How to Export Using a Custom Coordinate System in SOLIDWORKS

I have often been asked about coordinate systems when it comes to CAM vs.CAD. In a nutshell, CAD systems like SOLIDWORKS and CAM systems use different directions for defining coordinate systems, specifically in regards to Y and Z. The result is, when a model is exported from SOLIDWORKS and imported to a CAM system, the model comes up in the CAM system in the “wrong” orientation. The good news is a SOLIDWORKS user can make their own coordinate system specifically for use in the export process, thus resulting in a model coming up in the correct orientation in the CAM program.

The first step is to make your new coordinate system. Click on the “Reference Geometry” button on the Features tab of the Command Manager:

Custom Coordinate System in SOLIDWORKS - screenshot of reference selection

Next, select a point on the model or use the Origin of the model to define the origin of the new coordinate system:

Custom Coordinate System in SOLIDWORKS - Point of Origin selected

Now select edges to define any two of the X, Y, and Z axes for your coordinate system. Use the double-arrow buttons if you need to reverse positive direction. In my case, I’m picking edges on the model to define X and Z as shown:

Custom Coordinate System - SOLIDWORKS

The final result is a new coordinate system. Notice the direction of X, Y, and Z in the new coordinate system vs. the standard coordinate system.

Custom Coordinate System in SOLIDWORKS - New and Standard System indicators

To export the model using the new coordinate system, do a Save As, choose your file type, click the Options button, and make sure you change the coordinate system from “Default” to your new coordinate system near the bottom of the dialog box.

Custom Coordinate System in SOLIDWORKS - Options button
Custom Coordinate System in SOLIDWORKS Output spot selections

And, that’s it! Now you can save out any SOLIDWORKS file to any coordinate system you can define.

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Meet the Author

John Setzer

John Setzer

John discovered his love of teaching early in life. He worked his way through college as a youth coach, umpire, and referee before earning his bachelor’s degree in Education. As Training Product Manager at GSC, he has been sharing his SOLIDWORKS wisdom with GSC customers ever since – over 20 years! As the only CSWE with a state certification in teaching, John is well-versed is teaching all types of learning styles.

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