Working with Large Assemblies - Part 2

In this article, I will continue to focus on some of the Solid Edge tools used to deal with large assemblies. As mentioned in the previous article, “Working with Large Assemblies – Part 1”, If you are a Solid Edge user, hopefully you are aware of the following tools for dealing with large assemblies:

Combine these tools with some best practices and other tips and tricks, and you’ll find that large assemblies behave more efficiently and are more reliable in Solid Edge, than any other mainstream CAD package.

In this article, I’d like to focus on display tools, configurations, and zones. I’ll look at how they work, how to create them, and some best practices for using them. First, we’ll look at display tools.

Display Tools

One of the easiest ways to improve display performance, when working with large assemblies, is to control which parts in the assembly use physical memory resources. This can be achieved by inactivating components, hiding components and unloading components.

When you first load a part into the assembly environment, using default settings, the part is visible and active. That is to say that both the display data, and underlying math data, is loaded into the assembly file. The more components that are added the more data that is loaded. The more data that gets loaded, the more physical memory is used. The following paragraph is an excerpt from the Solid Edge Help document, and explains how available memory affects performance of the program:

The amount of physical memory available on your computer affects the performance of all your Windows applications, not just Solid Edge. When the physical memory is completely allocated, some operations are swapped to virtual memory. Virtual memory is disk space on your hard drive allocated for use when physical memory resources are not available.

Virtual memory is much slower than physical memory. When any application has to swap information between virtual memory and physical memory to complete a task, system performance slows down considerably. You can improve performance by increasing available physical memory in the following ways:

  Reduce the demand for physical memory

   Install additional physical memory in your computer

Note: See the readme.htm file in the Solid Edge folder for additional information on memory recommendations for Solid Edge.

You can reduce the demand for physical memory in 3 different methods:

Hide components: This allows you to unload the display data of the components. It also makes your display less cluttered, allowing you to work more efficiently with the displayed parts.

Unloading Components: Once the components are hidden, you can unload them using the Unload Hidden Parts command. This unloads the part from memory, freeing up the memory for other tasks.

Inactivate components: This allows you to unload the underlying math data on components, but still maintains the display data. You can see the component and the component will maintain any attached assembly relationships.

Of course, if you hide a component, you can also show the component at any time. Likewise, you can activate a component when you need to perform any task that requires the underlying math data.


When working with a large assembly, it is common to work on specific areas or sections of the assembly, at different times. Configurations allow you to capture and control isolated displays of those specific work areas or sections. For example, if you are working on a large vehicle assembly, you may want to focus on the rear wheel mechanism. You can inactivate, hide, or even unload, the rest of the assembly. Thus, only showing the components of the rear wheel mechanism. Then you can create a configuration, and call it Rear Wheel Mechanism.

Once you’ve defined the configuration, you can use the Assembly Configuration list in the Home tab > Configuration group, to apply the specific display configuration. This allows you to quickly display, hide, inactivate, and unload specific components.

Furthermore, when you open an assembly, you can select it to open to a specific display configuration.

You can also place the configuration into a drawing view, by selecting it from the Drawing View Wizard options.


Zones are similar to configurations, but provide additional intelligence, to aid the user. A zone is a defined work envelope, which allows you to see either all the components inside the zone, or all the components inside and overlapping the zone. For example, imagine that you are responsible for the modeling of a conveyer belt sub-assembly, on a large machine assembly. Inside the large machine assembly, you can create a conveyer zone, as shown below:

Like a configuration, you can display only the components inside of the zone.

But you can also display any overlapping components.

This provides the additional advantage of seeing any components that interfere with your zone, that may have been added by another user. Thus, making zones an ideal tool for large assemblies that are created and modified by multiple users. You also have the same added benefits offered with configurations, allowing you to open an assembly into a specific zone, and allowing you to place specific zones into a drawing view.


Display tools, configurations, and zones, are just a few of the tools in Solid Edge, used to accelerate work and improve performance in large assemblies. This article has been a brief overview of these tools. There are many additional options and benefits not covered in this article. Further information can be found in the Solid Edge Help documents, or you can attend one of our Advanced Assembly courses, where we teach all of the methods to deal with large assemblies, plus many more tools for creating, editing, and managing assemblies. The complete course syllabus can be found on our training page, at the following link: Look for the third part of Working with Large Assemblies in the near future.


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