Learn SOLIDWORKS - Second Edition

By Tayseer Almattar
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    Chapter 1: Introduction to SOLIDWORKS
About this book

SOLIDWORKS is the leading choice for 3D engineering and product design applications across industries such as aviation, automobile, and consumer product design. This book helps you to get up and running with SOLIDWORKS and understand each new concept and tool with the help of easy-to-follow exercises.

You'll begin with the basics, exploring the software interface and finding out how to work with drawing files. The book then guides you through topics such as sketching, building complex 3D models, generating dynamic and static assemblies, and generating 2D engineering drawings to prepare you to take on any design project. You'll also work with practical exercises to get hands-on experience with creating sketches, 3D part models, assemblies, and drawings. To reinforce your understanding of SOLIDWORKS, the book is supplemented by downloadable files that will help you to understand the concepts and exercises more easily. Finally, you'll also work on projects for 3D modeling objects inspired by everyday life.

By the end of this SOLIDWORKS book, you'll have gained the skills you need to create professional 3D mechanical models using SOLIDWORKS and be able to prepare effectively for the Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate (CSWA) and Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional (CSWP) exams.

Publication date:
January 2022


Chapter 1: Introduction to SOLIDWORKS

SOLIDWORKS is a Three-Dimensional (3D) design application. This is a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software that runs on Windows computer systems. It was launched in 1995 and has grown to be one of the most common pieces of software used globally regarding engineering design.

This book covers the fundamental skills for using SOLIDWORKS. It will take you from knowing nothing about the software to acquiring all the basic skills expected of a Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional (CSWP). En route, we will also cover all the skills needed for the more basic Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate (CSWA) level. In addition to knowing what the tools are, you will also need to develop software fluency, which you will gain gradually as you practice using the software for different applications. Both the tools and the fluency are essential to acquiring any official SOLIDWORKS certifications. If you are new to SOLIDWORKS, we recommend that you follow the book like a story, from Chapter 1, Introduction to SOLIDWORKS, onward. If you are already familiar with SOLIDWORKS, feel free to jump between chapters.

This chapter will provide you with a brief introduction to what SOLIDWORKS is and the fields it can support. Equipped with this knowledge, we will learn about all the features and capabilities of SOLIDWORKS and will have a clearer idea of what types of certifications or fields you can strive for. Learning about applicable certifications will enable you to plan your personal SOLIDWORKS development.

The chapter will also explain the governing principle with which SOLIDWORKS functions: parametric modeling. Equipped with a knowledge of SOLIDWORKS' operating principles, we will be able to deepen our understanding of how the software works and what to expect from it. Understanding the software's operating principles will help us manage the different software commands that are used when building 3D models.

The following topics will be covered in this chapter:

  • Introducing SOLIDWORKS
  • Understanding parametric modeling
  • Exploring SOLIDWORKS certifications

Introducing SOLIDWORKS

SOLIDWORKS is a 3D design software that's officially capitalized to SOLIDWORKS. It is one of the leading pieces of engineering 3D design software globally. Today, more than 2 million organizations use SOLIDWORKS to bring in products and innovations, which represent a large proportion of over 6 million SOLIDWORKS users in total. In this section, we will explore the different applications that SOLIDWORKS supports.

SOLIDWORKS applications

SOLIDWORKS mainly targets engineers and product designers. It is used in a variety of applications and industries. Some of these industries are as follows:

  • Consumer products
  • Aerospace construction
  • High-tech electronics
  • Medicine
  • Oil and gas
  • Packaging
  • Machinery
  • Engineering services
  • Furniture design
  • Energy
  • Automobiles

Each of these industries utilizes SOLIDWORKS for its design applications to some extent. Within SOLIDWORKS, several disciplines correspond to different design and analysis approaches. They are as follows:

  • Core mechanical design
  • Two-dimensional (2D) drawings
  • Surface design
  • Sheet metal
  • Sustainability
  • Motion analysis
  • Weldments
  • Simulations
  • Mold making
  • Electrical

Even though the preceding list highlights some possible domains where SOLIDWORKS can be applied, it is not necessary for a single individual to master them all. However, they do demonstrate the capabilities enabled by the software and the fields it can serve. This book will focus on addressing applications within the core mechanical design disciplines. These disciplines will cover the most common usage scenarios for SOLIDWORKS.

Core mechanical design

Core mechanical design skills are the most commonly used foundational design application for SOLIDWORKS users. This includes the fundamental 3D modeling features that are essential for modeling mechanical components; this book will focus on this type of design application. Mastering this will enable you, as a learner, to draft complex parts and assemblies. These can include engines, furniture, and everyday consumer products such as phones and laptops.

We will cover all the knowledge and skills needed to achieve the two major SOLIDWORKS certifications under the core mechanical design discipline. These are the Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate (CSWA) and Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional (CSWP) levels. Also, mastering core mechanical design concepts can be considered as a prerequisite to learning most other specialized modeling disciplines, such as sheet metal and mold making. Because of that, we will only cover a common foundation for mechanical core design in this book. Later in this chapter, we will discuss all the certifications and levels in more detail in the Exploring SOLIDWORKS Certifications section.

Now that we know what SOLIDWORKS is and the different applications and disciplines it covers, we will cover the principle under which the software operates: parametric modeling.

Sample SOLIDWORKS 3D Models

As SOLIDWORKS caters to a variety of fields, it is possible to create 3D models with varying complexity using the software. Here, you can find samples of 3D models from different fields that have been made using SOLIDWORKS:

Figure 1.1 – A 3D Model of "Gallon." Image courtesy of TforDesign

Figure 1.1 – A 3D Model of "Gallon." Image courtesy of TforDesign

Figure 1.2 – Gears assembly for a pump. Image courtesy of TforDesign

Figure 1.2 – Gears assembly for a pump. Image courtesy of TforDesign

Figure 1.3 – A turbine rotor. Image courtesy of TforDesign

Figure 1.3 – A turbine rotor. Image courtesy of TforDesign

Figure 1.4 – Geometric bookshelf design. Image courtesy of TforDesign

Figure 1.4 – Geometric bookshelf design. Image courtesy of TforDesign

Figure 1.5 – A mechanical seal. Image courtesy of TforDesign

Figure 1.5 – A mechanical seal. Image courtesy of TforDesign

These models are selections from different fields that can show the flexibility and the range of possible applications. In reality, SOLIDWORKS is a tool, and it will remain up to you as to what you will use it for.


Understanding parametric modelling

Parametric modeling is the core principle that SOLIDWORKS operates on. It governs how SOLIDWORKS constructs 3D models and how a user should think when dealing with SOLIDWORKS.

In parametric modeling, the model is created based on relationships and a set of logical arrangements that are set by the designer or draftsman. In the SOLIDWORKS software environment, they are represented by dimensions, geometric relationships, and features that link different parts of a model to each other. Each of these logical features is called a parameter.

For example, a simple cube with a side length of 1 mm would contain the following parameters:

  1. Four lines in one plane with the following relationships listed and noted in the following diagram in writing:
    • All two-line endpoints are merged at the same point. This is presented with the merged parameter in the following diagram.
    • Two opposite angles are right angles (90 degrees).
    • Two adjacent lines are equal to each other in length.
    • The length of one line is 1 mm, as follows:
Figure 1.6 – Four lines in one plane

Figure 1.6 – Four lines in one plane

  1. A Vertical Extrusion that is perpendicular to the square defined in the first set of parameters. This extrusion is by an amount equal to the length of the square's side (1 mm). This vertical extrusion will result in the shape shown in the following diagram:
Figure 1.7 – Extruding four base lines upward to make a cube

Figure 1.7 – Extruding four base lines upward to make a cube

The parameters listed here show how software such as SOLIDWORKS interprets and constructs 3D models. Another term that is commonly used to refer to those parameters is design intent. The user of the software should specify all those parameters to create a cube or any other 3D model. Creating 3D models based on parameters/design settings has many notable advantages. One major advantage is the ease of applying design updates. Let's go back to our cube to see how this works.

Notice that in the preceding cube, we have specified the length of only one side in the base square; the other specifications are all relationships that fix and highlight the fact that the model is a cube (equal, parallel, and perpendicular sides). Those parameters make all the parts of our cube inter-connected based on what we decide is important. Thus, updating the length of the side of the cube will not sabotage the cube's structure. Rather, the whole cube will be updated while keeping the parameters intact.

To clarify this, we can revisit the cube we just made to update it. In the same model, let's change the dimension we identified earlier from 1 mm to 5 mm:

Figure 1.8 – Adjusting the elements in a parametric design propagated to the different parts

Figure 1.8 – Adjusting the elements in a parametric design propagated to the different parts

With that single step, the cube is fully modified, with all the sides changing to 5 mm in length. Again, this is because our cube parameters must have equal perpendicular and parallel sides. Given that we have defined our intended parameters/design settings for the software, all of those will be retained, resulting in the whole cube model being updated with one single adjustment.

This can be contrasted with pure direct modeling methods. In pure direct modeling, the user creates the cube more abstractly by drawing each line separately and constructing a cube of a certain size. Even though creating the initial cube might be faster, updating it would require updating all of the elements separately as they don't relate to each other with any intent or logical features. This would result in considerably more time and effort being invested in creating variations, which is an essential requirement for industrial applications.

Other advantages of parametric modeling are as follows:

  • The ease of modifying and adjusting models throughout the design and production cycles.
  • The ease of creating families of parts that have similar parameters.
  • The ease of communicating the design to manufacturing establishments for manufacturing.

All the advantages of parametric modeling make it a popular modeling method for technical applications relating to engineering or product design. On the other hand, direct modeling can perform better in more abstract applications, such as modeling more artistic objects used in gaming or architecture. Understanding parametric modeling will enable us to use the software more easily as we are aware of its limitations, as well as how the software interprets the commands we apply. As we go through this book, we will expand our understanding of parametric modeling as we tackle more advanced functions, such as design tables and other features.

Now that we know more about SOLIDWORKS and parametric modeling, we will discuss the certifications offered by SOLIDWORKS.


Exploring SOLIDWORKS certifications

SOLIDWORKS provides certifications that cover different aspects of its functionality. As a user, you don't need to gain any of those certifications to use the software; however, they can prove your SOLIDWORKS skills. SOLIDWORKS certifications are a good way of showing employers or clients that you have mastery over a certain aspect of the software that would be required for a specific project.

Certifications can be classified under four levels: associate, professional, professional advanced, and expert. Associate certifications represent the entry level, expert certifications represent the highest level, and professional and professional advanced represent the middle levels, respectively. The following subsections list the certification levels provided by SOLIDWORKS. Note that SOLIDWORKS adds or removes certifications over time.

You can check the SOLIDWORKS certification program for more information. You can find the link to the program in the Further Reading section.

Associate certifications

Associate certifications are the most basic ones offered by SOLIDWORKS. Some of those certifications require hands-on testing, while others require the student to have theoretical knowledge related to the certification topic. Brief details pertaining to each certification are as follows:

  • CSWA: This is the most popular SOLIDWORKS certification. It covers the basic modeling principles involved in using the software. This certification allows the user to prove their familiarity with the basic 3D modeling environment in SOLIDWORKS. It touches on creating parts, assemblies, and drawings. The test for this certification is hands-on, so the student will need to have SOLIDWORKS installed before attempting the test.
  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate – Electrical (CSWA-E): This covers the general basics of electrical theory, as well as aspects of the electrical functionality of SOLIDWORKS. This certification test does not involve practical work, so the student will not need to have SOLIDWORKS installed.
  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate – Sustainability (CSWA-Sustainability): This covers theoretical principles of product-sustainable design, such as cradle to cradle. To take this certification, SOLIDWORKS software is not required.
  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate – Simulation (CSWA-Simulation): This covers basic simulation principles based on the Finite Elements Method (FEM). This mainly includes stress analysis and the effect of different materials and forces on solid bodies. This is a hands-on test, so the student is required to have SOLIDWORKS installed.
  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate – Additive Manufacturing (CSWA-AM): This is one of the newer certifications offered by SOLIDWORKS, due to the emergence of the common use of additive manufacturing methods such as 3D printing. This certification covers basic knowledge regarding the 3D printing market. This is not a hands-on test, so the student does not need to have the SOLIDWORKS software installed.

Professional certifications

Professional certifications demonstrate a higher mastery of SOLIDWORKS functions beyond the basic knowledge of the certified associate. All the certifications in this category involve hands-on demonstrations. Thus, the student is required to have access to SOLIDWORKS before attempting any of the tests. Brief details pertaining to each certification are as follows:

  • CSWP: This level is a direct sequence of the CSWA level. It demonstrates the user's mastery over advanced SOLIDWORKS 3D modeling functions. This level upgrade focuses more on modeling more complex parts and assemblies.
  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional – Model-Based Definition (CSWP- MBD): MBD is one of the newer SOLIDWORKS functionalities. This certification demonstrates the user's mastery of MBD functions, which enable the communication of models in a 3D environment rather than in a 2D drawing.
  • Certified PDM Professional Administrator (CPPA): PDM stands for Product Data Management. This certification focuses on managing projects with a wide variety of files and configurations. Also, it facilitates collaboration in teams working on the same design project.
  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional – Simulation (CSWP-Simulation): This is an advanced sequence of the CSWA-Simulation certificate. It demonstrates a more advanced mastery of the simulation tools provided by SOLIDWORKS, as well as the ability to evaluate and interpret more diverse simulation scenarios.
  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional – Flow Simulation (CSWP-Flow): This is another advanced sequence of the CSWA-Simulation certificate. However, it focuses on the ability to set up and run different fluid flow simulation scenarios.
  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional API (CSWP-API): API stands for application programming interface. This certificate addresses the user's skill in programming and automating functions within the SOLIDWORKS software.
  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional CAM (CSWP-CAM): CAM stands for computer-aided manufacturing. SOLIDWORKS provides a suite of CAM tools that can facilitate the manufacturing of parts by enabling the user to simulate and plan different manufacturing processes. The CSWP-CAM certificate assesses your ability to use those tools in SOLIDWORKS.

Professional advanced certifications

Professional advanced certifications address very specific functions within SOLIDWORKS. Often, these certifications apply to more specific industries compared to the CSWP certificate. All these certificates are advanced specializations of the CSWP certificate.

The advanced certificates offered by SOLIDWORKS are as follows:

  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional Advanced – Sheet Metal (CSWPA-SM): This focuses on applications related to sheet metal. This includes bending sheet metal into different shapes, as well as conducting different related analyses.
  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional Advanced – Weldments (CSWPA-WD): This focuses on applications related to welding. This includes welding both sheet metals and different formations such as frames.
  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional Advanced – Surfacing (CSWPA-SU): This focuses on modeling surfaces of irregular shapes, such as car bodies and computer mice.
  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional Advanced – Mold Making (CSWPA- MM): This focuses on making molds for productions. This includes molds for both metal and plastic parts.
  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional Advanced – Advanced Drawing Tools (CSWPA-ADT): This focuses more on generating 2D engineering drawings to help communicate models to different parties. These can include internal quality teams or external manufacturers.

Expert certifications

Expert certifications are the highest level of certification offered by SOLIDWORKS. Obtaining an expert certificate indicates your mastery of a large array of functions in the software. Also, expert certificates are the only ones with required prerequisites. Two expert certificates are offered, as follows:

  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert (CSWE): This demonstrates mastery over all SOLIDWORKS modeling and design functions. To qualify for this exam, the user must have the CSWP certificate, in addition to four CSWPA certificates.
  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert in Simulation (CSWE-S): This demonstrates mastery over all the areas of the SOLIDWORKS Simulation software. To qualify for this exam, the user must have the CSWP, CSWA – Simulations, and CSWP – Simulations certificates.

A SOLIDWORKS user doesn't need to obtain all these certifications. It is rare to find one person with all these certificates. This is because each certification level can address very different needs and serve different industries and/or positions. Also, some certification levels are more in demand than others as they are more essential and, hence, used in more industries. Sequentially, the certifications can be viewed as follows:

Figure 1.9 –  A map of the different SOLIDWORKS certifications

Figure 1.9 – A map of the different SOLIDWORKS certifications

This book covers the two most essential, sequential certification levels: Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate (CSWA) and Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional (CSWP). These two certifications cover the common usage scenarios within SOLIDWORKS.



In this chapter, we learned about what SOLIDWORKS is, how parametric modeling works, and the different certifications offered by SOLIDWORKS. This will help us set our expectations and create our future development roadmap concerning SOLIDWORKS. It will also help us to understand the capabilities of the software and its vast scope.

In the next chapter, we will cover the SOLIDWORKS interface and its navigation. This will enable us to navigate the software and identify the different components that exist in its interface.



Answer the following questions to test your knowledge of this chapter:

  1. What is SOLIDWORKS?
  2. Name some industries that utilize SOLIDWORKS.
  3. How is parametric modeling defined?
  4. What are the major advantages of parametric modeling?
  5. What is the difference between parametric modeling and direct modeling?
  6. What are the SOLIDWORKS certifications and why are they important?
  7. What are the main categories of certification levels offered by SOLIDWORKS?

    Important Note

    The answers to the preceding questions can be found at the end of this book.


Further Reading

More information about the certifications offered by SOLIDWORKS can be found here: https://www.solidworks.com/solidworks-certification-program.

About the Author
  • Tayseer Almattar

    Tayseer Almattar holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and a Master of Design (MDes) degree in international design and business management. He is a believer in the power of design in enabling sustainable business innovation. He is also the founder of TforDesign.

    SOLIDWORKS is Tayseer's software choice in generating 3D designs. He has been a SOLIDWORKS user for over a decade and has published multiple related online learning programs attracting thousands of learners from across the globe. With this book, Tayseer has brought together his design and training experience to produce a unique and practical SOLIDWORKS learning experience in writing.

    Browse publications by this author
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