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Ensure Proper Spacing with Clearance Verification

Tyler Braginton

Certain designs require us, as designers, to be hyper aware of the spacing between components. We have customers in the semiconductor industry, automotive, aerospace, and medical industries. What they all have in common is the need to be able to ensure their designs meet exact specifications while maintaining spacing on critical systems. When systems get really complicated, it can be extremely difficult to tell when components get too close. SOLIDWORKS solved this problem with Clearance Verification, a simple way to be absolutely certain those parts that can’t get too close get their breathing room.

How do you use the Clearance Verification tool? Start off with an assembly where your components are placed in what appears to be the correct locations. Here I have a PCB design.

Clearance verification tool

In order to be sure my prototype doesn’t turn into a molten heap on its test run, I want to make sure that heat sink is far enough away from the connectors where the wires will be coming in. For safety, I would like to maintain a 1 inch clearance between the heat sink and any connectors. You will find Clearance Verification under your Evaluate ribbon on the Command Manager.

Clearance verification menu

Once in the command, you need to select the components, or simply faces, of concern. Clearance Verification can be used to check the spacing between specific components, or the spacing of one component to all others. For this check, I will use Selected Items and click on the heat sink and 3 nearest connectors.

Next, you can specify what the minimum spacing should be, and SOLIDWORKS will filter down to only clearances less than that amount. Then we simply hit Calculate. If any clearances are found to be less than your minimum spacing, they will be shown in the Results box. Selecting a result will simplify the graphics down to just the two components in question.

If you would prefer to see the other components, you can scroll down in the Feature Manager and control the other components to be Hidden, Wireframe, Transparent, or maintain current display.

Our results reveal 2 possible spacing issues, one for the ribbon cable and one between two connectors. Since I am not worried about the spacing between connectors, I can choose to ignore that result.

This will leave me with the only result of concern, between the heat sink and the ribbon cable connection.

Now that I have identified a problem area, I can relocate the ribbon cable connector and rerun the Clearance Verification to confirm I have resolved the problem. Using SOLIDWORKS’ powerful Clearance Verification tool you can ensure your designs will survive the test of time and adhere to that perfect spacing. If you'd like to watch the tutorial, check it out here!

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