SOLIDWORKS, Electrical Design

SOLIDWORKS Electrical 3D vs Routing

By Tim Pulaski on March 2, 2022

In this article, I will address a very common question I get when working with clients involved in electrical design: What’s the big difference between SOLIDWORKS Routing and SOLIDWORKS Electrical 3D?

On paper and in video demonstrations, they both seem to do the same thing: allow you to route wires and cables more easily through your SOLIDWORKS assemblies. If you have ever experienced the unbridled joy of trying to create a wire using a 3D spline sweep in a SOLIDWORKS assembly, both may be enticing propositions. In addition to understanding their academic differences, perhaps the better question is: Which solution is the better fit for my business? I’ll try to answer both.

SOLIDWORKS Electrical 3D and SOLIDWORKS Routing

Cut of the Same Cloth

Both SOLIDWORKS Electrical 3D and SOLIDWORKS Routing use the same technology on the back end to generate route geometry in SOLIDWORKS assemblies, which is why they look and feel so similar. However, to understand where they differ, we need to first break down a couple of aspects of how a route is defined.

Geometric Definition

The first step in creating a route in SOLIDWORKS is to establish the physical geometry for the cable. This primarily involves determining the path the cable will take through the assembly. Optionally, the diameter for each segment can be assigned to help better correct any interferences between the cable and its environment.

Electrical Definition

The second step involves assigning wire and cable part properties to the route and specifying the pin-to-pin connections between connectors in the route assembly. Some of these assignments can actually have an impact on the geometric definition of the cable, such as the route segment diameter and color.

Both SOLIDWORKS Electrical 3D and SOLIDWORKS Routing allow for the definition of these two aspects of the cable, but go about it in different ways. Let’s look at how a simple cable might be created using each product to better illustrate the process.

Read more about Best of SOLIDWORKS Electrical 2022 >> 

SOLIDWORKS Routing

SOLIDWORKS Routing

  1. The route assembly is initiated by right-clicking on a connector and selecting “Start Route.”
    • Once in the route assembly, additional connectors may be added by right-clicking them and selecting “Add to Route”.
  2. Wire ‘stubs’ are automatically created at each pin of the connectors. To connect the stubs of one connector to those of another, right-click the endpoint of a stub and select “Autoroute.” Then, select either another stub endpoint or an intermediary such as a wire clip/tie to help guide the cable through the assembly to its destination. This will define the main trunk of the cable.
  3. Right-click the main trunk and select “Split Route” to define where breakouts should occur, such as near the back of a connector. Use the Autoroute command to connect additional pins to the route through this split point.
  4. Optionally, the nominal diameter of significant sections of the route may be set by right-clicking on a segment and selecting “Route Segment Properties.” This value will be overridden if a wire or cable with diameter properties is assigned.
  5. Electrical connection parameters are defined by selecting the “Edit Wires” command. Wires and cables may be assigned to the route, and their pin-to-pin connections may be set using the paths created in previous steps.

    Electrical Connection parameters

Learn more in this article "When Do I Need SOLIDWORKS Routing?" >>

SOLIDWORKS Electrical 3D

Electrical 3D

  1. Cable connectors are first associated with their corresponding components in the SOLIDWORKS Electrical Schematic project using the Electrical Management tab on the left-side panel.Picture6
  2. The route assembly is initiated using the “Route Harnesses” command and selecting the desired project cable. A user can elect to route either automatically or manually for greater control. If manual routing is selected, the route path can be completed in the same manner as with SOLIDWORKS Routing (using the Autoroute command”)
  3. Electrical connection parameters and wire/cable assignments are imported directly from the schematics when the “Route Harness” command is used. Route parameters will graphically change to reflect these properties (diameters, colors, etc.) automatically once a valid route path has been established. Connection data can be visualized by enabling “Guidelines” to aid in developing these paths.Route harness

Benefits Comparison

So now that we understand some of the operational differences between the two tools, we should address the obvious question: “So what? Which tool is right for me?” This will vary from business to business, but breaking out the key benefits of each tool is often helpful in making that decision.

Both Solutions

  1. Fully integrated into SOLIDWORKS assemblies.
  2. Significantly more streamlined procedure than spline sweeps.

SOLIDWORKS Routing

  1. Libraries can be developed with commonly used elements.
  2. Electrical parameters are manually defined by the mechanical user.
  3. Great for a low volume of cables or where only the physical definition is required.

SOLIDWORKS Electrical 3D

  1. Libraries are linked with the Electrical designers’ library.
  2. Schematic-driven wire/cable assignments and pinouts, no mechanical entry of data.
  3. Excellent for a low to high volume of cables where the physical and electrical definition is required.

Hopefully, this breakdown of these two powerful tools has been helpful. Be sure to check out some of my other blogs and videos on the website, and keep an eye out for more! 

Sign up below to watch the on-demand webinar "SOLIDWORKS Electrical 3D vs. Routing" to learn more and see a demonstration of both options.