You suppress one feature and everything underneath it gets suppressed. You cringe, a volcano erupts under the sea and five babies are born, slapped and all at once and named Llyod. Don’t you wish those ornery SolidWorks Features would just behave sometimes?

Well there just so happens to be, not one, but two single ways to make sure your features will always work for the configuration you need them in. What is it?? We could choke it up to ‘having a plan’ but that just won’t do. We need specifics and that’s what we’re about to drop on ya.

Now, if you use configurations, within the mayhem of part version creation and feature suppression, you’ll know creating features to work well with those configurations can be a fine art. Fortunately, there’s the FeatureManager and a nice little thing called history.

The history (stack of features) can cause some pain, but it can also allow you to manipulate and locate feature to work perfectly for what you need to show in each configuration. That’s a single thing, but not the two single things we need to focus on.

The two ways to set up features for making them more useful in configurations are…

Separation and Elimination

How to determine where to put features for configurations
Ahhhh, they go together like fine wine and dancing. Whether it’s to simplify complex models or show a process, being able to choose features for configurations can be tricky. If you ever think a feature may need to be controlled by a certain configuration, stick to the following.


Make sure the feature is created as a separate feature
Keep holes separate from extrudes. Keep fillets and radii out of sketches.


Eliminate (or reduce) references from other feature
If you need to suppress a feature that helps locate a hole, you can either create a reference plane that both can use or reference the sketch plane or dimensions off another feature.

Looking into it deeper

We can keep those two things in mind when creating parts, but do you first figure out what features you need to control or what configurations you need?

For me, it makes more sense to set up configurations I’ll need. For example, if I need a “Simple” configuration, I know I need to be able to suppress certain features in order to simplify the part. If I need a “Manufacturing Process – Step 1” I know I need to separate certain features from others.

What kind of Configurations do you need?
First determine what types of configurations you’ll be adding. Companies have different aspects of design, engineering and manufacturing they need to document. Thinking along these lines can help you figure out what configurations may be needed. Here’s some example of what you may need to create configurations for.

Configurations for:

  • manufacturing phase
  • drawing views
  • assembly process
  • simplicity
  • version control
  • material layup

I work with a standard set of generically named configurations. These are a few configurations that should work within any industry, organization or process that wants to get more out of configurations.

  • Complete
  • Drawing
  • Simple

Complete Рevery feature  shown
Drawing – only features shown that need to be visible on a drawing
Simple – a simplified version showing only basic features

It’s (usually) easy to know what features I’ll have in these configurations, but occasionally some more thought will need to be applied, like knowing exactly what relations to create? Sometime you need one feature to define another feature. In this case you may need to use or create a base feature (plane, axis, or sketch) that multiple features can reference without being tied to one another.

When it Doesn’t work out
Occasionally, you’ll have those times where features were created together or get suppressed because they relate to another item being suppressed. In those instances, you can do a couple things.

  1. Change the defining sketch to construction and use it to locate new features
  2. Redefine a sketch plane or sketch relation by setting up new features

I will hardly ever just delete a feature and start over. It pretty easy to see where features are defined. To see where features have relations there’s also a couple things you can do.

  1. Drag the feature in the FeatureManager tree and see what feature you can’t move it past
  2. Delete a defining features and see which features get error (quickly undo after – Ctrl-Z)

How do you control your feature for use in Configurations?
There’s other ways, much depending on what product your creating or what the data needs to do. Feature dependency and sketch relations are just two aspects of what configurations states rely on, but probably one of the most important to understand and master.

Image via Flickr


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.