Creating Inspection Documentation and Reports with SOLIDWORKS Inspection: Part 3

In part 1, we covered creating a new inspection project and in part 2, we covered setting extraction preferences, tolerance settings and extracting characteristics, report. Here is the final installment of this series.

Applying Additional Characteristic Information

When extracted, a characteristic is assigned a sequential number, and all of its information is recorded in the Properties window underneath the Characteristics Table. This information is shown when the characteristic is selected and includes the nominal value, units, tolerances, and a calculated upper and lower limit to determine pass/fail status of measured values. All of this information can be automatically passed through to a typical first article inspection report during publication.

You’ll notice that many of these fields are blank, and most are editable including the nominal value and tolerances. These fields are critical and should be carefully reviewed for each characteristic, as any information applied to this section can be automatically published to an Inspection Report. Selecting the “Key” checkbox also updates the associated characteristic with a unique flag-style balloon, which can be modified using the Add/Edit Balloons command if required.

Producing Ballooned PDFs and Inspection Reports

Once all the required characteristics have been extracted and the necessary information applied, a controlled PDF copy can be exported in just a few clicks. From the SOLIDWORKS Inspection tab, look for the Export to 2D PDF command. The following dialog allows the entire drawing to be exported as a single PDF or, if preferred, each sheet of the drawing as a unique PDF. You can also use the checkboxes to control which sheets will be published.

Select OK, provide a name/location for the document and save the file. When producing a PDF copy of a ballooned drawing, “what you see is what you get,” so you can expect that the PDF will essentially be an identical copy of your SOLIDWORKS drawing. Importantly, however, the PDF copy is not associative to the CAD data and is very useful for meeting document control standards.

To produce an Inspection Report, use the Export to Excel command in the SOLIDWORKS Inspection tab. From here, select the appropriate template to format your characteristics in the final report. Default templates include AS9102 for first article inspection, PPAP and Process Performance, although these can be customized to suit your unique requirements if desired.

Click the Active checkbox for the template you wish to use, and optionally the Multisheet checkbox if you want to export characteristic information from all sheets within the SOLIDWORKS drawings. Leaving Multisheet unchecked will only export characteristics from the current active drawing sheet. After providing a name and location for the file, the Inspection Report will appear in Microsoft Excel.

All the important characteristic information including the nominal value, unit of measurement and acceptable upper and lower measurement limits are organized and presented in Form 3 of the AS9102 First Article Inspection report. Additionally, the Part Number and Part Name have been exported from the Inspection Project properties, and the Designed Tooling and Comments fields have been populated for the characteristics which had this information applied in the original Inspection Project.

Taking a closer look, you’ll notice that many characteristics do not contain information in the Designed Tooling or Comments fields – this is simply because that information was not applied in the Inspection Project. Additionally, many of these fields (including the Results field) are intended to be filled out manually during the inspection process.

Though outside the scope of this article, it’s worth mentioning that the default AS9102 report template also includes sheets for Form 1 and Form 2 which can be customized to link to additional Inspection Project information regarding part number accountability and product accountability, respectively. In fact, Inspection Report templates can be customized to automatically publish almost any information captured in the Inspection Project.

As a final note regarding Inspection Reports, the same completed Inspection Project can be used to produce multiple reports in different formats if required. Each will be produced as a unique Microsoft Excel document.

Handling Design Revisions

Since SOLIDWORKS CAD models, drawings and Inspection Projects are all associatively linked, any adjustments made to dimensions already captured in the Inspection Project will update automatically, with any changes being reflected in the Characteristics Table. However, if new characteristics are added to the drawing, or if any captured characteristics are removed, these changes are not automatically recognized. These changes require the use of the Update Inspection Project command, which will highlight any deleted characteristics in red, while new characteristics are highlighted in green.

These changes can be accepted individually by right-clicking a highlighted characteristic and choosing “Accept this annotation change” or alternatively, all annotation changes may be accepted at once.

SOLIDWORKS Inspection Projects are also fully compatible with SOLIDWORKS PDM for more comprehensive revision control.

Using Inspection with 3D CAD Models

With SOLIDWORKS Inspection Professional, Inspection Projects and reports can be developed using 3D CAD models using nearly the same strategy as with 2D drawings. As a prerequisite, the CAD models must be annotated with DimXpert dimensions (otherwise known as MBD dimensions) which essentially replace traditional 2D annotations in drawings. This process is further enhanced with the Model-Based Definition (MBD) add-in for SOLIDWORKS, although it is not required to run Inspection on 3D CAD models. For more information on DimXpert and MBD, consider visiting our article on DimXpert.

Ultimately, the process for setting up an Inspection Project in 3D is nearly identical, with the DimXpert annotations being extracted (either automatically or manually) as characteristics and balloons being generated in 3D space.

In conjunction with SOLIDWORKS MBD, this information can then be further organized into customizable 3D Views for improved clarity and published to 3D PDF or eDrawings format along with the final Inspection Report, effectively eliminating the requirement for a 2D drawing.

Limitations and Workarounds

One significant limitation of the Inspection Add-in for SOLIDWORKS is its inability to import data from coordinate measuring machines, which is an advertised feature of Inspection Professional but only available in the standalone Inspection module. Fortunately, both the add-in and standalone module are included with the purchase of SOLIDWORKS Inspection, and a pathway exists to transfer projects from the add-in to the standalone.

After setting up an Inspection Project with the SOLIDWORKS add-in, the Export to SOLIDWORKS Inspection Project command can be used to pack all the required files into a unique project file compatible with the standalone inspection module.

This project file will contain the exact same information, but can be opened in Inspection Standalone. This provides the ability to import CMM data and a handful of other benefits such as enhanced balloon customization and characteristics identification. Unlike the SOLIDWORKS Inspection Project, it is also disconnected from the original CAD data, making it an attractive option for some document control standards.

Additionally, it is important to note that the SOLIDWORKS Inspection Add-in and the Standalone module are licensed separately and can be used concurrently. Depending on your company’s inspection process and policies, it may be possible to take advantage of this and use both programs simultaneously to improve documentation efficiency.


The Inspection Add-in for SOLIDWORKS is a robust solution for SOLIDWORKS users looking to develop Inspection Projects and Reports from2D drawings or 3D CAD models (Professional only) and can significantly reduce the time and human error involved in inspection processes. The process of creating inspection documentation can be summarized as follows:

  1. Create a new Inspection Project and set necessary Project Properties.
  2. (Optional) Save a project template for future reuse via Create New Template command.
  3. Extract necessary dimensions, geometric tolerances, notes, etc. for inspection using manual and/or automatic extraction techniques.
  4. Verify characteristic accuracy and provide additional characteristic detail as needed.
  5. Adjust characteristic order, grouping and balloon position/properties as required.
  6. Produce a ballooned 2D PDF of the inspection drawing or 3D PDF/eDrawing if using a 3D CAD model.
  7. Produce an Inspection Report according to the type of inspection process in use.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on the SOLIDWORKS Inspection Add-In.

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