SPLINES! You say that too loud in a room full of structural engineers and you’ll either have 5 different types of guns pointed at you and a stapler in your forehead or… just… some very strange looks.

Nonetheless, you love Splines, or at the very least have a mild curiosity about them. A curiosity that has led you here. We can’t keep you from upsetting your co-workers with curviness, but we can show you how to control the curves and give you a little better understanding of how these sucka’s work.

Splines, Splines, Splines.

Generally speaking, if you don’t use splines, you hate them. If you do use them, you wish they were easier to control. Plus, if you’ve come from the realm of AutoCAD, you pretty much, automatically loath anything having to do with curved lines.

Splines in SolidWorks, however, have come a long way. They can be used for anything from cake molds to car design, tubing to turbo-props. It’s easy to plop down a few points and create a nice, curvy spline. The next step beyond that is controlling how those curves act. Here are six common and not so common ways to whip them into shape, literally.

Click to super-size all the screenshots below.

  1. Use Tangent Relations
    The first and most useful way of controlling splines. Create a Tangent relation by selecting the Spline and another sketch line or feature.
  2. Use an Existing Axis
    Make your Temporary Axes visible (View, Temporary Axes) then use those to create tangent relations.
  3. Use Construction Lines
    Besides using existing reference geometry like the axis, it’s very easy to control 3-dimensional Spline and the space they use with a simple set of construction lines.
  4. Use Existing Curvature
    If you already have curved geometry, you’ll have the option of adding an Equal Curvature relation.
  5. Use Dimensions on Spline Controls
    You can add dimensions to Spline Handles. If you don’t see the handles, select the dimension tool, click the Spline point, then select one of the the handles.
  6. Use Offset Planes
    My favorite approach. You can set planes up in a grid like layout, then use combinations of the above to help define your shape.

Have more? How do you control your curves?


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.