Sheet Metal Improvements in SOLIDWORKS 2023
While most users are anxiously awaiting the impending new release of SOLIDWORKS, many users are still figuring out the new features in SOLIDWORKS 2023, such as the sheet metal improvements.
If I am creating a sheet metal part, I want to be able to use the sheet metal tools.
To add a sheet metal toolbar to your user interface, go to Customize, located under Options on the Standard toolbar.
On the Toolbars tab, enable Sheet Metal.
This adds a toolbar with sheet metal tools to your screen. You now have all the tools available within easy reach.
If you prefer using mouse gestures, you can configure your mouse gesture wheel to use sheet metal commands. Simply drag and drop the desired commands to replace the commands you won’t be using with the mouse wheel.
If you are designing in sheet metal, you are familiar with the use of gauge tables. Sheet metal comes in sheets of various thicknesses, aka gauges. Normally, you want to designate or use the thickness that will provide the greatest stiffness and least likeliness of failure with whatever it is holding. Most computer chassis/enclosures are designed using aluminum sheet metal with a thickness of 0.064 or 14 gauge.
SOLIDWORKS comes with two sample gauge tables – one for aluminum with metric units and one for steel with English (Imperial) units. If you want to use a gauge table for aluminum with Imperial units, you will need to create one and store it in a location where it is easy to access. The gauge tables are Excel files. If you want to use Google Sheets, you can do that and save as/download as an .xls file to use with SOLIDWORKS.
I want to create a gauge table for aluminum sheet metal parts using Imperial units. The easiest way to create one is to open the existing gauge table provided with SOLIDWORKS and perform a Save As.
To determine the correct values, I referred to my machinist’s handbook and used the values for 6061 aluminum, since that is the metal I most often use. I store my Excel file away from SOLIDWORKS but in a location where I can easily access it. If I am working in a team environment, I might create several gauge table files for my team members to use and store them on a shared drive.
Then I can browse to the file location and load the file. Select the desired gauge and the values will auto-fill based on the table.
By using a standardized gauge table, I ensure that the sheet metal shop will be able to create my design.
In the SOLIDWORKS 2023 release, SOLIDWORKS has added the ability to add thickness in both directions of a sketch.
Symmetrical thickness helps you create sheet metal parts from sketches, to help achieve equal bend radii for upward and downward bends. In the image above, Symmetric is cleared for the example on the left and selected for the example on the right. Note the position of the blue line in the examples. The blue line represents the sketch that is being extruded. If you are having an issue with a hem or a bend, switching to a symmetrical thickness may eliminate the error.
SOLIDWORKS automatically generates a flat pattern for any sheet metal part. Just create a drawing for the sheet metal part. Then, drag and drop the flat pattern onto the sheet.
To access the cut list for a sheet metal part, place a flat pattern in your drawing.
Right click on the flat pattern and select Annotations → Cut List Properties.
This provides a note which can be placed on the sheet. The cut list can be used for cost estimates. In 2023, the assigned sheet metal gauge property has been added to the cut list.
In order for the material and finish to appear in the cut list or to be used as properties in the title block or notes, you need to make sure that you have those properties defined. With the part file open, go to Files > Properties.
The cut list uses a property called SW-Surface Treatment for the finish, while the title block uses a property called Finish.
I normally will create a template with the properties that I want to be able to leverage in my drawings. That way you don’t have to reinvent the wheel spending time defining properties for every drawing. You can then use the drop-down list to select the desired properties and fill in the values.
The 2023 SOLIDWORKS release allows you to include the Surface Finish property and use it in your cut list, title block or notes. In prior releases, you weren’t able to leverage that property.
As we are waiting for the SOLIDWORKS 2024 release, take some time to explore these new sheet metal features. I guarantee that they will help make you more productive.
About the Author
Elise Moss has worked in Silicon Valley for the past thirty years as a designer and mechanical engineer. She is currently traveling the United States with her husband and their two horses, exploring backroads and historical trails. She is writing about her horse travels on her blog shakespeareantrails.substack.com. Her professional website is mossdesigns.com. She will be returning to work in Silicon Valley in a few weeks.