Convert SolidWorks Sheet Metal Model into a Flattened DXF Drawing Using Creo Parametric

Company A uses SolidWorks, Company B uses Creo Parametric, Company C uses another CAD/CAM program. In all cases, the primary part/assembly/simulation file is not compatible between the programs.

Focusing on sheet metal, it is important to be able to transfer model files between your company a supplier company or vice versa seamlessly. CNC readable data is currently most commonly presented in the form of a DXF file (Drawing Exchange Format). In most cases, sheet metal needs to be laser cut, water jet, or punched prior to bending on a brake, therefore, a DXF file of the flat pattern of the sheet metal model should be provided.

Note: The "Convert to Sheetmetal" feature will only work properly if your solid part is uniform in thickness. If your part has varying thicknesses, including rounded or chamfer edges, you may need to remove these features by adding material. After the conversion, you can add these features back onto the part. 

1. Importing the Solidworks file

From the title screen of the Creo Parametric program, click the “Select Working Directory” button and use the file navigation explorer to choose the folder you would like to use as the default for your current project.

Click “Open”.

Use the “Type” dropdown menu to choose the file type you would like to import into Creo Parametric. You can choose the .SLDPRT or .STP file format or simply choose the “All files (*)” option to show all files that Creo Parametric can read in the working directory. Choose the part file you would like to open and click import. Unless you are working in special circumstances, confirm the default options of the import.

2. Convert the Model and Create a Flat Pattern

With the model open, you will notice that all of the part features normally displayed in the “Model Tree” are not visible or available for edit. When importing a file format such as a .STP file, surfaces and features will be recreated using the triangle mesh originally created by the originator program of the file. Some CAD programs offer feature recognition software allowing the user to import a mesh and recognize program specific modeling features used to create the original part. Regardless of the program you are using, the imported model can be modified.

Because the CAD program imported the model less feature recognition, the next step is to convert the import into sheet metal. This will act as a basic feature recognition process in order to determine the bends and material thicknesses.

Under the “Model” tab, click the “Operations” dropdown followed by the “Convert to Sheetmetal” option.

Click the “Driving Surface” option to define the primary planer surface. Choose the open face of the part that acts as either the beginning of a compound bend or the surface that other bends come off of. At this time, define the thickness of the material.

Click the “Flat Pattern” option under the “Bends” option group in the “Model tab after confirming the options in the previous step. A preview of the flattened view will be displayed, review this and then confirm the options. The resulting view shows an unfolded bend pattern with notation reflecting the angle and direction of the bends.

At this point, the solid model was converted to a sheet metal model and a flat pattern has been created from the original .STP or SolidWorks imported file.

Create a new drawing and specify the “Empty” template or a company template for DXF files and adjust any additional options as needed.

Click the “General View” under the “Layout” tab and adjust the “View Type” default orientation to “User Defined” or a company default. Scale the part as needed to fit on the drawing template. Finally, change the “View Display” options as necessary.

3. Save the Drawing as a DXF File

Now with the drawing created, click file -> save as to open the file navigation explorer to your working directory. Use the “Type” dropdown menu to choose the “DXF (*.dxf)” file format. Upon saving, an export options menu will display. If you are sending the DXF drawing to someone who is using a versioned CAD program, choose the DXF version you would like to create. Review the options and click “OK”


Jarrett Linowes
Mechanical Engineer

Did I miss anything you are interested in? Send me an email or comment below!