SOLIDWORKS 101

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After you have an idea of the object you would like to print, you’ll have to create a 3D model in SOLIDWORKS, AutoDesk, OnShape, or some other 3D design software. This tutorial is for SOLIDWORKS, but the basic ideas should apply to any other commercially available software package.

  • Design
    • 1. First, create a sketch of the dimensions you want your object to take in the plane that will make your work easiest. This is a necessary first step as SOLIDWORKS needs a 2D sketch in order to extrude a 3D shape.
    • 2. After your sketch is completed, go to the features tab and add an extrusion. This is how 3D elements are created. Once you have selected the correct sketch to extrude from, a menu of options for your extrusion will appear wherever your toolbars are set to appear. Here you will have options to set qualities like relations to other extrusions, length/width, etc. This takes a while to master.
    • 3. Once you have an extruded object, you can begin to add finer details through the other features of SOLIDWORKS. These include, but are not limited to, things like holes for screws or cables (extruded cuts), smooth edges (fillets). After a few hours of use it is easy to see how most rudimentary object you may want to model can be created using only these tools.
    • 4. An important note: The above ‘secondary features’ are created using an associated sketch. For example, in order to create a hole in a rectangle in order to use a screw to attach it to something else, you must select the surface in question and sketch a circle of the desired diameter. Then you will have access to the extruded cut feature.


  • Printing – More detailed information on this topic can be found in the ESE 205 Class Wiki
    • 1. When designing for a 3D print, one should keep the tolerances of the printer one is using in mind. For example, the Ultimaker 2 Extended tends to print things about 1-3 millimeters smaller (depending on the print resolution) than the part file specifies.
    • Save your completed object with the .stl file extension. This will allow you to import your object to the 3D printer’s software.
    • 2. Open Cura (Ultimaker’s slicing software) and import your model using the file menu.
    • 3. The object should lie as flat as possible to ensure the best print regardless of what resolution you select.
    • 4. For most parts, using Fast Print will give good results. If you think you really need to print at high or even Ulti quality, make sure it is done when the printer is not in high demand because it tends to throw everyone else’s work off schedule.
    • 5. Once your object is adequately prepared in Cura, save the .gcode file to a dedicated SD card and insert the card into the slot of the Ultimaker.
    • 6. Once your object is done printing, it will likely have some PLA plastic around the edges that looks unsightly. This is meant to be peeled off and does so easily. Some residual bits will undoubtedly be left over; an Exacto knife makes getting these off easy.