How to master varied designs with SOLIDWORKS Smart Components.

A quick overview of how to use the Smart Components feature of SOLIDWORKS.

For those of you who haven’t noticed, SOLIDWORKS is really big on “data reuse.” That’s because recreating information is likely one of the largest contributors to lost time and designer frustration.

I was recently on a call with a customer who was using the “Smart Components” feature in SOLIDWORKS in a really cool way. It is a neat example of file reuse.  Here’s how it works:

Kevin Wilson at MAXPRO Technologies designs high pressure gas booster, liquid pump, and air amplifier systems, among other high pressure systems and components. Like any system, they use standard hardware and fittings to connect all their components.

Take this pressure regulator, downloaded from the manufacturer, for example.

For ease of use, Kevin was making sub-assemblies of this component, and its typical fittings. Easy, right?

Easy, until you have multiple instances of this regulator and a different fitting for each one. He was creating a different configuration of the assembly suppressing/unsuppressing each fitting.

Still not too bad, right?

That is, until you also have to change the angle at which that elbow is installed. When you change one instance, since it has been created using multiple instances of the same subassembly… they all change. This wreaks havoc on your mates and you end up spending time reattaching references. That has never happened to anyone, right?

Enter Smart Components. With a few simple clicks from a “dummy” subassembly, you can create this part with linked fittings and SOLIDWORKS will do the rest. If you want to learn how to create Smart Components, check out my tech tip on the topic here. Once you set up your Smart Component, and add it to your assembly, the icon in the tree looks like this: , and when you highlight the component, it gets an icon like this:

When you click this icon in the graphics area, SOLIDWORKS opens a couple of windows, similar to when you insert a library feature (shameless plug for my library features webinar here).

Notice the graphics preview showing overlaid connectors. From the list on the left, just check the components you want. When you accept it, it automatically adds the components (AND THE MATES) to the assembly!

For those of you with keen eyes, notice that he even set up one of the connectors as a smart component. Now, with just a few clicks, he can repeat the process on the connector, and have everything update as needed while not affecting other instances of this “subassembly.”

This is a great method for reusing data and managing common components. In this particular instance, since all the components are purchased, revision control and part modification is not an issue. If you want to use Smart Components for your production parts, I would highly recommend some sort of data management solution.

There are many tools out there to help with this. An Enterprise solution like Dassault Systeme’s Exalead OnePart is the premiere option for tracking data. It parses everything in every file including CAD geometry and metadata (background file information) and provides incredible searching capabilities. Data management solutions like SOLIDWORKS Product Data Management (PDM) will help keep track of revisions and permissions, as well as walk your designs through workflows. Both options are great at what they do and I’m certain would come recommended by any professional in the field (myself included). However, they do require setup and administration to be effective.

I’d like to thank Kevin Wilson for allowing me to use his name and parts (and smarts) for this blog and tech tip! Kevin is a long-time SOLIDWORKS user and, from what I understand, quite the musician. If you were at SOLIDWORKS World a few years ago, I heard he stole the karaoke stage! Check out his Facebook Page.

As always, thanks for reading and Happy Modeling!