The Elephant in the Room – Large Assemblies

The Elephant in the Room - Large Assemblies

In this blog we will be looking to give you some tips and tricks as well as noting some changes made in SOLIDWORKS 2017 when it comes to ‘the elephant in the room’ that is Large Assemblies.

When working with large assemblies, you could end up with hundreds of parts, mates of various forms and several configurations; performance and stability are always key. To get the most out of SOLIDWORKS when working with assemblies you should always keep note of the following features and tools:

Resolved, Lightweight, Large Assembly Mode and Large Design Review

One of the first and easiest ways to improve a large assembly documents’ performance is to alter the Mode that the part is opened in. This option includes multiple different states with the following benefits;

  • Resolved – The default state. This state will take the longest of the four to load in as it fully loads in all model data to memory. This retains the ability for the user to have full access to make all necessary changes to the parts and assembly.
  • Lightweight – This state improves performance slightly by only loading a subset of the model data into memory, and will load any additional data to memory as required.
  • Large Assembly Mode – This state loads in a collection of system settings, mostly display and view settings, with the aim of turning off any settings which could hinder the systems (SOLIDWORKS Assemblies file’s) performance.
  • Large Design Review – This is the fastest and least resource intense mode. However, does not allow the user to make changes to the assembly or parts. This state is primarily for quick viewing, navigations or measuring, but individual parts can be loaded separately for editing.

Within the SOLIDWORKS application settings you can set the ‘Large Assembly Mode’ and ‘Large Design Review’ to automatically be set based on the number of components the assembly has.

Cleaning Up Your Design Tree

Having a clean and easy to work with design tree is always key to having a good workflow. You should always make sure that you are using an appropriate naming scheme. This isn’t only useful when creating a part but also for when you are creating mates between part as this allows you to more easily go back and make changes.

To make navigation and workflow easier (as well as cleaning up your design tree) you should make use of the “Group Component Instances” feature. What this feature does is group any parts with the same name and configurations into a parts folder. This is especially useful in large assemblies where you could have many instances of the same part such as bolts, washers, screws, rails, which should help reduce the time spent looking for that one part that might need to be altered or removed.

This can be found by right clicking on your top-level assembly and selecting Tree Display > Group Component Instances.

Above is just a simple example of what grouping looks like from an example within the ‘SOLIDWORKS 2017 What’s New document’.

Loading Parts or Documents into Memory Only

A new option available in SOLIDWORKS 2017 can be found under Tools > Options > System Options > External References, title “Load documents in memory only”. By using this option when opening an assembly, the externally referenced parts associated with that assembly will be loaded into memory but not opened in a new window. This keeps the references up to date (Key for when changes were made to a part) but reduces the load on SOLIDWORKS and allows you to get working on your assembly or sub-assembly.

Facility Layout

Another new feature which is available within SOLIDWORKS 2017 is using the special tool and layout option of ‘Facility Layout’ with the ability to publish a part or assembly as an asset. Once a part or assembly has been published as an asset it can be inserted into another assembly (such as a larger assembly) where magnetic mates will snap the asset into place with respect to other assets.

From within the ‘Asset Publisher’ Property Manager, it is possible to directly create a SpeedPak and since using a SpeedPak configuration can drastically enhance performance this can be very useful. Although pre-existing SpeedPaks cannot be used when creating a new asset.

Hopefully, you have learned a few things from this blog which will help you next time you are using a large assembly.

Craig Girvan is an Applications Engineer at TMS CADCentre, a SOLIDWORKS Value Added Reseller in Scotland.  You can read more from Craig on the TMS CADCentre blog.

TMS CADCentre is a SOLIDWORKS Reseller based in Scotland providing CAD Design Software, analysis software & product data management software. Founded in 1981, TMS CADCentre is the only UK SOLIDWORKS Reseller based and funded within Scotland and have been providing SOLIDWORKS software, training and support since 1996 when the product was first launched in the UK.