Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Using SOLIDWORKS (Part Two)

By TriMech on

In our previous blog post, our software team shared with you some of the most useful tips they wished they knew when they started using SOLIDWORKS. In this continuation, we’ll take a look at what TriMech’s hardware team wished they knew when they started using SOLIDWORKS, and how some software updates have helped them in their pre-printing process.

Global Variables

When looking back on my CAD experiences before taking the SOLIDWORKS Essentials Class, I often found myself with the same time-consuming chore – redrawing a near-identical model, but with a few simple dimensional changes. Whether it was variations in hole-spacing or changing the tolerance on two tightly fitting parts, I would waste time digging through features making changes to my file that would inevitably break my model.

Then I learned about global variables; these allow me to set variables that I can later change from one central table, therefore, driving the dimensions of my model. Now, whenever I model something that I think will need to be revisited, I set key dimensions (hole sizes, offsets, spacing, etc.) by defining variables under the Equations command. Instead of setting a hole at 0.25” diameter that I think might change in the future, I make a variable called “HoleDiameter1” and set its value to 0.25”. If I find that my hole needs to change (maybe it was too tight or too loose), I can simply go into the ‘Equations Command’ and change the value of “HoleDiameter1” to 0.23” and all of my sketches and features referencing “HoleDiameter1” will change and drive my model for me with the need to manually edit my sketches and features. 

Global Variables in SOLIDWORKS

3D Textures in SOLIDWORKS

In SOLIDWORKS 2019, the ability to add 3D textures was added. This is a brand new feature, but I wish it was around when I first started using SOLIDWORKS. For users who utilize 3D printing, this allows for them to easily add textures to surfaces for an added look, feel or grip. This process would normally have taken a lot more time in CAD or exporting your file into another program for further processing, which comes with additional costs. Since the feature is added directly to the .SLDPRT file, it can be easily transferred to print preparation software like GrabCAD Print.

Using the Scale Tool

Sometimes you may need to scale your model for other things, such as 3D printing at half scale, printing smaller preliminary test parts or simply doing a conversion from inches to meters. This can be done in your print software, but this can limit your options. For example, you can typically only scale the part uniformly in print software and this can make some areas of your part too thin if you scale down. Editing the part in SOLIDWORKS allows you to scale both uniformly and non-uniformly.

The Scale tool is not on the default features toolbar, so you can either use the search command bar to find it when you need it or add it to your toolbar (which is what I do). By deselecting the “Uniform Scaling” option, you can enter in ratios for the scale vector of your choosing. This allows you to scale for any specific stretch direction of your want. You can also scale the model about the origin, which allows you to scale the whole model in relation to the origin (rather than the center of mass) even if the origin is outside of the part.

>> Click here to watch our Video Tech Tip, Using the Scale Tool in SOLIDWORKS

3D Printing With Native SOLIDWORKS Files (Not .STL)

Of all the great advancements in 3D printing hardware and CAD software tools, the process of printing a file has not seen much activity since the .STL file was adopted as an industry standard. The process of creating an .STL file involves converting curved surfaces into an approximate surface using triangles. Depending on the number of triangles, these approximations can range both in quality and file size, with the trade-off usually being made automatically in the software.

Different Sphere Sizes in SOLIDWORKS

Recent updates to GrabCAD Print software have allowed users to import native CAD files when printing, which is a huge improvement over the .STL export process. While most software will convert a CAD file into an .STL file, there is still some geometry and information lost during this conversion process. The biggest loss is the ability to address an object by faces or surfaces, which is possible when exporting a CAD file, but not an .STL file. Using a CAD file means you can add material where you need it, subtract from where you don’t and modify an object in ways previously impossible.

>> Click here to learn more about GrabCAD’s latest update

GrabCAD Update

As a SOLIDWORKS user, this means I am able to export an .SLDPRT or .SLDASM straight into my printing software without having to convert to an .STL mesh first. This is a huge time-saver and reduces the confusion around version control when working with multiple iterations of a single part. I can now simply drag my updated file into GrabCAD Print and get instant feedback on the model by using the toolpath visualization tool before printing. If you use SOLIDWORKS, this is a great tip for you to remember!

GrabCAD Print Update

Ready to learn more time-saving tricks for SOLIDWORKS? Click below to download our infographic, SOLIDWORKS 2019 Hotkeys.