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SOLIDWORKS Industrial Designer Freeform Geometry [VIDEO series 3 of 4]

Article by Dimos Siagoulis created/updated July 8, 2015

Hello everyone, and welcome back to my series on Industrial Design. In the last post we learned about the sketching capabilities in ID and some quick tips on beginning to create your 3D object by either extruding the sketch or manipulating standard freeform objects. For those who participated in the contest and would like to see what I came up with, please click the show contest button.

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Thank you all for participating in the previous contest. I decided to create two different objects, the body to a FSAE car, and a hand.

rendered fsae

The FSAE shell can be made using Method 1 by manipulating simple geometry. In this blog post I will go into more detail regarding the two methods.

Arm

Since the hand has five fingers and is quite an awkward shape, I used Method 2 by creating my own freeform shape using contours.

FSAE Shell

This was a fun project to work on, not only was it relatively easy and completed in only thirty to forty minutes, but it looks pretty cool. I began by finding the chassis online and drew my sketches around that.

cage

By sketching around the cage I was able to form a shape that I knew would fit perfectly in order for everything to be assembled easily. I drew the top, front and side views, inserted a box freeform,  then began manipulating the mesh in order to form the desired shape. I used various parametric features to cut a hole for the driver, shell out the body and add the wings.

Sketches

Finally I placed the body over the assembly and here’s the final product. There was nothing overly difficult about this part, it was done mainly using mesh manipulation.

car

Hand

When I first began making the hand (and arm) I decided to try using the sample freeform geometry (Method 1).

weird arm 2

I found out quickly enough that not only was it a terrible idea, but that I would be scarred for life due to the horrifying nature of what was being created. What was I thinking?

weird arm

All joking aside, the reason this did not work out was because the cylinder that I was using was not flat which can be seen in the next picture.

weird arm 3

The fingers all curled around the cylinder creating a very awkward looking hand. From this experience I learned that sometimes it might be easier to create a contour sketch and extrude it, using Method 2.

 hand and sketch

By first sketching the hand, then creating the hand profile using contour curves, I generated a mesh that I could easily play around with to manipulate into the desired hand positions.

Hand views

After using a combination of commands I will introduce in this blog, I ended up with this arm. For only a couple hours of work it is not too shabby if I do say so myself.Full arm

Thank you to those who participated in this contest, stay tuned to the end of this blog to learn about the next one!

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SWID Freeform Geometry

The biggest advantage that SOLIDWORKS Industrial Designer has is the ability to manipulate freeform objects. This can save tonnes of time (as opposed to traditional methods) when you become efficient in the software. There are multiple different methods that you can use to create your desired part. None of them are wrong, but some are quicker and each have their own advantages over the others.

Inserting your Freeform Object

As stated in the previous blog post you can insert a freeform object using two methods.

Method 1: Importing a standard freeform object from the freeform tab.

This method works very well when your object has a very general shape. The presets cover a wide variety of shapes from cubes to cones and spheres so these can be used most of the time when creating objects. You have the option to increase the number of mesh points as well when inserting your object. Playing around with the settings and becoming familiar with the software is the best way to determine how many mesh points you will need.

I’d also like to note that you can create a 2 dimensional mesh object using the rectangle, disk and ring presets.

Method 2: Creating a contour sketch then extruding the sketch from the freeform tab.

I found this method very useful for creating the general shape of a design. This is a more advanced method and will cause some trouble while learning. A common misconception about this method is that you can create a detailed sketch and upon extruding it will create a perfect freeform geometry based on that sketch. The more detailed your sketch is, the more mesh points in the freeform object. It is best to keep the contour sketch as simple as possible, that way you will have less mesh points to work with, allowing you to manipulate the object much easier.

On the left you can see more mesh points in the more complicated drawing, and on the right less mesh points on an easier design

This picture shows an extreme example of a more detailed drawing’s mesh points to a more general drawing’s mesh points.

In addition to extrude you can also revolve and profile fill a sketch.

  • Revolve: Lets you create a freeform object by rotating a sketch around a reference line.
  • Profile Fill: Allows you to create a flat or surface freeform object based on your sketch.

Manipulating your Mesh Geometry

There are a variety of tools that you can use to manipulate your geometry. I’m going to focus on the more difficult ones in this section as the others are intuitive and I have spoken about them in the video above.

  • Align Mesh Points: Allows you to align the points on a freeform object with other objects you are working with. You can do this using 6 options: Align Subdivision Elements, Align Vertices, to Curve, to Entity, to Body, Align dynamically to line. This is a useful tool to create a nice and smooth transition from one freeform object to another (i.e lining it up vertically or horizontally against another piece, instead of eyeing it)
  • Arc Bend: Will let you curve your mesh points along a circular path, generating a much cleaner curve than if you were to do it by manipulating one vertices at a time
  • Cut by Plane: Cuts your freeform object in half where it meets the plane chosen
  • Split Line: Splits your object in two by the reference sketch line created.
  • Delete Faces/Loops: Removes a face or loop from your freeform object. This is useful when you realized mid way through your project that you inserted too many loops when you began.
  • Fill Edges: Replaces your deleted faces with new faces. This can be very useful when you create a freeform object using sketches that end up having lopsided faces. Often times you can delete all of the angled faces and they will be replaced by straight ones.
  • Insert Loops: Allows you to place another loop into your object in case you deleted one or don’t have decided there are not enough.
  • Fillet: This is a basic tool however I decided to briefly mention that it can be used very well to help conceal two freeform objects when they are created. The arm from the last competition had fillets connecting wrist and muscles.
Full arm

Full arm

Combining Multiple Freeforms

Often times industrial designers will have to create objects with multiple shapes and complicated geometry. In SWID you can easily combine your freeform objects using the combine button under the feature tab. This will add or subtract the features from each other, creating a new part. You can even create a part between the two by using the common option. Another option is to use the Merge and Cut tool in the freeform tab.

Your SOLIDWORKS Industrial Designer Sketch Challenge

This week’s Industrial Design challenge is to create a statue. There is no limit to how creative you can go with your statue, but it must be able to hold an object either on top or within it.

Parameters: You must have at least one sketch of your statue using concept sketching to guide yourself. You must use at least 3 freeform combines (either Merge and Cut, or Combine).

Get a Free Trial of SWID

If you or your company are interested in a free trial of SOLIDWORKS Industrial Designer software,visit our web page and complete the form to request a trial. NOTE: We can only provide trial copies to Canadian individuals and companies.

GET A FREE TRIAL

On behalf of Javelin Technologies I thank you for taking an interest in SOLIDWORKS Industrial Designer, if there are any questions please leave a comment and I’ll reply as soon as possible, thank you!

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Dimos Siagoulis

Co-op student from McMaster University on my second work term at Javelin Technologies Inc.

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