I’ve personally used sheet metal to design fixtures, shield electronics and enclose assemblies. After kicking and screaming, I would usually revisit these designs after the other side said it needs to look “pretty.”
There are lots of reasons that designs get delayed, pushed back or redesigned. To make sure you’re not the bottleneck, let’s review how we can utilize SOLIDWORKS’ full potential and not just the sheet metal functionality. Depending on the difficulty of the design, it may be simpler to start with solid or surface bodies. We would then continue with a process referred to as converting to sheet metal. It is a simple tool to help us work smarter not harder!
There are two commands enabling the creation of a sheet metal body from a solid or surface body—Convert to Sheet Metal and Insert Bends.
Convert to Sheet Metal can be quicker and easier than simply creating the model in Sheet Metal. The example shown below isn’t a very difficult solid body to create—it’s just two extrudes and a loft between faces.
To create this in sheet metal would require calculating angles, repeating bends, custom edge flanges, etc. It is possible, but which is easier? Simply select Convert to Sheet Metal and we can select our fixed face and bend edges.
There are a number of ways to finish the design and in this example we only selected to convert two of the four sides.
For our second example, we created a simple conic shape using a single line to revolve a thin-walled feature. Knowing we need an edge for our sheet metal, our revolution stopped short of 360°.
With Insert Bends we can quickly convert our solid body to a sheet metal body that would have been fairly difficult and time consuming to create. Note that using the Insert Bend function requires a thin feature of uniform thickness to function.
There are plenty of phenomenal sheet metal ninjas out there. You might know one or two. CAD magicians that can design just about anything between 0 and 20 gauge. From massive assemblies that can only be built on-site to parts that more closely resemble Origami, folded by nimble little fingers. Part of what makes these masters of metal so good is they recognize SOLIDWORKS’ full potential, not just sheet metal. There are many paths to a finished model…
…the trick is finding the quickest and easiest. Work smarter, not harder.
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Written by Travis Quick
Travis Quick is an Application Engineer at Alignex, Inc. Travis spends his days teaching SOLIDWORKS courses and helping customers on the Alignex Help Desk. If he's not there when you call, he's probably playing video games or testing his physical strength on an outdoor obstacle course.