If you are trying to color your models to make them look real, this is probably not for you. But – If you just want colors – any colors – fast – this is for you.

This SolidWorks macro automates assigning colors to Parts and Sub-Assemblies from within an Assembly.

Colors can be assigned at two levels:
1) Part Level
2) Assembly Level

There are two sources to generate various colors:
1) Random Color(s)
2) User Select Color(s)

There are three MAKE – modes:
1) All Selected Components the Same Color
2) All Selected Components have Various Colors
3) Various Colors – Except, Consecutive and Identical Components have the same color


SolidWorks Assembly: Virtual Component Not Found?

Original article written by Nick Beattie, republished with permission of Symmetry Solutions.  Image added by Matthew Lorono. 

Having problems opening legacy assemblies that had parts saved internally? If you’re getting the “Unable to locate the file…” error referencing a temporary folder, your problem might be in the naming!

In SolidWorks 2009 and prior, you could rename the entire extension of the virtual component saved within the assembly.  For example a virtual part named “[vpart1^assembly1]” could be renamed to “[Vpart^Assy]” or simply “[vpart].” It was also possible that while doing a Pack and Go, the assembly would be renamed, but not the virtual component. Starting in 2010, this was changed so that only the “part” portion of the name could be changed. A virtual component named “[vpart1^assembly1]” can only have the “vpart1” portion renamed, while the “^assembly1” will always be the same as the assembly it is stored in.

If the legacy file you’re trying to open in SolidWorks 2010 or newer has had the assembly portion of the component renamed, it will not recognize it as a virtual component and will try to find the file. To get the file to open properly in 2010 and later, you will have to go back and open the part in 2009 and find the virtual part. Any parts shown with brackets such as [vpart] will need to be renamed to have the full current assembly name after the carrot. If you assembly is named “assy123” the virtual component needs to be named “[vpart^assy123].” Save the assembly with the renamed component. Now your assembly should open properly and recognize the virtual component!

Hidden SolidWorks Commands – compiled by Scott Baugh

SolidWorks Help file is notoriously unhelpful at times.  It has evolved over the years to improve its usefulness.  However, there are still many under-documented functions within the Help file or commands that are completely undocumented.  One day in January 2011, Scott Baugh asked a sincere and innocent question in the SolidWorks area on Eng-Tips.

Does anyone no (sic) where I can find a document with hidden SW commands. There are some key strokes and commands in SW that are not always listed in the help, or if they are they are overlooked very easy (sic).

From there, a long thread of comments grew.  Someone mentioned that users can print out a list of keystroke assignments.  This isn’t what Baugh was looking for. 

Then, the list of “hidden SolidWorks commands” began as people submitted commands they felt were obscure or impossible to find in the SolidWorks Help file.  It wasn’t long before Baugh offered to compile the list into a document.  At first, the idea was to build the list in a discrete document.  However, Deepak Gupta suggested GoogleDocs. 

From there, Baugh built the list of “hidden SolidWorks commands”.  There were three types of items added to the list:  commands that are truly undocumented, commands that are under-documented (full functionality isn’t described), and commands that were too hard to find within the documentation.

Baugh then brought the topic over to the SolidWorks Forums, where the discussion further exploded.  SolidWorks staff chimed in to address several points, but also to learn.  Jim Wilkinson provided several detailed responses to help bring clarity to the conversation.  Through his efforts, he also discovered several areas where improvement to the SolidWorks Help file is needed. 

The Hidden SolidWorks Commands list is now a treasure of numerous golden nuggets.  It’s not long, yet it can take awhile to fully explore.  Check it out.  If you have any further suggestions, feel free to leave a comment here, or in either the SolidWorks Forum thread or the Eng-Tips thread.

Hidden SolidWorks Commands

What’s New? for SolidWorks 2012 (a most tasty & complete list from SWW11 )

2012Some say the world will end in 2012.  There are a lot of books being rushed to market right now that make some amazing claims about what’s going to happen just 22 months from now (Dec 21, 2012).  SolidWorks Corp seems gleefully oblivious to all of this hoopla, as they have put a lot of effort to bring new capabilities to SolidWorks 2012.  Here  are some highlights.

There’s a few generic user interface capabilities to be added:

  • A pushpin function will be added to allow users to put choice drawings, models or assemblies in a quick access flyout menu.
  • Users can now switch between units of measure via a selection tool added to the status bar.
  • A new command filter search will be added to allow users to search for SolidWorks commands on-the-fly (has opposed to stumbling around the Help file).
  • Selecting an item in the graphics view will highlight it and zoom to it within the feature tree (finally!).

Sheet metal will see several improvements:

  • Users will be able to choose faces to ignore in flat patterns.
  • Swept flange feature will be available.  They will be flattenable.
  • Tangent Flange position function.
  • Users will be able to set flanges parallel to a sketch.

Improved equations dialog boxBig news about equations:

  • Improved equation editor, with solve order and sort.
  • Global variables are now editable via the equation editor window.
  • Auto-rebuild for immediate implementation of changes.

On drawings:

  • BOMs will be insertable without having a pre-selected view.
  • Exploded views will be an option in the View Pallet.
  • Balloon order sequencing will be available, with the ability to number around a view from any start location.
  • Magnet Lines!!! (someone at SolidWorks Corp. was listening)
  • Unused View Label letters will be automatically reused.
  • Ability to add center marks to entire view.

Assembly will have a new Design Review mode that allows users to open and explore large assemblies without all the overhead lag.  This function will include the ability to conduct walk-throughs.

In an apparent extension of functionality added with SustainabilityXpress, SolidWorks 2012 will give users the ability to conduct manufacturer part costing.

New motion sensors will be added for actuator forces, baring loads and travel limits.

And now, the much hyped changes to be made in SolidWorks 2012:

  • Feature Freeze (they are going to try implement it again).
  • Complete Uninstall, with new options that allows for more control.  Also, uninstall function will be available from Admin Image.
  • Files will be cleared from memory when they are closed.
  • Dual monitor support will allow SolidWorks to span across two displays in a logical manner.

3DVia can do it, so why not SolidWorks?

3DVia Composer3DVia Composer demonstrations have been all the rage at official SolidWorks and VAR events over the past year or so.  I’m getting quite familiar with 3DVia Composer just from the demos (I’ve never used it).  The more I see it, the more I realize just how much SolidWorks lacks in how it handles assemblies.

The past is the past

At one time, there was a function in SolidWorks that would allow the user to auto-explode their assembly.  The problem with this function is that it never worked well enough to be of much use.  As a result, the auto-explode function is not longer included in SolidWorks.

3DVia does it, so let’s improve SolidWorks

In demo after demo of 3DVia Composer, I see a milieu were assemblies are exploded and rearranged with superb ease.  This same ease should be available in SolidWorks assemblies!

Examples of 3DVia functions that should be added to SolidWorks assembly mode.

  • Ability to explode groups of parts within an assembly with one motion
  • Spherical explode
  • Onion skin mode

Magnet Lines

One new function in 3DVia Composer that should be added to SolidWorks drawing mode is the Magnet Line.   This allows the user to place one line (Magnet Line) on the drawing, then automatically attach to it a whole series of balloons so that they all are centered on that line.  The Magnet Line can then be moved around at any angle.  Regardless to the angle, all of the balloons remained aligned to each other by their common connection to the Magnet Line.

3DVia Composer Magnet Line

In fact, maybe Magnet Line shouldn’t be limited to just aligning balloons.  Maybe it can be used to align any type of annotations.  Maybe the Magnet Line can be made to affect annotations by their start, end or centers.  If sophisticated enough, maybe the Magnet Line can completely replace the outdated MS-Office style alignment tools now available in SolidWorks drawing mode.

SolidWorks 2011: Defeature Feature

There’s a new tool in SolidWorks called Defeature. Although the Defeature feature has a seemingly counter-intuitive and oxymoronic name, this new tool garnered the most excitement from the Press at this year’s SolidWorks 2011 Launch Event.  Defeature creates simplified versions of models or assemblies that are easier to share, use, and also protect design details which may represent intellectual property.

Defeature for parts

In a part, Defeature allows the user to replace details (such as features and surfaces) with dumb solids (solids without feature definition or history).  With a model open, goto Tools pulldown>Defeature.

Defeature part

Defeatured model - before and after

The Defeature tool workflow may be straightforward for simple parts.  However, the selection/deselection process can be laborious for complex parts.  Once the user has selected the preserved features, they may save the results to a new file or upload the model directly to 3D Content Central.  The new file will not be linked to the original file.  It will only contain one feature called Imported1.

Defeature for assemblies

If Defeature only simplified individual models, it wouldn’t be all that impressive.  Defeature also works with assemblies!  It has several options that facilitate the selection/deselection process.  With an assembly open, goto Tools pulldown>Defeature.


Defeatured assembly - before and after

The assembly Defeature workflow allows the user to select/deselect whole components based on certain criteria, including the removal of all internal components or components that are less than a certain percentage of the overall assembly.  There’s more!

Defeature allows the user to preserve motion within the assembly, even with a significant number of details removed from the assembly.  For example, an assembly model of motor may be heavily simplified while still allowing its parts to move in the same fashion as they do in the original fully detailed assembly.  This well help suppliers provide fully functional assembly models while protecting their designs from competitors or other copycats.  The Defeatured assembly may be saved in the same manner as parts.  Components will be saved as virtual parts within the assembly file.

What others are saying about Defeature

  • Josh Mings on his blog awarded his Best New Feature Award to Defeature tool for parts and separately for assemblies.  He also stated on SolidWorks Heard! that the Defeature tool “prolly has the most buzz out of all the new stuff that’s being added” in SolidWorks 2011.
  • Brad Holtz noted in his tweet, “SolidWorks 2011 defeaturing does not lose mates, rotation, and other operational data,” and separately speculated, “looked like it came from 3Dvia composer.”
  • Ricky Jordon declares, “this tool allows you to convert an assembly to automatically create a ‘dumbed down’ model” on this blog, and also tweeted, “Defeature might just end up being the most under appreciated feature of the SolidWorks 2011 Release. Lots of capability!”
  • Kevin de Smet off-handedly commented on, “…I can see Defeature as a useful addition to the software…”.
  • Alex Ruiz lamented in his tweet, “I think the defeature tool would be really cool with a slider that goes from more or less features and you see the change dynamically.”
  • Jon Larrea celebrated Defeature in a tweet, “La opción ‘Defeature’ es asombrosa… y necesaria.” This roughly translates as, “The tool ‘Defeature’ is amazing… and necessary.”
  • Brian McElyea briefly mentioned the tool in this first blog post about the SolidWorks 2011 launch.
  • Guilherme Kastner states, “…a SolidWorks muito está se preocupando em ajudar quem está interessado em publicar arquivos para biblioteca Web.”  This very roughly translates as, “SolidWorks is concerned with helping those who wish to publish their models to libraries on the Web.”