5 SolidWorks Tips You May Have Never Seen Before

Chances are if you’ve been around SolidWorks for any significant amount of time, you may have seen some of these before, but I’ll be surprised if more than a handful of seasoned SolidWorks users have seen all 5 of these tips and tricks. While I’ve shown countless tips and tricks for SolidWorks in my time, these 5 are some of my personal favorites.

#5 Selecting an Edge and Starting a Sketch

This particular feature simply does several things with minimal input… a SolidWorks trademark.

Simply select any Edge of any solid body and click INSERT | SKETCH.A Sketch Plane is created automatically, Normal to the Edge Selected, with the Origin Coincident to the End Point nearest to where the Edge was selected.

This operation supports any Edge type from Linear and Prismatic to completely Organic and Lofted.You could also use INSERT | Reference Geometry to add a Plane Perpendicular to a Curve, but this takes care of all those steps AND starts a new Sketch.

 #4 Loop Select

Do you like using Convert Entities but wonder why it only converts the exterior edges of a face? Tired of manually selecting each and every edge of that inside loop? I’ve got your answer in 2 clicks!!!

After you’ve started a new sketch, just select the same old face you would normally use to Convert Entities, but use the CTRL key to add one more selection to that set… 1 Inside Edge!

This is called a LOOP Select and will take the ‘focus’ of the selected face from the Outside Loop (default) to the Inside Loop.

 

Normal Face Select | CONVERT ENTITIES
gets Outside Loop (Default)

 

CTRL Select Face and 1 Inside Edge |
CONVERT ENTITIES gets Inside Loop

**Loop Select BONUS**

This tip also works for Loop Selection of the Inside Loop if you want to add a Fillet or Chamfer to the Inside Loop but not the Outside Loop.

It has an added bonus that if you were to change the sketch that affects the inside cut shown above, your Fillet or Chamfer would NOT error out with the addition or removal of edges to the cut profile.

You WOULD, however, get a Fillet or Chamfer error if you had discretely selected all the Inside Edges and there was a change that affected the edge count of the cut profile. It would take an Edit of the applied feature to resolve the Missing or Added edge.

#3 Explode Direction Control

Like SEVERAL other functions in SolidWorks, Control of the Triad orientation can be modified using the ALT key along with a Drag and Drop of the Triad.

Simply start the Explode Command, or edit an existing Exploded View and begin
a new Explode Step.

The triad always mimics the triad orientation of the part or assembly.

To move and re-orient the triad, simply hold ALT and pick and drag the triad using the blue sphere where the X,Y and Z axis meet… then drag it over other geometry. It will snap to Linear edges, Plainer faces and will align to the Axis of Holes or Cylindrical features.

Then just drag the triad along the new direction and position your part.

ANYWHERE there is a triad in SolidWorks, consider this tip valid… Move/Copy Bodies… Move with Triad… etc.

#2 Copy Surfaces

Copying a surface from one part to another is a very useful tool when you want to build In Context relationships between parts, especially when you get an unruly imported file with thousands of surfaces… .but you only need to ‘touch’ just a few.

I also use it for operations where I may want to simulate a Coating or Tape application on a part. Just Copy the Surface and Thicken it as a new Body.

What you may be asking yourself is: “That sounds great, Darin, but there is NO ‘Copy Surface’ Command”… .and you’d be absolutely CORRECT!

Many users try to use the KNIT SURFACE command, but this doesn’t work unless the faces you select are adjacent to each other and can form a single, ‘knitted’ surface.

However, there is a simple trick to this one, and it lies in the OFFSET SURFACE COMMAND.Pick a face or faces, adjacent or disjointed, and select OFFSET SURFACES from the Surfaces Tab.

It will show the selection, and the title in the Property Manager will state “Offset Surface” until you set the distance to ZERO. Then the title changes to COPY SURFACE. That’s it!You can use this in context of an assembly, and while editing a part you can select faces of other parts and Copy the Surfaces. This will create Associative Surfaces in the part you are editing.This tool really has dozens of use cases.

#1 Move Sketches… EASILY

These features are presented in no particular order, but I do consider this one of the most hidden yet easy to use tools when you are unsatisfied with the location of your sketches relative to the origin or anything else.

Moving Sketches while in Edit Sketch mode is not always the easiest task, ESPECIALLY when they are Under Defined Sketches or those that are Copy/Pasted from DraftSight or other 2D applications.

Where most users run into trouble is that they feel, and I don’t disagree, that you should just be able to window select all the sketch entities and then just grab a point and drag the whole group. While this sounds logical, it has simply never been the case.

Then you could try the Move Entities command, but it doesn’t always snap to the final location as you might expect.

The following technique is completely effective and very easy to do, you just have to know the sequencing of the clicks.

First, Window select the sketch entities you wish to move.

Second, hold the CTRL key on your keyboard then Pick and Drag the selected entities from one of the points in the sketch.

CAREFUL NOW… The trick here is that a CTRL + Pick and Drag in Windows is a Copy… and that is ‘initially true’ here too. Note the Cursor with the little (+) next to it. If you let go of the Left Mouse Button FIRST, you will COPY the Sketch.

Instead, while in the middle of the ‘Copy Sketch’ operation, release the CTRL KEY while still holding your Cursor. The little (+) goes away and the entire operation turns into a MOVE command.Simply snap and release your cursor when your selected point is in the proper location, or snapped to the origin.

In summary, of the thousands of functions in the millions of lines of SolidWorks code, these are some of the more useful yet somewhat hidden functions I use frequently. I hope that you found something you didn’t know about that helps you improve your quality of designs, but most importantly saves you time and effort during your creative
process.

***

Darin Grosser is a SolidWorks Elite Application Engineer, Certified SolidWorks Expert and a senior member of the technical staff at DASI Solutions, a SolidWorks Value Added Reseller with locations throughout Michigan and Indiana. He is a regular contributor to the DASI Solutions Blog.

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  • brianm@hew.com

    #1 Move Sketches:

    Don’t forget the 2D to 3D menu that carries the Align Sketch command. Or
    Tools; Sketch Tools; Align; Sketch.

    With this command, you can preselect a Midpoint and the Origin and then exicuting the command snaps the two points coincident but does not assign the relation.

  • Brian Dolim

    I like the copy surface tip…I just don’t see what to do with it. Can you give more examples? How do I get that surface to another part?
    As to the other tips…very cool!

    • http://www.cadfanatic.com Brian

      Do the offset/copy surface in context in the part you need the reference in, not in the original part file.

  • John

    I use the offset surface to copy surfaces all the time. I find it works really well for trying to create/modify parts in context in an assembly (as described above). I can create a new part in an assembly, edit in context to create a new feature and use the copy surface to take a copy of all the relevant surfaces from the other parts in the assembly. I can then open the new part and edit it using these reference surfaces where necessary. I find that trying to edit parts in context in an assembly can quickly become cumbersome as the number of parts increases. This way I only have one feature to manage in context and all subsequent features can be done in part mode.

    I also find it to be pretty robust. If one of the other parts in the assembly changes I only have one feature to edit in the assembly, to re-attach the new face. All other updates can be done in part mode.

    I’ve also seen me use the copy surface in part mode so that I can move from a solid part to surfaces, carry out some surfacing operations and then thicken to move back to a solid again.

    Thanks for tips 5 and 1. These will both definitely be a bit of a time-saver.

  • Jørn Bjarning

    #1 Move Sketches:
    Instead of using the CTRL-KEY you can press SHIFT and drag the entities right away – avoiding the risk of copying the entities if you release the mouse button first.

  • John Kamin

    For trick #1, if the sketch it far from where you want to move it to, you may not be able to do it in one move. I find that it’s easier to select all the entities of the sketch, create a block (which I have a hotkey for, so it’s quick), move it, or copy and paste it where you want it, and then explode the block.