The SOLIDWORKS Vent Feature is not just for Sheet Metal

Article by Jim Peltier, CSWE updated June 5, 2017


An interesting feature in the Sheet Metal tab is the SOLIDWORKS Vent feature. Using the Vent feature, you can create a cutout, along with ribs, spars, and a filled-in boundary with just a very simple sketch.

To accomplish the same thing using a Cut-Extrude would require a complex series of offsets and the process wouldn’t lend itself well to design changes. Another method would be to use multiple features, such as a Cut-Extrude, followed by a Boss-Extrude with Thin Feature selected, but you would need a separate feature for your ribs, spars, and filled-in boundary. It is much easier to use the Vent feature for this. Those who take our SOLIDWORKS Sheet Metal training course are taught how to use this feature.

Something that isn’t so well known is that the feature can be used on non-sheet metal parts as well. Observe this example in a part with a Boss-Extrude:

All this with just two features?? Tell me more!

All this with just two features?? Tell me more!

In case you’re not familiar with the Vent feature, you can find it under the Sheet Metal tab of the CommandManager:

Sheet Metal CommandManager

Sheet Metal CommandManager

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Interestingly enough, in spite of the fact that this command is on the Sheet Metal tab, it can be used for more than Sheet Metal parts. Here, I will tweak the settings and show you which controls what:

Vent Feature Options

Vent Feature Options

Vent Feature Process

  1. The first field that you have to select for is the Boundary. This is the outermost shape and will behave similar to a Cut-Extrude.
    • In my example above, it is a circle, but you can select any shape (Ellipse, Rectangle, other Polygon, mix of lines, splines, and arcs), so long as it forms a closed loop. Just below this is a section I can specify a radius to add automatically at all my intersections.
  2. The second and third fields refer to Ribs and Spars. For this, you need to select sketch entities to behave similar to a Boss-Extrude Thin.
    • In my above example, I pick the lines for Ribs and the middle circle for Spars, but I could have done this the other way around as well. I could also have selected any number of sketch entities, including splines.
    • The main difference between Ribs and Spars is that I can control the thicknesses independently and that I need to have Ribs to have Spars. You’ll notice from the above screenshot that the three fields control thickness (in the direction normal to the sketch plane), width (how far offset your sketched line is), and offset (from the sketch plane).
  3. Lastly, there is a section where I can specify a Fill-In-Boundary, which behaves just like a Boss-Extrude. If I want to have solid for portion of it, I can do so here.

Adjusting some of my thicknesses and offsets, you can see that I can use the Vent command to create some pretty interesting features:

Vent Feature Applied

Vent Feature Applied

Take a Sheet Metal Course

To learn more techniques take our SOLIDWORKS Sheet Metal training course either in a Canadian classroom near you or live online.

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Jim Peltier, CSWE

Jim has been using SolidWorks since 2001, and has spent most of that time working in the design of industrial automated manufacturing equipment. He has been working as an Applications Expert at Javelin Technologies in Oakville, Ontario since July 2012 and is a Certified SolidWorks Expert (CSWE).