I’ve got an idea. Let’s make starting a project really easy. Throw a bid at the screen and watch the assembly build itself.

While that isn’t exactly happening (yet), SolidWorks Labs is stirring the boiling cauldron of 3D CAD efficiency in an attempt to bring that one step closer.

The Treehouse project allows you to build an assembly structure before modeling anything. Can it help? Yes, and here are 5 ways it will.

How Treehouse will optimize your design process
The main reason Treehouse is going to be useful is this. Now you have a quick way to create project assembly templates. This not only reduces the time it takes to set up an assembly structure, it helps with training new users, constructing bids, and defining task sets for employees.

The SolidWorks Treehouse Pane with a structure already defined.
The SolidWorks Treehouse Pane with a structure already defined. Simple drag and drop functionality to create, change and delete.

The first few steps of a project don’t always seem important, but they lay the ground work for how smooth the project will go. Treehouse can be part of each step along the way, from bidding to design reviews. Here’s how to make it work for you.

  1. Use it to aid the bidding process
    If you start defining the assembly structure at the beginning of the project, while the bid is being complete, it can help the person bidding define the scope of the project. If the person bidding and creating the assembly are the same, they can create all files necessary to start each model. For each unique assemlby, a template can be saved and reused on future projects.
  2. Reduce busy work
    If you’re the lead on the project, you’ll know a lot of time is wasted while designers consider all the factors to create an assembly structure so they can start modeling. Creating a Tree can take the guess work out of the hands of the design engineer so he can start modeling with a view of the structure already defined.
  3. Capture the design
    If you’re working on a main assembly, Treehouse sets up all the sub-assemblies, drawings and parts that feed into it. As other people finish the parts and sub-assemblies of the design, those pieces show up in the main assembly – fit, assembly sequence or any design issues can then be viewed and resolved much quicker.
  4. The structure in Treehouse and the structure created in SolidWorks
    The structure in Treehouse and the structure created in SolidWorks.
  5. Sets up a methodology
    Whether it’s top-down modeling or bottom up, you have a structure to collect all the parts. Defining a structure up front is crucial from a top-down perspective. If a sketch or envelope is being used to drive sub-assemblies and parts, creating a tree and using templates speeds up the process. The top assembly also aids as a check for the methodology to see if each person is following it correctly.
  6. Start at Design Reviews
    Sometime deisgns get revamped during reviews or kick-offs. It’s easy to write out a structure when designs are being reviewed, but to actually start modeling the structure and show it to the attendees can illustrate how a project is going to be complete and how items will be assembled. You’re able to rearrange the structures you create with Treehouse. This can be a big aid in those long meetings and reduce any confusion about the assembly structure.

So there are five things that Treehouse can help you with. I imagine there are more depending on how your processes are already set up. What other way could it help?

Key functionality in Treehouse
The functionality is easy, really basic. It’s mostly all drag and drop with a few buttons.

  • Zoom in/out and with scroll wheel
  • Pan with left mouse button
  • Drag and Drop to rearrange tree structure
  • Save different assembly structure as templates
  • Creation of assembly hierarchy

Needed Improvements?
It’s the first version of this from SolidWorks Labs. Here’s some improvements I see. Any others?

  • Print structure
  • Use actual custom properties
  • View properties on mouse over
  • More options for properties, file locations,
  • Allow multiple folder locations to be specified
  • Allow existing parts/assemblies/drawings to be specified
  • Update structure already created

Have you mastered the art of defining an assembly structure? How could Treehouse help you?


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.