Measuring Environmental Impact with SOLIDWORKS Sustainability– Custom Materials

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In this series, we have been covering SOLIDWORKS Sustainability. One of the environmental impact factors is the material used to make your parts. SOLIDWORKS Sustainability comes with numerous materials that you can use. But what if you want to use a different material? Find out how you can add sustainability data to a custom material. SOLIDWORKS has additional materials for Sustainability studies in the Sustainability Extras folder in the SOLIDWORKS Materials dialog box. Also, you can download additional materials and request materials that are not yet available.

Adding Sustainability Data to a Custom Material

Let's first look into running a sustainability analysis with a custom material. Custom materials do not have the characteristics needed by SOLIDWORKS Sustainability to run its analysis. One easy fix to this issue is to link your custom material to a material with similar characteristics in the default SOLIDWORKS Materials database. This way, SOLIDWORKS Sustainability can analyze the part using the Sustainability characteristics of the SOLIDWORKS material. So, if a SOLIDWORKS material does not have Sustainability defined, all you have to do is copy the material to the Custom Materials folder to link it to a material in the SOLIDWORKS Materials database.

Try it yourself. In the FeatureManager design tree, right-click Material and click Edit Material. In the left panel of the Material dialog box, select your custom material. Next, click the Select button beside Sustainability on the Properties tab.

SolidWorks

Then, all you have to do is find a material that is most similar to your custom material in the Match Sustainability Information dialog box. Note that only materials with a link to the Sustainability database are listed.

SolidWorks

When you click OK, the linked material appears in Sustainability where is said Undefined. That's it! Click Apply, then Close and you are done. Sustainability data is now added to your custom material.

Assigning Financial Impact to a Custom Material

SOLIDWORKS Sustainability will also let you add financial impact to the material's properties when using a custom material that is not defined in the SOLIDWORKS database. If the default cost values will not work for you, SOLIDWORKS will let you customize the cost as well. Again, it is pretty straightforward process to add a financial impact property to an existing custom material. In the FeatureManager design tree, right-click Material and click Edit Material, or if you are in an assembly, expand the component for which you want to calculate financial impact, right-click Material and click Edit Material. This will bring up the Material dialog box. Just like before, select your custom material. This time, click on the Custom tab and click the Add button. Type "Financial Impact" under Property Name. Note that you must use the exact words, even though the property is not case sensitive. Under value, type a positive number representing the cost of the material. Please make sure that you do not add other symbols than numbers and period. SOLIDWORKS will not give you an error if you add other punctuation, but the financial impact will not read into SOLIDWORKS Sustainability. So, the financial impact data will not work. Lastly, enter the Units. This value is currency/measure. The default Units value is US dollars per kilograms, which is USD/kg.

SolidWorks

Click Apply, then Close and you are done. Now, when you use your custom material, SOLIDWORKS Sustainability will calculate the material financial impact.

Updating the Materials Database

From time to time, a new version of the Sustainability database is available. You can update the materials database by downloading it from the Materials dialog box in SOLIDWORKS or from the Sustainability Web site.

Updating the Materials Database from SOLIDWORKS

The easiest method to update the database is from the Material dialog box in SOLIDWORKS. In the FeatureManager design tree, right-click Material and click Edit Material. In the left panel of the Material dialog box, select Sustainability Extras. You will see the GaBi Sustainability Database version on the Properties tab. Click the Check for Updates button.

SolidWorks

The Check for Updates dialog box will appear and tell you if there is an update available. If there is, the Update button will be active. The Update button will start the downloading process.

SolidWorks

Once it is done, the database version is updated and the added materials are listed under Sustainability Extras, as shown below. You can edit any material. These changes will be saved even if you update the database again at a later time. Note also, the last time you checked for updates is shown as well.

SolidWorks

These new materials can be used when you select a material for a part. Note that the Class drop-down list identifies the added material class with a Sustainability Extras prefix.

Updating the Materials Database from the Web

Due to certain Operating system firewalls and IT permission controls, you may not be able to update the Sustainability database by yourself. If your company IT is set up so that you cannot modify SOLIDWORKS installation without their assistance, you can download materials updates from the Web and manually update the database yourself without the need to contact IT.

In the FeatureManager design tree, right-click Material and click Edit Material. In the left panel of the Material dialog box, select Sustainability Extras. You will see the GaBi Sustainability Database version on the Properties tab. Click the Check online listing link. Note that once you click this link, you have to manually go back and close the Material dialog box and close SOLIDWORKS. Now that SOLIDWORKS is closed, go back to the Download the Latest GaBi LCA Database webpage. At the bottom of the page is the link to Download latest GBM File.

 

SolidWorks

As of right now, this web page is out of date. I submitted this to SOLIDWORKS and was issued SPR 916267 – The Sustainability 'Download the Latest GaBi LCA Database' website when selecting 'Check online listing' in SW 2016 shows an outdated version 13.0. I also received this:

SPR 916269 – The Sustainability 'Updating the Materials Database from the Web' help article communicates a specific DL location, despite it being irrelevant.”  

Don't forget to take note of where you are saving the gabiswengine.zip file. When the download completes, click Open. Extract gabiswengine.gbm to C:\ProgramData\SOLIDWORKS\SOLIDWORKS release\Sustainability. This again can be tricky because the ProgramData folder is a hidden folder. SO, if you do not see it, then on the Windows menu bar click Organize > Folder and search options. On the View tab, set the folder options so that you can view hidden files and folders. Finally, click Yes to confirm that you want to overwrite the earlier version of the database.

Requesting Materials

The last topic we will cover on this blog topic is requesting materials. There are a lot of materials provided by SOLIDWORKS. What if the one you want to use is not available? SOLIDWORKS allows you to request that the material be added. In the FeatureManager design tree, right-click Material and click Edit Material. In the left panel of the Material dialog box, select Sustainability Extras. There is a Submit a Request button on the Properties tab in the right pane. This will open up a webpage form so that you can request that a material be added to the database. If you are notified that the material you requested has been added, click Check for Updates to download the latest updates.

I was issued this SPR as well: SPR 916270 – The Sustainability help article "Requesting Materials" has incorrect descriptions of what information the Sustainability website and request form have” 

We hope this series gives you some good insight to the new SOLIDWORKS Sustainability product.  Please check back to the CATI Blog as the Dedicated Support Team will continue posting new series of articles every month that go further into the details of many of the SOLIDWORKS tools. All of these articles will be stored in the category of Daily Dose…..of SOLIDWORKS Support and links to each article with their release date are listed below:

Neil Bucalo, CSWP, CSWS-MD
Computer Aided Technology