Using Silhouettes to create sketches in SOLIDWORKS 2020

Article by Ben Crisostomo, CSWE updated January 22, 2020


Using the top-down approach to design parts within an assembly is very common in workflows. Using other parts to create sketches is quite common using the Convert Entities & Intersecting Curves tool. With SOLIDWORKS 2020, the Silhouette tool has been added. This tool allows part bodies to be selected to create a silhouette outline relative to the surface it is projecting on. So this can be great for creating parts that have a female connector that comes in on an angle, or for packaging solutions. Let’s see how using silhouettes to create sketches in SOLIDWORKS 2020 works, and the scenarios where it would be the best option to use.

Using the Silhouette Tool

The example that will be used to demonstrate the silhouette tool will be a sphiricon seen in the image below. The assembly is made up of two parts, and the silhouette will be projected onto the Test Plane.

Project Shericon on to the Test Plane

When in sketch mode, you will be able to access the silhouette tool by going to Tools > Sketch Tools > Silhouette Entities as seen in the image below.

Silhouette Entities command

The Silhouette Entities command manager seen below contains a list of all selected bodies and the option to create an external silhouette of the part, excluding all features such as holes.

Silhouette Entities Command Manager

A comparison between the external Silhouette turned off and on can be seen in the image below. Note the hole feature has not been captured in the right image.

External Silhouette has been checked in the image on the right

It is also worth noting that if you try to create a silhouette of multiple bodies, features such as holes will not be captured even when the External silhouette is not checked on as seen in the preview image below. You will also notice what complex curves will be converted into multiple splines.

Silhouette Projection of multiple bodies

Other considerations when using the tool

  • The Silhouette Entities tool is available only when you clear the Graphics-only
    section option.
  • Silhouette entities do not contain sketch constraints.
  • You can silhouette a component that has only a single instance in an assembly.

Using Silhouettes to create sketches in SOLIDWORKS 2020 is a welcome addition and has many potential applications that will make life a bit easier for designers!

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Ben Crisostomo

Ben is a SOLIDWORKS Technical Support Application Expert based in the Javelin Oakville head office