Understanding the shift from Configuration to CAD Family in SOLIDWORKS

Article by Jorge Villacres updated March 8, 2024


If you’ve recently opened SOLIDWORKS and found yourself facing the CAD Family Tab instead of the familiar Configurations Tab, you’re not alone. Many users are navigating this change, brought about by updates in the SOLIDWORKS software.

This blog aims to clarify what SOLIDWORKS CAD families, physical products, and representations are and how to manage this new default setting. In simple terms:

  • The 3DEXPERIENCE platform views your parts and assemblies as CAD families.
  • Configurations are now displayed as physical products, each with its own part number on a bill of materials.
  • A representation is a specific version of these physical products sharing the same part number. For example, an exploded state.

CAD Family Example

The following images show an example of a CAD Family and a Part with SOLIDWORKS Configurations. On the first one, “Robotic Arm” is the name of the CAD Family, “2 DOF” and “3 DOF” are the physical products and “Extended” is a representation of the “3 DOF” physical product.



On the second one, “Robotic Arm” is the name of the part and “2 DOF” and “3 DOF” are the two different SOLIDWORKS configurations.

Configurations tab

Configurations tab

Accessing a CAD Family

Previously, users could toggle between viewing the SOLIDWORKS Configurations tab and the CAD Families tab in SOLIDWORKS by going to Tools > Options > System Options > FeatureManager and choosing between the “Only CAD Family View” and the “Both CAD Family and Configurations View” options.

However, this option is no longer available with the release of SOLIDWORKS 2024 FD01. Now, if you launch SOLIDWORKS with the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform Add-In activated, the CAD Family Tab will appear by default. If you start SOLIDWORKS without the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform Add-in, you’ll see the classic Configurations Tab.

A more integrated design approach

This update marks a shift towards a more integrated design approach, where designers are encouraged to think in terms of product families. While this change might require a bit of adjustment, it ultimately aims to streamline the design process, making it easier to manage different versions of a product and how they are represented.

We hope this overview helps you navigate the recent changes in SOLIDWORKS and enhances your design workflow. For more insights and updates like this, we invite you to stay tuned to future blogs. If you have any additional questions or need further clarification, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Our team is here to assist and ensure your design process is as seamless and efficient as possible.

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Jorge Villacres

Jorge Villacres is a Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert and has been using SOLIDWORKS since 2010. He has eight years of experience in academic CAD/CAM research and has worked on novel research topics such as 4D printing and has reported in numerous journal publications.