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In this blog we are going to explore the bi-lingual capabilities of SOLIDWORKS 2017 through the powerful 3D Interconnect functionality. But first, let’s be clear about what we are talking about here, a quick google definition will help. “A device used to connect two things together” that’s exactly what SOLIDWORKS 3D interconnect makes possible! The connecting of two completely different CAD packages!

Since the launch of SOLIDWORKS 2017 I can only imagine that international use of the word interconnect will have increased exponentially, considering the impact that 3D Interconnect has had on the world of inter-CAD collaboration. You’ll notice my predictive modification of the ‘Use over time chart’ to reflect my expectations.

The cool thing is that 3D Interconnect does not translate the proprietary data of other CAD systems into a language that SOLIDWORKS can understand, No! SOLIDWORKS 2017 is a computer aided polyglot! and already understands the languages of PTC® Creo®, Autodesk® Inventor®, Siemens® NX, SolidEdge®, and CATIA®
With SOLIDWORKS 2017 we can open proprietary CAD files right into SOLIDWORKS and treat them like native components without conversion or translation. What’s more! 3D interconnect can maintain or break the link to the original proprietary CAD file.

This means that changes made to the proprietary file when linked will associatively update directly within SOLIDWORKS and all downstream features will be maintained. If associativity is to be avoided then the link is easily broken.

You can turn on and turn off the 3D Interconnect functionality in the SOLIDWORKS software. It is turned on by default.
To turn 3D Interconnect on or off:

Click Tools > Options > System Options > Import.
In the dialog box, set File Format to Inventor/Catia V5/Creo/NX/Solid Edge.
Select or clear Enable 3D Interconnect.
Click OK.

3d interconnect

To quickly give an example of 3D interconnect in action, we have taken an Autodesk® Inventor® file and placed it into an existing SOLIDWORKS assembly. With 3D interconnect this operation is as simple as using the insert component tool within the open SOLIDWORKS assembly and browsing for the Inventor Assembly file extension. Once the file has been selected we can place it just like a regular SOLIDWORKS assembly file and mate it into position. The entire assembly structure from Inventor® will also come through and is visible in the feature tree.

If a design change is made to the Inventor® file and sent to us then it is a straightforward process to update that file within SOLIDWORKS. The newly updated design can be updated by overwriting the existing file location of the old design with the new files we received and the 3D interconnect ‘update’ function can be used within SOLIDWORKS. SOLIDWORKS will detect the new file we have pasted into our original file location and the update option will become available.

The update function is as simple as a right clicking the Inventor® assembly in the feature tree and selecting the update model option. The assembly file will then update and an in-context relationships and mates defined with the previous assembly file will all update seamlessly.

And that’s it! The process is so simple but extremely powerful. 3D interconnect is just one of the ways that SOLIDWORKS are providing solutions which make the day to day realities of inter-CAD collaboration that little bit more enjoyable.


Lewis Harvey is a Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert  and Applications Engineer at TMS CADCentre, a SOLIDWORKS Value Added Reseller in Scotland.  You can read more from Andrew on the TMS CADCentre blog
TMS CADCentre
TMS CADCentre - is a SOLIDWORKS Reseller based in Scotland providing 3D CAD Design Software, analysis software & product data management software. The company was formed in 1981 and now pleased to be celebrating 36 years in business. TMS CADCentre is the only UK SOLIDWORKS Reseller based and funded within Scotland and have been providing SOLIDWORKS software, training and support since 1996 when the product was first launched in the UK.


Categories: SOLIDWORKS 2017, Usability

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