By Paolo Olmos
Tools > Mass Properties is an exceptionally helpful tool for estimating what your part will weigh based on the geometry you have modeled and the density of the material that you have applied.
But have you ever ran into a situation where you have finally finished modeling a new part only to find that it doesn’t meet your design goals for weight because you haven’t been checking the mass properties as you go? Wouldn’t it be great if you could see the mass without having to access mass properties? Well, sensors can help you there. If you have never used sensors before, they allow you to monitor selected properties of parts and assemblies such as mass, dimensions, or measurements, and can even alert you when a value has met a specified criterion.
To setup a sensor that allows you to monitor the mass of your part as you are modeling, you will need to first create your first solid feature and apply the material your part will be made of. From there, setting up a sensor to monitor the mass is simple:
- Right-click on the Sensors folder.
- Select Add Sensor.
- Choose Mass Properties as the Sensor Type.
- Choose Mass under the Properties section.
- Select your body from the graphics area.
This will create a sensor that will monitor the mass of your part under the Sensors folder. So now whenever you make a change to the part such as edit the feature you created or add a new feature, you can hit CTRL+B on your keyboard to rebuild your model which will also update the mass sensor so you can see how it affects the mass of your part.
Bonus Tip 1
What if you wanted to make sure that your part does not exceed a certain mass as you model? Well as I mentioned before, you can setup an alert to warn you if your part is greater than a specified value.
- Check the alert option.
- Choose is greater than for when to notify you.
- Type the mass you wish to limit your part to.
Once the alert is setup, if you exceed the mass there will be an exclamation mark on your sensor in the feature tree.
Bonus Tip 2
If you find yourself setting up sensors in all of your parts, you can streamline the process by creating a template that already includes a mass sensor. To setup a template that includes a sensor:
- Define your mass sensor as explained above.
- Go to File > Save As.
- Make sure you are in the correct location for your templates.
- Give your template a name.
- Under Save as type, Choose Part Templates.
- Click Save.
So now whenever you use that template, once you have added your first feature, edit the mass sensor, select the body and apply the material and the mass will be available for viewing through the sensor.
Using sensors is a great way of monitoring properties that are important in your designs and this only scratches the surface for how you can use them in SolidWorks. Hopefully these tips spark some ideas of how you can use sensors in your own designs and if you would like to share them, please leave a comment below.