names, such as part numbers; if using descriptive file names, do something to make the name unique, such as incorporating the project into the file name.
I hope that this helps you to better understand how SolidWorks uses file references and to apply this knowledge in any file reference troubleshooting that you may have to do. If you have any additional information to help users bring file manglement under control, please comment!