A component is a generic name that you can give to anything in SolidWorks. It can be an assembly or a part, having a geometry or be empty, being a virtual file or an external file, having or not having a related drawing and a related Bill Of Materials. This term is used a lot on this website when the subject applies to any classes of SolidWorks or real world entity.
Usually the term is accompanied with another word to define its category or class. If it is alone then it encompasses all the classes like a big box that can contain anything. The line to separate the classes might be ambiguous sometimes. It is difficult to have no overlapping between the classes. Some companies do the manufacturing and assembly in house, some subcontract everything and some do a mix of both.
If your company does not have a machine shop then manufactured components are somehow purchased too… This is the same for an assembly, if a contractor is assembling the components for you then you also purchase that service… If you make a drawing because you have to make a special order to a specific company, is it a manufactured or a purchased component?
This is why the use of the words “assembled”, “manufactured” and “purchased” should be avoided as it creates too much confusion and they are not flexible enough to adapt to any case scenario.
Components can be classified in the following classes:
Classes should not be mixed up with SolidWorks assemblies and parts. Each of these classes have its model either be a part or an assembly.
- They have been designed in house but can be sourced in house or externally.
- Their Part Number is not enough to define them so they need supporting documents like drawings, specification, SOP, etc…
- They can be standalone components and assembled components to form another component. In this case they are components that contains components.
- They can be any type of SolidWorks files.
- They are internal designs so they have to be saved either in a project specific folder or a standard component folder. See the article about the Folders Structure.
Some companies may choose to make a distinction between manufactured and assembled components to help to route the drawings if there is a machining operation or not. The problem is that sometimes you have to assemble something before machining or sometimes something is machined after assembly so it might get confusing and this is why this distinction should be avoided.
- They have not been designed in house and can only be sourced externally. They can be any type of SolidWorks files.
- They can contain one or more components or no components.
- They have no drawing and no BOM and can be entirely defined by a single Part Number, designation with a standard, and a measure with a unit if applicable.
- They are external proprietary designs so they should not be saved in the project folder but in a manufacturer folder. See the article about the Folders Structure.
Depending of the company, the distinction between the different sub-classes may or may not be necessary.
- These components are defined by a standard (ISO, ANSI, DIN, etc…).
- In theory they can be swapped by a component from a different manufacturer using the same standard without issue. )
- Usually they don’t have a specific reference number and a manufacturer name as their description and the associated standard is sufficient to order them.
This is particularly true for the hardware (screws, nuts, washers, etc…) but that does also work for “other” components (bearings, sensors, cylinders, etc…).
To clearly identify this kind components in a BOM and allow some filtering especially if you use miniPDM, the Manufacturer property should be “GENERIC” for example. This way the purchasing department knows it can source these components from different manufacturers / distributors.
Then to identify the component, the Part Number property should contain the necessary size information and if available the applicable standard.
- These components are proprietary to a manufacturer.
- Most of the time, they are not interchangeable with another equivalent component from a different manufacturer without having to modify the interfacing components.
- Their identification is a pair of reference number and manufacturer. See the article about the Components Identification.
A big chunk of these components are in the “other” classes they can be anything.
The rest is the non-standard hardware not proprietary to a specific company with small design differences. These differences can be minor but they could have an impact on the surrounding environment. Not specifying a pair of part number and manufacturer name could mislead the purchasing department to source incompatible components.
These pneumatic connectors for example accept the same size of tubing but their dimensions are slightly different, in particular the center to center distance of the fixation holes.