Article by Jim Peltier, CSWE updated July 14, 2017


Do your sub-assemblies need to know where the other sub-assemblies are? Do they need to know where they fit in to the greater plan? Well, there is a process by which you can know these things without the need to open your top-level assembly every time. This process involves the use of A SOLIDWORKS Skeleton Part.

No, not femurs and skulls. I’m talking about a quick reference part modeled up in SOLIDWORKS used in each sub-assembly. Let me show you an example. Let’s say I start out with a simple design for an assembly line:

A SOLIDWORKS Skeleton Part Layout

A Simple 3-Station Assembly Line

In terms of an assembly structure, I would likely have a top-level assembly for the entire line, then a sub-assembly for Station 1, another for Station 2, and another for station 3. Perhaps another for the conveyor. If I open just Station 1’s sub-assembly, I typically have no idea where Station 2 is, so I don’t know if that access panel on the right side of Station 1 is going to do any good with Station 2 in my way unless I open the top-level assembly. It can be quite easy to lose sight of the bigger picture sometimes.

A solution to this is to create a part that has this plan view in it as a sketch. Also, having Reference Geometry such as planes can aid in applying mates. This SOLIDWORKS Skeleton Part is inserted as the first component into each assembly (top-level and each station’s sub-assembly). This allows me to see where the other stations are without loading the top-level assembly. Allow me to demonstrate in this video:

In the video, I demonstrate a simple use of the Skeleton Part. I do not demonstrate that you can have in-context relations applied to the Skeleton Part so that you can drive things such as the size of your table using the Skeleton Part. Doing so is only recommended with caution as it can be quite easy to inadvertently setup circular references.

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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).