Note that this is list is relative. An Olin student who hasn’t taken Design Nature yet, or worked with CAD outside of this class at all would have a very different list.

1. Sketch Pictures!

Trying to CAD an existing consumer product is often hit or miss in Solidworks without a direct visual reference to that product. What this means is, next time you try to CAD your electric razor, hairdryer, Scooby doo, or anything else with an organic, molded shape you probably won’t go far unless you use a feature like Sketch Picture. Using sketch picture is as easy as opening a new 2-D Sketch, then Tools> Sketch Tools >> Sketch Picture. You can use most common image file types, (.bmp, .gif, .jpg, .jpeg, .tif, .wmf) and it is easty to resize your image in Solidworks. Additionally, sketch pictures enable you to use something called Autotrace which automatically creates the sketch for a crisp, high contrast sketch picture. Instead of trying to completely recreate your company’s logo, have Autotrace do it for you! I found out about this feature this summer while making the outer shell for an electric razor frame.

2. Convert Entities

Often times, existing components in a Solidworks assembly or part can be used to create additional features. You can very easily reference geometry from (other) parts/subassemblies to use for new features. This is especially helpful when you are sketching something in a new plane and you want something from another plane projected onto your new sketch’s plane. The video shown here is a good example of this feature, and also shows you other neat things you can do as far as dimensioning goes (using existing features’ dimensions). The annoying part about convert entities is that you have to remember to select what you want to convert before clicking the convert entities button, one of the few tools in Solidworks that works this way. Convert entities sketch curves are created with an “on edge” sketch relation, but you can delete this if you don’t want the new line to be connected to the original line. The reason this is important is one of the most powerful aspects of the convert entities feature. If you changed the size of the original sketch for example, your line with an “on edge” relation will also change sizes.


3. Intersection Curve

This tool takes two different bodies and creates a 3-D sketch curve where the two bodies meet. This tool is very useful for creating 3-D sketches for sweep features. A sweep takes a profile, like a circle, and sweeps it across any curve. This one is a bit hard to visualize, so I’ve included a simple video (quality = awful) showing the Right Plane being used with the intersection curve tool to create a 3-D sketch on a curved part.

Next time: assembly-level features!