Solidworks Intro

A quick summary of Solidworks Intro


SOLIDWORKS is one of the main Computer Aided Design (CAD) softwares which is used all the way from clubs like our own to the largest engineering companies in the world. Some other popular CADing software includes AutoCad, PTC Creo, TurboCAD and many more, but we use SOLIDWORKS because they are nice enough to provide student groups with licenses and it is one of the most widespread programs out there. While every CAD software is different, they all follow the same formats and learning SOLIDWORKS can easily transfer to another program. This tutorial will introduce you to most of the basic functions, then guide you through making a simple part.

This tutorial should take 60-90 minutes including the assignment at the end, if you find you're taking longer than that show one of the airframe leads your progress and see if we can help speed it up or something else.


This tutorial will assume that you have succesfully installed SOLIDWORKS and subversion and that you have not opened SOLIDWORKS yet.

Opening SOLIDWORKS for the first time

When you open SOLIDWORKS for the first time, you will be greeted by a mostly blank screen with some tabs to the right and some buttons up top. To create our first part, we are going to click on the blank page "new" button, and when you're opening up parts in the future you will use the open file. When you click open you will have three options: part, assembly, or drawing. Click on part. Assemblies are combinations of parts which will be covered later in this guide/another guide. Click okay until you get to a blank white screen which is just waiting for you to use.

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The first thing to notice is the tab in the bottom right which sets the measurement system. Often we use IPS, but MKS and CGS are both very common. For now set it to IPS for this tutorial, that means that all lengths are in inches by default. When you're adjusting the length of a sketch you can type a plain number with no units and SOLIDWORKS will assume you mean inches. If you want to use another measurement, type in the common abreviation after the number. For example, when you are entering the length of a line and the standard is set to IPS, entering "5" will produce a 5 inch line and entering "5cm" will make a 5 cm long line.

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The most fundamental idea of any CAD software is to create a two-dimensional sketch of your part, which you then extrude into a three-dimensional object. In order to make a sketch, click on the sketch tab along the top menu and click on sketch. SOLIDWORKS will then ask which plane you want to sketch on, pick the front plane.

To begin, there is a large selection of shapes you can draw in the top left of the screen. You will become familiar with how to use these and the other shapes in pull down menus in the future, but for now we will begin with a circle. Select the circle and bring your cursor back to the middle of the screen where you will see that the cursor is now a pencil with the shape selected below it. The orange dot at the end of the pencil is where your sketch will begin, so click once on the center set of red axis and drag the circle to any length and click again to complete the circle. For a circle, the number that appears as you're dragging is the diameter.

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Now along the left you see the FeatureManager has changed to the PropertyManager and several options about the circle are presented. Towards the bottom of this bar there is a set of numbers called the parameters. The x and y determine the coordinates in the front plane of the center of the circle, and the last determines the radius of the piece. Remember these are all in inches by default. Set the radius of the circle to 1 and click the check mark at the top of the PropertyManager.

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Now that the sketch is complete, click Exit Sketch at the top left and click on Features just below that. Then click Extrude Boss/Base and your circle should now look like a manilla cylinder. Once again the FeatureManager along the left has changed into the PropertyManager and you are given several options on what to do with this extrusion. For now, find the line with D1 beside it about half-way down the menu which designates length and set it to .25 (you could also do "1/4" because SOLIDWORKS knows basic math). Click the check at the top of the menu and you should see a thin grey disc.

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There are some important navigational tools to know. The first is your mouse scroll wheel zooms in and out from the point your mouse is hovering on, this means you can zoom into specific parts of your assembly or get yourself back in place if you're lost. The space bar will surround your part with a box, and by selecting any side of the box it will change the "camera" perspective to that angle.

The bar along the top has most of the tools you will use to create parts and has far to many tools for an introduction, but you will likely only use the Features and Sketch tabs for a while. You can learn to use these great tools in another tutorial, but the tools just below the bar which begin with a magnifying glass provide many different ways to view your part. Take a minute to see what those tools do.

Along the left is the design tree with several tabs along the top. Again, you will mostly use the FeatureManager with the yellow part icon and the PropertyManager with the dialog box icon. Within the FeatureManager you can see the list of sketches and extrusions you have made so far. This list becomes incredibly powerful when working with a large assembly. Right-click "Boss-Extrude1" and above it find the two boxes with pencils in them. This is how you can edit an extrusion or sketch after you have made it. You can also right click any of the planes in the FeatureManager and choose to begin a sketch from there.

Completing the Part

Now you will make the second sketch, so follow the same path as before by selcting Sketch along the top tool bar and select Sketch again in that tool bar. No planes appear this time, instead you should click the circular surface of you cyliner to begin a sketch on that extrusion.

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Select the circle again from the shapes at the top left and make another circle starting from the center with any diameter. Set the radius to .35 in the PropertyManager, click the check mark, exit sketch, and again go back to the Features tab. Select Extrude Boss/Base again but don't get ahead of yourself, this isn't just a plain cylindar anymore. Change the length to 2 inches then click the box next to Thin Feature further down the PropertyManager. Thin Feature makes the shape hollow, you could click Cap Ends to make the shape solid all the way around, but not today.

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The box next the the line and T1 is the thickness of the feature. Change that to .25 and then click the box with two arrows just above it and to the left of the "one-direction". SOLIDWORKS will assume you want your extrusion of the initial sketch to be the hollow center first, by clicking the arrow we are telling it that we want the hollow center to be within that extrusion. Once this is done, click the check mark and see your completed piece.

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The piece you made was an important one for us last year. These parts were used as landing feet for the smaller drones that tested Spinny's code and although it does not look elegant or complicated, the landing feet caused significant problems for us at competition last year. I should note that the hole in the center would be better made with the hole wizard tool in the feature toolbar, but you should learn that in a future tutorial.
Take a screenshot of the finished part and send to one of the airframe leads when you have finished
You should start a folder on your computer to save CAD parts for future organization, hopefully you will be doing a lot of CADing in the future. Try not to put too much on the Subversion once you have that set up, only put final products or things you and someone else are collaborating on there because who knows when the school will shut it down because they suspect it is full of malware or whatever.


SOLIDWORKS has many excellent tutorial already built in, so once you have saved your part, exit out using the Grey "X" in the top right of the window to get back to the starting screen. Select the house tab along the right and find "Introduction to SOLIDWORKS" in the tutorials. This tutorial will teach you how to use some more of the tools and rienforce the lessons from this tutorial. Send a screenshot of the completed product of that tutorial to one of the airframe leads when you're done and happy CADing!

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Created by: David Thorne
Last Edit: 8/21/2018