New Structure System Tools in 2019
SOLIDWORKS 2019 has added an amazing new set of tools for users who design structural systems. The new “Structure System” tools add an enhanced workflow to previous “weldments” functionality, saving users time when creating complex structural designs. If you haven’t worked with the previously available tools to create structural members, check out this article on getting started with SOLIDWORKS Weldments.
The “Structure System” Tools
In SOLIDWORKS 2019, we see that the amazing time-saving tools available in weldments have been enhanced with some nice new options. The main difference between working with traditional weldments tools and the new Structure System tools is found when we look at how structural members are generated. In traditional weldments, each structural member had to be created along an existing sketch entity. This meant a lot of 2D and 3D sketching, which can be time consuming.
The new Structure System tools allow users to generate new structural members in a variety of ways, including: at the intersection of reference planes; starting at a point and extruding to a set length; at the intersection of two or more faces; at the location of a plane when connecting two existing members; and between two points selected by the user. Let’s take a look at how we can use some of these great new features.
Designing a Shed in 2019
For today’s project, we are going to design a shed using the new 2019 Structure System tools.
In the above image, we can see that we started with a red 2D sketch of a rectangle, representing the floor of our shed. We then made a new plane eight feet above this sketch, and copied the red rectangle onto this upper plane, representing the upper level of our studs. We created one final red 2D sketch at the very top, the peak of our shed. We finished off with the 2D sketch shown in green; this represents the framing for the entrance to our shed.
One of the cool new features in 2019 is the ability to use planes to define the location for structural members. So, we have next created a series of planes representing the location of our studs, as shown in the image above.
Since we can use these planes to define the location of our structural members, we will be able to create all the vertical studs and angled braces on the truss supports, even though we never created a sketch representing these members. This is a terrific time saver.
Getting Set Up
To get started with the Structure System tools, we need to turn on a new Command Manager tab. This can be done from the Command Manager by doing a right-click on any tab and then choosing “Structure System.”
Once the Command Manager tab is enabled, we can select the first icon: Structure System.
After clicking the icon for Structure System, we will enter a new sub-mode in SOLIDWORKS. This is similar to editing a sketch or editing a part while working in an assembly. When entering a sketch, we enable a sub-mode, and this is indicated in the upper-right corner. Similarly, when working in the Structure System tool, we enable a new sub-mode which is also indicated in the upper-right corner of the screen.
Creating Our Primary Members
Now that we have entered the Structure System sub-mode, we are ready to begin creating structural members. We will see that there are different tools available when creating primary members and when creating secondary members, in the structure system tool. We start by creating primary members, so we click the icon with the “Primary Member” label.
We want to start by creating the four corner vertical posts for our shed. These will be our first four primary members. But, wait…we don’t have sketches representing these four posts. So, how are we going to generate new structural members in these locations? We’re about to see the first new tool we can use in 2019 for just such a challenge. That tool is the “Point Length Member” option.
In the above image, we can see that we have the ability to simply select a series of points to declare where our structure members will be located. We also need to declare what type of structure member we want to create as ounr primary member. We do this on the tab called Profile. For our shed, we’ll start with 4×4 posts.
Next we will select the four corner points on our lower rectangular sketch as the starting points for these posts.
After selecting the four corners points of our lower sketch, we input a height of 96” (8ft). We also want to sink these posts into the ground, so we choose to add 24” (2ft) to the lower side of our structural member. We are finished with our first primary member, so we hit the green checkmark. Note that our preview changes to grey, but that we are still in the Structure System sub-mode.
Creating Additional Primary Members
We often create multiple sets of primary members. After hitting the green checkmark, we can begin the primary members command again, this time changing to the first option available: Path Segment Member.
Path Segment Member is very similar to the traditional weldments tools; we choose path segments from our sketches and our structural members follow these segments. So, in our shed design, we will select all the red lines from our layout sketches. Each of these lines will become a 4×4 beam.
We hit the green checkmark for these new beams and see that our preview updates, once again showing us the preview in grey. We also notice that we are still in the Structure System sub-mode. If we zoom in on the corners of our structural members, we will see that they are not yet trimmed. When we choose to exit the Structure System sub-mode, we will be presented with some options for how we want our structural members to be trimmed.
For now, we will create one final primary member, this time using 2x4s to frame the doorway. We begin the primary member command and choose the tab for Profile.
As we can see in the above image, at any point in the design we can choose different sizes and shapes for our structural members. Now that we have chosen 2x4s as the size for our primary member, we will once again use the Path Select Member, this time choosing the green sketch entities in the doorway.
After selecting the entities from the green sketch to use as our frame for our doorway and hitting the green checkmark, we can see that the preview updates. We are now ready to add some secondary members.
Adding Secondary Members
One of the coolest features available in the new structural system tools is found when adding secondary members. This great new time-saving tool allows us to select a plane and use it to define where the structural member will be generated.
The option for Support Plane Member can be used in our shed design by choosing the front plane as our support plane. This plane is running right down the middle of our shed. We will use this plane to define the location of the rear-center post, which will be a 4×4 post. So, we click the command for Secondary Structural Member, and then click the Profile tab.
After making the selections shown in the above image, we can see that a new vertical structural member has been generated, even though we didn’t have a sketch line there for it to follow. Instead, we were able to define the location of this new member by selecting a plane and then two existing structural members, to connect.
Now, let’s take it up a notch. This time we are going to select three planes as the support planes. We hit the green checkmark, and then begin another Secondary Structural Member command.
The three planes selected in the above image represent the locations of our vertical studs. So, we will change our profile type to 2x4s, and we are then ready to select our connecting members. This time we will select four connecting members.
After selecting members 1 and 2, as shown in the above image, three new studs were generated (one at each of the support planes). We were then able to select members 3 and 4, and three additional studs were generated. Six new studs in just a few clicks. It really doesn’t get much easier than this! We hit the green checkmark and move on.
Creating the Truss Supports
To create the truss supports, we will once again utilize the Secondary Structural Member command, and we will once again utilize the support plane member. But this time we will choose five planes, as the locations for each of the trusses.
After selecting these five planes, we select our four existing structural members, two pairs of two. This generates the angled-truss design, as shown in the above image. This time, we were able to create 10 new structural members in just a few clicks. We hit the green checkmark and we are just about finished.
Unique On-the-Fly Angled Structural Members
For our final structural members, we need to create a brace going at an angle. Once again, we will begin a Secondary Structural Member command, but this time we will use the option for Between Points Member.
After selecting the rear-corner 4×4 post and the rear-center 4×4 post, a new structural member is created between them. We can see in the image shown above that the Property Manager has a field for distance from end. By setting these values, we can control the angle of the newly-generated 2×4 angled brace.
We hit the green checkmark and repeat this process for the remaining angled brace.
Exiting Sub-mode and Entering Trim Mode
We are now ready to exit the sub-mode for Structure Systems. We do so by clicking the icon in the upper-right corner, or the icon for “Exit Structure System” from the Command Manager toolbar. Once we exit this sub-mode, we will be prompted to select our trimming options.
When examining our structural design, we find that some of the intersections will require trimming which is very straightforward, while other intersections are more complex. SOLIDWORKS 2019 will categorize these different intersections as “Simple,” “Two Member,” or “Complex.” In each of these categories our intersections will be grouped together as “Corner Groups.” When selecting a corner group, it will be highlighted in the graphics area, where we can explore different trimming options while examining the preview.
After examining the different intersections of our structural members and specifying the desired trim options, we hit the green checkmark one final time. This concludes the process of generating our structural members, and all of the previously overlapping members are now trimmed.
Weldments is one of my favorite tools in SOLIDWORKS. For years it has been the go-to tool for designers of complex structural systems. Now, in 2019, we see a great new time-saving technique has been added: the Structure System tools. These tools differ from traditional weldments tools by giving users several new techniques for generating new structural members. Users will also save time when trimming their structural members, since all of the trimming can be handled in one single command, when exiting the Structure System sub-mode.
About the Author
Toby Schnaars is a Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert from Philadelphia, PA. He has been working with SOLIDWORKS software since 1998 and has been providing training, technical support and tips and tricks since 2001.