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How Not to Be Wrong: Essential Skills That Prevent and Catch Design Errors

CAD Concept Design Simulation

How Not to Be Wrong: Essential Skills That Prevent and Catch Design Errors

Some tools work with parts, while others are used in assemblies and still others are general tools that work with all document types, including drawings. There are also tools that are geared toward specific industries. Many of these tools are available in SOLIDWORKS Standard, Professional and Premium levels. Different levels offer different tools. In this article, I will discuss many of the most commonly used tools and provide a description of each tool.

The majority of these tools are available from the Evaluate tab of the SOLIDWORKS Command Manager.

Some of these tools must first be activated by enabling the add-in.


There are tools for checking manufacturability, cost, conformance to company standards and even environmental impact in your design:

  • DFMXpress can be used to check the manufacturability of a design. This tool ships with all levels of SOLIDWORKS.
  • Costing, available in Professional, allows users to instantly get an estimate of the cost of a design—and it offers feedback on which features are most expensive so users can quickly redesign the part to reduce the cost.
  • Design Checker is available with Professional and Premium levels. Design Checker allows users to create checks to ensure that designs meet company standards. This tool can also make corrections when a check fails.
  • Sustainability can help users evaluate the environmental impact of a design. Sustainability Xpress ships with all levels of the software and works only with parts. Sustainability is available with Premium and will work with parts and assemblies.

There are industry-specific tools for those that work in the mold, plastics or forging industries. With the exception of Plastics, the following tools ship with all versions of the software:

  • Draft Analysis, Undercut Analysis, Parting Line Analysis and Thickness Analysis can identify problems in parts or tooling.
  • Deviation Analysis, Curvature and Zebra Stripes can show flaws on the faces of a design.
  • Check and Geometry Analysis can find flaws in model imported geometry. Import Diagnostics can detect and fix faulty faces and gaps that can cause issues later in a design and prevent the user from being able to create a 3D solid model.
  • Compare Documents allows users to compare two separate models, assemblies and drawings and identifies any differences between them. This is useful when it’s necessary to identify changes quickly in a newer version of a file.
  • Plastics adds additional tools and capabilities for those working in the plastics industry. Plastics is only available as a separately purchased item.

Many tools are specific to assemblies. Unless noted, these tools are available with all levels of the software:

  • Tolerance Stack-up is available with Professional and Premium levels and can prevent manufacturing errors resulting from tolerance stack-up issues.
  • Interference Detection will identify interference between components. Coincident faces can be listed as interfering, which can be useful in preventing excessive wear. A selection of parts or an entire assembly can be analyzed and interference in subassemblies can be ignored.
  • Clearance Verification checks the gap between parts.
  • Collision Detection allows users to check if moving parts collide. Run Interference Detection before Collision Detection, as interference between the selected components will prevent Collision Detection from finding a solution. As with Interference Detection, a selection of parts or an entire assembly can be analyzed. Collision Detection is available in the Move option menu.
  • Hole Alignment checks for misaligned holes. The “Hole center deviation” sets the maximum deviation that will be evaluated. Holes that exceed this deviation will be ignored, as will aligned holes.


  • Physical Dynamics, like Collision Detection, is available from the Move menu. As components are manually moved, collisions between components are captured and the mates for those components are evaluated to determine how the components should move. The result is realistic motion within an assembly.
  • Motion is similar to Physical Dynamics, except that the motion is defined manually. While not actually an analysis tool, this tool can help users understand the intended motion of an assembly. Motion studies are available near the bottom of the window.

  • Assembly Visualization allows users to rank parts by mass and quantity, as well as other user-definable criteria. This tool provides a graphical representation of the ranking.

  • Top-down design is not so much a tool as a modeling practice. By creating parts in the context of an assembly, users can capture important relations between these parts. This will allow changes in one part to automatically change other related parts.

SOLIDWORKS also includes a number of general tools. Unless noted, these tools are available with all levels of the software:

  • The Measure tool allows users to measure distances between faces, edges and vertices. It can also provide the area, perimeter, radius and diameter of a selection(s).
  • The Mass Properties tool calculates model properties, such as mass, density, volume and moment of inertia. These values are calculated using the design’s geometry as well as the materials.
  • The Center of Mass tool will, as the name implies, identify your design’s center of mass.
  • The Sensors feature will provide real-time warnings if a criterion is exceeded. The criteria available include simulation data, mass properties, dimensions, component interference, measured values, proximity of components and costing data.
  • Design Study can be used with simulation parameters, Sensors, or user-defined global variables to help optimize a design. Once the criteria for the Design Study are defined, the designer modifies the design until all the criteria are met. Like a Motion Study, a Design Study is available in the pane near the bottom of the window.

  • Symmetry Analysis evaluates part or assembly symmetry about a selected plane.

There are also tools available in the Simulation group of tools:

  • Simulation is used to predict how a design will perform under loading. The purpose is to determine if a component will fail under a defined load. A design can be optimized using targets such as maximum stress, maximum deviation and factor of safety. Simulation tools are available at the following four levels:

ο Simulation Xpress is available at all levels of the software, but is limited to single body parts and linear materials.

ο Premium includes linear analysis for both parts and assemblies as well as multi-body parts. This level of Simulation also gives the designer greater control over simulation parameters such as the type of load, restraints and mesh density.

ο Simulation Standard adds fatigue analysis, which allows users to estimate the life expectancy of a product. This level of Simulation is only available as a separately purchased item.

ο Simulation Professional adds optimization, frequency, buckling, thermal and drop test analysis. This level of Simulation is only available as a separately purchased item.

ο Simulation Premium adds the ability to run an analysis on nonlinear materials and is also only available as a separately purchased item.

There are additional distinctions between the different levels of Simulation. SOLIDWORKS provides a Simulation Matrix that lists these differences.

  • Simulation Flow evaluates fluid flow as well as heat transfer. FloXpress is available with all levels of the software and the full version of Flow is available as a separately purchased item. Electronic Cooling and an HVAC module are also available. Again, SOLIDWORKS provides a matrix that lists the capabilities of the different Flow offerings.

With all of the tools SOLIDWORKS offers to evaluate your design, design errors no longer need to be responsible for manufacturing errors.


About the Author

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Joe Medeiros is a senior applications engineer at Javelin Technologies, a SOLIDWORKS reseller servicing customers throughout Canada. Medeiros has been involved with SOLIDWORKS since 1996. He regularly blogs about the product and has won awards for his blogging.

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