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Creating a Helical Sweep in SOLIDWORKS

Article by Rod Mackay created/updated July 29, 2010

It is possible to create a helical solid in SOLIDWORKS which, rather than extending linearly, actually follows a helical (or other) path.  This is actually done using the Sweep command using a twist along the sweep path.  The end result can vary quite dramatically, but can potentially look like a twisted phone cord such as this example:

Helical Sweep

Helical Sweep

Creating the helical sweep

The steps to create this are as follows.  Note that for this example a helical path is used, but in actuality any open loop that would be acceptable for a Sweep path can be used, resulting in a very wide range of end results:

  • Create the helical path using the Helix/Spiral command (Insert-> Curve).  You first sketch a circle, then use this circle as a basis for the helix.  Note the orientation of the main planes with respect to the start of the helix – it is easier later on (but not essential) if the start of the helix is tangent to an existing plane.
Helix/Spiral Feature for Sweep Path

Helix/Spiral Feature for Sweep Path

  • Sketch a small circle in the plane that is tangent to the start of the helix, either below or above the helix.  It should therefore be normal to the helix itself.  This circle is the basis for the size, shape, and helical diameter of the cord (in the above example).
Small circle, tangent and normal to helix

Small circle, tangent and normal to helix

  • Create a Sweep, using the existing helix as the path, and the circle sketch as the profile.  Within the sweep options, choose to Twist Along Path, and then choose the number of turns.  Click OK.
Sweep PropertyManager

Sweep PropertyManager

Sheet Metal Helical Sweep

If you need to create a helical sweep in sheet metal which is able to be flattened then check out this tech tip post »

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Rod Mackay

Rod has been using 3D CAD software for over 25 years and has trained thousands of designers to use their CAD systems more effectively. Rod is the Javelin Webmaster and is based in Ottawa, ON., Canada.

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