Time Saving Tip: Find the Exploded Steps of Each Component

Article by Alin Vargatu, CSWE updated October 11, 2011


The Exploded View in SolidWorks works pretty nice. Not only it is very easy to define each explode step, but once defined, they can be modified on the fly.
Just select one of the explode steps from the configuration manager/ feature tree and the components affected by it will be highlighted. Moreover, a blue arrow will appear, allowing you to modify the explode step travel by dragging it (fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - Highlight a component by selecting an exploded step

You knew that, right? It is pretty intuitive, but we were expecting that, since most of the time SolidWorks seems to read our mind.

Now let’s see if the opposite is true. What is happening if you select one or more components directly from the graphic area? Would the corresponding steps be highlighted in the exploded view?

The answer seems to be “No”. Actually this functionality has been requested in two Enhancement Requests:

  • ER# 21389: Selecting a component in the graphics window when the assembly is exploded should highlight the corresponding explode step in the tree
  • ER#542003: Add ability to show which explode steps move a specific component (click in graphics area, highlight explode steps in tree).

By the way, feel free to vote for them via your Customer Portal.


Imagine my surprise last week when I found out that there is actually a way to achieve that. It is not as intuitive as simply selecting the component(s) from the graphic area but is close. Instead of Left Mouse Button (LMB) clicking on the component, try a Right Mouse Button (RMB) click. See fig. 2.

Fig. 2 - RMB on the component

You will discover a command that will do the job “Show Explode Steps”. As an alternative, you can RMB on the component’s name in the Feature Tree. The result of this command is shown in fig. 3.


Fig. 3 - Show Exploded Steps

And I should have known better. I keep saying in every class I teach that, whenever you do not know where the icon or the menu item for the command you need is, right click (RMB) on the entity you want to apply the command to and you will find it. RMB is the Holy Grail of SolidWorks after all.


Let me finish by listing a few more Enhancement Requests for exploded views that you might find interesting. Vote for them if you like the proposed functionality:

ER 598517: Provide the ability to define radial and spherical explode steps <similar to the functionality in 3DVIA Composer>

ER 20546: Ability to specify rotations with exploded views.

ER 581063: Allow a component to be rotated in an explode view step as well as being translated <seems to be a duplicate of the previous ER>

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Alin Vargatu, CSWE

Alin is a SOLIDWORKS Elite Applications Engineer and an avid contributor to the SOLIDWORKS Community. Alin has presented multiple times at SOLIDWORKS World, Technical Summits, and User Group Meetings, while being very active on the SOLIDWORKS Forum.