SolidWorks, a product of the SolidWorks Corporation, is a simple to use and affordable program that runs on Windows platforms primarily designed as a high-end cost-effective alternative to 2D CAD packages. It was introduced in 1993 by newly-founded SolidWorks Corporation as competitor for products like AutoCAD/MDT, SDRC I-DEAS (now Unigraphics NX) and Pro/ENGINEER among many others. Its main focus was to provide users with a way to harness the power of 3D without paying more than average 2D CAD software packages – and having more features, like generating 2D drawings directly out of 3D models (and 3D models from 2D drawings) with a single click, or finite element analysis in one package.


The SolidWorks Approach

Unlike CAD packages, SolidWorks has a quite simple approach to modeling and assembling. All dimensions define the geometry, and not backwards as it happens in most CAD programs. To create volume and modifications, SolidWorks employs a feature-based system that can be rolled back to previous states in case something must be changed or multiple configurations of the same part must be handled. To assemble components, mates are created, which define the relative positions of the components to each other.

In addition, SolidWorks has a hierarchy of putting all the things together, which can be traced as follows:

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Parts are simple geometry created according to the main design methodology. They interact between each other when placed in an assembly. At every time, drawings can be created out of either parts or assemblies for archiving or manufacturing purposes.


Parts are modeled following a feature based approach. Sketches must be created first in order to define the primary geometry of the part.

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First, a sketch is created on a plane. Lines are drawn to define the basic shape of the part and then dimensions are added to constrain the size of the part. Next, a feature is applied to create volume. The sketch depicted here has been extruded outward. Then, using the front face of the extrusion feature just created, another sketch is opened. This time, a circle has been drawn, and constrained in diameter and distance from the edges of the reference plane.
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Then, the last sketch is extruded. Both extrusions are automatically merged to create one solid body. Using the front face of the last extrusion, a new sketch is opened and a circle is drawn. Then, using relations, it is made concentric. A new feature is added, called “Cut-extrude”. The feature itself is used to cut a hole through the whole solid body.
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Fillets are added accordingly to the main design intent. A constant radius can be specified, or multiple radii for multiple edges. The part is then shelled to a given width, taking the back face as starting point.


Once all the parts have been modeled, SolidWorks can put them together into an Assembly. This is where parts interact with each other and simulations can be run based on the main focus of the design. Parts are placed into space in a random position until mates have been defined.

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Mates dictate exact assembling positions. In the example given above, there are two mates defining that the uppermost and rightmost faces must be coincident. Once mates have been developed, SolidWorks gives the ability of testing degrees of freedom, by either moving or rotating the components in the assembly, or testing motion using the built-in physical dynamics engine or COSMOSMotion.


Drawings can be created either from parts or assemblies. They are drawn automatically, just by clicking on the window that contains the part or assembly to draw. The drawing module includes most paper sizes and standards (ISO, DIN, GOST, JIS).

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Other Features


COSMOSXpress is a module designed to perform finite element analysis on parts. It can run FEA based on a given magnitude system (ips or SI), restraints and forces interacting with the part. It will then display the results of the analysis in von Mises stress (psi or N*m2), and in a graphical manner the possible deformation the part being analyzed might experience. Although the software is shipped with COSMOSXpress, a more powerful version of the software, COSMOSWorks, can be bought – it can perform FEA on assemblies too.

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PhotoWorks is a raytrace renderer built into SolidWorks. It is an excellent tool for presentation, and if used in conjunction with Animator, it can produce quite impressive results.


SolidWorks Toolbox is a library of predefined fasteners, gears, cams, pins and other accessories, all according to industry standards. New parts can be created and added to the Toolbox for later use in other projects.


SolidWorks Animator has the capability of exploding assemblies and animates the way components explode or join. It produces video output too.


This module recognizes different features (fillets, cut-extrudes, extrudes) on imported models.

User Community is the largest worldwide independent user information source for SolidWorks Users. Begun 10 years ago as Solid Solutions Magazine, SolidWorks Community is now a feature rich online resource for SolidWorks Users.


SolidWorks is a registered trademark of SolidWorks Corporation and Dassault Systèmes, S. A. All brands mentioned here are property of their respective owners.

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