SOLIDWORKS, Technical Communication

Best Practices for Using the New Composer Export Options in SOLIDWORKS

By Chris Mowatt on July 2, 2019

Prior to the SOLIDWORKS 2018 updates, you were capable of saving a SOLIDWORKS assembly as an SMG file, however, there were no export options for SMG files and the default export option was set to exclude surface bodies. Due to this, users preferred to open SOLIDWORKS file directly through Composer, where import options can be customized as they need. Since the SOLIDWORKS 2018 updates, new SOLIDWORKS export options for SMG files have been added that allow full control over what information is saved to SOLIDWORKS Composer. These new options provide many advantages to Composer users that will be explained in this blog. 

Opening Files with SOLIDWORKS Composer

Opening SOLIDWORKS files with SOLIDWORKS Composer is perfectly acceptable if everyone using Composer understands the import options they are using. For Composer to update from the SOLIDWORKS documents properly, it is critically important that the same export or import options are used every time. If you’re using a version of SOLIDWORKS updated in 2018 or later, you are now able to control these same settings directly in SOLIDWORKS and export the Composer SMG file with consistent settings and exactly what you want.

Advantages of Exporting an SMG File from SOLIDWORKS

  • Consistency: Set the SMG export settings in SOLIDWORKS once and you’ll guarantee every Composer file saved has uniform settings.
  • Robust Updates: Update your Composer document from an updated SMG file rather than the SOLIDWORKS files directly. Your Composer document will update reliably with the consistency handled by the SOLIDWORKS export settings.
  • Better Collaboration: Composer users only need access to one SMG file rather than multiple SOLIDWORKS files. By saving and working on copies of the SMG exported from SOLIDWORKS, any number of users can quickly begin their work in Composer. If there is a design update, users simply update their documents using the newly published SMG.

SMG Export Options

To access the SMG export options with the SOLIDWORKS 2018 or newer updates, open System Options > Exportt > “SMG” from the File Format drop-down list. Once there, you’ll see options categorized under SOLIDWORKS, Export and Refinement.

SMG Export Options

    • SOLIDWORKS BOM: BOM must be created in the .SLDASM file to export
    • SOLIDWORKS Assembly Envelopes
    • SOLIDWORKS PMI: Only for PMI produced with the SOLIDWORKS MBD add-in
  • Export
    • Export Profiles
      • SOLIDWORKS (Default): Solid bodies only
      • SOLIDWORKS with Surface Parts: Solid bodies and surface bodies
      • Custom: Manually set options
    • Options
      • Merge file into one actor per part: Enable to maintain the assembly tree structure
      • Export instance names: Disable if you want component instances to have the same name
      • Export meta-properties: Enable to export SOLIDWORKS Custom Properties
      • Overload assembly tree names: Disable to maintain assembly tree naming
      • Export as bodies: Enable to export parts with solid bodies
      • Export free faces: Enable to export parts with surface bodies
      • Export hidden components (no show): Enable to export all hidden (unsuppressed) components
  • Refinement Options
    • Relative: Settings for exported resolution (quality) using Chordal Error or Normal Deviation. Model edges become smoother as the quality setting is increased
    • Absolute: Manual settings for Chordal Error, Normal Deviation and/or Edge Length. Only needed if “Relative” settings do not produce the desired result.
    • Enable Healing: Enable only if problems are encountered with geometry in Composer

­Saving SOLIDWORKS Assemblies as SMG Files

As I’ve detailed in this blog, there are export settings in SOLIDWORKS you need to be aware of when saving a SOLIDWORKS assembly as an SMG file. I suggest using the “Custom” export profile with the settings I discuss below for the following reasons:

  1. Custom: This combination of settings will provide the flexibility of exporting both solid and surface bodies as well as allow hidden assembly components to export to Composer. Keep the option “Merge file into one actor per part” enabled to prevent every solid body, including within multibody parts, from being exported as individual parts in Composer. Enable the option to “Export meta-properties” to access the SOLIDWORKS custom properties in Composer. The other options enabled are covered in my descriptions of the other two export profiles.Export Profile Custom
  2. SOLIDWORKS (Default): These settings exclude the “Export free faces” option, which will prevent all surface bodies from being exported to Composer. Unless you are certain that you’ll never have a surface body in any assembly you export, this option should not be used.Export Profile SOLIDWORKS Default
  3. SOLIDWORKS with Surface Parts: These settings exclude the “Export free faces” option, which will allow both surface and solid bodies to be exported to Composer. However, the option to “Export hidden components (no show)” is disabled in this export profile. This will prevent any hidden components in the assembly from exporting to Composer, which may become necessary to show in Composer.
Export Profile SOLIDWORKS With Surface Parts

Updating Composer with an SMG File

Having started this blog by covering the advantages of updating your Composer document from an SMG file, I’ll next discuss the process for ensuring a successful update. By following my steps for exporting the SMG from SOLIDWORKS, you’ve created a fresh SMG file that hasn’t been edited. The goal is to keep that file as a “control” document that will remain unedited and copies of it will be used to create the “working” Composer documents. When a new version of the control document (SMG) is exported, the working documents can update from it. Below are the steps I suggest for updating a Composer document.

  1. Export initial SMG from SOLIDWORKS (this will be the control document)
  2. Open the SMG in Composer
  3. Immediately save the file under a new name to create a working copy (do not edit the control document)
  4. Update the SOLIDWORKS assembly and export the revised SMG
  5. Update the working copy with the revised SMG
Opening SMG in SOLIDWORKS Composer

Export Control Document From SOLIDWORKS


Create a Working Copy in Composer

Export a Revised Control Document from SOLIDWORKS

Export a Revised Control Document from SOLIDWORKS

Update Working Copy from Revised Control Document

Update Working Copy from Revised Control Document

Exporting SOLIDWORKS Exploded View to Composer

It is possible to export one SOLIDWORKS exploded view to Composer. When one or more exploded view has been created for the configuration to be exported, ONLY the first exploded view listed will export to Composer. If the exploded view needed is not first in the list, simply drag it to the top before exporting.

The SOLIDWORKS exploded view will import to Composer as a pre-existing “Intelligent View,” which has captured the exploded positions of the components. The assembly will import in its collapsed state, but clicking the Composer exploded view will move the components to match the SOLIDWORKS exploded state.

Exporting Exploded Views

Using SOLIDWORKS Exploded View in Composer

If you decide to take advantage of a SOLIDWORKS exploded view, I suggest using the following workflow to for getting started with a Composer project that has an exploded view.

  1. Open the Composer SMG
  2. Immediately create a Standard View
  3. Enable the exploded Intelligent View
  4. Create another Standard View
  5. Continue with editing in Composer

Following these steps when beginning a new project in Composer is the best way to create what I consider “default” views to refer to when needed. If the second step is not followed, it will create extra steps to return the components to their collapsed positions.

Using Exploded Views

Exporting SOLIDWORKS BOM to Composer

A SOLIDWORKS BOM must be created directly in the SOLIDWORKS assembly for it to translate to Composer. The process for creating it is the same as in a SOLIDWORKS drawing. I suggest using the following steps to add the BOM to an assembly.

  1. Click “Bill of Materials” from the Assembly tab
  2. Apply BOM settings with a template or manually
  3. Select the configuration to be exported to Composer
  4. Click “OK”
  5. Select “Existing Annotation View” and “Notes Area”
  6. Click “OK” and place the BOM in the viewport
  7. Enable the Composer Add-in
  8. Save As > SOLIDWORKS Composer (*.SMG)

 Exporting BOM

Using SOLIDWORKS BOM in Composer

If you choose to export the SOLIDWORKS BOM to Composer, it is important to know how to best take advantage of it. When the SOLIDWORKS BOM is exported, Composer automatically creates a view with a BOM that has matched every Composer component’s BOM ID to the SOLIDWORKS BOM item numbers. The Composer BOM’s columns and metadata match exactly to the SOLIDWORKS BOM template that was used.

There are three features within Composer that will help make quick work of labeling and isolating components in Composer views.

  1. Hidden Components: There is a default functionality in Composer which causes the BOM to exclude rows for components that are hidden. This will always guarantee that the BOM is displaying information for only the visible components.
  2. Callouts: The option within the BOM properties called “Filter on visible callouts” causes the BOM to only show columns for components that have a callout placed on them. This allows for quick filtering and eliminates the need for manually editing the BOM.
  3. Size and Position: By default, the Composer BOM will be locked to the bottom of the view and cannot be resized. To size and reposition the BOM, simply change the BOM property “Position” to “Free.” The BOM’s bounding box and font size can now be freely adjusted.

Using BOM in Composer

With the information provided in this blog, you’re equipped to get working with Composer in a robust and consistent manner. Take advantage of the new abilities within SOLIDWORKS to adjust SMG export settings, allowing you to consistently produce uniform SMG files. Leverage other information from SOLIDWORKS, like BOM’s, exploded views, assembly envelopes and 3D PMI. Finally, employ the concept of using the exported SMG’s as control documents to provide seamless and robust updates. Thank you for reading this blog and please reach out to TriMech with any questions!

Ready to learn more about SOLIDWORKS Composer? Click on the button below to watch our on-demand webinar, Get to Know SOLIDWORKS Composer.