February 13

[2019] SolidWorks Surface Modeling: Introduction to Advanced Overview

[2019] SolidWorks Surface Modeling: Introduction to Advanced Overview

Nandeesh Pandey

Table of Contents {click to navigate)


We know that numerous modeling methodologies integrated to form a single 3D model facilitate effective and comprehensive modeling and make 3D-printing or manufacturing processes applied for fabrication of the modeled part convenient and efficient. Evolving since 1952 when PRONTO was developed, 3D modeling has certainly come a long way as we are now using software that offer easily accessible and applicable manufacturing processes within models and allow modeling and assembly of complicated parts and geometries in as convenient manner as possible. SolidWorks is one such software that is widely used because of its user friendly interface and multitude of available options that can be utilized for 3d modeling. SolidWorks is calibrated to accommodate students, machinery designers, architects, furniture modelers, automotive engineers and a whole domain of experts who may need it for modeling different equipment.

In the automotive industry or aeronautical industry, surfaces made of profiled sheets are of utmost importance as obvious from innovative aerodynamic designs of vehicles coming out on a regular basis with a rising frequency each year. Engineers who model these surfaces would normally have to go through the tedious task of drafting different projections at a large number of locations to model a surface even with modern software available. SolidWorks, however, has made the task extremely easy with SolidWorks Surface Modeling.

What is SolidWorks Surface Modeling?

SolidWorks surface modeling is SolidWorks’ primary solution to modeling freeform shapes. Surface modeling allows adjustment of topology and profile of any object drawn with parametric accuracy i.e. the engineer can mold the surface precisely as per any dimension manually set according to design constraints.

Applications of Surface Modeling in Engineering Design

Surface modeling is crucially important in design of industrial equipment which is directly related to the quality and price of the said equipment in any industry or fabrication. Some applications of SolidWorks surface modeling are listed as follows:

Automotive and Aeronautical Design:

Aerodynamic properties of a vehicle are often the differentiating factor between a model with low fuel efficiency and a model with efficient fuel consumption. The profile of a car or a plane is designed using surface modeling – SolidWorks, being the user-friendly software that it is, allows the engineer to freely control the profiles of a car or a plane, thus enabling multiple iterations leading up to the most optimal design.

Furniture Design:

Furniture industry keeps coming up with innovative designs in different styles crafted with wood, plastic, steel and synthetic materials. These designs can be modeled very conveniently with SolidWorks surface modeling.

Spacecrafts and Satellites:

The “weird” profiles of rockets sent into space by government projects and private space research companies like Space-X are modeled with the same profiling techniques as automotive – surface modeling can help design the aerodynamic profiles of space equipment.


While large scale, gigantic equipment like space-shuttles and airplanes are commonly modeled using this technique, smaller equipment like computer mouse, clothing iron, bottles and toys are also modeled with SolidWorks surface modeler.

Getting Started with SolidWorks Surface Modeling


A surface, looked at from one view or one single projection, is simply a profile – which is why you need to get started by creating a simple sketch in SolidWorks.

Enabling surface modeling:

Right after you have made your sketch, you should be ready to start creating surfaces with that sketch, in order to do that, SolidWorks surface modeling first needs to be enabled which can be done by right clicking sketch.

Having the surface panel enabled gives you access to a multitude of options that can be used to create and alter the topology of surfaces, each of which are discussed below:

Surface Extrude:

As the name implies, extruding a sketch creates an extended surface with the profile of the sketch. The extrude options are exactly the same as those in solid extrusion, allowing mid-plane, multi-directional extrusions with any dimension manually selected or commanded with respect to other features(up to vertex, up to surface etc).

Revolved Surface:

Revolving a surface, of course, requires an axis of revolution which can be drawn with the sketch that is to be converted into the surface or outside of it as a separate sketch of the part or assembly. Revolving a profile creates a surface around an axis.

Swept Surface:

Arguably the most used feature of surface modeling – swept surface is a profile elongated in the shape set by the user. While extrusion and revolution elongated a profile or sketch only along one direction or radially, swept surface requires a profile and a path, the path can be drawn in any shape that the engineer requires so that the profile may follow the said path.

Lofted surface:

A lofted surface is made up of different connected profiles. If a duct has to open into a circular exhaust or if a car bonnet surface has to reduce in length towards the wheels, it is to be modelled by lofts. It has to be noted that lofted surface generation requires the engineer or modeler to set the points on each profile that are connected to each other – to bypass this, a “guide curve” can be used which connects the profiles along a profile – integrating lofting with sweeping described earlier.

Boundary surface:

A boundary surface, as the name of the feature implies, creates a boundary around a generated surface, confining the surface to stay within the set boundary. One would need multiple sketches to create a loft but unlike a loft surface which doesn’t accommodate any restraints or profiling of the boundary, a boundary surface requires the selection of a boundary profile.

Filled surface:

After a surface has been created, it might have openings that would otherwise require creation of separate surfaces, defined just accurately according to the opening so as to fill it up. This feature of SolidWorks surface modeling solves a very important problem that can becumbersome for an engineer working on a different software – filling open parts of a surface.

One needs to select the edges between which an opening is created so as to create a filling surface between those edges.

Planar surface:

A planar surface simply converts a profile into a surface across a plane. A star-shaped sketch created on the front plane, for example, will be converted into a star-shaped surface on the front plant with this feature.

Offset surface:

Once a planar surface has been created, a duplicate surface of itself can be created at any defined offset with this option.

Surface flatten:

In manufacturing processes, it is very important to know the total sheet area and size used to create a profiled surface. To find that out, a designed surface is flattened into a flat planar surface using the surface flatten feature.

Trim surfaces:

If a number of surfaces go into each other or intersect each other, the intersecting surface(s) can be removed, erased or “trimmed” by using the trim surfaces feature of SolidWorks surface modeler.

Knit surfaces:

One might want to join or “knit” two surfaces that are in contact edge-to-edge, converting them into a singular surface. This knitting feature requires two or more surfaces the edges of which touch each other.

Surface thickening:

A surface generated in SolidWorks is infinitely thin i.e. it does not have any thickness. In reality, however, all surfaces have a defined thickness – this can be simulated in SolidWorks by simply selecting a surface and manually entering its internal or external thickness.

Using the features explained above, one should be able to model complex geometries on SolidWorks with accurate dimensions that can be edited and thereby iterated during the design and simulation process to arrive at the final design that is fit for fabrication.

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About the Author

Nandeesh Pandey, a Product Development Engineer has a keen interest in machine design and tool development techniques. His expertise with Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing is supplemented by numerous engineering projects. Which have been developed and refined for commercial and research usage specially in the Automobile sector.

Nandeesh Pandey

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