SOLIDWORKS, 3D CAD, Tech Tips

Hidden Gems in SOLIDWORKS 2017 or Later

By Patricia Bar on July 10, 2020

Every year, there is excitement and anticipation within the engineering and designing community as SOLIDWORKS releases new enhancements and features for the software. At TriMech, we have made it a tradition to put together a list to highlight our top favorite enhancements. With all the excitement it's sometimes easy to forget about previous updates that continue to make our lives easier and allow us to get the job done quicker. I wanted to take a trip down memory lane and refresh the updates from SOLIDWORKS 2017 and later that still impact our design experience as we use SOLIDWORKS. While there are a lot out there, I am going to highlight some of my favorites for you here.

>> Explore some of the features in previous SOLIDWORKS releases

3D Interconnect

The first feature from SOLIDWORKS 2017 that I want to highlight is 3D Interconnect. What is 3D Interconnect, you ask? Well, if you work in a mixed CAD environment, this tool is for you. Previously, you would have to convert the other file type to SOLIDWORKS prior to using it. Now, you can leave the file in its native format and add it to your assembly without converting it! This allows you to put a part in your assembly that is not done, as SOLIDWORKS will let you update the existing part with a new one. With this tool, you’ll also avoid getting crazy import errors that sometimes occur. To use this tool, just make sure it is turned on in your system options.

 SOLIDWORKS 3D Interconnect

Importing Mesh Files into SOLIDWORKS

Talking about importing files, did you know that you can now import mesh files without having SOLIDWORKS scan to 3D? The types we can now bring in are: *.stl, *.obj;*.off;*.ply;*.ply2, as well as *.3mf and *.wrl. You can choose to bring them in as graphics body, solid body or surface body.

Importing Mesh Files into SOLIDWORKS

If you don’t think those tricks will help speed up your work, check out these tasty tidbits from SOLIDWORKS 2017.  Ever wanted to convert a part to a solid body to protect your models or maybe even just save rebuild times? Previously, you would have to do File > Save as, pick a generic file type (I hope Parasolid is your favorite) and then replace the component. That’s a lot of steps! Now, all you have to do is right-click at the top level of a part and pick Convert to bodies.

Convert to Bodies Option in SOLIDWORKS

This will make the part file become just a solid body that contains a feature manager with reference geometry and sketches. Why are we leaving those? So if I have this file in an assembly, it will maintain my mates! You’ll also notice that it opens that fun Save as dialog box familiar to all of us who use SOLIDWORKS.

Convert to Bodies SOLIDWORKS Option

How about after you replace a part with a converted body, you hit Ctrl +Shift + B to rebuild all configurations of that assembly file you have open? Now, you don’t have to flip through each configuration to make sure it is rebuilt correctly. Please note, I said Ctrl + Shift + B, not just Ctrl + B. 

FeatureWorks

Since I’m on the imported body roll, let’s talk about FeatureWorks. You can use this tool to recognize features in an imported body. Did you know that SOLIDWORKS 2017 allows you to add features to the model and then recognize features? That’s right! You can now open your imported body, add a fillet, then go back and recognize that hole you need the information on without losing your fillet. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always know what features I want to recognize when I start with a file, so this is a time saver for me!

Doing sweeps can be a bit of a pain to start a sketch just to convert a face to it but thankfully that's not needed anymore. All you need to do is start the Swept feature and, where you would normally click on your sketch, select the face or outer edges of the face. Then you can keep on going with your sweep.

Swept feature in SOLIDWORKS

The Wrap Function

How often do you wish you could use the Wrap function to create a feature on a surface, but couldn’t because it was not a cylinder or cone? It’s happened to me more than once, especially when I needed the Wrap feature to go across more than one surface. The addition of the analytical method of Wrap allows you to do this. 

Wrap feature in SOLIDWORKSYou may be saying that these things are all well and good, but you deal with assemblies a lot. Is there anything for you? Of course there is! One of my favorites is the ability to do distance mates between cylinders that mimic the min/center/max arc conditions on sketches. Instead of having to create a geometry to mate two cylinders at their closest distances, you can just use the new options. Center to center is still there, but now you have the extra options.

Distancing mates in_SOLIDWORKS

You can also group components in your feature manager. You’ve been able to create folders and drop parts in there, but now, if you have multiple instances of the same part, you can right-click the top level assembly and select Tree Display > Group Component Instances. This will make your feature manager shorter and easier to see.

Group Component instances in SOLIDWORKS

SOLIDWORKS Drawings

I know there is one area that is very popular with engineers that I have not even touched on yet. Don’t worry, I’m not forgetting about Drawings. What is new? Well, I think one of my favorites features in this update is creating mirror drawing views. If you have a part that you created, made a drawing of it and now you need a mirror image, what do you do? Prior to 2017, you’d create a mirrored part and have a drawing for it. Now, all you have to do is put a drawing view in, click on the model in the view and select Mirror in the property manager. If the view has dimensions, they go along for the ride. Just don’t try to do this on a view that has been projected from another view.

SOLIDWORKS Drawing View

If you have not been a fan of outlines on your crop and detail views, you are in luck. You can now choose to not have a line where your border is cutting the model. Or, if you’d like, you can make those outlines jagged instead of a straight line to make it clearer what is a part of the model and what is not.

SOLIDWORKS Drawing

You can also emphasize the cut faces of a section cut, clarifying the faces that were sectioned.

Emphasize Option in SOLIDWORKS Drawing

Location Label in SOLIDWORKS

Speaking of all those section views, detail circles and crop views, it can sometimes be difficult to know where those views are on a multi-page document. SOLIDWORKS 2017 now has a Location label zone. Now, if the detail view circle is on page one, but the detail view is on page three, you can have a label telling you what page and zone you should be seeing. To set this option, click Tools > Options > Document Properties > Annotations > Location Label and select Display zone of counterpart location label.

While I could keep going on and on about fun tools in 2017, I’ll leave you with one final hidden gem in 2017, Drawings. Ever had to change the sheet format on a drawing because the company logo changed? It’s fun to go through each page and switch them, right? If you like doing that, then ignore the following tip, otherwise, read on. If you need to change the sheet format, simply right-click a drawing sheet in the FeatureManager and pick Properties. In the dialog box, click Select sheets to modify, pick the ones you want, click Ok, then Apply changes. Done! 

Sheet Properties in SOLIDWORKS

These are just some of the features I liked from the 2017 upgrade. We put together a yearly list of our top 11 features in SOLIDWORKS and 2017 was an amazing year that brought exciting upgrades.

Ready to explore each one of these features? Head over to our blog, where we provide a summary of each one of these features and guide you through them.

Top 11 Features in SOLIDWORKS 2017