Complex Drawings in Solid Works

To avoid trouble, relate all your parts to one reference point and avoid "in context references." January 28, 2009

I am starting to use solid works for designing custom store fixtures. I have been drawing at the "Assembly level". Usually I start with a basic part, and most of the other parts are drawn in relationship to that part. This creates "in context references". When I discuss this with the company who we use for tech support, they don't seem to think "in context references" are a very good idea. They think that they will end up causing me a lot of problems. I am just wondering if anyone else draws this way, and if not, how you approach it. I am still a new user of solid works, so there may be a better way for sure.

Forum Responses
(CAD Forum)
From contributor P:
They are right. It may seem counterintuitive but I think you will find that drawing from the top down will cause more problems that it is worth. Additionally if you want to use a part in another assembly you will have other problems to deal with.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the response. I guess I am not sure how to draw efficiently without relating to the surrounding parts. It seems like you would have to measure and figure out what size to make each part, and then constrain it in place, which seems wrong. I will play around with it more and see how it goes - there must be a good way to do it without in context references - I am just not sure what that is yet.

From contributor W:
All my work is done at assembly level but I only assemble using planes from my part to the assembly. Very rarely will I use in context references. They will cause headaches later on. The more relation between parts the more likely they will fail on a rebuild during changes. Your best bet is to measure and draw each part with no reference then assemble. In-context references is one of those thing that sound good on paper but doesn't work well in practice.

From contributor P:
Fixtures usually have quite a few parts to track, therefore you need to have a central reference point. You can use planes, a sketch, or envelope as a central reference point. By doing this you can control the assembly from one place. You need to use mates instead of references to place the parts. Look at configurations this way you can library parts. This allows you reuse parts on new fixtures and still make changes to those parts without affecting the assembly.

From contributor R:
I've been generating staircases with Solidworks and find that the key is to have all of your information in 2D plan sketches in the assembly file (also using planes, sketched elevations and equations). Then, relate your parts only to the layouts in the assembly and never relate parts to one another. There are even times when the 2D plan sketches will suffice for simpler projects and has all the parametric features. Resist succumbing to the temptation of relating parts to one another (even occasionally) or you will have a rats nest of problems in no time.