Five minutes from now, you will know two ways to recess a surface in SolidWorks. They won’t necessarily crush your skull, but they may expand it slightly by enriching your mind with the power of sketch, surface and split face features.

It seems like there should be one feature to recess a surface in SolidWorks. It’s simple on a flat surface, a cut with a draft. But for a curved surface? Now, that’s a whole other beast and requires much more than one feature to create. Fortunately, you have at least two methods. Let’s Rock.

More Than One Way To Skin a Skull

Last week Cris Rose, asked how to go about recessing a surface in SolidWorks. It’s a great question and also a chance to show some new features that are going to help you do it MUCH easier in SolidWorks 2010. We’ll be using the Hack-a-day logo to get this tutorial kicked of right.

As stated, we’ll look at two ways to do this. There are benefits to each and each show how the process could be improved. We’ll touch on that later, but for now here are the two three options available for recessing a surface in SolidWorks.

Option 1: Offset Surface

When all you have are surfaces, use this option to recess any type of odd shaped surface. Here are the steps:

  1. Project a Split Line of your sketch onto the surface (Insert, Curve, Split Line… Projection)
  2. Offset (Copy) the Split Faces the depth of your recess(Insert, Surface, Offset…)
  3. Delete the original split faces(Insert, Face, Delete…)
  4. Loft between profiles(Insert, Surface, Loft…) When Lofting use the SelectionManager (Right-click on profile edge, select Open Surface option)
  5. Knit your surface (Insert, Surface, Knit…)

Total Rebuild Time: 4.53 seconds

green arrow downloadDownload File: Surface-Recess-01.sldprt (SolidWorks 2010)

Option 2: Thicken-Cut Surface

Fewer Steps, faster rebuild. This option comes with much thanks to Charles Culp via the SolidWorks Forums. Whether you start with a solid or if you thicken a Surface half-way through your modeling process, the same process applies. This method will not work if all you have are surfaces.

  1. Project a Split Line of your sketch onto the surface (Insert, Curve, Split Line… Projection)
  2. Offset (Copy) the Split Faces a depth of zero (Insert, Surface, Offset…)
  3. Cut-Thicken each open profile (Insert, Cut, Thicken…)

Total Rebuild Time: 1.75 seconds

green arrow downloadDownload File: Surface-Recess-02.sldprt (SolidWorks 2010)

Option 3: 3D Sketch with Draft

Here is one more option courtesy of Mark Biasotti, Product Manager of New Product Concepts at SolidWorks. It takes a tad longer to rebuild, but if you really need those drafts in there, it’s absolutely the quickest way to go about doing it. Thanks Mark.

  1. Create single Spline curve feature in 2010
  2. Create a 3Dsketch and convert entities on all contour and extrude with 5 degree draft
  3. Reselect inner contours and extrude with draft up to body

Total Rebuild Time: 13.23 seconds

green arrow downloadDownload File: Surface-Recess-03.sldprt (SolidWorks 2010)

The ‘Pull’

About Draft
I realize this isn’t going to the first two options will not be suited for injection molding at this point. In the case of adding draft, use the third option. The first option works, but you need trim off a little bit of the profile before creating the lofts. In the second option, ideally you would be able to add draft to the Cut, but the Cut-Thicken options doesn’t have that functionality. For a shallow recess like these, you shouldn’t need much of a draft, maybe 0.5 -1.0 degree.

Better Ways to Recess a Surface?
The ideal way to create a recessed surface like the above examples, with a single feature, would simply be to allow the Wrap feature (emboss/deboss option) to function on a spherical/toroidal face. Oh, with multiple open profiles and the option to add draft. It seems to me that this functionality is already there with the features used above. They just need pushed into that single feature.

New Sketch, Split Line, Surface Features for SolidWorks 2010

These examples used new features available only in the 2010 version. Without them, you would either spend hours on workarounds or just not create a recessed surface. All together, these examples took 14 minutes to create and fiddle around with. Here are the 3 features in SolidWorks 2010 you’ll definitely love when it comes to working with curved faces.

Sketch Move/Resize
You may have noticed a box with handles around the sketch. When a sketch is undefined, this shows up when the sketch is selected. It allows you to quickly scale and move it. This is absolutely incredible for working with imported sketches.

Multiple Profiles for Split Lines
You may have also noticed the Hack-a-day logo has multiple profiles, but in the FeatureManager only one Split Line feature is shown. In SolidWorks 2010, you can now project multiple profiles onto a face.

New Surface Knit Tolerance
At the end of the first example, you knit all the surfaces together. In the past, this was a pain. It either worked or told you it couldn’t knit the surface. Now you have tolerances adjustment for gaps. Adjusting it slightly in this case, allowed the surface to resolve and the Knit feature to work extremely smooth.

A Better Way to Recess a Surface?

These are just two ways to go about recessing a surface for logos, text or simple indentations on complex faces. However, there could be other ways to do it. Any suggestions for a process that makes this easier? What if you wanted to make a gradual or sloped recess? Any ideas?

green arrow downloadHack-a-Day Logo DXF Download


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.