Category Archives: Tech Tips

If you upgraded to SOLIDWORKS 2016, the first thing that you saw was the interface change.  Many reasons lead to the interface change, chief among them was the need to Vectorize the icons for scalability and compatibility with 4K computer monitors.  If you launch SOLIDWORKS 2015 on a computer with a 4K display, the interface icons and elements are very tiny, even with the Icons set to Large.

So focusing on the new interface, SOLIDWORKS 2016 Provides 3 background ‘brightness’ levels as seen here:


With most major changes there are always mixed reactions.  As engineers like consistency, the loudest reactions were full of passion.  In fact the number One enhancement request at SolidWorks World 2016 in Dallas, Texas; was to bring back the familiar Yellow and Green color palette.  So, I’m pleased to announce that with SOLIDWORKS 2016 Service Pack 3, you now have the option to change the color palette back to match the ‘classic’ look of SOLIDWORKS 2015 and prior.  Simply go into Tools/Options, Colors, then set the Icon Color to ‘Classic’, and adjust the Background to ‘Medium Light‘.

change the setting for classic colors.GIF

 So now you can have the new vectorized interface with ‘Classic’ Colors along with the interface brightness of Medium Light to bring back the familiar.

COMPARE 2015 TO 2016.PNG

 Keep in mind that you can mix and match the ‘Classic’ Color palette with the different Background brightness levels.


This leads to a more customizable work environment and a best of both worlds of having a cleaner look to Feature Icons but keeping the “classic” colors that we have grown to love.

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There is a option in SOLIDWORKS drawings that can be very useful but is commonly overlooked. The option is called Disable note merging when dragging and is located in Tools > Options > System Options > Drawings. This option is typically checked by default but there are some good uses for unchecking it. While this option is unchecked you can drag a note on top of another note and SOLIDWORKS will automatically merge the notes. The system will put the note as a new line on the existing note. If you have a bulleted or numbered list the note will be added as the next item on that list (See image below).

It can be very annoying to have notes merge when you don’t intend that to happen which is why this option is typically checked. However as mentioned above there are times where this functionality is very useful. One great use for note merging is when you combine it with storing common annotations in the Design Library. For example with mechanical notes instead of putting one big Design Library stored annotation into a drawing then deleting the lines you don’t need you could store several individual lines separately in the Design Library. This way you can quickly drag and drop only the notes you need on the list and SOLIDWORKS will automatically merge them.

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I wanted to share an undocumented feature or technique to show which mates are associated to a component in an assembly. You can quickly see which mates are associated to a component by simply selecting a component in the FeatureManager Design Tree or in the graphics area and then click on the PropertyManager Tab.
This functionality is similar to the actual “View Mates” command but without the isolation view where the rest of the nonassociated assembly components are temporarily hidden. If you are using SolidWorks 2016, then this shortcut would also be similar to selecting the component and reviewing the mates in the breadcrumbs.
Common Mates between Components
If you Ctrl-select multiple assembly components, then the Property Manager will show all the associated mates and any common mates between the components will be highlighted in a bold font as seen below.
This shortcut can be a real time saver especially in larger assemblies where the mate list can potentially get very long and searching through mates one by one can get unwieldy.
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On tech support I get customers who are running simulation studies on thinner models with solid elements but would like to also try running their models using shell elements instead to take advantage of the benefits of quicker calculation times with shell elements.  Their main fear is that they may not get similar or comparable results due to the different element type or have already seen too large of a difference in results and do not understand why and prefer to stick with solid elements for their meshes.  If you are trying to validate the similarity between Simulation studies of the same model that use solid elements for one study and shell elements for the other, there are a couple of things to make sure you consider.

First, double check your shell definitions in your Simulation study.  Make sure your shell definitions are offsetting and orienting your shell model correctly so that you are sampling your original geometry exactly.  Having slightly different geometries for your shell model and your solid model can be a source of error so turn on a full preview and do a visual check.

The second item to consider has to do with your shell element study in particular.   There are two shell element models to choose from for Simulation studies, a thick model and a thin model.  The thin model ignores the shear deformation and stress in the through-thickness direction of the model.  You may want to consider using the thick shell element model for your comparison if shear deformation and stress in the through-thickness direction is a significant factor in your particular study.

Next, regarding your shell results on stress plots, check both the top and bottom results for your shell results. By default Simulation will display only one side (bottom or top side) of the thickness of the model per result plot. To switch between the bottom or top surface of the results for the model, edit the definition of the plot and choose the top or bottom option under the “Shell Face” pull-down menu.


Another aspect to consider is that you have enough mesh density in both studies that you are comparing.  A study using solid elements can take more time both for setting up specific mesh controls and for simulation runtime.  SOLIDWORKS officially recommends at least 2 layers of second order elements across any cross section of a solid body.  I personally try to add 3-4 elements across the cross section of my models to make sure I have a decent stress gradient through the thickness of the model if I have spare resources and calculation time.  A sufficiently dense meshed model will help ensure that your results are converged before comparison.

After doing some testing and research on shell element refinement, I found out that when preparing the mesh it is determined that the actual refinement needed can be more relaxed as compared to solid elements.  SOLIDWORKS recommends that shell elements’ mesh size should not exceed 4x the size of the solid mesh at the area of comparison to get accurate top and bottom shell face stress results.

As we mentioned previously, adequate mesh density using solid elements can get computationally expensive to test for the whole model for thin models.  Adding the recommended number of elements across the thickness of a thin model to treat it as a solid can easily take up most of your computational resources.  My suggestion is that you simplify your model or use a smaller portion of the model that only has the geometry section you want to specifically test for your validation.  On a sample model, I have done a comparison to check for similar results on the screenshot below between solid and shell elements.  Feel free to click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

 Lastly, most analysts I’ve helped in the past seem to just focus on only comparing the stress result plots for their validation.  As you have seen above, this can be computationally expensive not to mention having the risk of running into artificially high stress results called singularities in the stress plot.  If you can compare other result plots between solid and shell elements, a better alternative is to compare displacement plots.   Displacement plots are comparable even with coarser meshes so it is easier to run comparisons on larger or more complex models.

In closing, shell elements are a very viable and popular way to run Simulation studies on your thinner models.  Hopefully these suggestions give you the validation you need to proceed with shell elements in the future.

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When you first purchase SOLIDWORKS with maintenance or have recently renewed your maintenance, you are excited to log into the SOLIDWORKS Customer Portal to download the latest version of SOLIDWORKS. Once you have created an account and logged in for the first time or it has been years since you last logged into your old account, you may encounter a situation where almost every feature of the Customer Portal has a locked padlock icon.  Also, at the top of your screen you see a status of “Active subscription service contract required for full access.”

Many times we, here at DDi, are contacted from current customers who have active maintenance and notice this on their Customer Portal welcome screen.  The below workflow is a simple fix that you can follow using your SOLIDWORKS Serial Number.

Looking on the account homepage of the Customer Portal there is a feature under the “My Support” category that does not have a padlock on it called “Register My Products”. Select the Register My Products link.

This will navigate you to the SOLIDWORKS eRegistration page.

On this page you will simply enter in your 24 digit SOLIDWORKS Serial Number then select Next. When you enter in your SOLIDWORKS Serial Number, as a best practice, do not put spaces or dashes between the sets of numbers. If you copy and paste your Serial Number from SOLIDWORKS, the last 4 digits may get dropped and need re-copied or typed in.

After selecting the Next button you will then be prompted to select which version of SOLIDWORKS you would like to register. In order to select your version you will need to select the icon with a check in it adjacent to the fill-in field. This will pop-up a new window to select the desired version. Note: Some internet browsers may block the pop-up window, Allow all pop-ups from this website to get past this.

Within this new pop-up window, select the desired version to register, then click OK. Note: It is best to to select the newest version listed to register, even though this may not be the version that you will be installing.

You will then return to the Customer Portal page, select next


On the next page it should state that your Serial Number has been registered. Select Next.

You will now return to the your Customer Portal home page, and all of the padlocks will be removed. Note: In some cases, you may need to close all internet browsers and then wait 20 minutes before logging back in for the padlocks to be removed.

You are now fully registered with the Customer Portal.

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