SOLIDWORKS, 3D CAD, Tech Tips

Control 3D Sketches with 3D Sketch Planes and Spline Tools

By Stephen Choi on December 10, 2021

Who should be using 3D sketches? Anybody who is working in SOLIDWORKS and has hit a point where 2D sketches just don’t cut it. Someone who needs to access 3D dimensions when creating weldments or structure systems into a design. It could also be someone who is working with tube and cable routing. Even though 3D sketches are classified as an advanced topic, it’s something that everybody might need to use at one point or another. It’s true, 3D sketches can get a little tricky to control, but here we’ll talk about some entry-level tools and different instances to use those tools so you can get the most from them.

Splines in a 3D Sketch

If you've worked with splines in a 3D sketch and dragged your sketch around in the 3D space, you may have noticed a little bit of difficulty getting things to go exactly where you want them to. This could be evident when creating tube or pipe routing or creating organic shapes. If you’re thinking there must be an easier way to design in 3D space, there is!

Spline with no control over 3D spaceTo start, the issue with free drawing sketch lines in 3D space is that you simply don't have a full 3D perspective when creating a line. It's still only 2D. As an example to the left, after sketching a few lines in 3D and rotating the design, I can see that this is absolutely not where I intended this to go. Maybe I can click and drag some points around, but if I mess with these a bit, I might see my spline distort in a way that is not intended.

3D Sketch Plane tool in toolbar

3D Sketch Plane

In the toolbar, there is a tool called 3D Sketch Plane. These planes are only available inside of a 3D sketch. When I click on this, I’m creating my typical reference geometry with the plane, and what this does is create a plane and highlights it in yellow, and also adds a grid that I can resize.

3D Sketch lines on a planeWith the 3D plane activated, the sketch lines that I’m drawing are being drawn directly on this 3D plane, and you can see that when rotating the design. If I want to deactivate that plane, I double click on the outside and now I'm working where I want inside of my full 3D sketch.

Resolve and Define

From this point, I can fully resolve and define this by adding smart dimensions to it. After reaching a fully defined state, I can deactivate all the planes that I have in my 3D sketch. I’ll then grab my spline tool and basically connect the dots. With this predefined path, it makes it much easier to draw, and as you can see, this is going to come out perfectly. And note that you can also apply relations to your spine handles and other entities inside of your sketch.

Adding tube in SOLIDWORKS

That was a quick introduction to splines in the 3D sketch. If you use 3D planes, I promise this whole process is going to become a lot easier for you when creating complicated tubing routes or organic shapes because of this control you now have over the design.

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