Alignex Blog

10 Best Practices for Large Assembly Design

Travis Quick on February 11, 2019 at 11:30 AM


There is NO EASY BUTTON when it comes to working with complicated assemblies. Only a combination of small fixes and best practices can lead to better performance. If you experience long open times, graphics lags or issues working with mates, it may be time to review your process. 

In this video blog, I'll cover ten assembly best practices to improve large assembly performance.


Hello, today we will be covering some best practices when working with large assemblies. You may be asking yourself "how do I know if I have a large assembly?" Symptoms to look out for include:

1) Do we experience long open, rebuild, save and close times?
2) Do our graphics lag when rotating and viewing our models?
3) Are there issues inserting components and working with mates?

These can indicate that we are working with a large assembly and it may be time to review our process, which leads us to ten best practices for large assembly. Please keep in mind these are recommendations and there is no easy fix when working with a complicated assembly. Only a combination of smaller fixes and better practices will lead to a better performing assembly. 

10) Hardware and Software

Although our system may meet SOLIDWORKS minimum requirements, we may be able to improve our performance by upgrading items such as RAM and our graphics card. Running additional programs in the background may use up resources that SOLIDWORKS could be taking advantage of. Keep your software and system drivers up to date, not using the latest recommended drivers could be sabotaging your performance. Finally it's a good practice to defragment and clean up your computer on a regular basis. 

9) System Options and Document Properties

There are many performance improving settings in system options under drawings, performance, and assemblies. One setting to mention is verification on rebuild. With this setting turned on, SOLIDWORKS checks every new or modified feature against all existing faces. When this is turned off, new and modified features will be checked against adjacent surfaces only. This is OK as long as we periodically turn this setting back on and rebuild our model.

Similar to the performance options under Document Properties image quality can have a large effect on our models. Higher quality images are going to take more time to process. When working in assemblies, the image quality can be set to a common resolution for each part by selecting "apply to all referenced  part documents." 

8) Save Files to the Latest Version

When working with files from an earlier version of SOLIDWORKS, they often take longer to open and rebuild. When working with these files it's recommended to save to the latest version. 

7) Limit the use of Helical Sweeps and Threads

In our simple bolt example, our threads consist of 87% of our rebuild time. Revolve threads are still around 75%. 

6) Use Patterns

Patterns at the part level save us time by reusing geometry that would otherwise have to be calculated. When translated to assemblies, we can use these patterns to define our component placement with pattern driven component patterns. Try saying that five times fast. Our pattern now drives out attachment instead of mates. 

5) Create Simplified Configurations of Parts and Assemblies

Performance evaluation is a key tool to identify resource heavy features. Small details of parts such as fillets and chamfers should be suppressed for a simplified model. Just be sure that we maintain our important features that are used for mating and boundary surfaces. When only the appearance will be affected we can use display states instead of configurations. This can work great when we want to hide all of our hardware components. 

4) Use Speed Back Configurations

Only the mating faces or bodies that are required  are loaded into memory. In this example that is only three surfaces. The remaining features will only contain graphical information and is not selectable. This can quickly improve our top level performance. 

3) In Context Features

These are great for creating one off parts and designing within our assembly. However, these create additional work when our assembly is solved. An assembly with many in context features is going to experience slower performance. 

2) Creating Sub-Assemblies

Splitting our top level into multiple sub-assemblies encourages design teams to divide and conquer. Sub-assemblies are smaller and less cumbersome to work with than the top level. This will also minimize top level mates and features which leads to faster solving. Wherever possible, minimize the use of flexible assemblies unless absolutely necessary.  

Now for the moment you have all been waiting for, the number one method for improving large assembly design....

1) Use the Large Assembly and Lightweight Modes for Assemblies/Drawings

Large assembly mode will automatically activate a set of performance enhancing options based on a user defined component threshold. Lightweight components have improved opening, rebuild, and closing times. Primarily the graphical information and reference geometry are loaded into memory, but the features that define the part are not. These can not be edited or shown in the feature manager design tree. 

I hope this information was helpful and can be put to good use on your next large assembly design. 


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