Advice on Learning (Solidworks guy..)

I’m an engineer, and I mostly use Solidworks.

Lately I haven’t been happy with PhotoWorks, even the newest.

I got interested in rendering packages and ended up settling on learning Blender.

The thing is, the learning curve is steep, and I’m deciding about the path of learning I need to take.

The end result is: I want to be able to import my Solidworks models into Blender and render them photorealistically.

How do I start? I’ve already rendered basic stuff in Blender, read through lots of tutorials, learned how to import (messy) meshes.

My projects from CAD are a bit complex, so when I import them there are a ton of meshes and vertices. I’ve learned things like the decimate, etc… but, I’m very overwhelmed by this package

What’s my best path to take? Start with simple Solidworks models like speakers or chairs and learn to render more basic things before stepping up to more complex items?

Cheers for all the tutorials and replies you guys have written and I’ve lurked over them and learned from. :slight_smile:

Since it sounds like you have learned the basics, a good place to go for materials and texture learning would be here:


I have to use SolidWorks models from mechancial designers to create my company’s animations (in Blender). This is what I do.

  1. In SolidWorks, export each part separately. I usually export as VRML (.wrl), since this always seems reliable.
  2. In Blender, append the VRML objects. They usually import as very complex meshes, so use the Poly Reducer script to reduce them (typically to 50% or even 25%).
  3. Usually, Set Smooth is enough to make them look clean, but often I have to manually tweak vertices to make sure the smoothing works properly.
  4. Reassemble the parts within Blender and assign materials to each object (part).
  5. For lighting the model, I use a large pyramid “light tent” which has a downward facing area light “DupliFaced” onto each face of the pyramid. This creates a nice even lighting with smooth shadows. Simply rotating the pyramid about the z-axis can be used to adjust the shadow positions if necessary.

I know that is a bit brief but it is one of the few reliable methods I’ve found for getting from SolidWorks to Blender reasonably quickly. Do let me know if you’ve had success with other intermediate file formats, etc.!

Thank you so much!

Yeah, I Google’d a tutorial that described rendering a lighter that was made in Solidworks into Blender. I learned about the .wrl files there, and have tried to do that with my models, but, like you described, it imports crazy meshes. That’s where I get stuck, because I tried using decimate without much success (it works …kinda, but, never seems to remove what I think it should). I will try poly.

The interface is so much different than Solidworks, Pro/E, and other 3D programs I’m familiar with. It’s like anything intuitive was sacrificed for the sake of speed in the hands of expert users. It has made for an extremely steep learning curve. It sounds like a great program though, and I do want to learn it, and maybe I’ll appreciate the interface more as I learn… but, now I’m kind of stuck as to what I should learn and in what order. There are wikibooks, blenderwiki, other tutorials, forums, and so forth…

Is there a good book I could buy and follow that is up to date?

I’m not interested in using it as a modeller, just a renderer… although if I need to learn to model in it to learn to render in it, thats understandable…

See my confusion?!

Thanks so much for the replies guys!!! (oh and Reaction, I’ll let you know if as I learn I find out any importation tricks, although I have a feeling I won’t be able to teach you much!!)

If your main interesting is rendering, then I guess lighting will be critical. I’ve attached my pyramid light setup in case it’s any use to you (it includes a few basic cubes and a floor so just press F12 to render the scene).

If your objects use reflective (Ray Mirror) materials and you want better reflections, consider using an angular map as the world background. The tutorial at the beginning of this thread ( ) explains how to do it. If you don’t want the background to show in the rendered image, just go to the Render Layers panel (F10 and it’ll be there somewhere) and turn off Sky. The reflections of the world background will still show, even though it’s not rendered.

I have the misfortune to use SolidWorks, but only for opening and exporting models. I am always staggered at how bloated and slow it is (not to mention the obscene pricing / licensing regime). Blender starts in under 3 seconds on my PC, with SolidWorks taking about 30 seconds to get to a usable state. And the guys who use it for modelling are frequently throwing their hands up in horror as it crashes again…

As for Blender, just follow one of the many “Noob to Pro” tutorials if you want to get going quickly. Thereafter, it’s addictive!


LightPyramid1.blend (320 KB)

For architectural work I recommend this book: Blender 3D: Architecture, Buildings, and Scenery. (add www here)

Quite informative, especially the part about rendering. Might be useful to you as well.

Accutrans may be helpful in managing the conversion of cad objects to Blender - it saved my life a couple of times now. (add www here)

For a complete video course, try (add www here)
There is a list of topics, which makes it easy to quickly learn about a specific part of Blender.

Also, for some nice looking unbiased rendering, try Luxrender. (add www here)

Sorry for the delay in response, had a bit of a family emergency. :confused:

I build boats, so, depending on the paint used is how much it reflects. A white hull and deck doesn’t reflect much, but we’ll put on metallic paints and such that really reflect.

When I get to work today I’m going to read that thread and try it out with one of my models in your lighting triangle. (Pretty excited to try it!!!)

Yea, I’m not hugely happy with Solidworks either, but, it seems to work well for our application. We couldn’t find much of an alternative, Solidworks is kind of the middle-level CAD modeller. I will say 2009, while still slow, is much faster and less boggy than 2008 was. Like, I rarely have it actually crash on me anymore.

Ima read those tutorials when I get in tomorrow, thanks again, I’ll keep you guys updated!

Sorry for the delay in my reply, I had to travel for business, only to return to a family member in the hosipital. :frowning:

Wow, thanks! This has been so helpful. I’m someone who learns from example, so, the .blend file was absolutely huge. I’ve been practicing a bit and getting better with Blender. Without the documentation online, I’d be absolutely lost.

I think everything is out there, but, sometimes I don’t know what to call it and therefore don’t know what to search for.

It is pretty bloated, its gotten better with the 2009 release though, I must say. The pricing is crazy, but, unfortunetly there really aren’t many alternatives.

I’ve tried a lot of different packages, and really Solidworks has been the best overall. Between cost, features, quality, and so forth.

But, running Windows Vista and Solidworks… my computer is about half spent before I even ask it to do anything. Pretty rediculous.

I’ve learned with time to work with Solidworks. I run the graphics on a very low quality, and I instinctively model in ways that seem to be more efficient with it.

It has been addictive! It’s been frusturating to learn, moreso than any other software I’ve used, but, as I started getting a bit of results it’s been much more fun.

I really appreciate your help! That file and your import guide was a big help! Any more .blend files you got that I might be able to learn off, I’d really appreciate!


Sorry for the delay in responding, I had a business trip and then came home to a family member in the hospital. :frowning:

That file and your link was /so/ helpful. I learned a ton from that. Thanks /very/ much!!

If you have any more that you don’t mind I look at, I’d really appreciate it!!

Solidworks is pretty bloated, but, I’ve learned to live with it. I haven’t really found another package that works better for me. I run it with low graphics settings and such, and I have it pretty reliable. I have to say 2009 is a big improvement over 2008, in terms of speed and reliability. Still bloated though.

While Blender has been fast, I’ve made it crash a lot. But, maybe thats just because I’m new to it and will learn what not to do.

I’m addicted! :slight_smile:

Cheers again for the help!