Computer Aided Design

You are not logged in. [ Login ] Why log in
(NOTE: Login is not required to post)

The solidworks thread

Jack  Member

Hello everyone,

I want start a thread talking about Solidworks and its use in woodworking. I have read ever other post on this forum regarding solidworks but I would like to create one super thread with all the information in one place.

Quick disclaimer - I am not affiliated with solidworks in anyway. I don't use it in production but I am curious to know if it is worth using.

Below I have some questions that I would like answering (If you have any additional questions please post them!) -

Currently I use Autocad (2D only) and a separate CAM program. As we all know this can cause lots of problems when changes are made in a drawing and not carried to the CAM program. Would Solidworks help here?

Exporting single parts out to then be programmed in the CAM software is fine by me so is there a efficient way of doing this?

How do you handle Edgebanding in Solidworks? Exporting a DXF then manually making the allowance is NOT an option.

I use a flat bed CNC to produce the majority of my work so when a cabinet is cut it needs all the dado's and rebate's cut with 0.2mm tolerance to accept the board slotting into it. I don't want to export a DXF then go around ever dado and rebate to allow for that tolerance. So how would you go about that?

Most of our work is commercial and not designed to be taken apart. So we pre-drill all the fixing into the parts for standard wood screws, then when it comes off the CNC it is ready for edgebanding and assembly. Can you do that in solidworks? Is it a long winded process?

Finally what about laying out an entire project? I work at a shopfitting company so most projects aren't single items of furniture. It can be everything from the architraves to the feature ceiling rafts. So plan drawings are key.

To my understanding these are the options available to us -

Just Solidworks


Solidworks with add-ins -

Pascam, SWOOD & Pathfinder3D are the only add-ins I know of that cater to our woodworking needs.

Does anyone have any experience with the above? I have watched ALL the material available on these add-ins (youtube them) but there are so many questions that still need answering! I don't want a company to reveal there secrets but the information needs to be more available...

Could anyone using solidworks post some drawings they have produced? Presentation or Shop. Just to show what it is capable of.

Finally I would like to ask anyone that uses Solidworks to give us there honest opinions about it. There's pro's and con's to every software so I look forward to your response.

Thanks for reading this fairly long post. I'm passionate about the software I use and want it to be as effective as possible.

9/8/15       #2: The solidworks thread ...

Solidworks is a parametric solid modelling program. It is primarily used in machine design, jig/fixture design, and the like in various manufacturing industries that deal mostly in metal or plastic parts.

It would have tremendous value for the modelling of furniture parts in the wood industry as well.

Since you speak of mostly commercial cabinetry, there are many cabinet specific programs that would likely be more efficient for your products. Cabinetvision and microvellum come to mind.

9/8/15       #3: The solidworks thread ...

We have drftsman that use Autocad for "paper" drawing.
Myself and another guy use Mastercam in the shop to draw and program the CNC router.
For that last couple of years our Machine shop foreman has been using Solidworks for drawing and the Mastercam tie in to do the machine programing. Before that he was using just Mastercam for drawing and programing then he went to drawing in Solidwork and porting it over, now he prefers to do the drawing in Solidworks.
So there must be something to it.
You might want to check out the Solidworks / Mastercam thing. We alll like the Mastercam thing for machine programing.

9/8/15       #4: The solidworks thread ...
Jack  Member


Thanks for your response, I agree with you completely regarding cabinet work. Solidworks should never beat the likes of cabinetvision. But when custom work comes into play it seems soildworks would have the upper hand.


Thanks for your response, I didn't know about mastercam's link with solidworks. Does your foreman export a drawing then program or is it all inside of solidworks?

9/8/15       #5: The solidworks thread ...
Michael M Member

We still use Smartlister here. It is not parametric but works within AutoCad to generate cutlists of parts of anything drawn. If you are looking to draw something just once it is much better than all the time creating a one off parametric cabinet.

Draw it in 3D and you've got a cutlist. We've used it since 2005. Still like it.

9/8/15       #6: The solidworks thread ...


The Mastercam thing is now integrated inside of Solidworks, although he used to have to export from Solidworks and run the toolpaths in Mastercam.

BTW, we are all swapping drawing files back and forth in the shop between ACAD, Mastercam and Solidworks and we don't have any problems with compatability.

9/8/15       #7: The solidworks thread ...
Gary B


If your mainstay is cabinetry, even with a lot of custom, I suggest you take a hard look at microvellum. The program has improved significantly in the last few years. One of the best improvements is something called solid model analyzer. This allows you to take a 3d solid model from the program of your choice (including vanilla autocad). And suck it into your microvellum project with all your normal products. That way everything goes through one workflow to manufacturing.
This coupled with their significant improvements in true shape nesting combine for a very powerful and efficient work flow.

9/8/15       #8: The solidworks thread ...
George Smith

I used Solidworks from 98 until about 2007. The problem with it is it's lack of woodworking functionality. I.E. putting in assembly and system holes, allowing for edgebanding, getting the parts out of the assembly and into the the cnc, organizing parts by room, etc.

There are guys who sell some add ons. But there is no way they are going to be as efficient as cabinet programs.

I use Smartlister also, it works.

For straight cabinet work the only real choices are Microvellum or Cabinetvision, as these programs allow very fast design time and organization. Cabinetvision does not do real custom. Microvellum is for big shops.

9/10/15       #9: The solidworks thread ...
Jack  Member

Again I agree regarding microvellum and CV for cabinet work. But serious custom work/shopfitting is not an option (at least from what I have seen). Hopefully you can see the image I have tried to attach. This is a project completed earlier this year. Its a sushi restaurant with a conveyor system which takes the food around the store to the customers. So around the conveyor belt we manufactured the belt top (2 layers of 18mm MDF with walnut laminate and solid walnut edge), the panels above and below. To the left of the image is a wall panel which is a 12mm back board with several dados to accept strips of walnut veneered MDF. At the other end of the site there is booth seating.

As much as possible goes through the CNC and has acad drawings to go with them.

I should clarify that cabinet work is defiantly not the bulk of our work. Maybe 25% max hence why I was looking at solidwork.

Working in 2D autocad is great for flexibility but it is often difficult to identify mistakes until parts are cut and assembled

View higher quality, full size image (1440 X 960)

9/10/15       #10: The solidworks thread ...

The type of stuff you are doing is similar to what we do in that we do a lot of integration of wood and metal work.
Solidworks can animate the parts which is cool.
Our machine shop has done all sorts of neat stuff that we install into the woodwork.
Might be worth investigating.
Our guy figured it out on his own but said the learning curve was steep.
I do see a couple of community colleges by us teach it though. Maybe someone near you does too.
I can imagine taking even one class and using it in a real work situation would speed the learning process along.

9/10/15       #11: The solidworks thread ...
Pat Gilbert

With all due respect to Snaglpuss Solidworks is easier to learn than Autocad.

Jack I did the same stuff as you, sushi bars, theme restaurants, store fixtures, etc

The question is which software is the most efficient and getting the parts into the shop. I think 3d software is, but a lot of people disagree with me.

Cabinet Vision will definitely not work for you. I could not get the Microvellum guys to demonstrate (not just say) doing this type of work. SW was great at drawing but weak at locating the holes in the parts and getting the parts out of the assembly and into the CNC, it also was a pain, in that the parametrics created problems in copying assemblies. The last version I used was 2003 so I'm sure a lot has changed. And I'm sure lots of people will say "everything has changed" since then. My advise would be to LOOK, DO NOT LISTEN. MAKE them do whatever you want.

In about 2007 I switched to Smartlister. And would not consider going back to SW. Because the copying problem was no longer a problem, parametrics were no longer a problem, getting the parts out of Smartlister and into the CNC is infinetly easier, there are tools in Smartlister that allows you to put the holes into the assembly.

I would recommend looking at Microvellum because it has global parametrics which are useful on bigger jobs. E.G. you can say give me the parts for just room 128. Or you can say change the veneer in Room 128 to banana wood. You can also make the jobs into products so that you can make certain dimensions parametric for future use. But you are also looking at what 30k to 50k verses less than 10k. So it depends on the volume you are doing.

View higher quality, full size image (737 X 488)

View higher quality, full size image (1600 X 1200)

4/13/16       #12: The solidworks thread ...
Dave Member

I use SolidWorks on a daily basis for most of our cabinet work and have been using it since 2003 for mechanical design.

SW will not help with the problem of transferring changes to CAM unless you're using something like MasterCAM for SolidWorks which plugs into SW and associates machining to the solid model in real time. Every time you make a change to your model you need to reexport to your CAM.

The way I set up my models is that I create each part of a cabinet, put them into an assembly, and create holes and dados in the context of the assembly. That way if I change the size of any of the parts the hole locations, etc. update accordingly. After I've got all my parts complete I export a DXF of each one, then import into my CAM and apply machining ops. Since I started in this field last year I've come up with a workflow that is fairly fast by storing commonly used machining operations in a library and simply copying and pasting operations as necessary. Similarly, I frequently reuse my SW models. If I know I've done something similar I just make a copy and then change the copy to what I need.

I've never dealt with edgebanding as our bander has premill. What you could do is add the banding as a separate body in the part, then when you export the face of your panel the band would be excluded. You could also split the face you're exporting. This may be simpler as it allows you to model parts at finished sizes without having to deal with the separate body.

If you need to have a .2mm offset for your dados create them in context with the offset in your sketch.

I put all my holes in using the Hole Wizard function by editing the parts, again, in the context of the assembly. It can be a little tedious, but there are ways to automate the process. In the last few releases SW has added some nice pattern features that, used correctly, can speed up your workflow.

I spent 6-1/2 years doing mechanical drawings full time with SW. Currently I use it mainly for modeling, but I also do drawings occasionally. It's not really suited for architectural work. I mainly use it for standalone fixtures which is the core of our business. (Due to the nature of our business I can't share drawings, or I'd be happy to upload some.) The drawing process in SW is very simple. Once your model is created you insert views in a drawing and then add dimensions.

I've looked seriously at Pathfinder PBE and if it was up to me we'd buy it, but I don't have the checkbook. While I have found ways to speed up my workflow something like Pathfinder would significantly reduce my workload. I'd also like to have Cabinet Vision for doing generic box work and layout, but again I don't control the finances.

I'm a huge fan of SW. I have used other CAD packages, but SW hits the sweet spot for me especially for doing custom work. I'd avoid AutoCAD or Microvellum which is built on top of ACAD. SW has a great set of tutorials which can get you up and running quickly. In a lot of ways it's more power than you need for cabinetry, but you'll always have the capability if you need it. Another thing you might want to consider is Onshape which is a cloud based 3D modeling package. It's still lacking some capabilities that I use on a daily basis, but when those issues are ironed out I'll probably switch to it.

1/30/19       #13: The solidworks thread ...

We just got a CNC for solid wood machining (NOT cabinets). Some of y'all ou mentioned you had looked at Pathfinder. What about PASCAM or SWOOD? - two other woodwork plugins for SW.

We had TopSolid'Wood at our last factory and it is wonderful for integrated CAD/CAM but so expensive and such a small user base that it makes it hard to get answers in forums.

Some people talked about Mastercam INSIDE of SW... Any thoughts on the other plugins or Mastercam with SW?

i want parametric design and as integrated with CAM as possible.

bonus would be 4th axis capability - we have a side mounted rotary lathe axis too - but we could run this on another software.

Post a Response
  • Notify me of responses to this thread
  • Subscribe to email updates on this Forum
  • To receive email notification of additions to this forum thread,
    enter your name and email address, and then click the
    "Keep Me Posted" button below.

    Please Note: If you have posted a message or response,
    do not submit this request ... you are already signed up
    to receive notification!

    Your Name:
    E-Mail Address:
    Enter the correct numbers into the field below:

    Date of your Birth:

    Return to top of page

    Buy & Sell Exchanges | Forums | Galleries | Site Map

    FORUM GUIDELINES: Please review the guidelines below before posting at WOODWEB's Interactive Message Boards (return to top)

  • WOODWEB is a professional industrial woodworking site. Hobbyist and homeowner woodworking questions are inappropriate.
  • Messages should be kept reasonably short and on topic, relating to the focus of the forum. Responses should relate to the original question.
  • A valid email return address must be included with each message.
  • Advertising is inappropriate. The only exceptions are the Classified Ads Exchange, Machinery Exchange, Lumber Exchange, and Job Opportunities and Services Exchange. When posting listings in these areas, review the posting instructions carefully.
  • Subject lines may be edited for length and clarity.
  • "Cross posting" is not permitted. Choose the best forum for your question, and post your question at one forum only.
  • Messages requesting private responses will be removed - Forums are designed to provide information and assistance for all of our visitors. Private response requests are appropriate at WOODWEB's Exchanges and Job Opportunities and Services.
  • Messages that accuse businesses or individuals of alleged negative actions or behavior are inappropriate since WOODWEB is unable to verify or substantiate the claims.
  • Posts with the intent of soliciting answers to surveys are not appropriate. Contact WOODWEB for more information on initiating a survey.
  • Excessive forum participation by an individual upsets the balance of a healthy forum atmosphere. Individuals who excessively post responses containing marginal content will be considered repeat forum abusers.
  • Responses that initiate or support inappropriate and off-topic discussion of general politics detract from the professional woodworking focus of WOODWEB, and will be removed.
  • Participants are encouraged to use their real name when posting. Intentionally using another persons name is prohibited, and posts of this nature will be removed at WOODWEB's discretion.
  • Comments, questions, or criticisms regarding Forum policies should be directed to WOODWEB's Systems Administrator
    (return to top).

    Carefully review your message before clicking on the "Send Message" button - you will not be able to revise the message once it has been sent.

    You will be notified of responses to the message(s) you posted via email. Be sure to enter your email address correctly.

    WOODWEB's forums are a highly regarded resource for professional woodworkers. Messages and responses that are crafted in a professional and civil manner strengthen this resource. Messages that do not reflect a professional tone reduce the value of our forums.

    Messages are inappropriate when their content: is deemed libelous in nature or is based on rumor, fails to meet basic standards of decorum, contains blatant advertising or inappropriate emphasis on self promotion (return to top).

    Libel:   Posts which defame an individual or organization, or employ a tone which can be viewed as malicious in nature. Words, pictures, or cartoons which expose a person or organization to public hatred, shame, disgrace, or ridicule, or induce an ill opinion of a person or organization, are libelous.

    Improper Decorum:   Posts which are profane, inciting, disrespectful or uncivil in tone, or maliciously worded. This also includes the venting of unsubstantiated opinions. Such messages do little to illuminate a given topic, and often have the opposite effect. Constructive criticism is acceptable (return to top).

    Advertising:   The purpose of WOODWEB Forums is to provide answers, not an advertising venue. Companies participating in a Forum discussion should provide specific answers to posted questions. WOODWEB suggests that businesses include an appropriately crafted signature in order to identify their company. A well meaning post that seems to be on-topic but contains a product reference may do your business more harm than good in the Forum environment. Forum users may perceive your references to specific products as unsolicited advertising (spam) and consciously avoid your web site or services. A well-crafted signature is an appropriate way to advertise your services that will not offend potential customers. Signatures should be limited to 4-6 lines, and may contain information that identifies the type of business you're in, your URL and email address (return to top).

    Repeated Forum Abuse: Forum participants who repeatedly fail to follow WOODWEB's Forum Guidelines may encounter difficulty when attempting to post messages.

    There are often situations when the original message asks for opinions: "What is the best widget for my type of shop?". To a certain extent, the person posting the message is responsible for including specific questions within the message. An open ended question (like the one above) invites responses that may read as sales pitches. WOODWEB suggests that companies responding to such a question provide detailed and substantive replies rather than responses that read as a one-sided product promotion. It has been WOODWEB's experience that substantive responses are held in higher regard by our readers (return to top).

    The staff of WOODWEB assume no responsibility for the accuracy, content, or outcome of any posting transmitted at WOODWEB's Message Boards. Participants should undertake the use of machinery, materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB's Message Boards after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages it deems inappropriate. (return to top)

  • Forum Posting Help
    Your Name The name you enter in this field will be the name that appears with your post or response (return to form).
    Your Website Personal or business website links must point to the author's website. Inappropriate links will be removed without notice, and at WOODWEB's sole discretion. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages with links it deems inappropriate. (return to form)
    E-Mail Address Your e-mail address will not be publicly viewable. Forum participants will be able to contact you using a contact link (included with your post) that is substituted for your actual address. You must include a valid email address in this field. (return to form)
    Subject Subject may be edited for length and clarity. Subject lines should provide an indication of the content of your post. (return to form)
    Thread Related Link and Image Guidelines Thread Related Links posted at WOODWEB's Forums and Exchanges should point to locations that provide supporting information for the topic being discussed in the current message thread. The purpose of WOODWEB Forums is to provide answers, not to serve as an advertising venue. A Thread Related Link that directs visitors to an area with inappropriate content will be removed. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages with links or images it deems inappropriate. (return to form)
    Thread Related File Uploads Thread Related Files posted at WOODWEB's Forums and Exchanges should provide supporting information for the topic being discussed in the current message thread. Video Files: acceptable video formats are: .MOV .AVI .WMV .MPEG .MPG .MP4 (Image Upload Tips)   If you encounter any difficulty when uploading video files, E-mail WOODWEB for assistance. The purpose of WOODWEB Forums is to provide answers, not to serve as an advertising venue. A Thread Related File that contains inappropriate content will be removed, and uploaded files that are not directly related to the message thread will be removed. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages with links, files, or images it deems inappropriate. (return to form)