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Learn SolidWorks in 10 Minutes: From Nothing to Something

The title of the article seems very tantalizing, especially it creates a sense that anybody without prior knowledge can learn the tool - SolidWorks. Unfortunately, life is not a bed of roses - there are always hurdles in exploring any new avenues. The title is meant for those who have some level of knowledge in computer-aided-design (CAD) using any software. Thus, if anybody has never used SolidWorks before, but has some sort of interest in engineering drawing, this tutorial is ideal for them to get on board very quickly. Also, the heading of the tutorial is justified for them since it will really take 10 minutes to complete a simple tutorial in SolidWorks that covers the fundamentals of using this very popular tool.

Let's begin. At first, you need to have SolidWorks installed in your machine. You may download a trial version from their website to try and get acquainted, and later decide if you like to stick with the tool. When you click on the SolidWorks application launcher, the following window would appear first. As we can see, it has three options: part, assembly, and drawing. We will select the 'Part', and begin the sketch. 
SolidWorks opening window

After the selection, you will have the following window where you can start drawing. This is a three dimensional (3D) environment where the coordinate is defined by a 'trimatric' system. There are two other options to define the coordinates - isometric and dimetric. These coordinates are located at the bottom left corner of the window with a red, blue, and yellow colored arrows. There are several tools on top of the window for sketching, such as, line, circle, polygon, arc, trim, etc. 

SolidWorks part drawing interface

Now, our task is to design a very simple nut and bolt, which looks like below that is actually the final outcome of this tutorial. We are all familiar with the nut-bolt - from the household to the industry level works. We are going to design the nut and bolt step-by-step in SolidWorks that will only take 10 minutes, trust me!

Showing a typical nut & bolt in SolidWorks

Step 1 (Bolt Design): We will design the bolt first. As shown before the working window, we begin with choosing any two dimensional (2D) planes from the left side tree-like menus. In this case, select the front plane; but, it does not matter if you choose other two planes: top or bottom, since it is a 2D sketch.

Select a plane to start drawing

Next, from the top menu, choose a line. Then, stepwise, draw the half of the 2D projection of the bolt. All the dimensions are in millimeters (mm).

Showing the dimensions of the screw

We will now use 'revolve' feature of SolidWorks. Just think, if we revolve or rotate the half 'T' shape about its longest side, it will form a cylinder with a head - that is the bolt. As we see below, click on the 'Features' option from the top menu bar where you will find the 'Revolved Boss/Base' option. Select that and then you will see the option to choose an axis for rotation. Click on the longest side ((0.1+0.01) mm) of the drawing.

Using the 'revolve' feature of SolidWorksSolidWorks 'revolve' feature

Now, we need to design the thread on the bolt. As before, from the top menu bar, click on 'Hole Wizard' and choose 'Thread'. You will see the following window. From the left menu, select a 'Cut Thread' with defining the location of the thread. You can also define the angle of the thread, which is 25 degree in this case.

Designing thread in SolidWorks

Step 2 (Nut Design): In this step, we will design the nut. We need to create a new file again and select 'Part' to begin as described above. Like before, we begin with choosing any two dimensional (2D) planes from the left side menu bar. Then click on the 'Circles' from the top menu bar and draw two circles subsequently as shown below. Next, click on the 'Features', and then click on 'Extruded Boss/Base'. With this command, we will create a hollow cylinder.

Drawing a nut in SolidWorks

We will now create a thread on the inside surface/wall of the nut. From the top menu bar, click on 'Hole Wizard' and choose 'Thread'. You will see the following window as before. But, this time, from the left menu, you need to select an 'Extrude Thread' with defining the beginning location of the thread since it is an internal thread. Then you can also define the angle of the thread, which is again 25 degree in this case.

Creating thread inside the nut

Step 3 (Assembly): This is the final stage of the tutorial. We are going to assemble the two parts - nut and bolt - in this step. To do so, create a new file and select 'Assembly' this time. Then from the top menu bar, choose 'Insert Components' and select the two parts. You need to save all the parts in the same folder along with the assembly file so that if you make any changes to the assembly, the subsequent modifications are automatically synchronized and reflected in the part files.

Inserting nut and bolt in the assembly file

We are almost done. Now, in the assembly file, the important aspect is the 'Mate' feature. In SolidWorks, mating components to form an assembly is extremely important as this ultimately determines the degrees of freedom of the various components. An unconstrained rigid body has six degrees of freedom as translation along three perpendicular axes and rotation about three perpendicular axes in Cartesian coordinate system. Adding constraints simply removes the degrees of freedom which are basically done by mates or joints in SolidWorks. As an example, a revolute joint or hinge allows only one degree of freedom between two mechanical parts in an assembly.

For this tutorial, it is a simple mating. Click on the feature 'Mate' from the top menu bar and select 'concentric' mate. Select the inner surface of the nut and the outer surface of the bolt, which will then be positioned automatically as highlighted below.

Using 'concentric' mate to join nut and bolt

We are done. Now, check your clock and read the time. How long it took for you to get this job done - ten minutes???

The Final Product: Nut-Bolt Assembly

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