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Virtual Reality (VR) with Solidworks

by / Monday, 16 May 2016 / Published in Articles

This a guide for using the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive with Solidworks. No native support currently exists so a workflow using third party software is necessary.  The process described here is best used a presentation tool and less as a design tool.

The best way to view to view any 3D content in VR is with the Unity game engine.  “Best” is subjective here.  Unity is a complex and powerful game design package that offers native, well-supported, and high performance VR viewing modes. Unity is also free.  The downside is that you’re introducing an unfamiliar and almost redundant software package to your workflow.

Not that we have a VR viewer we need to find a way to import our Solidworks files.  There is no direct data exchange between Solidworks and Unity.  Solidworks can export a variety of neutral geometry formats but not the .OBJ type that Unity accepts.  The good news is that there is a free macro to export Solidworks geometry as .OBJ files.

We now know enough to put together the process.

Set Up

  1. Install Unity
  2. Set up .OBJ export macro

Workflow

  1. Export .OBJ data from Solidworks
  2. Setup Unity project
  3. Import .OBJ asset
  4. View in VR

Export .OBJ data from Solidworks

For this guide we will be using a model of a Gudel Cartesian gantry system available as a .STEP file from their site.  Sample files for this project are available here.

SW1

Import the .STEP file and save the new assembly.

Click the .OBJ export macro button to bring up the export dialog box.

OBJ_EXPORT

Most of the default export settings are fine but I needed to select “Output mesh with Y axis up” due to my coordinate system.

Click “RUN EXPORTER” and wait patiently until you get a “Complete” dialog box.

You should now have a new folder in the location of the saved assembly with a .OBJ file.

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