Why is my Assembly invisible in SOLIDWORKS Composer?

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Why is my Assembly invisible in SOLIDWORKS Composer?

If there is one thing I’ve noticed over my years of supporting SOLIDWORKS is that products are becoming more complex.  Assemblies are continuing to increase in component number and the parts themselves are becoming more and more detailed.

You may be wondering why I’m talking about SOLIDWORKS model size in detail when the blog title is Why is my assembly invisible? These larger assembly files can cause some strange behaviors in Composer, and bellow is an example of this behavior.

The assembly has opened into Composer, yet the graphics window is empty. The Assembly tab shows all the SOLIDWORKS assemblies and parts, but they cannot be selected. It’s like the assembly is there, but it’s not there. The frustrating part of this behavior are instances where some assemblies open correctly, and others are empty.

The solution lies not in Composer but in SOLIDWORKS. When you open any SOLIDWORKS file in Composer, SOLIDWORKS is started in the background for the translation of the files. If the assembly sufficiently “large” enough, SOLIDWORKS may be opening it in either Lightweight or Large Assembly Mode. Here’s the same assembly opened in SOLIDWORKS and you can see the feather symbols in the FeatureManager tree representing Lightweight parts. Notice also the Status bar states the assembly is in Large Assembly Mode.

Lightweight and Large Assembly Mode have very noticeable performance advantages in SOLIDWORKS including faster opening and better graphical performance. This performance increase is because SOLIDWORKS only loads a subset of the model data when opening and you can individually resolve the components on an as needed basis. In order for a successful translation, Composer needs the full SOLIDWORKS data model. When it encounters an assembly in Lightweight or Large Assembly Mode he result is incomplete.

Thankfully, the solution is quite easy. Within SOLIDWORKS make the following changes:

Tools -> Options -> System Options -> Performance: turn off “Automatically Load components lightweight.”

Don’t forget:

Tools -> Options -> System Options -> Assemblies: “Use Large Assembly Mode to improve…”

Either turn this off or adjust the component number to a count larger than the assembly that you’re importing into Composer. I find just turning it off is easier to work with.

After making the necessary changes, I like to open the assembly back up in SOLIDWORKS just to make sure I didn’t forget anything. If the assembly is opening fully resolved, it’s time to open it in Composer. Here’s the same translation after making the SOLIDWORKS options changes. Everything is exactly as expected and we can begin creating our content.

I like to turn these options back on in SOLIDWORKS after I’ve successfully opened an assembly or updated my Composer file. So now you know what to look for if some of your larger assemblies are showing up empty in Composer.

Kris Dubuque
Field Services Technical Manager
Computer Aided Technology