SOLIDWORKS, Technical Communication

What is SOLIDWORKS Composer and How Does it Work?

By Chris Mowatt on June 13, 2022

So, what is SOLIDWORKS Composer and how can it be utilized to improve your overall design and engineering process? This is the question that we will seek to answer in this blog. Generally, Composer is a highly capable illustration software that directly utilizes your 3D CAD to quickly ‘compose’ imagery, video and interactive content to serve a variety of needs in a company. You can think of it as a 3D PowerPoint for your SOLIDWORKS models, where you use simple tools to create crisp visuals to convey information about your designs. As an engineering tool, Composer is purpose built to communicate technical information in the clearest way possible. As it turns out, this lends to quite a variety of use cases.

solidworks composer

Composer is best known for being a tool to develop step-by-step instructions of some process related to your design. Assembly instructions are a common use case. While this is true, and is certainly Composer’s strong point, it would be an injustice to not discuss the other powerful ways it can be utilized within a company. In this blog, we’ll begin with covering some general benefits of Composer followed by a review of eight ways that companies can take full advantage of SOLIDWORKS Composer.

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General Benefits

  • In addition to importing your SOLIDWORKS CAD files, Composer also imports all custom properties embedded in the SOLIDWORKS Components. This makes it easy for the user to call upon component descriptions, part numbers, etc. to quickly add labels, callouts and associated BOM tables without hard keying information.
  • Composer allows ‘Rendering Styles’ to be applied to your 3D model, allowing users to have a consistent aesthetic to their illustrations. You can choose to represent the model exactly as it looks in SOLIDWORKS or simplify the detail, so it is easier to comprehend. Companies like IKEA take this methodology to heart with their instructions having a ‘cartoon’ look to only include the necessary detail for performing the task at hand. IKEA utilizes Composer in this way to produce and update instructions for their 3,500+ products every year.
  • Conveying motion and how components interact with each other can be a challenge to illustrate through static images, but Composer has extremely powerful authoring tools to make this a breeze. The secret lies within the arrows that can be associated directly to the model geometry in Composer. Linear and circular arrows can be aligned with model edges and faces, and the arrows will move with the components to which they are associated. While being easy to place and adjust, these arrows have special functionality to always stay flat to the computer screen. This means the arrows looks great from every angle and are immediately image ready.
  • In addition to images, Composer can also output animations in the form of video or, interactively, through the free Composer Player. Just like images, animations are simple to create in Composer and will provide the same, unified, aesthetic that is critical in a professional publication.
  • Finally, Composer can be synced to your SOLIDWORKS models to accommodate design changes. Composer can update the model to reflect the changes in SOLIDWORKS, sparing you the rework that would otherwise be required using other software.
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Use Cases for Composer

  1. Assembly

Whether internal to your company or outwardly facing to your customers, assembly/disassembly instructions for a product will usually be required. With Composer, it is easy to generate these instructions with simple images to guide the reader through each step with clarity.
  1. Manufacturing

It is important to provide as clear instruction as possible when working in a manufacturing environment. An equipment operator, for example, will often have complex tasks to perform in a potentially chaotic environment. Composer can solve this again with simplified illustrations to keep the operator’s attention where it is needed.
  1. Technical Documentation

Technical illustrators will understand the pain of having to develop instructions for a design that has potential to change. Depending on the method used to create the illustrations, there could be an extensive amount of rework required. With Composer, this is not an issue as the technical illustrators can work with the confidence that they’ll be able to update the model without losing their existing progress.
  1. Training

Composer’s ability to produce animations in the form of video and interactively, through Composer player, means that complex and/or repetitive tasks can be easily illustrated. Whether it is for new employees or getting everyone up to speed on a new product line, you’ll get everyone trained faster than ever with self-guided training content made possible with Composer.
  1. Post-Sales

Replacement part manuals and self-service instructions are common to be shipped with a new product. If they aren’t physically included with the product, this type of documentation will usually exist online. Either way, it can be laborious to develop this technical content and it is vital that your customer can make sense of the documentation. Again, Composer will provide this ability by making direct use of the 3D CAD to produce illustrations that match exactly what the customer sees.
  1. Marketing

Illustrations created with Composer don’t just have to serve a technical need. By using stylized rendering styles and materials, Composer is more than capable of generating attractive imagery suitable for marketing collateral. You can include reflections, shadows, and realistic materials to provide a look suitable for the cover images of your documents or media for your website.
  1. Sales

Depending on the product, it may not be possible for a sales team to show the physical product, or even just photographs, to prospects. If it is impractical or impossible to convey the design in person, your best option is to leverage a digital medium. Composer delivers this ability in many ways. Prospects will appreciate the clear illustrations, detailed animations and rich interactive content made possible with Composer.

  1. Quotation

Pre-sales engagements can make or break a relationship with a prospect and delivering the right amount of information is key. With Composer, you can include beautiful graphics in your quotes to balance out the technical information that can clutter up a document. Your quote will certainly stand out with Composer’s professional level illustrations distinguishing your company from the competition.

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We’ve reviewed the many uses that a company can find for Composer in their day-to-day business and the list is extensive. While we’ve covered eight potential areas that a company can take advantage of Composer, there are countless possibilities when it comes to such a capable SOLIDWORKS tool. If any of this is of interest to you and you’d like to learn more, please reach out to us and we’ll be happy to talk about how you’ll benefit from SOLIDWORKS Composer!

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