Importing Non-Native Files into SOLIDWORKS

By Patricia Bar on September 10, 2019

Although we love SOLIDWORKS and think everyone should be using the software, there are occasions where you may need to import non-native SOLIDWORKS files. That poses the question, what file formats will work with SOLIDWORKS? There are a couple of ways to handle this situation. In recent years, you have had the choice of converting these files to imported bodies, or leaving them in their native format. Let's dive into what files will work with standard SOLIDWORKS and how to import them.

3D Interconnect

SOLIDWORKS 3D Interconnect was first introduced in 2017. It provides the ability to insert CAD data directly into an assembly without converting it to a SOLIDWORKS file. This feature is automatically available in SOLIDWORKS Standard, Professional and Premium.

Before we dive into opening bodies, let’s look at where the option is for turning 3D Interconnect on and off. It is found under Options -> Import -> Enable 3D Interconnect:Import files into Solidworks

Import Diagnostics

If 3D Interconnect is turned off, SOLIDWORKS will bring in the file as an imported body, followed by asking you if you would like to run Import Diagnostics. Import Diagnostics

You should run this diagnostic tool to see if you have a good model or if there are issues with gaps or missing faces. If you do not see this message, you can always right-click on the imported body feature to invoke the tool. 

Import Diagnostics Solidworks

If you have already made modifications to your 3D model, you will no longer see this option. Once the file has been converted to a SOLIDWORKS imported body, you can make changes to the model to suit your needs. What happens if the base part changes? You can edit the imported body feature, and bring in a new version of the file, but you are warned that you may lose any work you have done to the model. 

Why bring in a non-SOLIDWORKS file this way? If you want the model converted to a SOLIDWORKS model that you can immediately perform operations on the file if you want to change the size of a hole or create a feature manager tree with FeatureWorks. However, what if you just wanted to put this part in your assembly? Seems like a lot of work for something that is so simple. This is where 3D Interconnect is to the rescue. 

Non-Native Files

3D Interconnect allows you to use a non-native CAD file by inserting it directly without a time-consuming conversion that happens with importing a file into SOLIDWORKS. What do I mean by directly? I mean that the model you see in your feature manager is the actual model, not a converted form. When you look at the feature manager, you will see an arrow on the non-SOLIDWORKS files.

Cooker Hood

These parts and assemblies act like a SOLIDWORKS file in that you can create mates, reference default planes and add extra features to them. What happens to the file if your partner makes changes to the original model? Nothing to worry about, as SOLIDWORKS will let you update the non-native files and not lose any of your work. If they make updates to the file, you will see a refresh icon in the feature manager, which lets you know you need to update by right-clicking on the part/assembly and choosing update model.Solidworks update modelWhat happens if the model you have is from another CAD package, and one of the locating holes is wrong. Instead of waiting for the other company, if you want to make the changes yourself, you can break the link, which takes you back to the start of this blog where you have an imported body in your feature manager that you can use feature recognition tools. 

What is the take away from all this? Open a file with 3D Interconnect turned on for better performance and easier updating of model changes from other CAD packages. You can add features to parts, and put parts and assemblies in your SOLIDWORKS assemblies easily. However, if you need to change how the model was designed, you need to have an imported body. To do this, you can break the link on the part or assembly within 3D Interconnect or open the part without 3D Interconnect on. So, now that you’re ready to try 3D Interconnect, the last question is, what file types does it work with? As of now, you can check the image below for the formats as well as versions. 

solidworks native format

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