What if I told you I built this entire gazebo with just two sketches?
You’re probably thinking, “I could build it with one super complicated 3D sketch, but why would I want to do that?”
You wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that. 3D sketches, while very powerful, are also very confusing. It can take a long time to master them and in the world of weldments, you kind of need to. Even in the scenario where you are creating relatively simple geometry, you can either use a 3D sketch or a whole bunch of reference planes with 2D sketches and then, due to the limitation of groups, you usually have to create a bunch of manual Trim/Extend features after the fact.
The good news is that the Structure System feature introduced in SOLIDWORKS 2019 turns that methodology on its head, and since the new enhancements added to it in 2020, it’s starting to make me wonder if I’ll ever use the old weldments tool again.
So now you might be wondering, “Okay, what two sketches did you use? How complicated were they?”
My first sketch was a simple hexagon created with the polygon sketch tool and the second was a single point. That’s it.
The reason I am able to do this, is that with Structure Systems, I can select a whole slew of geometry to create a path for a beam, including, but not limited to, lines, edges, planes, points, and intersections faces or planes.
Now the gears are turning right? You are starting to think of all the ways you could create frames in a fraction of the time if you didn’t have to create lines for every single beam. Honestly, it’s liberating. But wait, there’s more! New in 2020 you can pattern an entire structure system in one click. No more selecting each individual body and crossing your fingers, hoping you didn’t miss any. This is currently available in linear, circular, and mirror patterns.
The thing that makes this really powerful is you can now add secondary members between patterned Structure System features. With this enhancement the corner management feature will take care of all that trimming for you because it SOLIDWORKS knows that the patterned body is also a structural member. As an added benefit, the corner management tool has been updated for 2020 as well and it is really quite intuitive, even in the complex scenario where three or more members merge into one joint.
Speaking of secondary members, there have been enhancements there as well. You can now define members where a plane or face intersect two primary members or even just by defining a distance or length ratio from each end of the two primary members. Plus now you can split theses members directly inside the property manager. That’s what allowed me to make this intricate railing design without creating any sketch geometry.
Now, this is an actual gazebo design for my backyard that is stuck in the pending approval state with the boss (wife) at the moment. Since this is a real use case, and I don’t have any pipe benders, I couldn’t show you my favorite new enhancement to this feature on my gazebo. Remember earlier when I told you that all of things you can make beams from? Including, but not limited to? You guessed it…SPLINES!
We can finally use splines to create beams that can be trimmed and coped and put on a cut list just like linear beams. It’s not even limited to sketched splines. Nonlinear geometry created by edges or intersecting faces and planes will work too. Also, as an added benefit, we can also merge separate beams created with multiple sketch entities into one body in the case of straight pipe that has curved portion midway through.
You can read stuff like this all day, but the best way to learn it is get in the software and start clicking. If you run into problems or find any other cool stuff I missed, I would love to hear about. Leave a comment below! Click here to learn more about new features in SOLIDWORKS 2020!
Andrew Barnes is a Solutions Consultant at SOLIDWORKS. He is a certified expert in all things SOLIDWORKS, but he specializes in weird swoopy shapes and additive manufacturing. If he had to be away from his computer, he would prefer to be on a big mountain, in knee deep powder, strapped into a snowboard.