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Investigation of the effectiveness of various CAD model assembly techniques

Samrat Baweja
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Northeastern University
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) activities are
an integral part of the product design and
development process. With a number of CAD
model assembly techniques available, choosing
the best technique based on the complexity of
the model is very critical in order to save time
and effort. The goal of this research is to
investigate the effectiveness of different
approaches used to assemble a CAD model.

The basics
There are a number of techniques available to assemble
a product in a CAD package. Each technique serves the
main purpose, which is to assemble the product but
these packages do not reason about parts in the way
engineers think while assembling the product. So if
proper technique is used depending on the part
complexity, the assembly time can be reduced

Models of different part counts, ranging from 5 to

greater than 50 are being designed using SolidWorks.
The models are then assembled using a number of
approaches, including the Bottom-up approach and Topdown approach and their effectiveness is being
investigated based on model complexity level.

The bottom-up assembly approach

The top-down assembly approach


The bottom-up assembly design approach is the

traditional and the most widely preferred approach for
assembly design. In this assembly design approach,
all components are created as separate part
documents. They are then placed and referenced in
the assembly as external components.

Top-down assembly technique, also known in

SolidWorks as "in-context", is used to create
assemblies where parts are modeled inside the
assembly. The parts are related to driving entities
inside the assembly which control the shape, features,
dimensions and position of those parts, in a way that
changes introduced to the driving entities drive the
configuration of all the in-context modeled parts and
therefore the entire assembly.

The research concludes that the top-down

technique, while a little more difficult to do and
requiring more work when creating the model, is
better for designing products from scratch where
the assembly will need to go through many changes
before reaching its final configuration. The
technique can not only save a significant amount of
time, but can also assure compatibility of
components of an assembly with a greater degree
of certainty than the bottom up design.

Creating a properly structured Top-down assembly

requires more analysis and work as compared to
creating a Bottom-up assembly. However, the
advantage that the top-down modeling possesses is
that very little work and time is required when design
changes occur, since all parts and components will
automatically update to new shapes, dimensions,
position, etc. as new input parameters are entered into
the driving entities at the assembly level.


In this type of approach, the components are created

in the part mode. After all the components are created,
a new assembly module can be started and the
components can be inserted in it using the tools
provided in the Assembly mode. After inserting the
components, the design can assembled using the
assembly mates.
The main advantage of this assembly design approach
is that the view of the part is not restricted because
there is only a single part in the current file.
Therefore, this approach allows to concentrate on the
complex individual features.
This technique is practical to model parts that are
already designed, or parts which do not change their
shape and dimension based on change in design or
shape of other parts.

A V10 engine assembled using the bottom-up

assembly approach

This technique allows the creation of re-usable

flexible models so that they can meet the design
intent and quickly adapt to changes needed during the
design cycle or during the entire product life cycle.

A multi-link model assembled using the top-down

assembly approach

[1] Dassault Systmes SolidWorks Help Manual,

Assemblies > Design Methods (Bottom-up and
Top-down Design).
[2] Automated CAD Assembly and its Application
in DOME, Sinha, Prabhat K., MIT, June 2002