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SOLIDWORKS Flex Feature for bending, stretching, tapering, and twisting your parts

Article by Rod Mackay created/updated December 17, 2015

SOLIDWORKS is a very diverse application and there are many different ways of creating more complicated non-standard geometry. I’ve found that users will typically use the Sweep or Loft feature as they are well developed tools that include many different construction options to help you obtain the required shape. But in some instances another tool that you may want to consider, which is quicker and easier to use, is the SOLIDWORKS Flex feature. Often overshadowed by the sweep feature, this tool is really helpful when it comes to quickly creating a complicated twisted, stretched, or bent shape. Take this Baluster Spindle for example, this model is quick and easy to create with the Flex feature:

SOLIDWORKS Flex Feature Example

SOLIDWORKS Flex Feature Example

Now I’m not going to go through a whole long tutorial on how to use the Flex feature, in fact SOLIDWORKS have created their own tutorial video below which I recommend you check out. Instead I’ll go over a couple of applications for the feature that might convince you to try it when the need arises.

SOLIDWORKS Flex Feature Example #1 Baluster Model

So let’s roll back in the design of that baluster model and take a look at how the twist in the extrusion was created using the Flex feature:

Baluster twist with Flex feature

Baluster twist with Flex feature

  • You would start by modeling up half of the geometry using regular features. Because the design is symmetrical it’s good practice to model half of the design and then mirror. In the figure below you can see that there is a couple of extrusions and a lofted shape – nothing too complicated there.
Half of the basic geometry created

Half of the basic geometry created

  • To obtain the twist in the design you could use the Flex feature with the following definition:
    • The extruded length of bar was selected.
    • The Twisting option was chosen with a rotation of 360 degrees to give one full twist of the extrusion
    • Trim planes were applied to each end of the feature so the twist was offset from the ends and located in the middle of the extrusion.
    • The Triad was positioned in the center of the extrusion with the Z running along the long axis of the extrusion
    • The Flex Options was set to low to reduce file size and load time.
Flex definition

Flex definition

  • Pick OK and the desired shape is applied to the extrusion as shown below:
Flex Feature applied to extrusion

Flex Feature applied to extrusion

SOLIDWORKS Flex Feature Example #2 Crowbar Model

For this crowbar design a quick and easy method of creating the angular bends at either end was to use the Flex feature:

Flex Crowbar Design

Flex Crowbar Design

  • You would start by creating the basic shape prior to bending using the extrude, cut, and loft features, as shown in the figure below:
Bar prior to bending

Bar prior to bending

  • Next apply the bends using the Bending option in the SOLIDWORKS Flex feature
    • Position the Triad where you want the bend to start
    • Enter the angle of the bend in this example 180 degrees
    • Enter the bend radius which will position the trim planes for the length of the bend
Flex Bend #1

Flex Bend #1

  • When the preview looks how you want the bend to be applied pick OK 
  • The process was repeated for the additional bend at the other end of the crow bar
Additional Flex Bend

Additional Flex Bend

  • The two bends are now applied to the crowbar and the design is now complete:
Flex Crowbar Design

Flex Crowbar Design

Learn more about advanced features

If you want to learn more about advanced part modeling and complex geometry creation I recommend the SOLIDWORKS Advanced Part Modeling training course which you can take either online or in a classroom near you.

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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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