Parametric or History-Free Modeling? Why Not Both with Direct Editing

When I was first exposed to parametric CAD in 1995, I immediately saw the promise this modeling technique offered.  No more add, subtract, union Boolean operations.  No more user coordinate systems just to sketch some geometry.

Coming from a manufacturing background, I quickly became comfortable defining some stock material, and then refining it using parametric features.  Sure, under the hood I was still doing Boolean modeling, but it sure seemed faster, easier and much more fun. Finally, software that thought the way I did!

Fast forward 20 years, I’m still a huge parametric modeling fan, but I’ve also encountered that feeling of dread when a late change to a model requires dramatic design alterations.  History-free editing has proven useful in these types of situations, however, it also has limitations.

By mixing these two techniques together, users can leverage the strengths that each approach provides.  Of course, direct editing is also very useful for modifying imported solid geometry that does not include any parametric feature data.  Fortunately, SOLIDWORKS 3DEXPERIENCE solutions combine both parametric and direct editing into a seamless, single modeling environment, giving you the best of both worlds!

Parametric & Direct Editing:

In this example, a parametric model that was built using symmetric design intent.  A change has been requested to create a new version that is asymmetrical.  Perhaps a simple task for an expert user, but direct editing can make this easy for a novice.

As you can see in the feature tree shown above, the ‘Extrude.1’ feature was converted into a new feature called ‘Direct-Edit.1’.  All of the parametric features created later in the design history have been maintained.

Performing more complex edits is just as simple.  Perhaps you need to change the tabs to be angled.  By adding direct edit constraints, you can easily control the editing behavior.  When the constraints are no longer required, you can hide or permanently delete them.


Direct Editing of Imported Geometry:

With SOLIDWORKS Conceptual Designer and Industrial Designer you can also make quick work of changes to imported models that don’t contain feature history.

When converting imported geometry, you have the option of recognizing fillets and chamfers.  Once converted to parametric features, you can roll back the feature tree before these complex features.  This can make direct editing operations much easier to perform.



The single modeling environment allows users to build models using a parametric, history-based approach combined with the flexibility of direct editing (where you push and pull features). Unlike other solutions, these two methods can be mixed in a single model, providing rapid development without sacrificing model intelligence.

SOLIDWORKS Conceptual Designer and Industrial Designer are the safest and most reliable choices to compliment your SOLIDWORKS Desktop design environment.  They offer unique workflows and functionalities that expand your design toolbox and enable you to get your job done.

Learn more about direct editing and the single modeling environment in this “Empowering Conceptual Design via the Single Modeling Environment” whitepaper.

John Picinich

John Picinich

John is a Senior Product Portfolio Manager at Solidworks