Using Virtual Components with Imported Assemblies

CAD Digest SelectionThrough my training and usage of SolidWorks I have come to find that the virtual component with assembly functionality is little used. Part of this may come from not understanding how it can help in everyday usage of SolidWorks. Here are some ideas where virtualization can come in handy.

In the past, I have had the pleasure of designing automated machinery. A common issue that I ran into was when I was importing components, some of them were assemblies. Here is where the problem lies!  When you import it, the assembly has some part numbers wanted and all the parts of the assembly are listed as:  Import 1, Import 2, Import 3… While that is great and all, the first step that you usually need to take is to rename all the parts to something else. This needs to be done because if I import another assembly, the new assembly will also have parts called: Import 1, Import 2, Import 3…  This right here is where the issue comes into play.  You can open one assembly, no problem.  You can open the other assembly, no problem.  Open both assemblies at the same time, now you have a problem!!!  The issue is that the two assemblies are looking for a part called “Import 1” and they are two different parts, but it can only load one file called “Import 1.sldprt”.  Once way to get around this is to save the imported assembly as a SolidWorks Part file.  This gets rid of the naming issues that you run into AND there are less files for me to tinker around with.  Win/win, right?  Wrong…  The problem that you run into is when your imported assembly is supposed to have motion, much like the cylinder shown below.

Cylinder model

If this is a part file with multiple bodies, I can use it, but not for much. It is stiff, it doesn’t move. Bleeech. I am using an advanced CAD system with dynamic movement capabilities. It should move!!! So how can virtual components/assemblies help out here?

Upon importing the assembly into SolidWorks, you will have to save it at least once, or else this doesn’t work. After you save the assembly, follow these steps:

  1. Shift-click the top and bottom components, or hit CTRL-A (select all).Select all in assembly
  2. Right-click on any of the components and select “Make Virtual.”Make Virtual
  3. That’s it, you’re done!

That is the beauty of the system, select all and make virtual.  At this time, the part files have all been divorced from their actual files. They only reside in the assembly file. You can test this by going to the folder where they are at and simply delete them. Windows won’t balk at you saying that they are in use, because they aren’t being used anymore! The nice part is that the assembly still functions as an assembly, which means you can now add mates and configurations and colors and whatever else you want! It’s pretty exciting, right?!? The downside to this is that if you needed a drawing of one of the parts in the assembly, you can’t do it. The only restriction that I have run into with virtual components is that they cannot have a drawing made of them. If you try and make a drawing of a virtual part, SolidWorks will say the same thing in plain English (or whatever language setting you’ve chosen).  The assembly is okay for a drawing, but none of its parts are.

There are tons more uses out there. Keep an eye out for more blogs showcasing this function and its many uses! If you have found a use for them, please comment about it and share.

Ryan Cole
Application Engineer – CSWE
DASI Solutions, LLC

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