The words shattered or monolithic are referring to the file structure in which the assembly data is stored.
A monolithic or single file structure stores all the assembly data in one single archive file. That means that if you do any changes to any part or parts of the assembly, the entire assembly file will have to be opened, updated and reprocessed.
In a shattered or exploded assembly, all parts are stored in a separate file and these files are dynamically referencing to each other to define the position of the parts within the assembly tree.
This file structure allows you to open and load the data of one single part within the assembly, without having to process the entire assembly. This significantly reduces the time needed for doing any changes or reviews within the assembly.
When working with CAD authoring software applications, the shattered assembly also means that a part that appears multiple times within a system, will have to be changed or updated only once and it will be automatically updated across an entire system. It is possible because the assemblies are not containing the geometry of the parts, but the reference/dynamic link to it.
The main benefits of a shattered assembly file structure
- Small assembly file size
- Significantly reduced processing time
- And most importantly, multiple people can simultaneously work on the same assembly when working on different parts of it
The above benefits are essential features within teams where data sharing and collaboration are part of the everyday work.