Managing CAD Data on 3DEXPERIENCE Part 4: Protecting and Sharing

   By Ben Colley on June 5, 2023

One word could summarize the 3DEXPERIENCE data management philosophy: Control. The Platform is built to get your data under control:

  • To know where your data is, and control where it goes
  • To know and control who has access to the data
  • To control the process of change
  • To prevent unauthorized use or dispersion of the data, and allow authorized collaboration

On the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform, as a PDM/PLM tool, these controls happen passively as a function of the Platform’s programming, and actively through organization workflows and user actions.

In parts 1 to 3 of this series, we covered the basics of 3DEXPERIENCE Platform terminology, and the processes of savingorganizing, and accessing data using the Platform tools. To finish the story of data management and control, we’ll talk (1) about the passive and active mechanisms used by the Platform to secure data from unwanted tampering or loss, and (2) how to facilitate controlled collaboration.

In this post we’ll cover:

  1. Protecting data through restricted platform access
  2. Protecting data through restricted Collaborative Space access
  3. Protecting data through restricted file access (design lifecycle practices)
  4. Sharing information internally through 3DSwym
  5. Sharing information internally through Collaborative Spaces
  6. Sharing information externally through controlled platform access
  7. Sharing information externally through CAD Packages

3DEXPERIENCE Data Management: Protecting Data

Platform access

The most basic level of data protection is named-user platform access. The 3DEXPERIENCE Platform is designed to allow all transactions of data to occur within the secure environment of your company tenant. Your data lives in your company tenant, and access is by invitation-only. Your organization’s platform administrator alone may invite users into your tenant, and the permissions for that user are carefully defined before the invitation is sent.

3dexperience platform access

For collaboration purposes, users external to your organization may be brought into your tenant with set limits. We’ll cover that below in the topic of sharing data.

Collaborative Space Access

3DSpace

As we discussed in Part One of this series (Terminology and Saving), file storage happens in Collaborative Spaces – storage vaults with set user access and permissions. Even within your company, you can allow for restricted access to data. Just like your tenant, Collaborative Spaces (accessed from the 3DSpace app) are accessed by invitation only. As such, you can partition your data according to departments and responsibilities, ensuring that only the right people are handling the files.

When a user is invited to a typical Collaborative Space, they can be given one of three permissions:

  1. Contributor. The user may view and open files in read-only.
  2. Author. May add and edit files to the Collaborative Space, lock/unlock for use, and move the file through maturity states (discussed below).
  3. Leader & Owner. All of the capabilities of an Author, with the addition of being able to delete files, release files for production, or mark files as Obsolete.

Additionally, Collaborative Spaces themselves may be configured to control access. In setting up the Collaborative Space, you may set the Visibility to one of three options:

  1. Private. Only those who are invited to the Space may view the files.
  2. Protected. Files that are Released or Obsolete may be viewed by all users in the organization.
  3. Public. All content is accessible to all users in the organization.

For more information on creating and defining Collaborative Spaces, check out our post, Creating a Collaborative Space on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform.

File Access

At the file-level within a Collaborative Space, protection and control of the data becomes a matter of company practice and user actions. While the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform can (technically) be used as a simple online storage option, it’s built to be a PLM tool. Files go through a lifecycle of design and approval. If this is how your company intends to use the Platform, then there will be a series of checks in place to ensure files are protected from accidental change, duplication, or deletion.

File Maturity

Collaborative Lifecycle

Built into the file management structure of the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform is a file maturity system that safeguards file access through the design process. Any given file on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform will live in one of five states:

  1. Private
  2. In Work
  3. Frozen
  4. Released
  5. Obsolete

file maturity system

Private files are editable, and only visible to their creator.

  • In Work files are fully editable and visible to all members of the Collaborative space in which they reside. By Default, newly-added files go straight to In-Work.
  • Frozen files cannot be edited, and are awaiting approval from a designated user.
  • Released files have been approved for production and cannot be edited or deleted. New revisions may be created if changes are needed.
  • Obsolete files have been released, but are no longer valid or in-use.

By taking advantage of Maturity states, you can ensure that files always have exactly the amount of access needed for their current stage in the Engineering lifecycle. They can remain Private until you’re ready for the team to start work on them, have full accessibility during the collaborative phase (In-Work), and be safe from accidental loss once the design is complete through the Release process.

Maturity states are managed through the Collaborative Lifecycle app. It can be used as a standalone widget, but the basic interface is accessible in multiple locations including the Bookmark Editor and the 3DEXPERIENCE add-in for SOLIDWORKS. From the Bookmark Editor, the icon is located in the top ribbon of the widget among the other operators. In the 3DEXPERIENCE add-in in SOLIDWORKS, it can be accessed within MySession from the Lifecycle toolbar.

bookmark editor

The use of Maturity states and approval processes can be made mandatory by your platform administrator through the use of routes (the Route Management app) and Engineering Change Actions (the Change Execution app). You can learn more about Engineering changes from our post, Managing Engineering Change on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform.

Lock/Unlock

At a much more basic level, the Platform has a mandatory Lock/Unlock system built into the file management system. This is analogous to SOLIDWORKS PDM’s check-in/check-out system where only one user may edit a file at a time. Within the Bookmark Editor, you can see whether files are locked or unlocked.

locking and unlocking files

A file will always live in one of two Lock conditions (three, with reference to yourself):

  1. Unlocked. A green open lock icon indicates that the file is unlocked and available for use by anyone who has visibility on the file.
  2. Locked (by me). A green key indicates that you have the file locked (checked-out), and no one else can make changes to it.
  3. Locked (by another user). A red lock indicates that another user has the file checked-out, and you cannot make changes to it. The “Locked By” column lists the user that has the file checked out, so you know who to contact if you need the file.
    Note: Files that are locked by another user may still be opened, but they cannot be saved-over. They will open in Read-only in the given application.

Within the browser, Locking and Unlocking is toggled for each file just by clicking the colored lock icon. You can also lock or unlock files from the grey lock/unlock icons in the ribbon at the top of the Bookmark Editor. The latter method is what you will use to Lock/Unlock multiple selected files at once.

lock and unlock image in ribbon

In SOLIDWORKS, a similar Lock/Unlock column appears in MySession, and the toggle functionality is the same. New files begin “Locked” before saving to the Platform. Then, by default, when you save the file up to your Collaborative Space, it will change from Locked to Unlocked. (If you need to continue working on the files, you can deselect this option in the Save With Options dialog.)

unlock all files

Protecting Data – Conclusion

As we can see, protection of data is baked into the philosophy of the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform. Nothing is accessed without supervision. Building an organization of data users takes intentionality and active participation, bringing individuals through the security checkpoints of the Tenant, Collaborative Space, and files. But the driving force of the Platform is productivity, which requires clear avenues to collaboration, internally and externally. So next we’ll look at how the Platform lets us collaborate.

Sharing Data

Along with protection, the driving philosophy that underlies the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform is collaboration. The platform is designed to help people work together. In today’s world of manufacturing, every company acts collaboratively. And for most companies, there exist two major spheres of collaboration: internal collaboration and external collaboration.

Internally, different teams and team members work in their specializations to contribute to the greater whole of the company’s product. Each team touches only what is necessary for their side of the business.

Externally, companies collaborate in partner, reseller, OEM/Manufacturer/Aftermarket (etc.) capacities. One company’s product depends on the incorporation or use of another company’s product. Or, there may be a true symbiosis that occurs where two distinct entities must combine their efforts to create a product line or system. Whatever the case, the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform has a solution.

Internal Collaboration – Information Sharing through 3DSwym

3DSwym

The most basic version of sharing that occurs internally is information sharing. To effectively work together, big-picture communication needs to happen within the organization.

A tool that the Platform offers to facilitate data-driven communication is 3DSwym. Similar to social media platforms, 3DSwym allows for public, media-rich conversations to happen around whatever topics need to be discussed. Where design conversations via email may get buried or forgotten, the 3DSwym environment provides high visibility of the full product development history.

3dswym 3dexperience

Like all other aspects of the Platform, 3DSwym communities are by invitation-only. As such, you can define communities for any level of the company; from organization-wide general-announcement communities to inner-team communities where daily tasks are tackled.

For a deep dive into 3DSwym, check out our post, Designing for Today: SOLIDWORKS Cloud 3DSwym.

Internal Collaboration – File Sharing by Collaborative Space

File sharing in a meaningful sense happens within the context of Collaborative Spaces. As discussed in Part 2 of this series (Organizing Data), it’s good practice to keep the number of Collaborative Spaces to a minimum. If your company consists of strong divisions of very different product lines, however, it makes good sense to create Collaborative Spaces for each division of the company.

Team members can be added to a Collaborative Space as individual users, or as part of a User Group.

user groups

User Groups are saved selections of users who are expected to bear similar responsibilities or have access to the same areas of your tenant. They don’t add limits to users in any way; they simply aid in quick selection and assignment.

User Groups in 3DExperience

Users may be added as Contributors, Authors, or Leaders. Once added, they have access to all of the files within the Collaborative Space (according to the permissions granted), and design collaboration can begin.

Members may also be managed by your system Admin in the Collaborative Spaces Control Center app, as will be discussed below for incorporating external users.

Collaborative Spaces Control Center

Platform administration is covered in detail in our 3DEXPERIENCE Platform Administration course.

Note: You may occasionally run into a grey area where a file within a Collaborative Space needs to be accessed by a user who doesn’t have access to that Space, and you don’t necessarily want to give that user full access to the Collaborative Space. One quick and simple way to share files internally across Collaborative Spaces is simply to right-click a file and select Share. This will grant Read or Edit access to the specified user, user group, or Collaborative Space chosen for the selected file.

sharing files

External Collaboration – Invitation to Tenant

Collaborative Spaces, as fully independent vaults, are useful within a company for creating distinct sectors where workers are touching only the data that applies to them. The autonomy of Collaborative Spaces also lends itself perfectly to collaborating with external organizations. The structure of the Platform allows for risk-free teamwork. Outside contractors can work within an environment that’s completely disconnected from data that they shouldn’t have access to. You need only to create a Collaborative Space that’s designated for the joint effort between your company and the outside contractor.

Workflow – Inviting External Collaborators

The workflow for inviting an outside contractor to a Collaborative Space is essentially the same as granting access to an internal user, but with some simple distinctions. The contractor is invited to your tenant, granted access to the appropriate Collaborative Space (and 3DSwym community, optionally) and given the relevant permissions and restrictions.

  1. An Admin invites the user(s) to your tenant. This is done from the Members Control Center app, and the Invite Members button.

Members Control Center

It may be helpful to visualize your company tenant as a building, and each Collaborative Space as a secure room within that building. In order to access one of your Collaborative Spaces, the outside contractor must be escorted into your building.

Collaborative Spaces outlined

  1. In the Invite Members dialog, enter the email address for the outside contractor(s) and give them the user right of External. Tip: Be sure to coordinate with the contractor about which email address to send the invite to. If they have an address that’s tied to an existing 3DEXPERIENCE ID, that will be the best choice. (Otherwise, they’ll have to create an additional 3DEXPERIENCE ID.)
  2. Select the Roles that are relevant to the contractor.
  • 3DSwymer (IFW) is the base role that connects users to the Platform, so it will be checked by default.
  • Collaborative Industry Innovator (CSV) will be necessary to access Collaborative Spaces.
  • (Job-specific roles) Other roles, such as Collaborative Designer for SOLIDWORKS may be necessary, depending on the type of collaboration that will occur and software that will be utilized.

Assign License: If this is checked, then the contractor will consume one of the licenses you purchased for that role. If the contractor already has a license for that role, you may uncheck Assign License, and the contractor will use their own license.

Restrict Usage of this License: If this is checked, then licenses that you grant to the contractor will be inaccessible outside your tenant. This can prevent external (or internal) workers from making use of your purchased licenses outside of your company. (Restricted Role licenses can’t be carried into other tenants).

  1. On the next page (Additional Apps) click Invite. An invitation email goes out to the specified address, and only that address may be used to accept the invite and log in to your tenant.
  2. Access the Collaborative Spaces Control Center App to invite the contractor to a Collaborative Space. Click the flyout menu from the desired Space and select “Manage Members”.

Collaborative Spaces Control Center

  1. At the top-right of the app window, select Add member. Like internal users, the option will be given to assign Contributor, Author, or Leader access to the contractor.
  2. By default, all new users are given access to your tenant’s Common Space (the vault that’s automatically created with your tenant). If your company kept its Common Space vault, you likely would prefer to keep the contractor out of that space. To revoke access to Common Space from the contractor, go to Manage Members for the Common Space, and select the trashcan icon next to the contractor’s name.

Tip: The setting to automatically give new users access to Common Space may be turned off from the Manage Settings tab of the Collaborative Spaces Control Center. Just uncheck “Give access to all new users to the Common Space”.

  1. It’s also a good idea to prevent external users from creating new Collaborative Spaces in your tenant. To deny a user permission to create new Collaborative Spaces, from the Manage Permissions tab of the Collaborative Spaces Control Center, click the flyout next to the contractor’s name and select “Deny Creation”.

Manage Permissions

Once these steps are complete and the contractor accepts the invitation to your tenant, they will be able to fully collaborate from the shared Collaborative Space without having visibility of anything else in your organization.

External Collaboration – CAD Packages

In some cases, you may not wish to fully integrate an outside contractor with your 3DEXPERIENCE tenant. It may be enough to pass a set of files back and forth. The 3DEXPERIENCE Platform is structured to discourage the casual disconnecting of CAD files from the cloud ecosystem, but a mechanism is given to allow non-Platform users to “check out” files from your tenant. The mechanism is CAD Packages – a functionality similar to SOLIDWORKS’ Pack and Go, which pulls all needed files into a zipped folder which can be opened in a contractor’s SOLIDWORKS interface.

A file set can be exported to a CAD Package from MySession in SOLIDWORKS, from the “Tools” tab of the 3DEXPERIENCE toolbar at the bottom of the screen. In the browser, this functionality is also available from the Product Explorer and Product Structure Editor apps.

explorer and editor apps in 3DEXPERIENCE

If the contractor is a Platform user, they can import the package using the same workflow you used to export the package from the 3DEXPERIENCE toolbar in SOLIDWORKS. If they’re not a Platform user, they can import the package using the free 3DEXPERIENCE Exchange for SOLIDWORKS Add-In, which can be downloaded from SOLIDWORKS.com.

Once the contractor is finished making changes, they will re-export the package through the 3DEXPERIENCE (or Exchange) add-In. Upon receiving the package back, you can re-incorporate the package back into your tenant where changes are tracked and confirmed.

For a breakdown of CAD Package exchange between Platform and non-Platform users, check our post, “Importing and Exporting CAD Packages on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform” and Dassault’s User Assistance page, “Exporting and Importing SOLIDWORKS Data”.

Protecting and Sharing – Conclusion

As we can see, the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform is a robust data management system, covering all aspects of design consideration for mindful organizations. Whether you’re an individual in need of secure cloud storage and revision history, or a large corporation with largescale collaboration, the 3DEXPERIENCE data management will scale with you to keep your data under control; safe from unwanted tampering, and accessible to the right parties.

Thank you for checking out this series! We hope these posts have helped you to break into the 3DEXPERIENCE universe. Be sure to keep an eye out for new 3DEXPERIENCE posts from the TriMech blog as new and improved functionality comes along. The Platform is a continuously-growing ecosystem, so you can expect to see a steady stream of informative posts from us. If you’re looking for information on a topic that you don’t see on our blog, contact us today, and we’ll get to work on giving the topic a thorough treatment. And if you want to get the most out of your Platform experience, please consider taking our 3DEXPERIENCE live-instructor training courses.

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Ben Colley

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