By Hunter Cordeiro
One major benefit of using a parametric feature-based modeler like SolidWorks is that you can build up references in your parts so that as one thing changes, the downstream features will automatically update to reflect that change. In fact, saving time and reducing user interaction is a major theme in the SolidWorks strategy. In SolidWorks 2014, some really neat new focused design tools have been rolled out that are sure to save you time so that you can get back to browsing Facebook quicker than ever - including this handy way to replace a sketch entity.
Take this bezel for example. It has been modeled intelligently so that any reasonable dimensional change made to the starting profile (in red) will propagate through. For example, I can use instant 3D to quickly make the bezel wider and shorter in just a couple clicks:
But what happens if I decide that the top surface looks a little boring with a constant radius arc? Let’s edit the sketch and delete the arc and draw up a spline that adds a bit more character to this bezel.
Now my feature tree looks more like a Christmas tree (or Holiday tree) and I get to spend my next half hour replacing dangling references, re-selecting fillet edges, re-defining equations … Not fun.
SolidWorks has always done a pretty good job letting me know this was going to happen. Whenever a sketch entity that has downstream references is deleted, SolidWorks will present you with a warning that something is going to break. However, I already know that I have to delete the sketch entity so this warning is more like a snarky, “Haha, your model is messed up, get ready for some pain.”
Thankfully, in SolidWorks 2014 this bullyish warning has a change of heart. Now, when I attempt to delete a sketch entity that has downstream references I am presented with the oh-so-helpful option to Replace Entity.
Note: you can also access the replace sketch entity command via tools>sketch tools>replace.
The way it works for the end user is pretty simple. You just click on an existing sketch entity that you would like all the would-be-dangling items to reference and you hit ok. There is even an option to just turn the old entity into construction geometry in case you want it back later. SolidWorks takes care of finding all the downstream face ID’s and other parametric identifiers and it re-attaches them to the new sketch entity. Really, all this means to me is that when I hit rebuild my part changes to reflect the new sketch geometry and all the downstream features update with no additional interaction.
After testing this functionality the only real limitation that I have encountered is that there has to be a one-to-one relation between the number of entities that you delete and the number of entities you replace. Meaning you can’t replace five arcs with one spline without some trouble. Also, you have to re-reference entities one at a time, so you would have to individually delete each arc and re-reference the spline five times… Now if only SolidWorks had a mind-reader function … Maybe in 2015 …