SolidWorks Tips for Beginners
Well, it’s finally happened--you’re using SolidWorks, be it willingly or kicking and screaming. With any luck you’ve received some training or, at the very least, you’ve gone through the tutorials. If either of the aforementioned hasn’t happened, I strongly suggest you remedy the situation. Even if you have experience with another CAD system, going through the help files will...well...help you. You’ll be able to learn the manner in which SolidWorks refers to various commands, where to find different functionality, and generally familiarize yourself with the user interface. Seriously--do it. I’m not kidding. If you don’t, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. Seriously.
That said, there are things within SolidWorks that can help speed things up for you that aren’t usually taught during training classes. I’d like to share some of these shortcuts and tricks with you today. These are things that are built into the software out of the box, but aren’t necessarily “out in the open.”
First and foremost, always use fully defined sketches. I know this is talked about during training, but it bears repeating. Always use fully defined sketches.
If you need to create a tangent arc from the line you’re sketching, there are two easy ways to accomplish it without having to actually select the Tangent Arc tool. Start your line segment (click and release), draw your line, then click to start the tangent section. At this point you can either hit the ‘A’ key on your keyboard, or you can pull away a bit from the end point, then go back over it. Either of these will switch your tool from line to tangent arc. You’ll notice a concentric relationship between the two endpoints.
Also, should you realize that you didn’t want a tangent arc there, hit the ‘A’ key to go back to your line tool.
Creating a complex symmetrical sketch? How about using the dynamic sketch tool to accomplish your goal? You can find it under Tools->Sketch tools, or simply add the button to your sketch toolbar or ‘S’ key. To accomplish this, right click on either and select Customize. Go to the Commands tab, and then choose Sketch. You’ll see the dynamic mirror symbol in there.
Have you suddenly found that a filter has been turned on? Hit F6 to clear it. By the way, you can turn your filter toolbar off and on by hitting F5.
Name your features--it will make life easier when you (or someone else) goes in to edit. Simply do a slow double click on a feature in the tree to edit it.
Ctrl+8 is "normal to." Hit it again, and it’ll flip 180 degrees.
F9 will hide the feature manager. F10 will will hide your toolbars, although I don’t know why you’d still need toolbars, what with the amazing feature that is the ‘S’ key. Please tell me you know about the ‘S’ key. Please. F11 will hide all.
If you use the ‘Shell’ command without selecting a face, you’ll create a hollow part.
When creating assemblies, use the multi-mate tool to help speed things up.
These are just a few of the many tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years. There are many more out there, which is why I am going to now implore you to become active in the SolidWorks community. Knowledge sharing between users is how so many of us end up becoming power users. It’s also a great way to make your workflow smoother and less cumbersome. There’s absolutely no reason that you should go it alone. I’d be willing to bet, too, that you’ll someday be sharing tricks that you’ve learned.
Jeff Mirisola is a Senior Designer at Sound Metrics in Bellevue, Washington. He writes about SolidWorks and the SolidWorks community at Jeff's Tool Shed.