5 Tips for Working with Large Assemblies
Like anything else that becomes seemingly impossible to manage as it becomes larger, working with large assemblies can be a significant challenge if you aren’t familiar with the tools available for managing them.
While keeping part files and subassemblies properly named and organized in a folder is one thing, loading and rebuilding large assemblies is extremely taxing on system resources and can test even the most seasoned of users’ patience with lagging performance issues. Thankfully, there are ways of managing your large assemblies, ranging from optimizing software settings to working in different modeling modes, that enable you to work only on particular parts of an assembly without loading all component files.
Whether you’re a beginner just getting started with your first large assembly or are a seasoned vet looking to brush up on the basics, here are five proven techniques for getting a handle on those large assemblies in SOLIDWORKS.
Changing display settings is a quick and easy way to conserve system resources.
- Optimize Software Setup and Display Settings
It’s important to remember that hardware has a direct influence on the performance of all computer applications. Taking this into account, no matter how well a piece of software is tuned to your needs, it will always be limited by the hardware it is running on. That said, there area number of setup and display setting tweaks that can be made to optimize the performance of SOLIDWORKS on your machine for large assemblies.
One of the fastest ways to go about this is to go Tools > Options > Performance. Here, there are a number of options that you can adjust to your liking, but for an immediate impact on performance, you can turn off options for both retaining high quality transparencies and reducing the level of detail used for curvature generation.
Once these simple changes have been made, go one more item down in the list to Tools > Options > Assemblies and navigate to the Large Assemblies section of the menu. Here, you have the option to set the component threshold for when Large Assembly Mode automatically turns on. When this threshold is met, the software automatically makes changes to the settings that optimize certain performance qualities, including levels of detail, shaded modes, certain display styles and smooth dynamic motions, when zooming in and out. For users with limited hardware capabilities, it’s worth playing with this threshold to find a sweet spot for what you’re used to working with.
Depending on the task at hand, you can choose to open a SOLIDWORKS assembly in a different mode that’s optimized for working with a large assembly.
2. Work in Lightweight Mode to Conserve System Resources
In Lightweight mode, which can be chosen from the Mode drop-down menu when opening an assembly in the Open dialog box, users still have access to many of the normal assembly commands. However, each component is loaded with the least amount of data, as symbolized in the Feature Tree with a feather.
When the assembly is opened in Lightweight mode, individual components can be modified if they are set to “Resolved” in the right-click menu. When a component is resolved, users can then edit the individual part and make any necessary design changes without loading all components within the assembly. Ultimately, while this doesn’t reduce the actual file size on your hard drive, it can significantly reduce the amount of memory the software uses to perform minor adjustments to individual components without loading an entire assembly.
While there are other options in the Mode drop-down menu when opening an assembly in the Open dialog box, including Large Assembly Mode and Large Design Review, Lightweight mode retains the greatest amount of functionality while reducing the amount of system resources required.
Using SpeedPak will keep the context of an assembly while only preserving data necessary for the job at hand.
3. Use SpeedPak to Simplify and Use Only What You Need
When working with top-level assemblies, oftentimes all that is needed are simplified representations of subassemblies such as specific faces or bodies for mating rather than entire memory-taxing subassembly structures.
Thankfully, SpeedPak lets users create simplified configurations of an assembly without losing references. Not only does this significantly improve performance while working in the assembly and its drawing, but it can also streamline the file-sharing process by enabling teams to send the least amount of necessary reference data while working within larger projects that have many subassemblies.
To create a SpeedPak, locate the Configuration Manager tab, then, under Configurations, right-click an existing configuration and select “Add SpeedPak.” From here, select the faces and bodies that you want to be selectable in the SpeedPak configuration, either for yourself or for another team member, and confirm your selections. Once the SpeedPak has been made, only the faces and bodies that were selected for the SpeedPak will be visible and selectable when your pointer is moved over the assembly.
Setting Task Scheduler to run repetitive tasks overnight can save hours at a time.
4. Use Task Scheduler for Repetitive and Resource-Intensive Tasks
Depending on the task at hand, it might make sense to use Task Scheduler to perform certain jobs automatically during off-peak hours.
While Task Scheduler does have its limitations, it is a surprisingly powerful tool for automating repetitive resource-intensive tasks such as rebuilding large assemblies or converting CAD data to be more usable in your design system. Additionally, Task Scheduler can also be used to perform a specific task repeatedly on a daily, weekly or monthly basis if you have regularly occurring tasks.
While Task Scheduler is a part of the SOLIDWORKS software package, it is a separate application and can be found in the application folder.
Many viewing capabilities that are found in SOLIDWORKS are also found in the free eDrawings viewer for sharing a design with clients or other stakeholders.
5. Leverage Large Design Review Mode and eDrawings to Your Advantage
For simple design reviews, opening up a fully functional assembly model is oftentimes unnecessary and can slow down communication due to system crashes or memory lags. Thankfully, options exist for both performing a design review within the softwareas well as sharing an assembly witha non-SOLIDWORKS user.
For quickly sharing an assembly for a design review directly within the software, enabling Large Design Review mode at the Open dialog box when opening an assembly enables users to quickly open, navigate, measure, comment, section, save edit notes for later and even selectively open and edit a part or subassembly while reviewing, among other functionalities. While working in Large Design Review mode can be extremely beneficial when presenting to others, it can also be an optimal way to work when reviewing your own work and making notes for edits that can be done at a later time or automated through Task Scheduler during off-peak hours.
Alternatively, users who want to share their large assemblies with non-SOLIDWORKS users can share eDrawings files that can be viewed within the eDrawings Viewer. The free viewer, which enables collaboration without the need for software compatibility, lets stakeholders communicate in 3D with the original assembly file for creating markups, notes and presentations—and even perform tasks on the go with a number of different apps. Additionally, a new augmented reality feature lets users experience the 3D model directly in front of them in the context of the real world.
Of course, every situation is different based on varying hardware setups and assembly file complexities, but familiarizing yourself with the above workflows can save a lot of time and headaches down the road.
So whether you’re about to dive into your first large assembly or just brushing up on the tools available to you, just remember that managing large assemblies in SOLIDWORKS is possible in most cases, and it’s usually just a matter of approaching a problem from different angles to get your desired outcome.
About the Author
Simon Martin is a writer and industrial designer in New York City.