Futures… made of… Virtual Parts and Assemblies!

SolidWorks 2010 introduced some great new functionality to the area of Virtual parts and assemblies.

First of all lets go back to basics:
What are virtual parts and assemblies?

  • A part or assembly that does not have a saved file on disk
  • Saved internally in the assembly
  • Can be a bought-in, non modelled item such as paint or glue
  • Square brackets are used to denote the part or assembly as virtual


Virtual components are especially useful in top-down design. During the conceptual design process, when you frequently experiment with and make changes to the assembly structure and components, using virtual components has several advantages over the bottom-up design method:

  • You can rename these virtual components in the FeatureManager design tree, avoiding the need to open, save as a copy, and use the Replace Components command.
  • You can make one instance of a virtual component independent of other instances in a single step.
  • The folder where you store the assembly is not cluttered with unused part and assembly files resulting from iterations of component designs.

So what’s new in virtual parts and assemblies in SolidWorks 2010?

  • Make existing components virtual
  • You can make externally saved components virtual, which breaks the link to the external component file. Existing references are ignored and the component is renamed.
  • Naming virtual components
    • The name of a virtual component now always includes its parent assembly's name. This ensures the virtual component is always unique.
  • Copying virtual components
    • You can copy virtual components between assemblies. The copy is not linked to the original virtual component. Existing references are not copied, and the copy is given a new name.
  • Moving Virtual Components
    • You can move virtual components within the hierarchy of the FeatureManager design tree. Existing references are ignored and the component is renamed.

    Lets take a look at an example:

    Matthew West

    SolidWorks alumnus. I like plate reverb, Rat pedals, Thai curry, New Weird fiction, my kids, Vespas, Jazzmasters, my wife & Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not necessarily in that order.