Seven improvements for fasteners in SOLIDWORKS

Solidworks design library slow

Working with fasteners in SOLIDWORKS hasn’t improved in recent years.

You still have to scroll through endless lists of filenames. Yuk.

So we decided to improve the process ourselves. We built Lightning, an add-in that makes it easy to search your library and add fasteners (including washers) to your assembly.

1. Stop scrolling to find the right size

When you add your fasteners to the Design Library, it looks like the image on the right. But the Design library is slow, loading this folder took 4 seconds!

The list of filenames is annoying. It scrolls sideways. The thumbnails are nearly useless, but loading those thumbnails makes it so slow.

You now have to select the right diameter, length and material, just from the filename. We humans are not built to search like that. When I do it, I usually find the correct diameter, then a file with the correct length and the wrong diameter and the cycle continues.

With Lightning, we let you make one simple decision at a time. Just pick a type, diameter, length and material, then drag the part into your assembly.

Lightning select fastener size window

If your parts have mate references, SOLIDWORKS adds a concentric and coincident mate when you drag the part onto a hole.

2. Select the right diameter

Notice the white bar at the top of the window? If you preselect a hole, we’ll show the hole size and preselect the matching fastener diameter. It’s that simple.

Solidworks match hole size and fastener

3. Add a washer automatically

The current workflow for adding a washer under a bolt or nut is backwards. You want to add a bolt, but you need to add a washer first to get the mate references to work.

So we flipped that workflow around. You add the bolt, then we add the washer.

You can select a default washer type and None is an option.

Matching washer materials

You can store which washer material (like Steel 200HV zinc or A2) should be used for which bolt materials (like Steel 8.8 zinc or A2-70). That way you never have to worry about the washer material again. We’ll always use the correct material.

4. Add a derived pattern automatically

As you may have noticed, the gif/video above also shows how to add a derived pattern. Once you have selected a type, size and material, we give you three options:

  1. Add a single fastener – using drag and drop
  2. Add a single fastener plus a derived pattern – using drag and drop
  3. Add the fastener at the origin – without drag and drop

The third option is new, so it’s not in the video yet.

When you drag a part into your assembly from the Include hole wizard button, Lightning finds the hole wizard feature that created that hole. If we find it, we add a Pattern Driven Component Pattern using the bolt (and washer if there is one) you just added.

5. Always select the correct seed position

Having to select correct the seed position for a driven pattern always annoys me. Why can’t SOLIDWORKS figure this out?

solidworks pattern wrong seed component - seed position

We found a way to make this easier:

  1. Select a hole
  2. Click Add Fastener in the Lightning toolbar
  3. We select the first hole in the selected hole wizard feature
  4. Select a type and size
  5. Drag the part onto the hole that we selected
  6. We add the derived pattern

When you do it this way, the seed position is always correct 🙂

6. Change the length or diameter in one click

We create a simple database with all your fastener data. You have to fill this database only once and we can extract data from filenames and configuration names, so you don’t have to enter all data manually.

Because we know your available lengths and diameter for a certain ISO fastener, we can easily switch to a longer/shorter version. To change to a bigger diameter:

  1. Select one or more fasteners
  2. Click Bigger diameter (or one of the other three buttons)
  3. Done

Lightning toolbar - replace fastener with longer version - changer diameter - change length

We’ll search your database for a bigger diameter version of the selected fastener(s) with the same length and material. If we find such a part or configuration, we replace the selected component. If not, we show a temporary popup.

You can even click a button multiple times, which is great for changing the length quickly.

7. We never edit your existing SOLIDWORKS fasteners

When the Toolbox cannot find a configuration that you ask for, it will just make a new one. Even when the part is in PDM.

This changes your files, clutters up your library and creates configurations that you cannot buy. And now all assemblies that use this part are marked dirty and need to be re-saved.

Lightning will never modify your parts. We only use existing files and configurations that are in your database. We strongly believe this is the right way to do it.

Frequently asked questions

1. Does Lightning work with my existing library?

Yes. Lightning does not come with any fastener files, so it needs an existing library. If you are using the Toolbox and/or need a new library, we have a great one for sale.

Lightning is meant to work with any fastener file, Toolbox or not. It does not matter whether your parts have one or multiple configurations.

2. Does Lightning work with metric and imperial sizes?

Lightning only works with metric sizes and is heavily optimized for the metric system. We currently have no plans to add support for the imperial system because this would take a major rewrite.

3. What does Lightning cost?

We are on a mission to improve everything that has to do with fasteners in SOLIDWORKS, for every engineer. That is why we made Lightning very affordable; so everyone can have access to it.

We have floating licenses at €160 per user per year and node-locked licenses for only €100 per user per year. Because most engineers use fasteners every day, the node-locked license is a great default. To better support working from home, we added the floating license option.

To keep prices low, these basic versions come with email support only. You can add full support via phone, chat and TeamViewer for €50 a year.

4. Can I try it out?

Of course. We have a free 14-day trial. Check out the product page or enter your email address below to get started.

Do you need a better fastener library?

Then we also have you covered. We spent 500 hours building Lightning but we also spent 600 hours building the best fastener library that we know of.

We bought all the ISO and DIN standards, extracted the relevant data and created software to create our fastener parts. That means the parts are highly consistent and strictly follow the standards.

The files are small, robust, fast and PDM compatible.

You can choose the standards that you need, you don’t need to purchase the entire library at once. And it’s a one-time investment, there are no maintenance fees of any kind.

Check out ISO 4014 (standard hexagon bolts with partial threads), DIN 471 (retaining rings), set screws or Torx bolts.