Take a look at Simlab Composer. Its reasonably priced and is easy to use.
One thing to keep in mind, regardless of which rendering/animation app you use is that you will generally have to recreate all of the materials. Some formats will transfer basic color, but that's about it.
I don't know about the Modo plugin for SolidWorks, perhaps their plugin can transfer materials to Modo?
Someone here on the forums here created a "Free SolidWorks OBJ Exporter" (you can do a search for that) but I don't know if the materials transfer.
Keyshot is the best software I've seen currently on the market, and the price point is really reasonable, especially for somebody who does this professionally. If you're just a hobbyist, it might be a little expensive, but your post sounded like this will happen more than once, and Keyshot is worth the money. I think they also do network licenses, in case you need it to be installed across multiple CPU's.
Great for renderings, and also makes animations easy. https://www.keyshot.com/3d-animation/
It's what we use at my company now instead of Modo, which we had in the past.
You'll want to make sure you get the Keyshot+Animation license, otherwise you'll just be able to do renderings, and not video animations.
Luke, I recently had a project where I had to convert a SolidWorks model into a Blender model to produce an animation. I had previously created Renderings in PhotoView and some simple animations in SolidWorks Composer, but since we needed particle effects, vertex paint and wanted to use Collada assets from the internet, I dumped everything to mesh files and imported it into Blender.
What I discovered was that the material export supported by Composer and SolidWorks wasn't worth it, that I got the best meshes using VRML2 and that mates, and constraints would also have to be recreated in Blender.
I wouldn't call it a total wash, because I didn't have to remodel the parts, but it was deplorable how much work I had to do again. Given that and how much more powerful Blender's material editor is compared to SolidWorks (which is just a light version of Modo 7.1), I'll probably not waste time trying to preserve the appearances in the export next time.
Now if you want to improve the process a little, you might look at Modo 7.1. It's not free, but as I understand it, you can save a SolidWorks assembly asa Luxology file which carries forward the appearances and rigging from Solidworks. As I understand it, when you render an animation in PhotoView 2014, SolidWorks exports a luxology file with all of the materials definition and animation data built into it and Photoview uses that instead of 2013 where SolidWorks would have to solve the mates and rebuild with every frame before rendering.
I don't think SolidWorks uses link heirarchies and pivots the way most animation packages do to calculate it's mates. They're based on the characteristics of the underlying NURBS data the geometry is constructed from.
Thanks for your advice! I'll take a look at the software you have all suggested.
I tried these packages out and the only one that was able to open a large/complex .sldasm file on my laptop (I'm not using a powerful workstation) was Simlab Composer. I was able to open a smaller/simpler file in Keyshot, but not the complex one.
All of these suggestions are very useful though - thanks for your help!
I've followed John Burrill's advice and given MODO 7.1 a bit more of a look and it's true that if you export a .lxo file from SolidWorks, it almost completely preserves the model! (I originally exported an .sldasm file from Solidworks, which MODO was less successful at opening) The model itself and the textures and lighting are completely intact, though I've not been able to successfully preserve the rigging and animation so far.
Based on my experience so far, I would say I actually prefer using MODO to Simlab Composer, though the price is still relatively high at £999. Still, MODO has produced the best results for me thus far...