Composer Quick Tip - Measurements

Composer Quick Tip - Measurements
Posted in: Tech Communication
March 9, 2015


Let’s face it, not everyone is a wizard when it comes to looking at standard views shown on a drawing, picturing the part or assembly and on top of that understanding the accompanying dimensions. I often take for granted the training I received in school. To this day there are occasions where I need to stare at the drawing for I bit before I can picture what’s going on.
Measurement - Author Tab

That struggle takes time, adds frustration and can often lead to mistakes. With the help of SOLIDWORKS Composer we can get those dimensions off of your engineering drawing and into a format that allows just about anybody to understand the information you’re trying to get across.

Measurements... Where Are They?

SOLIDWORKS Composer’s annotative Measurements are all neatly organized in the Author tab. Being in the Author tab should immediately tell you that we are adding collaborative actors and they will be organized in the collaborative actors section of the Left Pane after we add them. You’ll notice that almost all of them have drop-downs so using them effectively comes down to finding the right tool for the job.

Before you use them make sure your unit system is set up correctly. This can be checked in the document properties the input should reflect the unit system the part was designed in. For SOLIDWORKS Files this should always be set to millimeters. The output should reflect the unit system you want to see in your measurement annotations.

Length and Diameter Toolset

The first set of tools are the Length and Diameter commands. They can be used to add measurements for the length of edges, both circular and linear. Their primary job in Composer is to allow you to show dimensions of single part. The properties for the Measurements are similar to a label so remember to set up a Style to get that a consistent look. They also have a section for GD&T annotations so they can act as an informal substitute for the inspection drawing.

A few quick tips on the tools:

To flip the direction of a circular edge measurement look for the “Complementary” Property and select “Proceed”, not exactly the most obvious property change.

Measurements: flip direction of circular edge
Measurements: flip direction of circular edge



The curve length tool requires an actual curve and cannot be applied to an edge. If you would like to use this tool for pipe lengths or any other curvy shape remember to check the box to Import curves. This does not work for SOLIDWORKS curves unfortunately, same with the Import points.

Measurements: import curve


The thickness Measurement is probably the most interesting in this toolset. It creates a thickness measurement by drawing a line normal to whatever surface you select. Because of this straightforwardness I’ve found it to be one of my go-to tools. I don’t need to worry about finding an edge or a vertex and the callout becomes very clear in a 3D format.

Next to the length tool is the diameter measurement. It can create radius or diameter callouts. The input needs to be a circular edge, unless you are using the 3 point version in which case the input can be any three points on the model. If you want to place a circular dimension to show a circular pattern of holes hold the “alt” key while placing the dimension and hover of the cylindrical faces of the holes. This will detect the circular edges and pick up on the center point.


Next to the length and diameter commands is a long list of other tools to create measurements. The idea behind breaking them off into their own list is that these tools are more useful to create dimensions between two or more components. All of these tools are associative so as you move actors around the annotations will update with the new position. In order to have that associativity with your actor position keep an eye on the tool tip when placing the annotation. If it shows up as red that means you are about to attach it to the correct corresponding geometry. Yellow means it’ll be attached to a geometry actor but not at any specific location.

Measurements: attached to vertexes
measurements: not attached to vertexes


The Chain and Fan dimensions are a way to continuously add dimensions either as a chain, so one click establishes the first reference and from there the annotations will continue to “chain” from point to point or fan out from the original point.

In the end, dimensions are about as straight forward as they can be. With a host of options in the Composer toolset you can easily find the right tool for the job.

Want to learn more about how SOLIDWORKS Composer can improve your product communication and help you leverage existing 3D CAD data? Watch the video: Results in 90 Seconds With SOLIDWORKS Composer

March 9, 2015
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