SOLIDWORKS 3D Interconnect and Importing Tips

Article by TriMech Solutions, LLC updated March 9, 2023


Are you changing from another CAD program to SOLIDWORKS? Are you frequently importing STEP files from clients? For many SOLIDWORKS users, working with imported geometry and non-native file types is part of every workflow. In this blog, I want to discuss some of the ways to handle importing geometry like SOLIDWORKS 3D Interconnect, and some best practices and settings.

Understanding Import Options

SOLIDWORKS can support many different 3D file types for import, including general formats like STEP, IGES, and STL, and even formats native to other CAD applications like Inventor, NX, CATIA V5, Creo, and Solid Edge. There are different options available depending on the file type you’re trying to open.

FormatsFile FormatsFormat Versions
ACIS.sat, .sab, .asat, .asabr1-2018 1.0
Autodesk® Inventor.ipt (V6 – V2018)

.iam (V11 – V2018)

V11 – 2018
CATIA® V5.CATPart, .CATProductV5R8 – V5-6R2017
IGES.igs, .igesUp to 5.3
JT.jtJT 8.x, 9.x, and 10.x
PTC®.prt, .prt.*, .asm, .asm.*For Pro/ENGINEER® 16 – Creo 4.0
Solid Edge®.par, .asm, .psmV18 – ST10
STEP.stp, .stepAP203, AP214, AP242
NX™ software.prt11 – NX 11


3D Interconnect Add-in

The first and foremost option recommended is to enable 3D Interconnect. This is the SOLIDWORKS “translator” for non-native formats, meaning you can insert other proprietary formats without converting them to a SOLIDWORKS file. There is an option available to also maintain or break the associative link. There are benefits and drawbacks to this link. Maintaining this link will translate any changes made to the native file in its original software, but moving, renaming, or deleting the file will disrupt this link and cause a number of errors that can be difficult to troubleshoot. Breaking the link can automatically occur in import settings in order to avoid these unexpected errors. Here are some recommended import settings:

Import settings - enable SOLIDWORKS 3D Interconnect

Import settings

If you don’t want to break the link automatically, you can simply break it by right clicking the part/assembly at the top of the Feature Manager tree and selecting “Break Link”. It is best practice to do this if you don’t expect to make changes, since this could only cause you trouble. If something happened to the source file, or if you expect significant changes in settings or geometry, this can also cause errors.

We also typically recommend automatically running import diagnostics to ensure that the geometry you’re importing doesn’t have any small faces, hairline edges, gaps, or errors. This way, it can be a complete solid if you’d like to use it to derive a complete parametric SOLIDWORKS part rather than a dumb solid. If that doesn’t really matter to your workflow and you just need good geometry to mate the part to in an assembly, you can also skip this setting. Just know you can always run it by accepting the prompt when you open the file, or right clicking the body in the Feature Tree.

Are your imported parts impacting the performance of your large assemblies? Check out some of our training on Large Assemblies and Drawings to optimize imported parts from suppliers you use regularly, and to help speed up your workflow!

Related Links

Certified SOLIDWORKS Services available from Javelin

Javelin can help you to:

TriMech Solutions, LLC

TriMech provides thousands of engineering teams with 3D design and rapid prototyping solutions that work hand-in-hand, from sketch to manufacturing. Javelin became a subsidiary of TriMech Solutions LLC in 2021.