Creating External References in SOLIDWORKS: Using Existing Parts

By Danny Velicu on

Have you ever wanted to relate a part to another in SOLIDWORKS? Maybe you are making a bench that requires various hole locations for the slotted seats, or you’re trying to align hole locations to a baseplate for existing standoffs. Well, rather than making tedious calculations and measurements before transferring them to your part, you can make in-context relations within an assembly model! With a few easy steps you’ll be able to create external references between parts quickly and efficiently!

Step 1: Make your Assembly File

In order to relate your parts together, you need to create an assembly file where they both exist. Bring in all the parts that you’d like to relate to each other and then use mates to position them accordingly. Once your parts are aligned, decide which parts need external references and then click Edit Part.

Step 2: Edit your Part

Once you select Edit Part, ensure that the Part File is now shown in blue (assuming default color scheme settings) in the Feature Design Tree and that all other components become transparent within the assembly.  Now you should be able to create your own in-context edits. Use sketch tools like convert entities or sketch relations to add references to existing part locations within the assembly. This will allow you to align holes and features within the assembly without having to do any of the pesky calculations!

editing parts

Step 3: Confirm you’ve created your External References

Once you’ve finished making edits to your part, toggle off the Edit Component feature (located at the top left of the Assembly tab in the Command Manager). Your component should now show “->” next to the component file name. This indicates that this component has an external reference. You can now open that part file and view any changes made. Also, after opening the part file, note that you can see the same “->” next to any specific feature that uses a sketch referencing an external file.