3D CAD, SOLIDWORKS

Migrating from AutoCAD to SOLIDWORKS

By Michael Souders on November 30, 2018

For years, you’ve been languishing in the darkness of 2D CAD. That black background felt so familiar, but now you’re starting to see the 3D light. It can be difficult for your eyes and mind to adjust but have no fear, I’m here to guide you on your new journey into SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD.

How will your design process translate over to SOLIDWORKS? Currently, you may be creating individual blocks for each standard view of your parts within AutoCAD. These standard views are then further refined to create additional ones, such as section views or detail views. These blocks are then used to create individual part drawings for each component and are later assembled together to create assembly views.

Individual blocks in AutoCAD

The process isn’t that much different in SOLIDWORKS. The only difference is that instead of creating each individual view for a component, we’re creating the entire component within a 3D environment. That 3D model will then serve as the basis for creating 2D views. Once we have the 3D model, there’s no need to manually sketch out each individual view. Section views and detail views are created much more easily as well since we’re simply slicing the model or zooming in on a specific portion.

Creating a component within SOLIDWORKS

Creating a component in a 3D environment

When creating assemblies, geometric relationships are defined between those individual components. This process is analogous to assembling the components in their physical form and is commonly referred to as bottom-up assembly design. Once those components are tied together within an assembly, 2D views can be extracted just as easily as they were on the component side.

Assembling components in their physical form

Perhaps you’re using layout drawings within AutoCAD to create your assemblies. The same process can be used in SOLIDWORKS. This technique is often referred to as top-down assembly design. Individual master sketches can exist within the top level of your assembly. Once those sketches are defined, individual components can reference them. While these layout sketches can be helpful, they’re not totally necessary for top-down assembly design. Components can be built around other components, referencing faces and edges of those other components. This is what is commonly referred to as the in-context design.

Top-down assembly design

The transition from AutoCAD to SOLIDWORKS is rarely cut and dry. There are often cases where you’ll want to re-use or modify an existing drawing from AutoCAD. Fortunately, there are a few different ways this can be achieved.

For DWG and DXF modification, Dassault provides a free tool known as Draftsight. Draftsight is a DWG/DXF editor comparable to AutoCAD. It will natively open legacy AutoCAD files and allow you to directly modify them.

Editing AutoCAD files

Another option would be to convert the DWG/DXF to a native SOLIDWORKS drawing. SOLIDWORKS allows this as one of the options when opening a DWG/DXF file. This option would make the most sense for when users want the ability to modify the imported DWG/DXF directly within SOLIDWORKS. This would also be the case if the additional model or assembly views need to be added to the sheet.

DXF/DWG file Import

Embed the native DWG/DXF file within SOLIDWORKS

As you can see in the previous screenshot, another option would be to embed the native DWG/DXF file within a SOLIDWORKS drawing. You can even link back to the original DWG/DXF file in case that file is ever revised. This would be the best option to use when it’s necessary to maintain the original file format. Users may need to share files with other vendors who are still using AutoCAD.

You may have noticed yet another option, and that is the ability to import the AutoCAD geometry directly into a SOLIDWORKS part file as a sketch. This is one of the most versatile options, as it allows users to utilize the legacy 2D geometry to create full 3D models of their designs. After converting to 3D, users can take advantage of the entire suite of SOLIDWORKS tools. As a small example, users can:

  • Easily create standard views, section views, detail views, auxiliary views, etc.
  • Use mass properties to interrogate the volume/mass of the part or assembly
  • Use interference detection to determine if parts are overlapping with one another
  • Use collision detection to find dynamic clearance problems
  • Analyze for strength using SOLIDWORKS Simulation
  • Check for flow through components using SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation
  • And more!

SOLIDWORKS

Tommy Ray has a great blog article and video tech tip that shows how this can be achieved here.

Hopefully this information has been helpful as you begin your transition from AutoCAD to SOLIDWORKS. As always, TriMech’s team of talented application engineers is always available to help guide you along the way. Feel free to reach out to us on support, or request a client care visit from your local application engineer.

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