In this month’s Tech Blog we are going to be kicking off a new series that tracks our journey to implementing Excel automation into our design workflow.  I am sure at some point you have all seen previews or demos of the Excel Automation feature of SOLIDWORKS Nashville Electrical, however, these demos are usually represented within a very controlled data set that may or may not reflect your industry or design.

  Due to the fact that the demos are usually very generic, it may be hard to translate how this tool might benefit your company and add efficiency to your workflow.

What exactly is Excel Automation??? SOLIDWORKS Nashville describes the tool as follow; this feature allows users to generate schematic drawings from data contained within an Excel file.  So basically what they are saying is that users can create and customize an Excel file based off of a standard design and then generate new designs based off of that configuration.  Once the Excel file is created users can modify data in Excel as project data changes and have those modifications updated for new projects within SOLIDWORKS Nashville Electrical. Excel Automation can be used to create books, folders, and drawing files.

This all sounds pretty cool but what does it actually take to create the Excel file in regards to time and effort.  Also when exactly does it make sense to go down this route?  These are the questions we aim to answer in this blog series.

First, let’s look at when it makes sense to take advantage of Excel Automation.  Because the process of creating the Excel file and configuring items within SOLIDWORKS Nashville Electrical is not for the faint of heart, you need to ensure that the benefits outweigh the time and effort required to set it all up.  The best candidates for Excel Automation are those who have design projects that are similar in nature and utilized frequently.  

Next, let’s take a look at what level of effort is required to actually create and use Excel Automation.  The basic procedure is as follows:

  1. Create all required Macros with SOLIDWORKS Nashville Electrical.
  2. Create the Excel file from the file template provided with the software.
  3. Import the Excel file into SOLIDWORKS Nashville Electrical using the Excel Automation feature.

Sounds pretty easy huh?  Well, let’s see exactly how easy it really is.

Step one states to create all required Macros, are we talking about component macros, project macros? The types of Macros that can be used within the Excel Automation feature are Scheme Macros, Line Diagram Macros, and Mixed Scheme Macros. When creating your macros there are two items that must be defined:

  1. Insertion Point – (X, Y Coordinates) Exist within the macro. Used to place macro within new drawing create with Excel Automation.
  2. Variables – For the macros that will be used for Excel Automation variables are the means of pushing data into the macros.  This data can include symbol mark, manufacturer content, component description, and translatable data.  When you create the macros you input the variables where you normally enter the specific component information.  By placing the variables within the macro you allow the information from Excel to propagate into the macro.

Manufacturer Part Variables

Decription and Translatable Data Variables

 

After you have created your macros and defined your variables then the next step is to configure the Excel file.  This process involves inputting the project data into the appropriate fields within Excel.  To help with this process there are Excel template files provided with SOLIDWORKS Nashville Electrical.

Excel Automation Template

Now that we have outlined what all is involved with Excel Automation the next step is to put it all into action.  In our next blog, we will outline the actual process of creating the macros, defining variables and configuring the Excel file for one of our designs.  We will walk through the process in detail, not only discussing the steps required but also the amount of time that it took to generate.