SOLIDWORKS, 3D CAD

5 Reasons Surface Modeling Is A Needed Skill

By Keith Thompson on August 24, 2018

Rather than viewing your SOLIDWORKS designs as a wireframe model you have the ability to view them as a solid-appearing object. This makes it possible for users to look at an object at specific angels with solid surfaces. But that's not the only reason why surface modeling is important. Read on to discover why we have surface modeling and the top five reasons it's a needed skill.

How 3D Models Are Built

In the early days of 3D CAD, modeling was done by first creating a 3D skeleton using wireframe geometry made up of lines, arcs and splines. Then each face of the skeleton was used to create a surface patch, which together formed the shape of a 3D model.

In most cases, this was all that was needed to showcase the design and create the final 2D detail drawings. In some instances, however, the surfaces were stitched together to create the solid model.

This logic is still the basis for SOLIDWORKS and most other advanced 3D CAD software today. Typically, we start out with a 2D wireframe sketch, then use a modeling tool to turn it into a solid. SOLIDWORKS now does the behind-the-scenes work creating the surfaces and joining them together to form a solid model.

This insight should give us a better understanding of how surfacing techniques can help us create some difficult and complex 3D model features and shapes. Here are five examples where this technique can be helpful.

>> Check out our On-Demand Webinar, Surfacing Tips & Tricks

5 Reasons Surface Modeling Is Still Needed

1. Invalid Or Unable To Create a Featuresurface modeling

When trying to create a standard feature like a fillet or draft between faces in a model, sometimes the command fails with a warning such as, "Invalid, Unable To Create Feature." It may suggest you try using a different setting or another tool to complete the task, yet additional attempts continue to fail.

In most cases, this is because the underlying calculation would result in a face that self-intersects or an edge where the algorithm is a division by zero. One way to work around this is to delete one or more of the complex faces and reconstruct it using surface modeling techniques then stitching the new surface to the existing model.

2. Imported (Dumb) Solid

Surface modeling imported (dumb) solidModels imported from another CAD system or neutral format usually open without the details of the features it’s comprised of. Trying to make changes to this type of geometry can be challenging, especially if the surfaces are complex. Surface modeling techniques can be used to delete and/or replace one or more faces of the model to make the desired changes.

3. Complex Organic ShapesSurface modeling complex organic shapes

There are times when solid modeling tools are not able to create the complex shape of a feature. This is another example where surface modeling techniques can help. While solid modeling tools build several sides of a shape at once, surface modeling tools let you build one face at a time so you can control the exact contour and direction of any face.

4. Reference/Construction Geometry

Surfaces are not limited to the direct construction of a model face. It can also be used as a reference geometry in an intermediate step towards the creation of the required model face.

5. Hybrid Modeling Techniques

Hybrid modeling is a combination of solid and surface modeling techniques to create a solid model. This advanced technique generally involves starting the model as a solid and using surfaces to modify it. Or, changing the solid to surfaces to shape and contour it, then changing it back to a solid when done.

Surface and solid modeling techniques Modeling with surfaces can be a bit more tedious since you are working on one face at a time rather than several at once like with solids. However, it may be difficult or even impossible to create some 3D models using only solid modeling techniques. Knowing both solid and surface techniques gives you a unique set of skills for modeling just about anything. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of both enables you to assess which technique will be helpful in a given situation.

>> Watch our On-Demand Webinar, Surfacing Tricks For Your Solid Designs

Putting It All Together

Not all 3D models can be created using just solid modeling tools. Solid models are really surface models taken to a higher level. If you already know solid modeling, learning surface modeling will help put you on track to becoming a master 3D modeler.

Want to learn more about surfacing? Check out our training schedule for SOLIDWORKS surface modeling classes near you.
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