Part modeling in SOLIDWORKS can go far beyond what our imagination is able to create. What if we wanted our design to invoke softer, smoother and sexier curves and not blocky, clunky, angular edges? This is where the Loft feature can assist. This article will explore what purpose lofts serve in our designs and how to create them.
What is a Loft in SOLIDWORKS?
Loft is a way to create complex 3D solids or surfaces. They can either be created by connecting planar cross-sections of a part or by using guide curve to connect the start and end faces of a part. In either circumstance, the user is left with a smooth, curved part.
Creating a Loft
This example will illustrate how to create a complex part with lofted surfaces using the guide curve method.
Step 1: Creating our Start/End Faces
In our part, we’ll add two simple start and end shapes to act as the openings for our loft feature to connect. We’ll sketch a circle on our Top Plane and then a square on our Front Plane. A good practice is to always make sure the sketches are fully defined by setting dimensions and placing the shapes a designated distance from the origin.
Step 2: Creating a Guide Curve
The guide for our Loft feature as previously stated will be an arc that intersects the two shapes. Sketch the three-point arc on the Right Plan and add a pierce relation between the ends of the arc and the two existing shapes. In this example, the arc gets fully defined when a tangent relation is added to a center line created on the other side of the square.
Step 3: Using the Lofted Boss/Base Feature
Exit the sketch and select the “Lofted Boss/Base” feature. Select the shapes for your Profiles and the arc as the Guide Curve. The part in this case must allow for flow-through so select thin feature as shown.
Step 4: Completing our Part
After adding some flanges for fasteners on either end our complex part is now complete and we can see how the openings of the tube are now smoothly connected.
Step 5: Evaluating our Part
The Curvature or Zebra Stripes tools embedded within SOLIDWORKS allow for better evaluation of the surface curvature. These tools illustrate the smooth linkage between the lofted faces of our part.
The Loft feature within SOLIDWORKS is a great tool for creating complex shapes that go beyond basic extrusions. It allows designers and engineers to break their designs out of the box and create parts that exhibit shapes that will appeal more to customers and fit any job.
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