One of the most powerful features in SolidWorks is the ability to configure features based on a table of values. Once comfortable with this process, one will be able to explore different design directions within one file or to represent multiple variations of a design within one file. For example, one might design several sizes of a device using these tools; when a change is made, all variations on the device should reflect the updates, saving time and reducing risk of error. Or, one might design an entire chess set using one file, with each chess piece represented as a different configuration but sharing the same underlying geometry to ensure basic consistency between parts.
The following tutorial I created to cover these techniques is available at:
1. While building an object, give names to the key design parameters. To do this, enter the name of each dimension in the name field directly above the value for the Smart Dimension on the left hand side of the screen.
2. Right-click on the “Annotations” folder in the history tree. Select the option to enable the visibility of all Smart Dimensions, which is called “Show Feature Dimensions”.
3. Right-click on any feature. Choose the option titled “Configure Feature”. A simple spreadsheet will appear. You should now be able to see the dimensions relevant to each feature in your design. Double-click on each dimension over which you would like parametric control.
4. You can now create new permutations of your design by simply adding new rows. Typing in the details of the feature’s parameters directly into the spreadsheet will cause those features to draw their values from the table.
5. Double-clicking on the various configuration names will cause the model to rebuild, pulling the values from the row associated with that configuration.
6. Remember to name the spreadsheet and to click the blue floppy disk “Save Table” icon in left hand corner of the configuration table before closing the table. Otherwise, the table layout will not be saved, and you will have to add all features to the table again every time you want to use it.
7. Lastly, each and every configuration you create represents a branching of the design history tree. Any features you add to one configuration will be suppressed by default in all other configurations, allowing you to explore different design paths without worrying about creating a mess in your other design iterations.
8. If at any point you want to add a feature from a different configuration to other existing configurations, simply open the configuration table by choosing “Configure Feature”, select the existing design table name from the drop-down menu at the bottom of the table interface, and then add whichever features you would like to the table. You can then switch them on and off for each configuration, in whichever combination you feel is appropriate.