It’s easy to convert that old legacy data to SolidWorks!

A lot of cutomers don’t realise how quick the process of converting legacy files into SolidWorks format has become recently. By using the tools incorporated into SolidWorks such as Import Diagnostics, Feature Recognition, and Fully Define Sketch, Legacy files can be quickly converted into SolidWorks files.


The video at the end of this blog shows a .STEP file being opened and converted into a SolidWorks file with recognised features, fully defined sketches and a drawing sheet. All of this was done in less than three minutes by using the tools available within SolidWorks Professional and Premium.

The process starts by opening the file directly within SolidWorks. This instigates the Import Diagnostic tool that is part of the FeatureWorks Add-in available in SolidWorks Professional and Premium versions. In this case, the imported geometry had no issues, but Import Diagnostics would allow opportunity and help to repair faulty geometry.

Another function of the FeatureWorks Add-in is Feature Recognition. In the property manager for Feature recognition, the types of feature to look for in the part geometry can be defined. SolidWorks will then automatically associate features with the imported part geometry and create a Feature Manager Design tree containing the required Sketches and Features.



The Sketch geometry can now be edited and dimensions and relations automatically added by using the Fully Define Sketch available in the contextual menu shown when right-clicking the graphics area in the sketch.

Once all features and sketch geometry has been defined, the part can be quickly inserted into a drawing sheet. Inserting the model items into the drawing sheet will then pick up and insert all of the dimensions onto the drawing sheet as well.

Using this process a fully defined and editable SolidWorks part and associated drawing file were created without modifying any of the original geometry or sizes, creating an exact SolidWorks copy of the original file.



Duncan Crofts is an Applications Engineer & CSWE at TMS CAD Centre, a SolidWorks Value Added Reseller in Scotland. He is a regular contributor to the TMS CAD Centre blog.

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TMS CADCentre - is a SOLIDWORKS Reseller based in Scotland providing 3D CAD Design Software, analysis software & product data management software. The company was formed in 1981 and now pleased to be celebrating 36 years in business. TMS CADCentre is the only UK SOLIDWORKS Reseller based and funded within Scotland and have been providing SOLIDWORKS software, training and support since 1996 when the product was first launched in the UK.
  • This sounds nice, but I haven’t had such luck unfortunately. Mostly, feature recognition chokes on the files, and reports I’m running low on memory. If it does work it usually leaves me with a large list of broken faces I don’t know how to fix.

  • Thanks for the comment. There are a couple of things to consider with the problems you are seeing.

    1. How complex is the model you are trying to import since the model is imported as surface geometry and the more complex this is, the more taxing it will be on your system.

    2. Broken faces can be caused by small geometric errors in the original CAD model or differences between CAD platforms when exporting the data.

    I would suggest contacting your local VAR to see if they have any other suggestions. There is a Surface Modelling class specifically aimed at fixing faulty geometry.

  • I’ve been using Featureworks when possible to convert our parts database over, and it works fine for simple boss revolves and extrudes. But for complex shapes, Solidworks generates reference planes that can not be edited. This limits the ability to make changes to the parts later on. When I create a new plane to link the Featureworks generated sketches to, I always find the plane Featureworks originally created is in the reverse orientation from any new reference plane created to replace it. This in turn causes the sketch to be mirrored and makes it necessary to edit the sketch. More often than not, it’s easier to just start the part from scratch.