Cut, trim, copy, paste, delete, trim, spin, slap, aRRRG! It’s the same teeth-gritting routine to get one edge to match another edge, one face to move with another. What we need is an easier way to get multiple parts to capture change and make that model rock your bosses eyes out of his ever loving skull.

SolidWorks makes this absolutely possible. There’s a handful of ways to do it, but they all require a little knowledge as to how they work.

So guess what? examples. Five of ’em. Ripe and juicy, oh, and simple.

Here’s the question:How do I make two parts match one profile?

It seems an easy question. What’s really being asked is – How do I make sure both parts stay the same? or how do I make assemblies update correctly? How do I capture change?

In the 3D world we’ve chosen to this is known as a parametric model right? You move a face and all the faces next to it know how to move. Interesting ways are being developed to make it easier for people to make this happen. In SolidWorks, the main approach to making parts parametric depends on the relations you use or the features you choose. (that’s clever huh, that rhyme thing… yeah.)

Let’s start super simple and then get all complicated. To capture change in SolidWorks parts you can use…

  1. A Sketch
    Control two parts with one sketch. These are commonly called layout sketches. Layout Sketches can also be created in assemblies, but this example shows a sketches in a separate part controlling the changes in two other parts.

    Since the parts only have references back to the sketches and not to the other parts. You can modify one part without worrying about changes to the other. Plus, if you change the sketch, both parts update.
    Download Sketch Example file (177kb – SolidWorks 2009)

  2. A Derived Sketches
    What’s better than creating the same sketch over and over? How about, not creating that sketch over and over? Derived sketches work in parts and assemblies.

    If you create complex sketches and find you would like to copy it somewhere else in the part or assembly, just call on the Disco Queen of features and use a derived sketch. Derived sketches are parametric copies of a seed sketch and capture the changes you make to the sketch they are linked to.
    Download Derived Sketch Example file (66kb – SolidWorks 2009)

  3. A Surface
    Now it starts getting fun. This is my favorite. Create a surface in a separate part, add it to an assembly and use those surfaces (offset, sweep, boundary) to control new parts.

    Surfaces can be used for a lot more than just creating complex geometry. They can be a phenomenal tool for defining boundaries and setting up geometry that doesn’t have mass. Defining multiple parts with one surface simplify the approach to capturing change by giving you control over multiple parts with a single surface feature.
    Download Surface Example file (324kb – SolidWorks 2009)

  4. A Plane
    Planes can be one of the most helpful features to define interactions between parts in an assembly. It’s common to use them in parts, but using them in assemblies to define an interaction is just cool, especially when using Instant3D.

    Instant3D allows you to adjust the dimension in the assembly controlling the plane. Just don’t overdo it them. It’s great to provide points of interaction, either for features or mating in parts, but if you’re having to set up a lot of planes for features, it’s my experience that there is probably a better way to model it.
    Download Plane Example file (324kb – SolidWorks 2009)

  5. A Multibody
    Creating a multibody part is like creating parts in an assembly, but it’s faster. After creating your first extrusion, you can turn each subsequent extruded feature into a separate ‘part’ – a body.
    It’s quick to create parametric concepts that can be saved out as separate parts.

    Mutlibodies are one of the best ways to create parts in context to each other. They can be frustrating with a lot of features, but if you have a good system for how to create multibody parts, you’ll be able to create models fairly quick.
    Download Multibody Example file (324kb – SolidWorks 2009)

There’s five ways to gain control of your design and capture change in parts and assemblies. There’s others too, but the five are the fist of features you can use to get a better model that works the way you want it to. How do you capture change in your parts and assemblies?

Photo Credit: darkpatator


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.