I occasionally choose to point the fire hose of SolidWorks tips and information into an unsuspecting person’s face without realizing how overwhelming it can be.

A few hours later I see the the expressionless blank stare of a skinless and slightly tattered face gazing, begging me to stop.

A few tips to simply get started will do just fine, thank you.

The Top 12 SolidWorks Tips
Some of you have a bunch of tips for new users, and some of you wish those people would stop the flow of info for a few minutes while you catch up. So, I stopped, sat down and wrote out my top 12 favorite SolidWorks tips. The first tips I thought of that I would want anyone to know that is just starting out or wants better results out of SolidWorks.

Group project
Ya know what… for a little fun, I may turn this into a group project. If you have better tips that make more sense, I’ll replace some of mine or add yours to the rest. We’ll keep it under twenty for now and keep the fire hose at a small trickle. Here are the top 12.

Tips for Sketches

  • Add relations, then dimensions
    This will keep you from having to many unnecessary dimension. For me, this help to show the user how to build intent models much better. I dimension what geometry I intend to modify or adjust.
  • Link Dimensions
    You can select two dimensions, right-click on the and select Link Values to control both dimensions. Think of a cube. Link all three dimensions controlling it, you change one and all update. No equations required. This really helps when modifying thickness of parts.
  • Use Sketch Patterns to Control Features
    I’ve written about this in a previous post. This prevents 1) a lot of extra features to manage and 2) a lot of extra mates to manage. Basically, you’ll save time by creating a sketch pattern to copy features and using a component pattern to copy components. It’s fast and simple.
  • Use symmetry
    If possible and if it makes sense, model things symmetrically around the origin using the Symmetric relation. Even if the part is not symmetrical, the way it attaches or is manufactured will have symmetry. This shows those aspects of the design process have been considered.

Tips for Parts

  • Model around the origin
    This is great for beginners because it gives them a point of reference. It’s also great for experts for the same reason. I really don’t know how else you would start, but sometimes I see parts that are just drawn out in open space. Maybe I’m too structured, but please, for my sanity, lock things down to the origin.
  • Create and name configurations
    It’s one thing to create configurations of a part. It’s a whole other mess to make sure it’s named and uses all the correct custom properties. Set up a procedure for this so it’s the same across the company. For example, if your main part is a 555A8-001, name the configurations 555A8-002, 555A8-003, etc., instead of version 1, version 2 etc. It’s just dang easier to determine what is being used.
  • Create a Library
    Yeah, this is one of those things that takes time to set-up and do, but you’ll be happy about it after. Even with the disect tool in 2008, I still find it better to have a folder in the Design Library that is a common location for the entire company for parts, assemblies and templates that have gone through a check process and are modeled correctly.
  • Manufacture it
    Look at it from a manufacturing perspective. Not necessarily how someone in a shop would make it, but how you would make it too. Are the features able to be made? Does it need a relief cut? Is that draft sufficient?

Tips for Assemblies

  • Mate to a central part
    This is particular to bottom-up assemblies, the type you throw parts into and mate to each other. All your mates should lead back to one central component. For example, two brackets are attached together. Lock the main bracket down to the origin. Mate the other bracket to the first one instead of to the origin. Just think of how parts are actually interfacing with each other and mate them accordingly.
  • Make simplified configurations of assemblies
    It’s easy to open an assembly in View-only mode or Selective open mode, but it can be even more useful to create a configuration that is a simplified representation of the assembly. This may be just the external parts being shown, the hardware suppressed or the entire assembly stripped of the most complicated components. Define a system for reducing assembly data while showing the detail you need and your assemblies become much easier to work with.
  • Use sketches to drive assemblies
    I’ve discussed Sketch-Driven Assemblies here and Layout Sketches here. This depends on the type of assembly you are creating, but you can sketch the layout to control the envelope, guide surfaces… pretty much whatever you’re modeling can be created by using sketches to drive every aspect of the design. It’s just a little different way of thinking about assemblies.

Tip for Drawings

  • Keep them simple
    There’s only one and I could harp on it forever, but I would get bored and die. I like working with AutoCAD converts on drawings first because they understand shortcuts. Don’t get offended, that’s a good thing. SolidWorks doesn’t require the rough-it-in approach to drawings views, so instead of being concerned if a line is trimmed to the correct point, you can focus on views and the information those views are showing or not showing. If it’s not providing information, get rid of it.

So, are these it? I imagine you have some others. If its good stuff, I’ll add them in. Whatcha got?


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.