If you are saving a part/assembly as parasolid/iges/step or other similar format, there is no way to keep the link.
If you looking at creating a lighter version of the assembly, try SpeedPak
SpeedPak creates a simplified configuration of an assembly without losing references. If you work with very large and complex assemblies, using a SpeedPak configuration can significantly improve performance while working in the assembly and its drawing.
As you may have guessed, I am new to SW. I am not trying to create a lighter assembly. I wish to save the assembly to a format (stp or igs) requested by a machine shop. What is the normal way to do that without destroying my assembly?
Simply save you assembly first. Then save as your assembly as parasolid or step. This will not effect your original assembly but the parasolid or step file will have no relations with the original assembly file.
The original assy loses it's references?
Which version and SP of SW?
Have you tried running a repair from the SW install disc?
Have you reset the registry?
that's the nature of exporting.
not only do you get dumb solids, but you get dumb assemblies (i.e. no mates).
this is true of any 3D paramteric software, not unique to SolidWorks.