SOLIDWORKS Composer is all about telling a story, whether the story is how an assembly gets from a pile of parts on the floor to comfortable furniture, or how to identify the correct replacement part for your engine. This is an entirely different job from the detailed technical drawing work done in SOLIDWORKS Drawings, but many of the tools carry over. Exploded line sketches, labels and balloons, dimensions and section views are all tools that look familiar from the SOLIDWORKS environment but give us a variety of new capabilities in Composer.
Paths are used to create 3D lines (2D lines in 3D space) that illustrate a path from components neutral locations. Paths are divided up into two environments and two different types. These tools become available once you’ve selected a geometry actor that has been translated from its neutral position. The environments are simply there so that you can create both types of basic paths in both the View and Animation environment.
There is a significant difference between Associative Paths and Non-Associative Paths. Associative paths will update the path line if the Actor ever changes position. Non-Associative path lines are just snapshots of the current position. I use Associative Paths almost exclusively because you can use the same path line for multiple positions of the part or fine tune the location without needing to think about updating the path line.
The last option in the Paths toolbar is the Generate Free Path tool. This becomes available when you have an existing path line selected. By clicking on Generate Free Path Composer will create a copy of the existing path that has on association and hide the path that was used to create it. The original path still exists, check your annotations to find it. From that point you can drag the free path wherever you want. This is a great tool if the path lines are close but not quite where you want them.
This tool is about as straight forward as it can get: select the tool, click where you want the tooltip attached to. The information displayed is all up to you. If the “Meta-Properties” are available, meaning that the parts in Composer came from a SOLIDWORKS model with custom properties and you chose to import them, you can display the properties in the label.
There are a host of other options in the label tool drop down. Label with Multiple Actors is may seem a bit confusing to use at first because at first glance it looks like you’ve just created a normal Label. The trick is to look for the crosshair symbol next to the Label text box in the graphics area. Left click on the icon and drag it to the new leader location. You don’t necessarily need to use the Label with Multiple Actors tool to get the crosshair. It should display next to a regular Label as well.
The rest of the label tools are pretty specific including ones used to callout surface areas, volumes, or even point coordinates. There’s also a mysterious one called pipe length. This is specific to CATIA V4 files so unless you’re using those don’t worry about it, Composer is just showing off its roots.
The last one in the list is GD&T, and again it’s about what you’d expect from a labeling tool. I do like that this tool is eager to snap onto specific edges of your model. There are drop-down menus in the Label properties to select your tolerance type and text strings to fill out the rest. One quick tip though, to get the text broken up into boxes use the vertical line – | – on your keyboard.