It’s inevitable. A hundred models of a screw and they’re all created a different way. I’m telling ya, it’s an open flesh wound just waiting to get infected.

Companies often jump into the 3D modeling fray without laying out an SolidWorks implementation plan. But, even when things are implemented correctly, the details of model creation get ignored. Suddenly, the gangrene set in, people are throwing up yesterdays models, and the productive energy is sucked right out of your design and engineering department. That is gross man.

Here’s an easy approach to stop the rot that plagues typical methods of no design practice or too many design practices. I imagine you have your own tricks too, so hit the comments and tell everyone what you and your company do to take on the task of creating the perfect design practice.

Learn from Others
The best place to start, is looking at examples others have done. Some people have years of experience at perfected their company practices. The Supplier Category at 3dContentCentral is the perfect place to see this. You can quickly see models and how others have created sets of similar components.

It’s really this simple to get started off right.

Fine tune the assembly and part structure
You may have several ways you create a model. You know which one is easiest to use, create configuration for and modify. That’s a pretty good example. Now, take that and clean it up even more. Some things I commonly do are:

  • Remove extra sketch geometry
  • Check how dimensions drive the part
  • Add text to dimensions for clarification
  • Move complicated features to bottom of FeatureManager
  • Name Features and Sketches
  • Create a Simplified Configuration
  • Make sure everything is mated

Yeah, it may be a little obsessive or anal, but if I’m managing a design group, I want them to have the best possible examples available. You will save time with this and also teach others good modeling technique.

Start everything with templates
You have some great examples now, but how do you make sure everyone uses the same models? For example, an amazing set of extrusions you’ve labored for days on only to find out others are creating monstrosities of the same items. Very quickly and calmly, put the models into a folder on the network and add it to the Design Library via Tools, Options, File Locations. Then let everyone know how to add that to their Design Library. That wound is starting to heal already!

Standardize a Library of Notes and Parts
I could have just said ‘create a library’, but go one step further, standardize it, and make sure everyone is using the same thing. The quickest way to do this is creating a drawing template that contains all the notes you use. It’s good for graphical type notes as well. Two other options are adding a Notes Library like Alex Ruiz discusses, or using a Macro like the CommonNotes Macro Lenny Kikstra has created.

Create a 10-step Training Document
We use to have a binder filled with engineering and modeling procedures where I work. I think it’s now slowly decaying in a closet somewhere. It was an over bloated document of modeling methodology and a maintenance nightmare. I knocked down several procedures into simple 10-step guides that were easier to use, easier to update and achieved better results. Here’s one example of 10 points I used to knock one binder down to a 3 sheet quick step how-to.

  1. Set up folder Structure
  2. Check-out Folders
  3. Create Assembly Structure
  4. Create Assembly Sketches
  5. Create Lower Assembly
  6. Create Top Assembly
  7. Create Top Installation
  8. Create Drawings
  9. Check Model and Drawing
  10. Check-in and Release

Ok, so all these extremely helpful tips go a long way to help a company use SolidWorks better, but one of the key factors to make all this happen is a passionate employee. A company can work at design practices for years in a 3D modeling system, trying to incorporate previous practices and getting a process together, but a single person familiar with the above ideas can turn an engineering and design group into a 3D-modeling force to be reckoned with.

Are you a CAD administrator? What tricks do you use to manage SolidWorks and your processes?


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.