Degraded SOLIDWORKS assembly performance? Locate and remove unnecessary fastener detail!

Article by John Lee, CSWE updated June 27, 2019


Sometimes, after the assembly has undergone considerable development, its performance is not so great anymore.  For example zooming, rotating, and panning can become maddeningly sluggish.  File size may become excessive.  Long rebuild times may cause loss of productivity.  Fortunately, there are ways to diagnose and treat this disease!  For example, we can run a check for the number of graphics triangles using Assembly Visualization.

A common issue for customers is when they include detailed fasteners in their assemblies.  For example, downloadable fasteners are widely available as CAD models from various suppliers.  For realism, many are modeled with threads, and/or 3D lettering (embossed or debossed), which certainly enhances their appearance and realism.  Without a doubt, they look great!  But beware…

Fastener modeled threads vs. simplified vs. cosmetic threads

Fastener modeled threads vs. simplified vs. cosmetic threads

…when using threaded fasteners in large numbers in an assembly, SOLIDWORKS will keep regenerating the graphics of threads while we are navigating around in the assembly, even if we are zoomed out so far that we will not notice the detail.  To confirm whether the fasteners are a major contributor to the performance degradation, we can check for the graphics triangle top few parts in assembly Peformance Evaluation, or get a complete list using Assembly Visualization.  If confirmed, then it may be time to modify the fastener models to have smooth cylindrical surfaces instead of helical ones, and to remove the raised lettering.

Improve fastener performance

Often the models include thread geometry created by features such as helical Cut-Sweep or Thread feature.  To improve performance of the assembly,

  1. Consider simplifying the fastener by suppressing those features.
  2. Alternately, we can do an Extruded Boss/Base to fill over the threads while maintaining the thread major diameter.
  3. Also, 3D lettering can greatly add to the graphics triangles needed to display the curves of the lettering.  The 3D lettering features can be suppressed, or deleted, or re-created as 2D lettering by re-using the lettering sketch in a Split Line feature with the Projection option.
  4. If a thread-like appearance is desired, then apply the Cosmetic Thread annotation for threads that will not degrade performance.  Make sure your settings show the cosmetic threads.

Other performance issues

Fasteners may not be the only culprit leading to assembly performance degradation.  Here are some other articles that may help to simplify and manage imported vendor models:

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John Lee, CSWE

John Lee is inherently lazy in that he prefers to work smarter - not harder. A CSWE with fifteen years of experience using SOLIDWORKS and a background in mechanical design, John has used SOLIDWORKS in various industries requiring design for injection molding, sheet metal, weldments and structural steel.