So, last week I was bending up strips of sharp sheet metal with nothing but loud screams and occasional spewing of coffee from my nostrils when I got an email from a very cool ID chap asking about flattening an imported conical surface in SolidWorks.

I thought, this should be a cinch, opened it up in SolidWorks, hit a very large wall and spewed some more coffee… the surface was non-linear. Non-linear, meaning curved. Now what? Well there is an easy way to flatten this shape, but you may not like the results if you want a curved surface.

So, I ask you. How would you approach it? Here’s the sample part and the solution I came up with to flatten the conical surface very fast.

green arrowDownload the Non-linear Ring (SolidWorks 2010) and try for yourself.

One solution…

So,this surface has less edge than Ian MacKaye after Minor Threat, but we can still get a flat pattern out of it. My first thought was to use a Loft Bend sheetmetal feature. The only problem is, this feature doesn’t allow you to specify guide curves and you can only use a maximum of 2 sketches to define the loft.

There are likely multiple ways to tackle this and, really, the curve is so slight, the curve could be formed after the flat piece is bent into shape, but if you had to do this for a part that had a more drastic curve, how would you tackle it. Is it even possible?


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.