Setting up a SOLIDWORKS Variable Pattern

Article by Jim Peltier, CSWE updated September 28, 2017


There are a lot of great demos out there of what the SOLIDWORKS Variable Pattern (introduced in SOLIDWORKS 2015) can do, but not very many that show how to do it. In this video, I will show you how to create a Variable Pattern with a simple part.

Let’s say I have a plate with a rectangular cutout and some fillets:

Now, let’s say I want some other rectangular cutouts positioned elsewhere on the plate. I might consider using a Linear Pattern if the positions follow a logical pattern, or I might opt for a Sketch Driven Pattern if the positions are less-uniform. Starting in SOLIDWORKS 2013, I can use Instances to Vary in a Linear Pattern to make the positions less-uniform and I can even modify feature dimensions. However, if I’m looking to have multiple configurations with various instances suppressed, then I’m forced to make two separate patterns – and this just invites potential for headaches when I make changes down the road.

So, let’s recap: I need to have a pattern that has irregular positions, feature dimensions change size, and I need to be able to suppress and unsuppress individual instances for configurations.

SOLIDWORKS Variable Pattern Demo

As fortune would have it, the SOLIDWORKS Variable Pattern can handle this type of scenario perfectly:

There you have it! I can suppress the instances, and I can specify my dimensions for any feature on each instance in a table. In the video, I mentioned Excel functionality and how some of it is available, but not all from this table editor. If you really want to get into the high-end Excel functionality, you can always do this in Excel:

Import from/Export to Excel. Pretty self-explanatory.

But watch out for this little commonly stumbled-upon trap:

Instance 0 is the seed instance. Do not duplicate its position for Instance 1

When you add your “first instance” (Instance 1), this does not refer to the seed instance. Instance 0 is the seed instance, which is why it is grayed out. Be sure to change your position for Instance 1 to ensure that you do not get duplication.

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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).