Many engineers use SolidWorks to create three-dimensional models of parts and assemblies. If you’re new to the software, it’s daunting to learn all the features and capabilities.
However, with a little time and effort, you can go from knowing nothing about SolidWorks to being an expert user.
I vividly recall my journey in learning SolidWorks from a new engineer to an expert level. In hindsight, I believe there are certain steps you can take to fast-track your learning.
In general, to learn SolidWorks from scratch to an expert level, you need lots of practice. In addition, try working on more challenging projects that force you to look for CAD solutions outside of your comfort zone.
In this article, I will share what I believe to be the best way to learn SolidWorks from scratch to an expert level based on my experience of being a professional design engineer.
9 Steps To Learn SolidWorks From Beginner To Expert
SolidWorks is a powerful CAD software used by engineers worldwide for 3D modelling purposes. If you’re new to using SolidWorks, it can seem overwhelming at first glance—but with a little time and effort, you can learn how to use it.
I am a career-long user of SolidWorks, with 15 years of experience working as a professional design engineer in the acoustics and mechanical engineering design field.
I recall my journey in learning SolidWorks and how I quickly progressed from being a beginner to an expert-level user.
Here are some steps I would recommend to fast-track your learning in SolidWorks, based on my experience.
1. Model Real-World Examples
One of the best ways to learn SolidWorks is to model real-world examples. This will help you understand how to use the software to create 3D models of parts and assemblies.
Instead of just modelling an object in order to get it “looking similar”, consider modelling an object to get it to a manufacturing standard.
For example, right now I am looking at a stapler on my table. Instead of modelling just the stapler as one object, I could disassemble it and model all the individual parts. I could then assemble all these parts into an assembly.
In reality, this is how 3D modelling works in the industry of design and manufacturing. Singular components are manufactured and then assembled into the final product.
I could then create 2D drawings of all these individual parts to get the drawings to a standard where you could pass them to production to be manufactured.
Working on real work examples where parts are actually made is the best way to get good at CAD quickly.
2. Find A Mentor
I have been very lucky in my career as I have had Senior Engineers who have acted like mentors, giving me the best advice on how to model parts and prepare them for manufacture.
If you do not have the luxury of a mentor who can guide your 3D modelling progression, you could follow along with a tutor on YouTube.
There are many excellent and experienced engineers who share their knowledge about 3D modelling on YouTube. You can benefit from their experience by simply watching their videos.
Search for a mentor and follow along to learn from the best.
3. Get Formal Training
Although it is possible to learn SolidWorks on your own without formal training, formal training through a course can help you upskill quickly and see how other experts use the software.
I have attended many classes of formal SolidWorks training, even as an expert user. Each time I learned something new, or discovered a better way to do a task within the software.
Besides learning how to use the software more proficiently and seeing how experts use the software, you can gain a lot of confidence in your ability to use the software as you are confident that you are modelling objects in the best way possible.
4. Read The Manual
This might seem very boring and uninspiring, however the manual contains a lot of excellent information on how to use the software correctly and to its full potential.
Part of being an expert user is having the ability to find answers to modelling questions on your own.
Being able to navigate the manual, know where to find answers and understand the basic principles will give you an expert edge.
5. Sit The Expert Level Exam
SolidWorks run a variety of qualifications which you can sit. This is usually an exam, where if you pass, you can gain an official qualification that you can put on your CV to prove your competency at SolidWorks.
By preparing for the Certified SolidWorks Expert exam, you will improve your skills to the expert level and understand what we expect from a SolidWorks expert user.
6. Model Complex Geometry
It can be very tempting and easy to stay within the limits of what you normally 3D model, without trying anything too complicated.
It can be a good idea to challenge yourself to create a model with very complex geometry.
This will force you to think outside of the box and use a modelling approach that is not common to you.
7. Learn Keyboard Short Cuts
Expert users tend to use keyboard shortcuts for regular commands.
Not only does this speed up your workflow and increase productivity if ever you have to present a model to a colleague, but you can also quickly navigate the user interface.
Think about the commands that you use regularly and see if you can create a keyboard shortcut, or learn a keyboard shortcut so you can work faster and more efficiently.
If you work on the same type of model repeatedly, there can be entire sections of the CAD software that you have not explored.
For example, have you ever tried to create a sheet metal part using the sheet metal functions?
If we stick to the same type of model every day, we will not progress with the software.
To become a real SolidWorks expert, you need to understand what the software is capable of and how to model even the most daunting geometry.
9. Learn Alternative Modelling Approaches
I always find it interesting when I watch another professional engineer model something.
Often with CAD, there can be many approaches to modelling the same thing.
Although for metal parts, I like to start with a block of metal and model in a way that the CNC machinist will actually cut the metal; it is interesting to see the approach of other engineers.
By learning from others, particularly from watching videos on YouTube on how to model parts in SolidWorks, you can open your mind to alternative modelling approaches.
In order to become a SolidWorks expert user, you need to learn and experiment. The tips I have provided will help you improve your skills and knowledge so that you can work more efficiently and model even the most complex geometry.
I encourage you to keep practising and try progressively more challenging CAD models.
It can take some time to reach a SolidWorks expert user level, but with daily use and practice, you will get there.