Design Re-use

“I know that part’s here somewhere… I think I saved it in the XXX project folder…  We designed a similar assembly last year…” Sound familiar? If you’ve ever spent time hunting for previous designs or recreated the same content multiple times, you’re not alone. Fortunately, SOLIDWORKS includes powerful capabilities that minimize this pain and help you get your job done fast.

Here’s a short video, maybe you can relate.

That was a ton of information, let’s recap and expand:

Design Library

  • Includes out of the box standard mechanical design content (like o-ring grooves, keyways, sheet metal punches, etc.)
  • Windows folder structure – easy to organize and share with co-workers
  • Easily add content you re-use (like drawing notes, feature sets, purchased parts and assemblies, company logos, welding symbols, start parts, and much more)


  • Included with SOLIDWORKS professional and premium (turn on the add-in)
  • Thousands of standard hardware components (o-rings, nuts, bolts, washers, gears, retaining rings, bearings, pins, and much more)
  • Fully configured with all standard sizes and lengths
  • Autosize to your corresponding features
  • Can add BOM details and custom components using the “Configure Toolbox” wizard

Integrated SOLIDWORKS Search

  • Setup all locations you want to index
  • Tools > Options > System Options > File Locations > Search Paths
  • Set options like when to index and whether to show 3DCC results
  • Tools > Options > System Options > Search
  • Use keyboard shortcut “I” to activate the search

3D Content Central

  • Free online resource
  • Thousands of vendors with configurable and downloadable 3D files, and tons of user uploaded content too
  • Preview 3D files right in browser
  • Use integrated SOLIDWORKS search (if 3DCC set to show in results)
  • Drop right into SOLIDWORKS

Mate References

  • Add to any part or assembly you will re-use and want to snap into position
  • Use a circular edge between a cylindrical and planar face to get both concentric and coincident mates added.
  • Add up to 3 references and name the mate reference to get it to find mating components automatically. Just use the same name for the mate reference in the mating part.  Put into an assembly and they will snap together like magic.

Smart Components

  • Allow you to insert features, parts, or both. Think mounting holes and hardware for example.
  • Features can include full tolerances that will carry over.
  • Use a simple setup assembly when creating the smart component (I store them in my design library).
  • Create: edit the part in the context of the setup assembly and use Tools > Make Smart Component.
  • Use: insert and position the part in your assembly. Click the smart component icon in the graphics or right click the part > Insert Smart Features.  Select what to include and any references needed.

Give them a try today and fuel your blazing fast skills!

Want more tips? Check out this 3-part series on mating! 

  • Part 1 covers getting parts inserted and mated quickly,
  • Part 2 covers three of the most powerful everyday mates; Profile Center, Width, and Slot
  • Part 3 covers automation for frequently used components.  Mate References, Magnetic Mates, and Smart Components

Check out Part 1 of the series below:


By: Mike Staples • Elite Application Engineer • TPM

TPM, Inc. is the Carolina’s largest 3D CAD provider and a leading technology company proud of its reputation of providing cutting-edge solutions to the engineering and design community for the past 40 years. Founded in 1973, TPM Inc. serves more than 3,000 customers across the Southeast each year. Inspired by our founder, Jerry Cooper, we are committed to offering our clients the best: 3D Design Software, 3D Printing and Scanning Options, Data and Document Management Solutions, Large-Format Graphics, Wide-Format Plotters and Office Equipment, and Reprographics.