How do you create an assembly structure that makes sense to other people? How do you keep large assemblies from becoming sluggish and unworkable? I’ll share my insights on SolidWorks assembly modeling in this post.
Templates are used to make sure that all assemblies created within a company or a project have identical properties. These properties included units, dimension precision, image quality and many, many more.
You can also add items to assembly templates such that they can be used everywhere. A solid tip is adding axes on the intersection of the front, top and right planes. These three axes (in X, Y and Z direction) can now be used for mating, and these mates will rarely break. Custom properties are also a good candidate to be added to a template.
You can create an assembly template by opening an assembly and clicking Save As. You can now select Assembly Templates (*.ASMDOT) as the file type. Make sure you save the file in the standard template location though.
The component at the top of your assembly tree should have earned its pole position. It should be the basis on which the entire assembly is built. It can for example be a model of the surroundings or the frame of the machine.
Remove the fixed property (right click > Float) immediately after the component is inserted, don’t be lazy. Now make sure it is properly mated in place. That means using an origin coincident mate or creating three coincident mates on the assembly planes.
Virtual parts are not actual files, they are saved internally in the assembly file. You can use them to quickly model concepts and they behave mostly like normal parts. That means you can add configurations, mates and colors to them.
Just make sure you save the virtual parts as real files somewhere along the road in your design process. They increase the size of the assembly and you can easily lose changes. If you want to know more, please check out my article on virtual parts.
If you ever have created multiple parts or assemblies that were nearly identical, you now that configurations can a blessing. They allow you to vary:
The list is not exhaustive, but these are the properties that I vary most often. You can find a basic video tutorial on configurations here.
I want my 3D models to be a proper representation of the real world. So if a part should move in real life, it should move in the assembly. You can do this by adding a Limit Distance or Limit Angle mates, they can be found in the Advanced tab of the mates window.
When you insert an assembly with moving parts into a higher assembly, part movements are disabled by default. If you want to allow those movements in the top assembly as well, you have to edit the properties by right clicking the subassembly in the tree and opening the properties window. You can now set the assembly to from “Rigid” to “Flexible” and voila.
You can find a more in-depth tutorial on rigid/flexible assemblies at 3DEngr.com. We found the image above there as well.
When you weld or bolt parts and machine them afterwards, you should model the machined features in the assembly as well. You shouldn’t extrude holes in parts and then hide them using configurations, you will only create confusion when you do this and you’ll increase the chance on errors in manufactured parts.
The assembly tab in the Command manager holds all kinds or ways to shoot holes in your assembly. Notice there are no extrusion features present, you can only remove material.
It always helps to have a blazing fast PC with the latest Intel i9 septacore processor. But if you want to keep the assembly snappy regardless of hardware requirements, here are some pointers:
The past work week was rather awful for me, because I found a bunch of reasons why a particular design was not going to hold up in real life. We basically had to start over, just as we were finishing the design.
That is why I really urge you to do continuous checks on your assemblies. Those checks can take place in the following forms:
There you have it, the basics of proper assembly design. Summarized: use configurations, mimic the behavior of the real thing and know what creates performance degradation. I have distilled my knowledge down to a thousand words. Please let me know via email or Twitter if I missed something.