What is SOLIDWORKS Instant3D?

This article explains what Instant3D is and how to use it.

There is a setting in SOLIDWORKS named Instant3D that changes the software’s behavior. It is enabled by default, so it would be beneficial to understand the functionality of Instant3D.  Instant3D can be found on the Features tab of the Command Manager. 


Drag Handles

In short, Instant3D allows for dragging “handles” to resize dimensions and reshape geometry. These handles may include dots attached to dimension extension lines and orange arrows. If a sketch is not locked down (fully constrained), they may also include the white dot and fin on what might otherwise look like an x-y coordinate system.


Clicking on a face of the model is all it takes to produce these handles. Depending on the type of feature the face is associated with, the resultant drag points may vary. The dimensions which appear will be the dimensions associated with whatever feature (and underlying sketch) the selected face is related to.

Dragging to resize or reshape geometry may be a nice way to visualize alterations, and it may be useful for research and development, but dragging is inherently not very precise. Depending on the handle being dragged, there may be a ruler which appears. It is possible to snap to points on the ruler, thereby giving the user some control over the dimensional input.


Freeform Shapes, Wires and Flexible Tubing

Certain feature types lend themselves particularly well to Instant3D. Swept features which utilize splines are a perfect example. Being able to drag spline points and reshape a swept feature is extremely convenient, especially in certain circumstances. Reshaping freeform geometry created from lofted features would be another good example. Normally, it is necessary to edit a sketch prior to making such adjustments. With Instant3D enabled, it is not. 

Under defined Sketch Geometry

A sketch must not be fully defined to take advantage of this behavior. For a large percentage of features, leaving a sketch underdefined is very bad practice. Freeform shapes, flexible tubing and wires are some of the possible exceptions to this rule. 

Double-clicking Versus A Single Click

If a specific dimensional value is needed, typing that value in is preferable to dragging geometry. In order to make a dimensional change, a sketch or feature can be edited. A sketch or feature can also be double-clicked (from the FeatureManager or graphics area) in order to view it's associated dimensions. This has always been the case.

Pulling up dimensions associated with a feature requires a double click with Instant3D turned off, but only a single click with Instant3D enabled. Likewise, editing dimension values with Instant3D turned off requires a double-click, but only a single click when enabled. This is one of the primary conveniences of Instant3D. Less clicks over the course of a day add up.


This is where we find another primary difference in behavior. In the image above, on the left, Instant3D is disabled. On the right, it is not. With Instant3D turned off, the Modify window appears when editing dimensions. There is additional functionality in the Modify window, such as the ability to increment or decrement the dimension value by precise amounts.

The Modify window can still be accessed with Instant3D enabled simply by double clicking the desired dimension.

In the long run, one particular work style is not necessarily better than another. Whether you decide to use Instant3D or not depends on your personal preference and what you are trying to accomplish. Now that you know about the Instant3D setting and what it can do, experiment and see which work style works best for you