Go Faster with SOLIDWORKS Templates
If you want to be more productive and model faster with SOLIDWORKS, you need to start with a solid foundation of efficiency. Sure, improving your skills and learning all the time-saving tips and tricks will help, but the best way to model faster with SOLIDWORKS is to build your designs with a good foundation for efficiency. SOLIDWORKS templates are both the literal and metaphorical foundation for modeling faster in SOLIDWORKS. Keep reading to find out how you can leverage templates to model faster and more efficiently.
How Can Templates Help You Model Faster?
When it comes to the modeling process in SOLIDWORKS, there are typically three steps. Templates can help you with two out of three when creating models in SOLIDWORKS.
The steps to modeling are:
Step 1. Model set up: The settings for the document.
Step 2. Geometry creation: The modeling process of creating the 3D geometry or 2D drawing.
Step 3. Post modeling metadata: Creating parts lists, bills of material or working with data management systems.
Templates are the foundation for step one, and lead to a hands-off step 3, which means you’re freed up to focus on the geometry creation. So how do we do this? Let’s start by taking an in-depth look at templates.
What are Templates?
Templates are your starting point for any SOLIDWORKS file, whether it is for parts, assemblies or drawings. There is a template for each file type, and if you’ve ever created a new file in SOLIDWORKS, you’re already familiar with templates.
Templates capture all the settings for your files. This obviously offers consistency across your company in terms of standards, but an added benefit is the foundation for the efficiency it seems everyone wants and needs.
Let’s get started with how to use templates beyond the out-of-the-box default templates.
What’s in a Template?
A template is the starting point for your file and includes:
- Document properties
- Custom properties (pre-populated)
- Display settings
- Scene and lighting
- Reference geometry (pre-created)
- Model geometry (pre-created / start part)
The core of a template is the document properties, which are the settings that are unique to the file. These are different than the system options, which are the options for the SOLIDWORKS application installed on your computer. You reach these properties in the same way, by clicking the gear icon at the top of the interface, and there are two separate tabs. All the settings in the document properties tab will be saved in a template.
There are countless document properties you could look to set for your SOLIDWORKS files. Some of the main document properties are:
- Drafting standard: Set the overall drafting standard and related properties such as ANSI, ISO or even a custom one you create.
- Dimensions: Define how you like to dimension things such as angle or circular features.
- Units: Set the units you’d like to work with and the precision. This is where you can set to always work with inches and three decimal places.
Pro Tip: Create a template for the various dimension schemes, units and precision you’d like to use. This makes it quick and easy to get started with the appropriate unit systems. Keep reading to find out how to do this.
Things like the drafting standard, units and precision are some of the obvious ones that should be set based on your company’s specifications. But there is one less obvious document property you should look to change if you want to maximize performance – image quality. You can think of this as ‘sport mode’ for your models; but in fact, it is the tessellation or curvature resolution of your geometry. The higher the image quality, the smoother the curves will look graphically—but that smoothness comes at the price of performance.
See the image below with the image quality slider set at dramatically different levels. Trust me, those are both circles, just one is smoother.
The image quality slider has implications for both model performance and file size. My official professional recommendation is to set the image quality as low as you can tolerate—and then go a little lower.
Pro Tip: Keep your image quality as low as possible. See my recommended setting in the image above.
Pro Tip: Turn on the setting to apply the image quality to all referenced parts.
The other option to look for is the check box “Apply to all referenced part documents.” This is an assembly option which will take the top-level assembly image quality and apply it to all the components in that assembly. With this setting, all the components will be in the so-called ‘sports mode’ and you’re ready for high performance modeling no matter what component is in your assembly.
Templates are More than Just Document Properties
The meat of a template is the document properties. Think of templates as a three-Michelin-star tasting menu with a dozen courses. There’s a lot more to it and it’s full of nuance in each bite. One of the most often overlooked aspects of templates is using them to set just the scene, appearance and even some aspects of the UI. Below you’ll find just a sampling of what can be saved in templates.
Scene & Appearance
Templates can save the model display style so it’s always how you like it. Set it to wireframe or shaded with edges so your model always looks the way you like.
You can take it a step further and also set up the environment background to look how you want. The default out of the box might not be right for everybody. Some prefer a darker background while others prefer the clean simplicity of a plain white environment.
The UI & Visibility
Certain aspects of the interface can be controlled through templates. You can split the feature tree. This is something to consider if you like to always work with a split feature tree showing the model history, configurations and display states. You can even change the names of the default planes if you prefer a different naming convention.
Anything that can be toggled on or off in the display items menu of the heads-up display can be set in a template. This includes things such as planes, axis, sketches, sketch relations, origins and many more. Anything that can be turned on or off in the display items menu shown in the image to the right can be set in a template. It’s a huge time-saver to go in and set these once and save them to a template so you can always have the items showing how you like.
The Best Part is a Start Part
The most overlooked part of a template is capturing model geometry. If you find yourself always modeling something or needing some base geometry such as a fixture or enclosure, you can capture this all in a template. Some might call this a ‘start part.’
It’s easy. Just model the base geometry and then save it to a template. All the geometry will be there ready to go every time you start a new part.
How to Create Templates in Three Easy Steps
There are only three steps to creating your very own templates. Step one only needs to be done once.
Step 1: Defining a Template location.
You’ll need to identify a location on your computer or network where you will save your templates. Simply create a folder. The name of this folder is important because it will be the name of the tabs listed when beginning a new SOLIDWORKS file.
Keep in mind this is a view into the templates. For SOLIDWORKS, there are two “views” of templates: Novice and Advanced. The tabbed view is the advanced view, whereas the novice view only makes available the default templates.
I recommend creating a location that is convenient for you on your computer, such as in the root directory of your C: drive, or somewhere convenient on the server if you’re working out of shared templates for the entire company.
Once this location has been created, you have to “register it” with SOLIDWORKS by adding it to the list of file locations. This is done through the system options and file locations. You can then add this to the list of locations for a file template.
Step 2: Create the Template
Start with a new part, and set everything to how you would like it to be for your template. This article focuses on templates for parts and assemblies, while ignoring drawing templates—because drawing templates deserve an article all to themselves.
This is the step where you define all the options for your template that we discussed earlier in the article:
- Set all the document properties.
- Chose the appropriate scene and environment setting.
- Turn on the visibility for items.
- Create any starting geometry.
- Pre-populate any custom properties.
Step 3: Save the Template
Once the template has been created, you then need to save it. The only difference with a template is that you need to pick the appropriate file extension. Each SOLIDWORKS file type has its own unique extension for a template.
- Part: *.prtdot
- Assembly: *.asmdot
- Drawing: *.drwdot
Now you’re ready to use the template, with everything set exactly the way you want. Now you can focus more on your model and less on other things such as units and other document properties. Begin every model with a template and you will have a foundation for efficiency that will let you get your designs out the door faster than ever before.
Learn more about SOLIDWORKS with the whitepaper Designers Greatly Benefit from Simulation-Driven Product Development.