solidworks-large-assembly.jpgOh boy, large assemblies. How incredibly fun and dreadful. It’s as if the rest of the day is slowly being eaten away by a horrible flesh-eating bacteria… that has given up flesh because of guilt and eats time…instead. Why?

A lot of people fear having to open a large assembly. I didn’t want to feel like that when I had to make a change to one part that affected an upper level assembly, so I came up with 5 ways to cut that silliness out.

A question
If it takes four engineers 15 minutes a piece to open an assembly, how soon till the water cooler and premium coffee disappear?

If your rate is $80/hr that starts chipping away at the margins pretty quick. Lets smash that to bits.

We’ll start out with some common sense and then get really weird.

  1. Simplify Configurations
    Easy enough right? Suppress this. Suppress that. Yell at someone for touching your screen. Finally, you can stop holding your breath and see if it opens faster. Uhhg. There’s just two things I do here to move a lot faster.

    1. Reduce edges on parts
    2. Reduce parts that are loaded

    You do this and then combine them into a simplified configuration and you’re already seeing improvements.

  2. Save as Part
    I love this one. I bet there are a lot of sub-assemblies you reuse. In SolidWorks, you can open an assembly and select File, Save as…, SolidWorks Part. This, of course, turns the entire assembly into a single part.I’ll save it in the same directory and give it the same custom properties as the original assembly. Combine this with the first one when you don’t need a lot of extra detail shown in the model for even more improvements.
  3. Remove All Degrees of Freedom
    This is a little more than just adding mates. Many times you’ll have nuts and bolts that are not locked down completely. SolidWorks has to solve the position of all those components. That’s why you’ll see the rebuild symbol next to something you’ve just moved or rotated.The best way is to not have mates. This is why I like working top-down with everything fixed. But when you need to mate things, fully mate them, so you don’t get those minus signs out in front.

    By the way, same goes for sketches. Lock those badboys down by fully defining them.

  4. Destroy the Design Binder
    Yeah, that thing is nasty. You may find one assembly locking up on a some parts when it’s loading. Look in the Design Binder (top of FeatureManager tree) of that part. You’ll probably find the entire company’s product catalog along with hi-res photos and contact info, like I did.While all that info is good and a new hire may think it useful, it kills assemblies when it’s tucked away in there. Better to make a reference folder in the same directory with the component or have another location for that info.
  5. Just Work on Small Assemblies
    My assemblies are typically broken down into several levels. When I’m doing a lot of heavy work only that area is loaded.Think about it. We’re only working on one area of the assembly at a time. Set your assemblies up in a manner that makes that possible.

    For example. If you need the frame of an Bulldozer loaded to work on the body that covers multiple areas, set up configurations for smaller sections to work in, or better yet design and drive it using sketches.

These are just a few ways that have helped me reduce load times and make it more fun to work on large assemblies in SolidWorks.

SolidWorks 2009 has some huge improvements in the areas of large assemblies, but these tips will always come in useful when you need to shave a few extra minutes off that 10th coffee break.

Is there anything you do to improve large assembly performance?

Photo Credit: Vermeer


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.