How to construct a Chain in a SOLIDWORKS Part

Article by Mehdi Rezaei, CSWE created/updated October 13, 2017

How do I design a chain in a SOLIDWORKS Part? This is a question we have been asked many times on technical support. Two methods of 3D modeling a SOLIDWORKS chain are described in this post, both of which use the “Curve Driven Pattern” feature. This technique could be utilized for many other applications.

Using Move/Copy Solid Bodies

the first link of the chain can be modeled by sweeping a circular profile on a closed Straight Slot profile. Of course, dimensions should match with sizes of the chain you have in mind. This will give us the first Solid Body. Now, using Move/Copy Body command, the solid body could be rotated 90 degrees and also translated to shape the second solid body or the second link of the chain. Make sure to check off the Copy option under the Move/Copy Body feature. Otherwise the first solid body would move to a new location and a second body would not be generated.

Move/Copy Body Feature Allow Rotate and Translate of Solid Bodies

Now, a curve is needed to define the path or direction of the chain pattern. The curve could either be drawn with the Spline command or a combination of lines and arcs which in turn could be converted to a spline using the Fit Spline command. The following image shows a sample curve which is used for the pattern feature.

A Curve Is needed to Pattern Solid Bodies Using as Patterning Direction

Finally, the Curve Driven Pattern command is used to finish the chain model. The guide curve could be modified to to shape the chain however you like. Under Curve Driven Pattern feature properties selecting “Tangent to curve” option under Alignment Method would provide better results.

SOLIDWORKS Chain design using features and pattern

Final Chain Model with Real View Effects in SOLIDWORKS

Using Flex Feature

The second method takes advantage of the SOLIDWORKS Flex feature to twist the first chain link and patterning the link to create the chain. In this method, only one solid body needs to be created as the same body is twisted and patterned along the same curve.  The following images show how the SOLIDWORKS Flex feature is utilized, and also a completed chain with real view effects applied:

Flex Feature Allow Twisting a Solid Body in Required Orientations

Chain Model Created with Flex and Curve Driven Pattern features

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Mehdi Rezaei, CSWE

Mehdi is a Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert (CSWE) and works near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada