Solidworks, 3D Curves, and Surfacing

Am I missing something, or are the 3D curve and surfacing tools in Solidworks…lacking.

I have been using Pro/E and Rhino for years but finding most of my clients are wanting Solidworks…from the perspective of form generation either I am not grokking the mindset of Solidworks, or it simply isn’t up for the task of robust 3D curvature splines.

I very rarely use 3D curves, perhaps because as you say they are so imprecise. Usually it is to make a section for a boundary surface, then I use a spline to attach to 2 points and add curvature constraints. Or project sketch on sketch to generate a 3D curve.

You might want to check out Power Surfacing for SW.

SolidWorks surfacing blows.


Solidworks has put a lot of effort into their surfacing since the 2001 release. You may just need to look for a different “named” tool.
Two very important ones, as partially mentioned earlier.

1-projection curve- you can project a sketch to a surface or solid.
2- composit curve- you can link multiple edges of a surface into on selected item.

The two above items can be used as a surface loft profile or path/guide curve. That is the key to SW surfaces. The 3d curves are more of a wire or pipe routing tool with a nod more to engineering. I rarely use them.

The knit surface and surface offset tools help as well. SW has very well written help menus. Do a little reading in the surfacing section for the features. Nice organized demos as well.

Let me know if I can help in any way. Been using SW since 97plus rev per client needs. At that time, I was not happy. A few years later, I became a happy user.

So, what exactly are you trying to say? I’m not sure it’s clear?

Thanks for the replies.

I am actually doing some cable routing that eventually will be going into a rendering. I’ll look closer at the pipe and cable package. But, reality being what it is, I was able to export to rhino and build the curves faster than learning it in SW.

The disappointing part was that the exercise left me disappointed with SW where previously I have been a happy user for the most part.

I find alot of the advanced curvature control features are really hidden in SW. Er, not hidden…just not obvious until someone specifically points them out and then blows your mind.

E.g., when building a boundary surface, you can right click and then pick “add connector” to add more control points than the default CPs provided by your input splines. Minor things like that.

This is true, kind of like the “create solid from enclosed volume” check box in the thicken feature. This should be a giant gleaming promotional star for SW. Alas, it is one of the “hidden gems”.

I’ve always been told Solidworks is more geared towards solid model generation, while Rhino is better for organic shapes.

Ya, don’t get me wrong…this isn’t a “Solidworks sucks” thread. It is more of a…“huh…I expected SW to be better at this than they appear to be” thread.

As for hidden gems…I have no doubt that a lot of what I am wanting is hidden or simply needs a different mindset from the other packages I am familiar with.

I have to say that I hate the idea of projecting to get a spline to be continuous…

Or when you sketch on a plane and attach an endpoint to the edge by a pierce-constraint. Then you shift-mark the endpoint, the surface, and the edge and can add a curvature continuous to surface constraint without making intersect curves or ISOparms… (works for 3D-sketches too actually)

Fill surface works surprisingly well too… you try to build a 7 sided fillet for half a day, then give up and do a filled surface and it looks better than anything you’ve accomplished.

Curvature continuous fillets with variable setback corners is another hidden gem…

The Rhino import may have worked for you now. Please report back if you wished you learned how to build it in SW when the client that wanted you to use SW in the first place wants some surface to be offset by 1mm. Or when you discover the client’s engineers had to rebuild your model and did it with extrudes and fillets :wink:

Engio, could you explain what you mean by imprecise? I’ve heard this many times, but don’t really understand it.
From my perspective, you can tell it which points you want it to go through, which angles you want it to hit the points at, and the curvature at the ends, just like 2-D curves. Everything in between is also the same math that’s used for any other curve.

@mirk: I mean that it is difficult/complicated to control what happens between the endpoints. If you need a 3rd CP floating in space, you are just asking for trouble at the next model regeneration…

Sometimes they can be very useful though, like making a quick cross section for a swept surface - just throw in a 3D spline between to vertexes with curvature constraint… but still I usually prefer to create a plane there with a 2D curve instead.

But that’s just my experience and I’m certainly no guru.

Ah, the dreaded rebuild… Makes sense, thanks!

i wholeheartedly agree with engio. a 3d spline is always the last resort for me and to be avoided if possible, since especially the projected curves tool give usually much better controlled results.
I also prefer to use solidworks usually over rhino, as long as the surfaces are not getting too fancy and organic. especially building multiple variants with slight differences is just so easily done in SW since i can just change parameters instead of rebuilding whole surfaces in rhino.

so yeah, i think the surface tools in SW are actually very capable, i never ran into something that couldnt be done some way or another.

I have no doubt that there is a mindshift I need to go through in order to get SW to do what I want it to. My 20-0dd years of pushing CAD tells me that something is lacking in SW compared to other software I’m using. I don’t have empirical data to prove this point, it is more an obvious difference in thought process that is needed for SW.

SW, from my perspective, seems to be a derivitive of the 2D CAD world. SW that was built on the idea of allowing those that think in 2D to easily transition to the world of 3D…while Pro/e (my software of choice) and Rhino seem to have embraced the 3D as part of their core software tenets…

Just to make sure it is known…I find that SW (so far) handles 90%+ of what I need. This is simply one quirk that isn’t as intuitive for me as the other packages.

right…just because it ‘can’ be done doesn’t mean its fun doing it…the SolidWorks Bible has an image of a Shelby Cobra body on the cover, which would have to be a monstrous surfacing job in that program. But someone did it.

I had much better success in a shorter time with the surfacing extensions in Wildfire/Pro-E. Probably because ISDX was a full fledged surfacing program that was gradually integrated into ProE, vs trying to slowly evolve SolidWorks into making surfaces in a more intuitive way.

Word on the street is that the fellows who designed SolidWorks are working on a new CAD program that takes a fresh look at the discipline. Also there are rumors that Dassault will be scaling back support for SW in favor of other programs.

Two interesting words…especially the second. My read on the landscape that SW was pretty much out stripping the rest of the pack…why would you scale back?

What are they seeing that I’m not? Or, more to the point…what are the “fellows who designed Solidworks” seeing that is causing them to start fresh?

Feasible. Solidworks has not even touched surfacing since what, 2009? But a whole new program? Nah… They have a platform where thy can add stuff into SW, which they probably will when they have a killer surfacing package. I’m sure they are working on something killer and not half-assing it by improving legacy tools.

Also there are rumors that Dassault will be scaling back support for SW in favor of other programs.

Would bet against this. They release a new version each year with 5 service packs not counting betas. There’s is an update every 2 month if you want it, and they keep adding to it cost calculators, mould flow, enviromental impact analysis etc etc etc. AND they seem on top of the market. Very hard to believe they would be scaling back…

I think a whole new software package is feasible, actually. I tend to lean towards the thought that nothing has shaken up the industry in 10 years or so. If the originators of SW leave Dessault and start a new company out of frustration with working within the bigger corporation, it is very feasible that they’ve left to do something better. Happens all the time.