improve-solidworks-partsOh, the joys of using a really poorly modeled part and trying not to tear someone’s head off. Quell your rage with this. We’re going to deconstruct a simple part to show you exactly how to optimize part building in SolidWorks.

The part is simple but each tiny facet hold the possibilities of wrecking havoc on your assembly rebuild times. Why does how a part is modeled play such a big role? It creates a standard for you and others to maintain consistent result.

Get these basics down and your co-workers will not feel the need to smash each other. Now, let’s improve the heeeeeeee…ck out of your parts.

The parts
Here’s the parts. The original in it’s ghastly state and the new version in it’s optimized state.
Original part fileNew part file

The six areas to focus on immediately for better parts are:

Original part file – The part was modeled off of the origin.
New part file – Base sketch moved to origin.

This can happen when parts are created in assemblies. For stock material or purchased parts it’s best to model them apart from an assembly so they can be used other places more easily. Setting the base sketch on the origin provides you with the ability to us the Standard Planes already in the part. These will be useful for mating the part into assemblies.

Original part file – The sketch did not contain symmetrical relations.
New part file – Symmetrical relations added and centered on origin.

This really bugs me when I see it. Setting up a part with symmetry aids design changes and reuse. You want to use it as much as you possibly can. Additionally, you’ll want to center the part’s base sketch (in many cases) on the origin. Just one more way to get that part dead-center.

Original part file – The sketch contains all the detail.
New part file – Detail removed from sketch.

This can be a matter of preference, but really, you want to do this and you’ll see why in a moment. It’s natural to put all the fillets and cuts into a single sketch. It seems easier. My favorite lesson to show people with this is to understand how a machining operation would happen. Cut by cut. It’s no more tedious and it can greatly optimize your part for manufacturing.

Original part file – Holes Cut. No pattern or hole wizard used.
New part file – Holes added using the Hole Wizard.

It’s odd but things have to attach to other things with hardware. Cutting a bunch of holes makes adding hardware painful and time-consuming. Using a Sketch Pattern or the Hole Wizard makes it dead simple. Mate one set of hardware in and pattern the rest.

Original part file – No configurations. for shame.
New part file – Configurations added.

Two configurations were added, SIMPLE and MACHINED. We separated the detail from the sketch earlier. By doing this, we can suppress those details and have a simplified version of the part. This, multiplied across all the parts you stuff in an assembly can save you considerable load and rebuild times.

Original part file – No properties. No weight. No nothing.
New part file – Properties added.

You could fill out a BOM manually but that would be near torture. Using custom properties for your parts adds value and if weight is a concern for you, it will help you confirm that weights have been added to the parts and that all the other relevant info you need to show in your BOM is there.

These are probably some of the most basic, but important, lessons to get down in part modeling. Are there practices you follow to totally optimize your part files?


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.