While you were exploring SOLIDWORKS you may have noticed a section in the Library Task Pane for 3D Content Central. If you have never used it before you are probably wondering what it is there for.
Well if that includes you, you are missing out on thousands of free downloads for use directly in SOLIDWORKS. Everything from parts and assemblies, to blocks and library features. The majority of this content is directly from the manufacturers of commonly used parts for you to incorporate into your designs. Fellow users like yourself can also contribute to the extensive lists. The site is managed by Dassault Systems, the parent company of SOLIDWORKS, so all files are safe and valid. So if all this time you have been drawing up purchased components to put into your own models, you have been wasting a ton of time.
Let’s take a look at an example of how to use the website to our advantage. Here is a drawer I have been working on for a side table.
I can easily model the wood components using things like extrudes and cuts or weldments. However, when I am ready to test this thing out I am going to need something to represent the drawer slides which I plan to buy so that I can be sure my drawers open fully and that my bill of materials is complete. Well, modeling those slides would take even longer than the drawer itself.
Let’s see if 3D Content Central can help. There are two ways to get to the website, open a web browser and navigate to it like clicking on this link, or open it from that task pane. I am hoping I can find a model straight from a supplier so I will click on 3D ContentCentral > Supplier Content > All Categories > Click here for all categories.
This will open your default web browser to the categories list where we will find an alphabetized list over 300 categories of parts and assemblies. If you prefer to look for a specific supplier you can browse that way as well, or use the search bar on the website.
A quick search for what I am after, “drawer slide”, and I get 101 possible matches. Since my drawer calls for a 16” slide I will take a look at TCH’s 16” 100 lbs Full Extension Drawer Slide. When you select a part you will see more information on that part or assembly as supplied by the vendor, including a 2D and 3D preview powered by the embedded eDrawings viewer.
If that’s the part you want you can select the Configure & Download button. This will require you to login to 3D Content Central. If you don’t have an account, simply make one, it’s free after all.
If the vendor has multiple options for this part, you will just need to select the configuration that suits your needs. My drawer slide comes in a collapsed or extended setup, so I will grab extended.
Next you can choose what format you would like, including 2D or 3D and even the file type. That’s right, even if you aren’t a SOLIDWORKS user, we don’t discriminate and you can use our cool tools too. For you SOLIDWORKS users you can even choose the SOLIDWORKS Version so you don’t end up with a future format error. Then just hit Download, a pop-up will tell you when your specified version is ready, click on the part name and watch the magic happen.
If you chose to have your part Zipped, you will need to extract the contents from the zipped folder and then open it in SOLIDWORKS.
When you open the part you will notice they are defeatured, meaning you won’t see how the part was made or see the internals of some parts. However, all the mounting points and external dimensions should be there so you can get the perfect fit in your design. For the slide, it means we don’t see the ball bearings, but that will not prevent us from testing the drawer design.
In some cases, like that of my drawer, what should be an assembly is reduced to a multibody part for simplification. However, now that the file is yours, the possibilities are endless. I found myself converting my part into an assembly and adding a couple limit mates to give my drawer slide the freedom to open and close like it would in the real world. Then it was time to put the drawer slide on my drawer design and test it out. What do you know, a perfect fit.
With 3D Content Central directly inside of SOLIDWORKS, you shouldn’t have to waste time modeling simple off the shelf parts. Simply find the one you want, hit download, and get back to new designs. If you are a supplier of components yourself, think of how many designers would use your parts if you joined the 3D Content Central world. 3D Content Central should be on every SOLIDWORKS user’s bookmarks list.