A bit of “Nitty-Gritty” on SOLIDWORKS 2017 3D Interconnect

Article by Chris Briand, CSWE updated September 24, 2016


One of the key enhancements within SOLIDWORKS 2017 is how it handles CAD files from other Vendors. The 3D Interconnect module will allow you do more with CAD data from other systems like CATIA V5, Autodesk Inventor, Pro/Engineer and a host of other formats.

Having migrated from the Dark Side of things a decade ago, I still have old Autodesk Inventor data kicking around that I’d like to move into SOLIDWORKS every now and then. The advantage in SOLIDWORKS 2017 is that the assembly structure stays intact and there is a referenced link back to the original Inventor file.  If I were still working in a Multi-CAD environment, any changes to the inventor assembly would update and be reflected within SOLIDWORKS.

Working with data from other CAD Systems

The changes when opening files from other CAD Systems, introduced by 3D Interconnect, are subtle but powerful. Which means that there is no real change when opening up an Inventor Part or Assembly directly. If you have an assembly open and then “Insert” a part or assembly; here is where the enhanced functionality begins. We now have the ability to choose any of the typical Third-Party Native CAD formats upon inserting a component into a SOLIDWORKS Assembly!

Opening Inventor Files

Opening Inventor Files

3D Interconnect in the FeatureManager

Changes to the feature tree structure once you have imported files are easy to miss — until you focus your attention toward the SOLIDWORKS FeatureManager Design Tree.

The image below shows an imported assembly from inventor. The items of note in the image are the subtle changes in the Icons for the imported files. If you expand the feature tree for the individual components you will find a “reference” arrow. Which we all know is SOLIDWORKS informing us that there is a live link to a file referenced outside of our assembly.

3D Interconnect Reference Tree

3D Interconnect Reference Tree


If you do not see anything like this with your imported assembly; it is likely because the 3D interconnect functionality is not yet enabled.

Oh yes, I’d forgotten to mention; this can all be done WITHOUT the presence of a Third-Party CAD application on the system at all. I can import my Inventor files, make modifications to them as needed, and mate with and to the geometry.  Any changes made by the Third-Party CAD application will update and be reflected in my now Multi-CAD design!

We have always known that SOLIDWORKS was a great translator of other file formats; whether neutral files or Third-Party CAD files were involved. 3D interconnect in SOLIDWORKS 2017 has definitely taken translation abilities up a notch.

SOLIDWORKS 2017 Resources

Access our resources page to get everything you need to learn what’s new in SOLIDWORKS 2017, including tech tips, demonstrations, and upcoming product webinars.


SOLIDWORKS 2017 Resources

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Chris Briand, CSWE

Chris has been educating and supporting Engineers, Designers and IT Personnel within the 3D CAD industry since 2002, and was adopted into the fantastic team of applications experts here at Javelin Technologies in early 2006 and migrated along with his team members to the TriMech Solutions team in 2021.  Chris enjoys the continuous learning driven by the ingenuity and challenges Designers bring forward. Innovation using 3D Printing, 3D CAD and other technologies, combined with a diverse background as a technologist, allows Chris to find solutions that accelerate Designers, and take Design Teams to new heights. Chris is currently being held at an undisclosed location, near Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.