Sweeps. That’s what we love. The stringy morsels of 3D modeling that makes a part all the more difficult (and interesting) to create. Sweeping a profile along a path couldn’t be easier in SolidWorks. A profile, a path, bend it to your will with a few guide curves – perfection achieved. But what if you need to sweep a profile along a non-planar edge? What if the profile needs to be centered or offset from the edge? There’s a very simple way to do it that can bring a lot more detail to that plastic part or profile design.

Fast, easy sweeps in SolidWorks

For this example, we’ll use a cylinder that has be penetrated by the gritty force of an oblong slot. You can download the SolidWorks 2010 example file to follow along. We’ll begin with the slot already cut. The next step is adding the sweep around the edge.

  1. Create a plane on the curve
    Select the edge you want to use as the guide for your profile and the vertex (endpoint) of that edge. Now, select the Plane command (Insert, Reference Geometry, Plane…). This tool will automatically create the plane normal to the curve you selected. Now you’re all set to create your profile.

  2. Sketch your Profile
    Start a sketch on the plane and sketch your profile. You’ll get better results with the sweep if the profile extends into the existing geometry. The center (or the endpoint) of the sketch does not have to sit directly on the edge youll be using as a guide. In this case, with the circular profile, we can center the circle on the middle of the face, offset from the edge we’ll use to sweep it.


  3. Sweep the path
    Using the Sweep command (Insert, Boss/Base, Sweep…), select your profile, then select the edge of the slot. In the Options, check the box that says Tangent Propagation. You may have to select a different edge for the tangent propagation to work.

Quick and easy, yeah? How do you use sweeps? Are there better ways to do this? This is fairly basic, but once you discover how sweeps act, what’s possible with them (and what’s not possible with them) some modeling you do will go much faster.

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Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, 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.