There is really an endless amount of interesting object you can make with SolidWorks and a lot of interesting and unusual way to get there. Some readers on the Most Obscure Feature Combo post had excellent ideas and I even got a few via email. This crazy spiral, by Jeff Mowrey (@idesignhaus on Twitter) of Industrial Designhaus, LLC, is one of them.

The way he went about creating it is very well thought out. Have any idea how it was done?

Take a guess in the comments and I’ll post the file for you to download. What about other helix and spiral-type features and parts? Are there easy ways to create them and use them in your designs?

Here’s a few examples for you to have a look at – examples of how you can create some complicated looking spirals within a single feature. Oh, and all the rendered images here… done with Photoview360 – the new rendering engine (from Luxology) that comes packaged with SolidWorks 2009 Professional and Premium. NICE.

Simple Twist Sweep

The most basic and simple way to get a helical, springy looking shape. A Path, a profile, and a sweep – Twist along path.
solidworks spring helix sweep
Download Simple Twist Sweep (798kb) SolidWorks09 File

Oval Curve Sweep

I’ve used this method on some lighting design and ideas for VIP yacht interiors. You can use a 3D sketch to make a curve as well.

Download Oval Curve Sweep (1263kb) SolidWorks09 File

Spline Twist Sweep

You can use this for the curvy bits on plastics bottles around the label areas. The secret is using compound curves for a path.
solidworks spring curve sweep
Download Spline Twist Sweep (292kb) SolidWorks09 File

Step Helix Sweep

Circular stairways in SolidWorks. This is the quick, easy way to get there.
solidworks circular stair sweep
Download Step Helix Sweep (265kb) SolidWorks09 File

Jeff’s Spiral Spiral Spiral

Now what would you use this for huh? Well, you can use the concept for items with decreasing radii.

Download SpiralSpiralSpiral (2770kb) SolidWorks09 File

ADDED!! – Hourglass Spring

Mia, down in the comments, asked how you would go about creating a spring in the shape of a hourglass. Here’s the image of it and the file download.
spiral hourglass spring helix
Download Hourglass Spring

Tips for spirals and helix

Helix or sweep? – A Helix gives you more control over pitch. A helix can lay the foundation for a sweep.
End in Mind – What shape are you trying to achieve. Start with that in mind.
Sketch it – The first curve you draw is most likely the path you’ll need.
Profiles – Curvy? Lay out multiple profiles on different planes to see what gets you close to your shape
Twist – Over extend it if necessary. You can always trim bits off.

Try working with the surfacing sweeps if you’re making fiberglass or plastic parts. If you don’t know it to well, you’ll learn what does and doesn’t work and what to ask. Don’t be afraid to try it new ways that make it easier. Ok, so I’m getting off into surfacing instead of these crazy helixes, but sometimes you just gotta rock it surface-style.

Ya got some helix, spiral, sweepy models? How the heck do you make them?


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.