Learn a Lot and Have a Little Fun (Solid Thinking SolidWorks Tutorial)

31 May, 2008 By: Richard Doyle

Educate yourself with great Internet resources for SolidWorks training.

Editor's note: This tutorial courtesy of SolidWorks.

If you're like me, you probably have a bookshelf full of reference manuals, catalogs, how-to books, and a few drafting standards manuals. If you're not like me, you've ditched the paper and rely solely on the Internet for CAD and/or engineering information. Maybe you're somewhere in the middle — you still have a full bookshelf, but it's more for nostalgia than actual data. In any case, the Internet has drastically changed the way we look for, disseminate, and use information on a daily basis.

Most SolidWorks users are familiar with one or two outlets to get information, have questions answered, or share models and information related to SolidWorks. Discussion forums (or newsgroups), local user group websites, and independent Web sites dedicated to CAD and engineering dot the landscape. There's a treasure trove of information out there if you can find it. Here are a few of my favorites — I hope you will find them as useful as I have.

Video is Ho
Given a choice, I think most people would rather their initial exposure to SolidWorks be in the form of face-to-face training. SolidWorks resellers offer the most comprehensive training classes available. But what if that's not an option? The next best offering may be video tutorials or tips and tricks. There are several Web sites dedicated to video, and several others that use video as part of their toolset.

This site contains a clever collection of CAD usage, demonstrated by CAD users. There are hundreds of "how-to" and "How I do this" videos uploaded by CAD users from around the world. Free registration gets you access to everything.

What, YouTube has SolidWorks videos? Yep, more than 1,500 of them, including tutorials, case studies, and the world famous 007 Vanquish video originally produced and presented at SolidWorks World 2003.

Ricky Jordan's Blog
Ricky has been around the SolidWorks Community for a very long time. An expert in working with imported geometry (as well as many other facets of SolidWorks), Ricky uses a lot of video on his blog site. Check out this entry on using connectors with sweeps and lofts.

Perhaps one of the most interesting of the SolidWorks blogs, SolidSmack uses video extensively — although it's not always related to SolidWorks. You'll find plenty of tutorials on the SolidSmack site, with a good dose of cool thrown in.

SolidWorks Web site
One of the most popular offerings ever on the SolidWorks Corporation website is the collection of 1-Minute Tip videos. There are dozens to choose from (and more on the way) covering data management, analysis, and 3D CAD design solutions.

The Printed Word
Watching video is great, but for in-depth information or answers to your tough (and immediate) questions, nothing beats a good discussion forum. You could spend days coming up with all of the SolidWorks related forums, but a few stand out as best-in-class.

SolidWorks Customer Portal
For SolidWorks customers on current subscription service, the Customer Portal is the landing spot for a wealth of SolidWorks knowledge. Easy access to updates (service packs), links to SolidWorks Labs and 3D Content Central, and the extensive knowledge base can all be found here. The hidden gem is the knowledge base, a searchable index of solutions designed to answer your questions in a self-service manner. Other valuable links include Tech Tips, Tutorials, and archived Webinars.

SolidWorks Discussion Forums
If the knowledge base is the hidden gem, the SolidWorks Discussion Forums are the mother lode. You can access the forums directly from the Customer Portal, or navigate directly to the site (active subscription service is not required). There are more than 350 messages posted each day — questions, answers, comments, and even a few announcements. At any given time, 50-70 SolidWorks users are logged into the forums. Spending just a few minutes of each day on the forums quickly makes it clear how valuable this resource truly is. The SolidWorks Discussion Forums are a true peer-to-peer training resource that should be on your daily watch list.

How About a Little Education?
As more and more schools add SolidWorks to their curriculum, it makes sense that sites geared toward students will start popping up. Several sites are already gaining traction.

Learn. Create. Succeed.
A blog primarily geared toward educators, Learn. Create. Succeed. is a collaborative effort that provides not only insightful commentary, but an array of course materials to help educators develop challenging lessons for their students. Check out the Additional Curriculum link for a look at some really terrific downloads and tutorials.

Gabi Jack's Blog
Gabi is a student who is learning SolidWorks and writing about it at the same time. Gabi Jack's blog contains a lot of informative how-to's, and is very well written. Plenty of screenshots make this a terrific learning opportunity for SolidWorks users of any level of expertise.

The CAD Academy
A relative newcomer to the game, the CAD Academy is a jointly sponsored program designed for school districts to provide opportunities for students in math and science in compelling and unique ways. SolidWorks Corporation is one of the co-founders.

Okay, Ready for Some Fun?
After a full day of gathering information, or viewing the latest CAD Junky videos, we can all use a little distraction. Two of my favorites — Mr. Torimoto vs. SolidWorks and the SolidWorks Paper Pilot.

Mr. Torimoto vs. SolidWorks
Shot in fast-motion, this several minutes long video pits origami master Mr. Torimoto against SolidWorks 3D CAD to create a robot. This is a lot of fun to watch (even over and over). At the end of the video, be sure to click the link to get your own free robot kit.

SolidWorks Paper Pilot
WARNING!! This site is highly addictive, and can jeopardize your productivity. Please visit the SolidWorks Paper Pilot site only on non-work hours. There is a three minute video that actually shows a paper airplane being designed in SolidWorks, but the real fun is creating and flying your own. You get several options to design your paper airplane, and then move to the arena to give it a throw. You can even send a challenge to your friends. I spent several hours one Saturday morning (when I should have been mowing the yard) perfecting my throw. Can you beat 49.0 meters?

Whether you're an expert or novice SolidWorks user, there is plenty of Web-based information out there for you. Most sites now have RSS feeds that make it easy to have information sent directly to you, instead of you having to search for it. So, bookmark your favorite sites, or sign up for the feeds — you can never learn too much about CAD and engineering.

About the Author: Richard Doyle