5 SIMPLE TIPS TO ENHANCE YOUR SOLIDWORKS PRODUCTIVITY
Below are 5 tips that I believe will enhance your productivity and speed when modeling in SolidWorks. It has been my experience that most of these tips are hidden gems that a lot of users do not know about.
Hopefully, incorporating some or all of these tips into your regular workflow will make a big impact on your modeling efficiency.
Take Quick Measurements
If you need a quick linear or angular measurement, there’s no need to launch the Measure… tool; simply select the edge, faces, or vertices, and look in the status bar; the measurement will be shown there (as shown in Figure 1 – Measure demonstrated in the SolidWorks status bar). For more complex measurements, you will have to run the Measure… tool.
Use Mate References
If you download or model a purchased part, such as a screw or motor, add in mate references. Taking a little extra time up front when setting up the model will save lots of time later on when placing the parts by allowing snapping when dragging library or commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) parts in.
The command is accessed through Insert|Reference Geometry|Mate Reference…, or by selecting the desired edge and hitting the S-key and choosing Reference Geometry|Mate Reference. Users can select up to three (3) reference entities to use as mate references (see Figure 2 – Mate References).
Please note that named references can save even more time; especially if you also create them in your manufactured parts!
In my opinion, it is always best practice to model about the model origin and to make use of symmetry whenever possible.
The easiest and fastest way to create symmetric elements in a sketch is to use the Dynamic Mirror Entities command. It works like the regular Mirror command, except it automatically creates the symmetric elements on the fly and applies the Symmetric constraint.
To use this tool, you must first sketch a construction line along the line of symmetry, preselect it, and choose Dynamic Mirror. The command is active until the sketch is exited (you can tell if the command is active by the “=” marks at the top and bottom of the centerline; reference Figure 3 – Dynamic Mirroring.) If you reenter the sketch, the command is no longer active, and you must reselect the construction line and run Dynamic Mirror Entities again.
Tab to Hide
Tab to hide is an awesome and powerful feature that has been around for a couple of releases, but I only learned about in the last year. Tab to hide allows users to quickly and easily hide components in an assembly. Unfortunately, this feature does not work in multi-body parts, such as weldments.
To use, hold the Tab key down and then swipe with your mouse over the components you wish to hide. Every component the cursor crosses over is hidden.
You can also select components and then tap the Tab key to hide them.
To easily show hidden components, right-click in a blank spot in the graphics area and select Show Hidden Components. This command will invert the display, hiding the shown components and showing the hidden components (see Figure 4 – Show Hidden Components). Click on the components you wish to show, and they fade out of the view. When all components you wish to show have been selected, click Close Show Hidden Components. The regular display returns with the previously hidden items viewable.
This is especially handy when you have hidden components in the graphics area that exist at various levels in different subassemblies.
The Isolate command is one of my all-time favorite features when working in assemblies. As the name implies, it allows a user to isolate selected assembly components to allow easier component manipulation or visualization. The Isolate command also functions in multi-body parts.
You can easily create a Display State by simply selecting the desired component(s) and right-clicking and choosing Isolate from the context menu (see Figure 5- Isolate Command), then clicking the Save as Display State button.
And, as Ricky Jordan demonstrates, by combining the Isolate command with Show Hidden Components (as mentioned above), you can quickly and easily pare down an assembly to create a Display State to help visualize and work on portions of your assemblies.
I hope one or more of these tips help you to increase your SolidWorks modeling efficiency and productivity. If you have any comments or questions, please leave a comment!
Brian McElyea is a Senior Mechanical Engineer at Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation in Huntsville, AL. Brian is a Certified SolidWorks Professional (CSWP), and the current president of the Redstone Arsenal chapter of the North Alabama SolidWorks User Group (NASWUG), NASWUG-RSA.
He writes about SolidWorks and the SolidWorks community at CADFanatic.com.
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